Monday, February 09, 2009
@Brandilyn: Ten-Point Twittequette
I've been on Twitter for three months now--certainly not long enough to call myself an expert, but long enough to get a feel for the community. And it is a community. Do not think of Twitter as a place in which to practice interruption marketing. Think of it as a huge party, a social gathering. And behave accordingly. This doesn't mean you can never talk about your business. In social situations, people often talk about what they do for a living; a career is a big part of a person's life. But the conversation is done in context.
@Brandilyn: My Ten-Point Twittequette:
1. If you must use a Twitter ID other than your name (and I really prefer you wouldn't), at least include your name on your profile page. (By the way, I'd use my full name as my ID, but it's more letters than Twitter allows.) When someone introduces himself at a party, what's the first thing he tells you? His business? His hobbies? Don't think so. A name is the immediate and best connection. I follow plenty of people with IDs other than their names, but often in replying to them, I'll check their profile first because I want to use their name in the tweet. I find it disconcerting to be in conversations with people over many weeks' time and not even know their name.
2. Use your own photo--not an avatar, or a picture of your children, or you at age five, or your cat or whatever. I'll likely receive a lot of flak on this one, given all the varying ID pics out there on Twitter. But again--you're in a social gathering. Would you wear a mask while trying to talk to someone at a party? If a masked person walked up to you and wanted to talk, how willing would you be? Just like a name, a face is a connection. If you don't want your name and face out there publicly, then opt for a private account. But if you want to connect to the public, you should be willing to put yourself out there. At the very least, if you want to use a company logo for your ID, put your photo on your profile page.
3. Do not send automated "thanks for the follow" direct messages. There are numerous Twitter apps. that allow you to do so. But as I quickly learned, automated messages go against the grain. People flat out don't like them. Twitter is all about connecting. A canned message is not a connection. Even worse are the canned messages that add a link to the person's Web site or try to sell you something. Tweeple really don't like those. Such tweets are interruption marketing in a permission environment, and they stand out like a sore thumb.
Nobody's going to notice if you don't send a message when a person follows you. They will notice a canned statement. If you want to respond to a follow with a message, make it personal.
4. No, you don't have to follow everyone who follows you. I don't auto follow back. I do check each person who follows me to see if I want to follow back. If Twitter is about relationships, then each person has a right to decide if he/she wants to be in that relationship. I won't choose to follow someone back if:
-- her tweets are purely marketing, or purely self-started statements (that is, she rarely if ever replies to others--which is a sign of a two-way conversation).
-- he's following hundreds more people than are following him. In this case either his tweets are merely self-serving, or, if he has few updates, it's clearly a new account, and he's following anyone and everyone merely to get his numbers up in a hurry. Either scenario does not bode well for future valuable communication.
-- something in her profile turns me off. Maybe it's a sarcastic tone. Or an off-color photo (yes, I've seen them). Maybe the account is for a business that doesn't interest me in the least. Whatever the reason, if I choose not to follow back, that's my prerogative. By the same token ...
5. Cut the same slack to folks who don't choose to follow you back. For whatever reason, they don't want to hear what you have to say. In my case, they may think suspense novelists are weird. (They'd be right.) They might not like the fact that I include "Christian" in my profile. They may not like my looks. Whatever. It's their prerogative.
6. You have the right to unfollow those who don't follow you back. (And they've got a right to stop following you if you don't recriprocate.) I'll give someone at least a month to follow in return. If she doesn't, I'll take the hint and unfollow. I see no point in continuing to listen to what that person has to say if we're not in a two-way conversation. There's also a practical matter in this. That infamous 2000 mark will come all too soon. When I hit following that many, I'll be forced to weed out until my followers also reach 2000. In preparation for that, I prefer to keep my following/followers ratio fairly balanced along the way.
7. Don't get all bent out of shape when someone in a two-way relationship unfollows you. I see too many people worry about this. They feel rejected. Listen up here--to a novelist who's used to being reviewed. Put your name on a book and stick it in the public domain--and watch the variety of responses. You'll never please everyone. Get over it. If someone unfollows you--fine. You may choose to unfollow in turn, since the communication has been broken. Just keep it practical. Don't mourn or rant or be vindictive.
8. Don't obsess over your follower numbers. Did you hear that, or must I repeat it? Don't obsess over your follower numbers! I see so many tweets about people wanting to reach a certain number by day's end, etc. Quantity isn't important if the quality of communication isn't there. If you want to get your numbers up in a hurry, there are certainly ways to do it. Just spend a few hours following everyone with high numbers of both followers and followees. These people tend to auto-follow back. Doesn't mean you'll forge a relationship with them, because you and they may have very little in common. And you obviously haven't reached out to them because you care what they have to say. But hey, if you want numbers, you'll get 'em.
I carefully choose whom I try to forge a relationship with. My numbers are growing steadily, but not at hundreds a day. I don't worry about that. I focus on being who I am and connecting.
9. Tweet as often as you like--but understand some may unfollow you if you tweet too much for their taste. On the flip side--understand that those following thousands of people are likely to be chattier than those only following 200. Herein lies the inherent imbalance of Twitter. When your followers/followees are over 1000 and up, you're in touch with a lot of people. It's natural that you may be in conversation with numerous of them at once. I bounce on and off Twitter throughout the day. I'm likely to put out a bunch of tweets in a short period of time, then get back to writing. My tweeple who are following thousands won't mind my plethora of tweets in a short period--because their inbox is flooded every five to ten seconds from dozens of people. But to my tweeple who are only following 150, my mug alone may practically fill their inbox for that time. I'm going to look like a downright conversation grabber.
Point here: give each other some slack regarding preference in number of tweets. Your follower numbers may be far different from someone else's.
10. Be helpful by sharing (a) your expertise and (b) your humanity. Of course I answer everyone's questions about my books. And I receive those daily. But I also can be helpful regarding the book publishing industry and reading, and simply give people a look into the life of a full-time novelist. I can pass on links about book marketing, publishing statistics, etc. Over the weekend I chatted with a reviewer who couldn't think up fresh questions to ask a much-interviewed novelist. I suggested numerous questions that I knew a novelist would find insightful. I can point readers to other authors I think they might like. On the humanity side--hey, I'm a person, not just an author. I highly empathize with people. I have a rather wacky sense of humor. I enjoy discussing certain topics and hearing others' opinions.
Bottom line, be a good conversationalist, which includes everything from business to personal. (This doesn't mean you have to get too personal. Please.)
Finally, because I don't have to answer to an editor here, I'll add another point.
11. Please, please check your profile page. Have you made a typo/spelling error? Is your profile typed black on black, or red on black, or black on maroon, so that it's barely readable? (I can't tell you how many of those I see every day.) A typo in your profile is akin to barbeque sauce on your shirt. Unreadable copy is akin to talking so quietly people can't hear you. Would you want to present yourself in either of those two ways at a social gathering?
See ya on Twitter. Bring along your Twittequette.