My lessons learned in Twittiquette

14/08/2013 at 13:01 (Reviews, Writing) (, , , , , , , )


This is not intended to be a snarky rant, nor yet a preaching-to-the-choir. I have been guilty, recipient and a part of every one of the following facets of Twitter usage, encountered in the brief spell of months I’ve been an active user. This is merely a post highlighting what I have observed and learned; an exploration of online social mores, as it were. All views are my own; nothing is based upon proven fact – except the universal aggravation of spam. That’s undeniable as a black hole, sorry.

I’d had a Twitter account hanging around for a year or so, limping behind my Facebook account full of safe local friends and family. But there’s only so much they can be hit with links to personal work, as though my daily status updates weren’t enough. I had no idea of the marketing potential of Twitter at the time, nor yet the wealth of literary information and like-minded artists, waiting to be discovered.

Sprucing up my profile, I set out to achieve something approximating a media circuit. I longed for objective criticism, creative minds, shameless geek-outs to various genres and mediums. And above all, some recognition of the effort I’d invested in my work. Don’t we all? Isn’t that one of the fail-safe reasons we set up these tweets, with their hashtag handles and punchy lines, to grab the interest of our prospective audience?

I was only vaguely aware of how to pitch an idea within the character limitation. But it all seemed simple enough. The little bar at the top of the screen winked invitingly. The words writer and Nintendo were the first to slide out from my fingertips, into the constant cycling stream of Twitter.

What an eye-opener.

Twitter is a bit like London’s Portobello road, or Camden market; if you think of something, it’s likely going to be there. This isn’t always a good thing, and as with all aspects of life, this social media platform has its really low points. But I personally feel the benefits far outweigh the costs; particularly for an indie writer like myself.

These are a few of the aspects I’ve learned about thus far, through trial and error:

* Volume of followers does not equate to social impact, or quality. There are plenty of sycophants and spambots out there, not to mention real life people who choose to use their profiles as a means of suckerpunching a feed with links to exclusively their work. The best way to sniff these unsavouries out – and avoid adding back, to keep your feed clear of mulch – is to first check back through theirs. If identical links keep popping up, whether as a plug for their own work or simply as photo/video memes, it’s a safe bet that their conversation isn’t going to be scintillating. Move yourself on. They’re not likely to give you the time of day, and there’s a heightened risk of a letterbomb DM arriving …

* DM’s are tricky things. Used correctly, they can enhance Twitter interaction between two people, insofar as character limit permits. The privacy this mode of conversation affords can help establish a more exclusive trust and kinship between users; if requested, links to personal work may be exchanged, without the risk of the conversation being hijacked by other users, no matter how well-meaning. Equally, a long-running conversation need not clog up everyone else’s feed.

* The flipside to this account feature, are the ever-irritating presence of DM spam-links. Why anyone would think these are a handy way to plug their work is beyond me, since it denotes a lack of willingness to go the extra mile in terms of social interaction. This kills the whole point of the platform. Worse, a dodgy link may well be sent via DM, from an accredited user who has been hacked – whatever you do, don’t fly off the handle at the user, until you know for sure it was not their fault that your account got spiked.
Delete the message immediately, and also from your notifications account (Hotmail, Gmail etc) and pass the information on to Twitter’s admin. DO NOT open an unrequested link, unless it comes with a personally-worded verification note from the sender.

* As a writer, I like to know who my target audience is. Social networking need not be so different from the real world; you wouldn’t walk into a bar and hold up your business card by way of introduction, unless you were begging for looks-to-kill. Oscillate among like-minded people. Hashtags are a godsend in this case, particularly for creative types seeking advice or to pass on their output. For me personally, the #writing #amwriting #writetip and #writingadvice hashes have introduced me to some quite brilliant minds, fellow geeks, book fiends, indie authors and above all, friends. They each have their own take on the world, and are very much a part of it, from all areas of the globe. Their ideas and personalities make for a friendlier aspect in what can be a critical and cut-throat market.

