I like Twitter. It has enabled me to meet, virtually and in reality, some great people. I’ve also got to know, and learned from, other writers at various stages of their writing careers.
Twitter’s strength is that it appears to work successfully for tweeters in different ways. Although I agree with some attempts to establish ‘rules of engagement’ for tweeting, it seems to me that Twitter is a broad enough church to accommodate etiquette abiders and ignorers.
I now follow only those whose work and views interest me. And I do so without expecting them to follow me back; they didn’t ask me to follow them.
However, it puzzled me at first when those who already had thousands of followers decided to follow me. Initially, for the sake of politeness, I followed them back. Not any more.
Why had they followed me? I’ve published nothing, yet, and I rarely write anything that could be called a ‘must read’. All they knew of me was that I write and, therefore, probably buy books. When I did follow them back, my timeline quickly filled with incessant book promotions. I wasn’t being followed; my name had simply been added to a marketing list. I assume that these writers have signed up to the notion that Twitter is a great marketing tool for one’s writing. And if the carpet-bombing approach is the one they wish to take, good luck even if their messages render Twitter charmless.
I follow fewer than 200 people and I have a similar number of followers. Even with this relatively small number, it’s a stretch to keep up with what they have to say. So, unless those with thousands of followers are possessed of a time-expansion tool, they can’t have the time to read their followers’ tweets. They operate in ‘transmit’ mode and they’ll switch to ‘receive’ only if someone mentions them, retweets something they’ve written or sends a direct message. They can’t care what I’m saying unless it relates to them. Fairenuffski!
However, swamping timelines with ‘buy-my-book’ exhortations or breathless good news of ‘yet another 5-star review’ turns tweets into the kind of junk mail that make the Go Compare guy’s messages positively fascinating.
As Emily Benet said recently, ‘ … writers must learn first to be engaging as people before hoping for interest in their books’.
And in her excellent Tweet Right, Nicola Morgan says: ‘Yes, we all understand the need to promote ourselves and, yes, that is often a part of why we came here but you need first to come and to make friends; the desire to market yourself should be very much secondary. No, lower than that: incidental.’
I follow writers because I’m interested in them and their writing. I’ll buy books by the likes of: Andrew Blackman, Isabel Costello, Emma Darwin, Matt Haig, Amanda Jennings, Claire King, Roz Morris, Scott Pack and Stephanie Zia because they give of themselves and their expertise – as well as being quick to support or promote others. In this context, the promotion of their own work is fair exchange. Of course, their approach can be deemed extra clever marketing but it’s OK with me – because it’s founded on the good manners of quid pro quo.
All this may be no surprise to experienced Tweeters but it has dawned on me rather slowly. Anyway, I feel better now.