Those who have heard me talk about social media and writer's platforms will know that I highly recommend using Twitter. And those who follow me on Twitter will have seen at least one of my rants about the Don'ts of Twitter. They are instant turnoffs and will likely result in me glancing over your profile and moving right along.
Let's start with the profile.
The Profile Photo
Have you taken the time to actually update the photo from an egg to something that suits your personality? There are many schools of thought on this. Some insist that you should us a professional head-shot. Others say that your profile pictures should be of you doing something. Others are quite vocal about those common pictures of cats.
For me, I don't care if you have a picture of you hungover after a long night drinking. I just care that you're not an egg.
Have you taken the time to enter in something in your bio? You have 160 characters. USE THEM! I get that you may not know what to say about yourself, but say something. The bio is what will set you apart from the bots. It will identify you as a person. (You are a person, right?) You can get a little more guidance on how to write bios here.
Location and Website
Well, these don't bother me either way. If you live somewhere exotic, you might want to advertise that, but then again, maybe you don't. Perhaps you can say that you can be found somewhere with a book & coffee. And in terms of the website... Well, if you have a blog or a personal website, you would be silly if you didn't include it.
The Tweet Feed
Whenever I run a workshop about how to use Twitter, the first question that anyone asks me is, "What do you tweet?"
It's a simple answer, really. Anything you want. Tweet about your writing. Tweet about the annoying cat that keeps demanding to be fed. Tweet about how you ran out of coffee. (Aaahh... The horror!)
The possibilities of that precious tweet are endless. However, there are some things that many will call too much of a good thing. So, here is my checklist of what I look for when trying to decide if I'm going to follow someone or not.
- How many links to other sites are in the feed? Is it tweet after tweet of click this link?
- How many retweets are in the feed? How many quoted tweets?
- Inspirational quotes are cool, but how many of them are there?
- Are the tweets being fed from another social media site?
- How many mentions and responses take up the feed?
- Does the person express their own thoughts occasionally?
- Does the subject of the tweets actually interest me?
If your twitter feed just looks like an ad reel for your latest book, or the books of your friends, or all the blog posts that you have found scouring the Internet, then the odds are I'm going to just pass you by. I don't need my news feed filled with ads.
This goes for retweets and inspirational quotes as well. Don't get me wrong, some of those quotes are just brilliant nuggets of truths, but I tend to follow those who actually express their own thoughts and feelings on occasion. I like to follow people, not bots. I also prefer to follow those who are active and present on Twitter.
For those like myself, there will always be a certain level of automation that one uses. My blogs automatically tweet on my behalf when a new blog post goes life. There is no point in double handling when it isn't necessary. However, I always make an effort to login to Twitter and manually tweet something too. I do understand the allure of automating things, or linking multiple social media sites together, but in my opinion, automation and account linking should be handled with care.
There is one type of account linking that is an instant fail in my book and I have yet to follow anyone who does this. There are many who will link Facebook to Twitter, such that when you post from a Facebook page, the tweets automatically appear. However, what many don't realize is that these kinds of tweets actually cut you off mid-sentence, if they actually include any text at all. More often than not, they're just a URL link to Facebook. Sorry, but this is an epic Facebook fail. It looks bad, and it turns this Twitter user right off. The real issue is that people don't want to be forced to swap apps on their mobile devices just to get the latest information. They like being safe and warm.
However, if you really want to link Facebook with Twitter, there is good news. You can set up your accounts such that Twitter automatically posts on Facebook. Yes, pictures show up as links, however, because of the way Facebook does things, you can still see the picture through Facebook, without leaving the site.
I do this myself with the account that I use for my children's stories. I write those under a pseudonym with a writing partner. Between my personal accounts and her insane number of personal accounts, we refuse to complicate matters for our joint writing account, so Twitter handles all of the Facebook interactions for us.
But dare I say it, if your feed is just plain fascinating, I won't care how many links you include, or whether the feed is clearly automated. I'll follow you anyway. (Science-related accounts tend to fall into this category.)
The Cursed Auto-DM
Okay... If you troll through the feeds about social media marketing on Twitter, the same complaint can be found over and over. People hate auto-DMs. I'm talking about those direct messages that you get after you have followed someone, saying something along the lines of "Thanks for the follow. Click this link." They come in all shapes and sizes.
You get the DMs that demands you validate that you're a real person:
You get the stock standard auto-DM of "Thanks for the follow. Click this link."
You occasionally get the harmless, personalized DM that is just a "Thanks for the follow."
But my personal favorite auto-DMs are the ones that know it's wrong, but they do it anyway.
However, there is one type of advertising that takes it to a whole new level of annoying. For these people, annoying DMs are not enough. They'll send you a public mention-tweet of "You liked my tweet. Now go buy my book."
It's funny, because users of Twitter have been rather vocal about this particular type of marketing, saying that they hate it and it's an instant turn off. For me, unless you catch me in a really good mood, it will result in an instant unfollow.
However, so-called social media marketing experts just aren't getting the hint. Check out this essay that I got as an auto-DM from a marketing agency. You don't need to read the whole thing, but it's beyond laughable to see that this agency realizes that auto-DMs are extremely ineffective, yet they think it's fine to do it themselves. They prey on those who don't know better. Sorry, guys, but you just became an example of what not to do and managed to completely ensure that I NEVER use your services.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
There is good news in all this. If you put in a little bit of effort on being a human on Twitter, it can lead to some awesome opportunities. For myself, I originally joined Twitter to cyberstalk some agents that I was interested in submitting to. (I'm not above admitting that I cyberstalk industry professionals. They cyberstalk us too.) However, after forcing myself to understand how the beast worked, I discovered a massive writing community and never looked back.
My activities on Twitter have led to a collaborative writing project, my own radio show, several quest blogs, editorial contracts, and confidence. It's that last one that is probably a hidden benefit, but in my case, 100% true. As I've become more comfortable with Twitter, I've found myself exploring other ways of marketing on-line, and not all of them are Twitter based.
And the added bonus: because of the character limits of Twitter, it forces this writer to be incredibly concise and not so flowery with my words.
Twitter is not the scary beast that many think. You just need to force yourself to actually explore the Twitter world.
Some time ago, I wrote a Twitter 101 handout with notes on Twitter etiquette and a list of hashtags that can help get you started as a writer on Twitter. You can find it here.