Well, I never thought I’d be here giving tips on how to use social media. I’ve been a Facebooker for years, back in the days before your grandparents knew how to use the internet and before ‘updating your status’ became such a thing. These days I use it mostly for having a nose on what other people are up, morbidly fascinated with the shit they put up there, and even more so with the comments and responses they get from their ‘friends’.
I’d always viewed Twitter with a little contempt, albeit with a very limited understanding of how it worked and how it could benefit me. I had assumed it was there only for people to brag, like on Facebook, but with less space to do it. Editing their bullshit, or something.
So with these misanthropic thoughts on the current state of world social media, why did I sign up for Twitter? A few months ago I entered a writing competition. I had to write a very short flash fiction piece, as well as fill in a form asking me about my writing dreams and experiences. One of the questions was about my social media platforms. I answered something like, ‘I don’t have any – really should look into that.’ I would have added ‘LOL’ if that acronym didn’t irritate me so much!
But anyway, surprise surprise, I wasn’t successful in my application. In a broad email response I was told that half the score was for the story, the other half for my social media, or my platform. Well, and I’ll be honest, my first thought was ‘fuck you, what a load of bollocks.’ I calmed down pretty quickly, hell I’ve had my fair share of rejection emails, I should be used to it by now. But I viewed this scoring system as akin to a battle of the bands competition where you score points for tickets sold. So in the same way that the talentless group of musicians with rich families do better than the poor, friendless band who spent all their time actually practising, the writer who can whore themselves on the internet is better suited to this competition than someone who spends that time writing.
OK, I know that’s not true. After thinking about this for not very long at all I came around to their way of thinking, and not only that, I agreed with it. Why would a magazine or a publisher take the time and money with an author with no online persona, no contacts, and no networking evidence? Publishing is a business after all. Would a record company, however independent, take a gamble on that album produced in a bedroom somewhere whose musicians had never played live before? No, of course not.
That rejection really made me reassess things, maybe I should sign up and start ‘whoring’ myself out there, It seemed that everyone else was doing it, so why not me?
I read a few blogs and guides about how Twitter could be used by the would-be author, and the more I read the more I was deciding that I’d definitely take the plunge. Before I knew it, I was signed up and ready to engage with the world.
Within twenty minutes I had my first follower. Not that I thought he’d searched for me or anything, I’m sure there’s some setting on his account that tells him when people sign up, who he follows immediately and receives yet another follow. Well he had one in me. I was excited. The world was about to listen to my ramblings.
More followers err, followed, ‘What is wrong with these people?’ I asked myself, ‘why do they want to follow me? I can’t be that interesting!’
I’ve been on there for a couple of months now and I have to say, I bloody love it. When scrolling through the tweets of people I follow, there’s not one picture of someone’s dinner, not one post moaning about some mind-numbing, ridiculous bullshit, not one comment on someone else’s retarded problems. No, because on Twitter you can follow whoever you want and view a homepage tailored to your needs and interests.
Many of the blogs I read about using Twitter were very informative and helpful. But their authors were seasoned pros, with tens and even hundreds of thousands of followers to their names. That’s all well and good, they obviously know how to get the best out of it. But are they that qualified to give advice to newbies? Well, yeah, of course they are, but is advice for newbies better coming from one of their own?
I’m going to say ‘yes’ to that, and because of that, here’s my guide for new Twitterers.
Get a good number of people to follow. Like I said earlier, the great thing about Twitter is creating a homepage of things that interest you. As someone who likes writing, reading, and watching horror, following people who share that passion provides me with great information about horror books and movies out there I might have missed, as well as awesome pictures and GIFs of gore and demons. It’s all inspiration! This, I’m sure, is the same for writers of other genres. Pictures of hearts and cuddling for Romancers, guns and stuff for Actioners, silhouettes of pointy-hatted detectives for Thrillerers, and so on.
Like others’ tweets and retweet when you really like them. If the person who’s tweet you share doesn’t already follow you, maybe they will after seeing you appreciate the content they are posting. They might even do the same for you, maybe gathering you a few more followers from their page. You may think they’re only re-sharing in a kind of you scratch my back scenario, but who really cares?
Follow those who have more ‘following’ than ‘followers’. It may seem a bit egotistical, but it’s likely that these people almost always follow back someone who follows them. I know I do this, well most of the time. I have to admit that in the last few weeks I’ve refrained from following back people like that Chinese businessman who specialises in online marketing for stocks and shares, or whatever; I’m following all sorts of randoms from my initial foray into Twitter. But if that person is also a fellow writer or just a lover of your genre, the chances are they’ll appreciate your support and do the same for you.
Put hashtags in your bio. When I first signed up my bio read pretty much as it does now. Although where it said ‘writing horror’, it now says ‘#amwriting horror’. This simple addition has now put me in the shop window for those with similar interests. I have many more notifications of people following me now this change has been implemented. It seems that publishers, reviewers, and book marketing companies tend to search for specific hashtags, like this one. I also notice that many other users do the same.
Be witty, or at least a little interesting in your tweets. Mentioning what you had for dinner probably won’t bring you much attention, unless you have millions of people hanging on your every word, or are a celebrity. But if you make a genius and funny observation about modern life and phrase it well, for example, more people are likely to engage with you. I’m still struggling with this one!
Embrace the anonymity. With Facebook, it’s usually people you know who read what you say online. If they don’t, they may be able to search for more information about you and even check out pictures, if you aren’t all privacy minded. But on Twitter, no one knows you. And this is great, not that you can just go out and say what you like, but it’s more difficult to offend mass numbers of people who don’t know your real life personality. Although this point does sound quite dodgy, I’m sure people using the internet for ‘dark pastimes’ as it were, would agree here. I’m not one of those, though, I promise!
Avoid TrueTwit validation. I’ve only come across this once. I followed someone who seemed like the sort of person I’d like to follow, only to receive a DM (that’s a direct message for people who don’t know, but you do, right?) asking me to validate myself by clicking the link. Not knowing what was going on, a quick Google search told me to avoid this. Basically you need to convince the person that you are worthy of following them. Really? Not a great start to an online relationship, it’s not like I’m asking for the same back. A quick ‘unfollow’ restored everything to normal. So don’t just avoid people who use it, don’t use it yourself. You come across like a, how you say? A dick.
Well that’s about all I can think of at the moment. Now I’m no expert, as you can obviously gather. There are many aspects of Twitter that I haven’t got around to trying yet or implemented into my online persona. But if you want secrets about how to really get the most out of it, you probably haven’t read this far.
I’ll be back, same time next year, with a severely detailed and analytical approach to engaging in social media. Or maybe not. Come to think of it, I’ll be writing about killings and dismemberment!
Thanks for reading. And if you want to do some following stuff, this is me; @morgantanner666
Is that a shameless plug? I don’t understand Twitter enough to answer just yet.