To follow or not to follow? The Twitter community I cherish.

With recent activities within my on-line networking, I’ve forced myself to think of why I might or might not follow a person on Twitter. What did I want to get out of my experience on Twitter?

I first joined Twitter in January 2015.  I was getting ready to send out my first query letter and I was starting the process of cyber-stalking agents that I was interested in. I discovered that all of them were on Twitter, so I signed up too. Then I discovered that Twitter was where all the contests for writers were announced. Yes, they were announced on the websites of the organizers, but you had to know that those websites existed in the first place. And for some contests, the websites were absolutely no help, because you couldn’t navigate them, or there was no “follow via email” option. But the contests were opportunities to snag editors, critiques, and ultimately an agent. I had to look into this.

During #PitchWars 2015, I discovered something even better than the contests — a writing community that is incredibly strong on Twitter. I made friends, not just people to chat with, but actual friends — people that I can break down into tears in front of and not feel ashamed, people that understood me and this journey that I was on, people who were on the journey with me. It was a turning point, and one that I was so happy to have found.

Since then I have discovered that Twitter can actually help a writer develop their skills and flourish. There are many hashtags where writers can share lines from their works-in-progress. The 140 character limit is more like 120 characters after you use all the hashtags, so to get your lines to work you need to edit, refine, be concise. Sometimes, I’ll see the revisions made for use on Twitter and decide I like it better than the original, so cut and paste back into the manuscript it goes. And the comments and feedback are just awesome. You instantly get a feel as to whether a line resonated with people or not. No pressure, just fun.

Then there is all the fun chats. So many thoughts and views going back and forth. Yes, it can be hard to follow the feed at times, it flies by so fast, but just think of all the contacts with other awesome writers one is making.

But let’s face it, for a writer, agents and publishers want to know about your author’s platform, and your Twitter account is part of your on-line presence. It’s still a numbers game. You need high number of followers, but as so many will gladly admit, it’s not the quantity of followers alone that matters; it’s the quality. To build a followship of decent quality, you need to follow others in return, however, there are some practices that I have adopted and they seem to be working.

So here are my little rules for myself:

  1. I will not follow everyone who follows me, nor do I expect everyone that I follow to follow me in return.
  2. I won’t unfollow someone just because they didn’t follow me within a certain timeframe. And I would never follow someone, just to unfollow them hours later. If I do unfollow a person, it’s because their accounts have become spammy (far too many ads that it’s driving me mental), or inactive (weeks/months since their last post).
  3. My email often gives me suggestions on who to follow. I’ll take a look. Why not? It doesn’t mean I have to follow.
  4. When someone does follow me, I endeavor to look at their profile and their past tweets. (I do miss a few, but for the most part, I have visited everyone’s profiles.)
  5. If a feed is nothing but retweets, then it’s highly unlikely that I’ll follow that person. I want to know that a person has a brain of their own. Tell me that you just took the dog for a walk and stood in poo. It tells me that you’re not some random bot, that you’re a real person.
  6. If a feed is filled with ads for the latest… whatever (book, blog post, anal whitening cream)… then I’m unlikely to follow. (Actually, if your feed is filled with ads of anal whitening cream, I might be tempted, just because I think it’s funny.)
  7. If a feed is filled with “@SomeName Thanks for following me”… Well, that turns me off too.
  8. For writers, I like to see that they talk about more than just writing. We have to live life too. But I do enjoy reading the #1lineWed, #2bitTues, #FictFri and #SunWIP.
  9. For everyone else, the feed needs to be filled with something that attracts my attention: pretty pictures, space facts, science, things that make me laugh, etc. (Sorry, but a whole stream of cat pictures just doesn’t do it for me. I like cats, but not that much.)
  10. I like to interact with people. (I’m a social bunny in person, so why shouldn’t my internet persona be any different?) If you start interacting back, then I’ll likely follow you just because I can, regardless of what’s on your feed.

But there are a few added things that will turn me off and make my finger hover over that unfollow button.

  1. Too much sudden spam. I get that an author wants to publicize their work. You’ve worked long hard hours to get everything just right. But when I get a whole stream of ad after ad after ad and nothing else… Don’t tell me your book just came out. Tell me how you celebrated your book’s release.
  2. Bashing or bad-mouthing a person for no good reason. Ok… Politicians… they’re just asking for it, and some of those cartoons are just hilarious. But a complete stranger, a fellow writer? We should be supporting them, not making them run and hide in the corner crying. I don’t like people who personally attack others.
  3. Direct messaging (DM) using some automated system. Grrr… This is really annoying. There are some that have personalized the automated comments somewhat, but it’s still very rude. I fell for it once.
    “Thanks for following me. Do you like fantasy?”
    I responded, “Of course, I do. It’s what I write. Why do you ask?”
    I got a response back. “Just something I’m working on.”
    Well, the conversation went downhill from there and I felt like a complete idiot. It wasn’t until later that I went back to look at the original message and noticed that it was sent by one of those automated systems.
    Now when I get an automated DM saying “Thanks for following me”, my mouse pointer hovers over the unfollow button. Do I, or do I not? One sent recently was from a newbie to twitter, only 100+ followers. At which point, I sent them a DM in response and told them that they might want to rethink their practice of using these automated DMs. Some people will unfollow out of principle. In fact, I recently unfollowed someone simply because the DM said “Would you like to get more followers?” Instant fail. That one message alone screams out bot.

I won’t block people from my Twitter. If they want to bad-mouth me or do anything else that is annoying, then be my guest. But I can unfollow and I can certainly mute you and hence I don’t have to listen.

For me, Twitter is about the community: interactions, telling others what you’re up to, sharing your frustrations and supporting each other. It took me a long time to build that network, and it’s growing by the day. It’s a network that I cherish.

P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Posted in A Writer's Journey, Social Media, Writing and tagged , , .

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