* Above are some of the general hashes, to be used on any given day. #mondayblogs, #writerwednesday and #fridayreads, speak for themselves – highly engaging, and useful for cycling through interesting and informative pieces to read about your favourite subjects; not to mention a great way of passing your work along.

* Keep an eye on when your followers are, across the board, most active. Some may be en route to work in the morning commute, while others will be on their lunch breaks, or heading home. Pitch your work towards these “golden hours” for a heightened reception, but don’t overdo it. One personal link per block of hours is more than enough to get your name across. And don’t forget the essential getting-to-know-you chats in between.

* Manners are applicable, on as offline. I cannot emphasize this enough. A simple “good morning” / “good night”, can mean far more than its sum of characters. Behind each tweet, there’s (usually) a real person with feelings, and the bit of world they make their presence known in. Small courtesy gestures, such as a “thank you” or a tit-for-tat retweet, can be the equivalent of a handshake with the person who has taken time to consider your output and decided to comment, favourite or pass it along. It certainly brightens my day to receive merit for my work, and I’ll try wherever possible to either tweet /DM appreciation to the relevant users.

* It takes only seconds to press the Favourite and/or Retweet button. ALWAYS carefully analyse the content of what you are sending on to followers. One dodgy link could affect many users adversely. A link you didn’t bother to check as safe, an ethos you don’t actually subscribe to but thought would sound cute/funny; these work to bring down your carefully constructed platform, not to mention possibly ruining someone’s day or night with their virus potential or bad taste. Also, when sending out links, do take care to disperse them evenly. https://hootsuite.com/ is but one nifty means of doing so.

* It takes a little more thought to retweet someone with either a personal opinion of your own, or a quote from the link source. I personally get a kick out of going to the original source of a friend’s work, using whichever Share buttons are applicable (or good old Copy/Paste) and attaching a quote that really caught me. It’s a neat way of highlighting a person’s work to the wider Twitter world, as well as emphasising the point you’re making in your tweet. When reciprocating a retweet or comment on your own work, this strategy of tit-for-tat can be a lovely – and practical – way of repaying the favour. But don’t feel pressured to do so. Some people just love to pass things on, while others may have motive in mind for reciprocation. Either way, be tactful about it. A simple “thank you” tweet and/or Favourite can be enough too.

* This simple act of share-share alike shouldn’t be uncommon in social media outlets. In the playground, a child is taught to share games, sweets and toys; in the workplace, a favour-task may be rewarded with a drink at the pub later. These Twitter boost-ups help promote everyone’s work, and keep a constant circulation of inspiration going for those who seek it. It also offers followers a wider perspective, rather than a ream of your own thoughts and links.

* If you are willing to give time and energy to reading, editing and/or reviewing another’s work, do make sure you actually have time set aside to do so. Balance it around your real life – work, family, leisure etc – as well as your own output. There need not be a sense of frustration between users, when a promise doesn’t pay up.

* Blogging is as essential a field of writing as any fictional output or article. Your blog can turn you into a business mogul, if you’ll only take time to amplify it properly. Your blog allows a general audience to find out who you are in greater detail than is available on Twitter. That being said, the latter is a great place to broadcast your writing aptitude – most blog platforms have applicable Share buttons. Make full use of them, but don’t be tempted to reveal every insight you’ve had to date. Don’t lay all your cards on the table at once. Keep an audience willing to return, and if something really isn’t for universal distribution – there’s always the Private entry setting. In this way, your blog can still be relevant to your emotional and intellectual state, as well as a regular pitch for your creativity.

* Journalists are not the thoughtless monsters some would have us believe. They are human too, with feelings and lives, and a code of conduct I find intriguing. When passing on information of any kind, they will remember to reference back to the original source. Woe betide the journalist who doesn’t. I find this to be fascinating as it is inspirational, a must-have habit for all Twitter users, and especially artists. If you’re going to pull a photograph / quote / buzz word from either the internet at large or from a fellow Twitter user, remember to post a referring link back to source. It’s not only a good way to avoid plagiarism claims; it’s just good manners.

