We’re told content is king, one-to-one engagement is paramount and direct messages on Twitter are rude. Maybe not. Before you swallow somebody else’s rules, we need to be careful we aren’t hiding our lights under bushels again. As the resident introvert pretending to be an extrovert, I’m not suggesting “rules” here. I’m suggesting not all rules are for everybody all the time. Question the rules and let’s rethink what’s rude when you’re on Twitter. Let’s examine the self-appointed arbiters’ assumptions about marketing manners with some Maybe Myths. I may not change your mind with this contrarian post, but I’ll be happy you made up your own mind.
Maybe Myth 1: Content is king.
Sin: Last week I promoted more authors than ever through Twitter. In return, they promoted my new books, Bigger Than Jesus and The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. The Tweet Teams at World Literary Cafe and me friends at Triberr helped sell books. It’s a tricky balance, figuring out how much to tweet, how much to retweet and how much to engage. I thought I was risking my follower count by tweeting a drumbeat of, “Buy my book! Buy these books!” I promoted others more than myself, but it was still a big stack of book flogging. It was, you might well argue, what many people object to when they think of desperate authors trying to get attention and yell past the ambient sound.
Redemption: Or, if you think of it differently, it’s helping out and giving more people more opportunities to discover cheap entertainment they might otherwise have missed. Silence or too much self-conscious inhibition would not have connected with people or moved any books. Besides, my numbers of Twitter followers increased with this promotional campaign. No, don’t harangue anyone, but don’t be so shy, either. Be proud. Assert. Declare. Let yourself be known.
Maybe Myth 2: Engagement is queen.
Sin: You can’t get more followers, and you don’t deserve more followers, unless you engage with people. “Twitter is a conversation,” the gurus say. I think that’s often right, but what I did last week wasn’t much of a conversation. The signal went out, not back and forth.
Redemption: I want to be clear: I remember my pleases and my thank yous. I do engage with people on Twitter a few times a day. I’ll respond to a question or a comment here and there. However, I follow 2,000 interesting people on just one of three Twitter accounts. How much real engagement is logistically or reasonably possible to expect?
Before you answer, “So follow fewer people”, nope! I follow a lot of people for all that great neural input. Information and joke tweets stimulate my brain and I want to keep my brain stimulated. I value their tweets and all that fresh data.
3. Maybe Myth 3: Everyone’s a delicate little princess.
Sin: Some people object to auto-tweets welcoming new followers because they think direct messages to strangers are rude and bot tweets suck. (Who handed down that law to begin with, anyway?)
Redemption: I’d argue that if you follow somebody, it indicates a good faith act that you don’t want to be just strangers. You might not have them over for a barbecue yet, but the condemnation of a friendly, welcoming auto-tweet with a little more about me, my website and my book babies seems a wild overreaction. Please don’t go to Defcon 1 and condemn one auto-tweet with the same vehemence as world hunger or skinning live puppies.
Some people complain welcoming auto-tweets are annoying. I think that’s a very vocal minority, probably the same subset of people who insist on validating Twitter accounts. I don’t do that, either. I tried it and it was cumbersome and if somebody’s that stiff and vituperative about a simple follow, they probably aren’t my crowd. I’ve had followers thankme for letting them know I have books (of Doom!) and podcasts (of Doom!) that they may want to check out. One person’s spam is another person’s tasty meat product in a can.
More about the auto-tweet debate: Consider the case of Claude Bouchard, a brilliant author, who uses Twitter very effectively. I know this because his following is closing in on 273,000 people. Um. Wow. In a recent post, How I Really Got a 1/4 million Twitter Followers, he explained that he takes a few minutes each day to unfollow the people who don’t climb aboard his party boat to make room for people who get him. Click that blog post link for more information on his strategy and thinking. I would not presume to summarize it here. (You could also set TweetAdder to take care of unfollows and other tasks automatically, though Mr. Bouchard doesn’t trust such bots and does it manually.)
I read someone condemn the welcoming tweet idea as useless. My answer: Do you have half as many Twitter followers? Have you sold as many books? Then maybe Mr. Bouchard has something to teach, not learn. I’m glad I ran across his post.
Think you’ve heard it all? I’ve watched a couple of people on Twitter castigate someone who dared to hit “reply” to one of their tweets. These dicks, a couple of celebs so minor as to be nearly microscopic, took the minimalist approach to Twitter engagement and made up a new rule: How dare you speak to someone you don’t even know? (Answer: um, so we might get to know each other?) For these guys, Twitter is a place for everyone to sit quietly while they talked. I think applause was allowed, as long as it was quiet golf green applause. You can monologue on podcasts, but when people declare that Twitter is only for people who already know each other? Really? Isn’t that what email is for? Unfollowed.
To the vocal minority: I make free podcasts, free blog posts (that are usually wittier, far less cranky and more fun than this one), cheap but pretty damn awesome books and give friendly-but-not-needy engagement to my Twitter friends. That ought to suffice, shouldn’t it? Sorry if I annoyed you last week, but if it did annoy you, apparently you were a small group and, respectfully, I hope you unfollowed so I won’t bother you further. I don’t want to bother anyone. Let’s just keep things in perspective. Twitter is free and you don’t have to listen to anyone you don’t want to listen to. I wouldn’t have it any other way. You no like? Unfollow. Don’t tell me you’re unfollowing. Just do it, no hard feelings. Not everybody likes mocha coffee. Crazy, but true.
What some people call spam, others thank you for. I fractured the royal rules and made them into Maybe Myths, gained more Twitter followers, helped a bunch of readers and writers connect, and sold some books. And not just my books, either. Maybe the Internet scolds need to reconsider the accepted dogma. I’m going to continue to let people know about my books as they keep coming. Lots of people seem to appreciate that. Those who do board my party boat and go for a fun fiction cruise with me have no idea how grateful I am for their enthusiasm and support.
Truly. Thank you.
- Twitter Etiquette: Eh? (0x41.cc)
- Twitter marketers: why almost everything you know from Facebook is wrong (venturebeat.com)
- Unfollow-another poem. (raemegoneinsane.wordpress.com)
- 6 Reasons Why You Should Unfollow Someone On Twitter (thoughtcatalog.com)
- Twitter Study: For Higher Engagement, Tweet on the Weekends (sproutsocial.com)
- Rethink Your Stories (bengunty.wordpress.com)