Hey, Authors: You’re Doing Twitter Wrong!

By Emlyn Chand/ I grew sick of all the spam and abandoned Twitter what seems like a very long time ago. It was gradual at first. In my heyday, I could spend hours upon hours on Twitter, chatting idly while whittling down my to do list for the day. Then I started checking in for only an hour per day, then only to respond to my @mentions… once per day, once every few days, once per month, and then I just stopped.

It made me kind of sad to give up on the social media network that had done so much for me–from finding a literary agent, to starting a business, to making so many friends in the publishing world–but I’d had enough. My @mentions were flooded with strings of #FFs and #WWs, chain after chain after chain. Other authors were sending me tweets asking for me to RT their book pages on Amazon. Others were literally tweeting “BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK!” despite the fact that we all know doing so is just plain wrong. My DM box was flooded with autoresponder spam from people asking me to like their author pages on Facebook.

Sure, the occasional reader would write to let me know how much she’d enjoyed my book, but messages like that became precious few and difficult to locate underneath the heaping piles of dreck.

Imagine my surprise when I returned to Twitter a couple weeks back and remembered all the reasons I loved it in the first place. My almost two-year absence must have cleansed my palate, because I approached the network like a newb. I jumped on hashtags and started talking to people about writing and publishing. I asked them questions about themselves, listened, and then responded. I gave them kudos, encouragement, and congrats. I started to make some new friends.

What I didn’t do is log in to Hootsuite for 5 seconds to schedule 20 tweets, all of which had a link going to my book page or my blog. I didn’t throw a string of irrelevant hashtags onto a blatant self promo, assuming that was a great way to market.

I… just… listened.

I used Twitter to have a conversation, to connect with other writers burning the midnight oil, who, like me, were looking for a bit of encouragement to keep going even later into the night.

My passion for this long-forgotten social network reignited a flame. I liked making new friends, and I wanted to see what they were saying. So I fired up my handy TweetAdder app, which had also grown incredibly dusty from lack of use, and I went about unfollowing users who were flagged for spammy behavior.

UPDATE:  A few years back, I wrote a wildly popular article on Twitter unfollow apps. It’s already gotten over 65,000 hits–crazy! My favorite app for Twitter management now that I’ve had tons of time to test them all out is TweetAdder. Seriously, you should check it out. Yes, this is an affiliate link, but I can also promise that you will love this software. It’s saved me a ton of time in managing my Twitter following (especially with this recent mass exodus of followers), and I’ve been using it for almost 3 years now.

My unfollow app targets 8 types of users and deems them as undesirable, making it easy to unfollow en masse. I focused on just 2 types:  “high ratio” and “inactive”. Inactive users hadn’t logged into their accounts for at least 30 days, so their Twitter profiles were dead, just like mine was before I randomly decided to resurrect it. The “high ratio” users tweet links, links, and more links–almost exclusively links.

Before I began my clean up task, I was following 26,000 users, mostly authors and book bloggers. After I cleaned up, I was left with less than 6,000 tweeps! Let me say that again, 20,000 of the 26,000 people I was following on Twitter were either thinly veiled spambots or had up and fled the site altogether.

And before I rediscovered the joy of making authentic connections on Twitter, I was one of them. In fact, I probably would have belonged to both groups of undesirables.

My guess is that many authors don’t even realize they’re doing anything wrong. Perhaps, they have a paper.li app set up or an rss feed that blasts their stream with links. They may not even remember. I had forgotten all about my paper.li daily, but once I logged in and remembered, it was the very first thing to go.

Authors, stop posting link after link to your book pages, to your blog posts, to whatever. That’s not what Twitter’s about, and if you aren’t going to engage with the community, why are you there at all?

Twitter is all about connecting with people, about being real. So have conversations. Be so interesting or encouraging that others click over to your profile, eager to learn more about you. That’s how you gain new readers, that’s how you gain new fans. Do you honestly think a 140-character micro message with a link and 6 hashtags is going to excite anybody?

The cool thing about Twitter is that it levels the playing field. It allows businesses to show their human side. It allows fan girls to connect with their favorite celebrities (and fan boys too!), and, yes, it allows readers to chat with their favorite authors. They want to form connections, not to be subjected to a barrage of advertising.

Which reminds me, another thing we should not be doing is retweeting like maniacs. It’s awesome when a reader tweets to tell you she loved your new book, but it’s not awesome when you retweet that for all your following to see. Instead why not engage in a discussion with your readers using a designated hashtag, give them that back and forth they crave?

Or why not ask your reader what her favorite part was? Talk to her a little bit, and she will be starstruck. It really makes the reader’s day when she gets personalized attention from her favorite author. By spending even a little amount of time engaging with her, you may have converted a casual fan into someone who won’t hesitate to tell everyone she meets about your awesome books.

So here’s my best advice for using Twitter via 3 easy-to-remember take-aways:

  1. Listen to what people say and engage with them.
  2. Stop tweeting so many links. Instead, engage and be interesting!
  3. Stop retweeting self promo, and open up a dialogue with your fans instead.

If you’re looking for more Twitter advice, the articles I wrote a bjillion years ago still apply–especially this one on bad practices to avoid. Twitter is making a comeback, because people are starting to remember its charm–or maybe they’re just trying to escape Facebook. Either way, give it another try. Perhaps, you’ll fall back in love like I did.

 

Emlyn Chand, President of Novel PublicityEmlyn Chand was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity’s mascot is a Sun Conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company’s founder and president. Although her first novel Farsighted won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category, she now writes most of her fiction under her “real” name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her (or her Sun Conure, Ducky!) on either of her author websites:  www.emlynchand.com or www.melstorm.com. You can also friend her on Facebook, tweet with her @novelpublicity, or send her an email via [email protected].


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