* And lastly, though by no means least – do not forget the outside world. Your real time, the air you breathe and the people you know. Take time to move around, to absorb the world – it’ll emphasize your output, whatever the medium. No amount of internet and feed trawling is going to turn up as much inspiration as the sensory triggers, relationships and random moments of the real world. Today for example, a man stopped me in the street to hand me a purple daisy; he told me to weave it in my hair, and travel to San Francisco. He made my day. And he’ll find his way into a blog entry, if not a story at some point.

The outside world holds the key to your potential, as well as your feelings. There’s only so much that online interaction can generate, though believe me I have grown as a person since beginning my Twitter career. And I do see it as a career, insofar as I’m constantly sharing and interacting with fellow artists and like-minded people, passing on information and some downright fantastic work (plus no end of humour), absorbing what is offered. I have gained some truly inspirational, engaging friends; their support and compassion for both my personal wellbeing and literary output, is inestimable in value.

But I have also made the mistake of leaning too heavily on this virtual sphere at times, to the detriment of my actual employment, as well as real-time interaction.

Striking the balance on and offline, is key. Distance in mileage will always be a factor, but it need not be an inhibitor – and it’s vital to never forget the faces and feelings behind the screens, as well as in our local circuits.

 photo 98722d72-1ae8-400a-bd0f-4f141f659744_zps192bfb51.jpg

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21 Comments

  1. okiewashere said,

    Excellent. Thumbs up.

  2. My lessons learned in Twittiquette | Jessica P. West said,

    […] My lessons learned in Twittiquette. […]

  3. Simon Lavery said,

    Useful article. Thanks.

    • celenagaia33 said,

      Thank you! This really means a lot to me, to be able to pass on advice

  4. jabe842 said,

    Thanks for this 🙂 I will admit to finding the mechanics of Twitter a little daunting at first, and the non-linear nature of some feeds sometimes took some getting used to, but yes, you’re absolutely right – simple courtesy goes a long way. My account gathered dust for a little while too before i began to engage with other users, and I can honestly say it’s been a much more enriching experience than I expected, for exactly the positives you’ve identified here. Another great post, thank you 🙂

    • celenagaia33 said,

      What an affirmation 🙂 This spurs me on no end. I know just how you feel, I’m still thrown a loop by some online events. But decent behaviour merits just rewards.

  5. Rory James said,

    Thanks so much for the great article!!

    • celenagaia33 said,

      Absolutely my pleasure, thank you for reading it! I’m hoping it’ll get passed on and used for reference, it’s always good to have guidelines to refer back to

  6. Aquileana said,

    Rachael,

    This is a very interesting post… I really enjoyed it…

    I love how you highlight the advantages of Twitter at the end. I also find out that Twitter is a great tool to connect & interact with people, if you know how to use it and if you strike “the balance on and offline” as you have well pointed

    I also happened to me to feel I have grown up a lot as person just knowing how to make agood use of social Media. I am now more connected with Twitter, but previously Google plus opened me doors which lead to a few number of people in Usa & Canada who are now virtual engaging friends. But friends with whom I talk everyday and share great stuff…

    So I guess I couldn´t be more grateful…

    Sending you love; Aquileana 😉

    • celenagaia33 said,

      I echo every sentiment of this. I feel more ‘grown’ since advancing into the world, albeit online for now… but it’s a great precursor to travel 😉

  7. bgbowers said,

    Definitely passing this on 🙂

  8. Talicha J. said,

    nicely done!

  9. My lessons learned in Twittiquette | in the pursuit of said,

    […] “This is not intended to be a snarky rant…”My lessons learned in Twittiquette […]

  10. Sally said,

    Fantastic article – wish I’d read this sooner. Like you, I’ve had a Twitter account for years, and not really known what to do with it. I’ve started using it tentatively in the last year, but if I’d read this, I might have known what I was doing! Thanks a lot. This is great.

    • raishimi33 said,

      No worries at all, and thank you! Always good to read an affirmation 🙂

  11. TheMoonyDreamer said,

    Massively well said and a good reminder as I am coming into the third month of trying to be more active on Twitter. Thanks!

  12. The Benefits of Taking a Break from Facebook | Natural Family Today said,

    […] My lessons learned in Twittiquette […]

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