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.


JBarWriter said...

I haven't been on Twitter long myself and I agree with this comment about twittequette...7. Don't get all bent out of shape when someone in a two-way relationship unfollows you.
It's like playing with a yo-yo it goes out and it comes back.

Richard Mabry said...

Can't argue with any of your ten--make that eleven--rules. I've been on Twitter just a few weeks less than you. I have already dropped a number of the people I originally started following because I thought it would be interesting to get a glimpse into their lives. What I got, though, was the score of the football game they were watching with frequent updates, or numerous self-promoting tweets. In general I found myself bombarded with information overload that was sucking the heart out of my day.
I dropped the number of folks I'm following to those with whom I'd ordinarily exchange emails and even phone calls. I'll never reach record numbers, but that action gave me back time and (to a degree) sanity.
And, as you know, I still follow you. Wouldn't miss it.

Pam Halter said...

I can't even beging to think about Twitter right now. I have enough with Facebook and the blogs I follow. Along with life, in general. But it sounds pretty cool and maybe someday, I'll try it out.

Tyora Moody said...

These are some great tips. Very funny too! I was signed up for twitter for months before I started to use it. It can be pretty addictive in the beginning. Now it's a great "comfort" to have it up while I'm working. People check on me and I check on them.

Thank you for posting! I will share with others.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Pam, Facebook has a Twitter app that feeds your tweets to Facebook. My Facebook page remains active as a result, although I spend only 5-10 minutes there a day (responding to comments/messages.)

Gina Conroy said...

Great thoughts about Twitter etiquette. Going to check my home page now! :0

Fade to Black said...

Brandilyn, I especially like #10 and try to input in this area (between faith utterings and political rants). I think it endears people to you and you're passing along some useful info, or links. Networkin' babe, that's what it's about!

lynnmosher said...

Way to go, Brandilyn! I love, love, love all of these and so glad you added #11. Two things I hate: having someone follow me with an obvious sexual content or get rich quick scheme. I'm sick of both! Thanks for this. Will RT it! Blessings...

Anonymous said... it. Since I joined I have made many author friends(including you, Brandilyn) which I have added to facebook and I can't tell you how great an experience I am having. Learning lots on how to write my own novel and introduced to many good Christian fiction books I wouldn't have known about otherwise. I try to tweet back often but sometimes life gets too busy and I can't tweet at all.
My peeve is when I answer someone's tweet but I don't get answered back...ever. It just feels like I am talking to myself. That's okay too, though. I find that I do actually talk to myself a lot lately.
I love your blogs and tweets, Brandilyn and yours is the one I keep coming back to every day.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Great list, Brandilyn. I really enjoyed reading this and picking up a few new "guidelines." Great stuff!

Blinky St. James said...

Excellent post...I like to think of Twitter as a sort of giant IMing platform where more than 2 people can talk at once. And I'm very glad I's very fun and I've "met" a ton of interesting people through it. Usually I follow back unless the Tweeter tweets in a language I can't understand, seems a little odd, or has one tweet about making tons of money everyday. :P And auto DMs are pretty annoying..

Kara S. said...

I think your list should be part of Twitter's site! :) I've met some amazing people through Twitter that I know I would never have met another way. Like Judith, I've learned a lot about writing my own novel too.

My pet peeve involves #4 - the person who posts the same links every day. I actually follow one person like this mainly because he also writes some valuable tweets for writers. But I've learned to "gloss" over his link tweets. Sometimes a person grows as a tweeter too. I had another person I initially followed in return. Most of her tweets were links to her site (again, a #4 person), and I eventually turned her off in TweetDeck - never actually unfollowed. A couple of weeks later I started noticing some engaging conversations involving her and another person. What a difference those few weeks made in her twitter style with no more excessive links and self-promotion.

David A. Todd said...


Your rules seem to make good common sense. Unfortunately, in my corporate setting, all social media sites are blocked, including Facebook, Twitter, and a host of others (Linked-In may be allowed). At home I have at most an hour or hour and a half in the evenings on the computer. Any time with social media would, I fear, give me no time for writing.


~ Brandilyn Collins said...

An interesting side note: this post has been highly viewed--the day's not over and readership is already almost 300% higher than usual. Yet this is only the 14th comment. See yesterday's post. :]

Cathy Bryant said...

I love this post--mainly because I have many of the same views of "twittequette" (great name!). I fell much more comfortable tweeting with someone with a real name and picture. It's kind of freaky otherwise, because you have no idea who you're talking to!

I also don't follow people who have one tweet up on their page. I need a little more to go by.

Thanks for the post!

Unknown said...

I lost my comment :-(.

Great list!

I try to keep the number of people I follow low because I can't keep up and converse if I have too many!

I like your thoughts on following people and giving like a "grace" period. Great idea!

Anonymous said...

Excellent Twittequette list, Brandilyn. I agree with each and everyone!

Amy said...

For branding purposes, I use my blog design/avatar...sorry but I think that's more effective...people know it's me. ;)

CouldBeWertz said...

Excellent list! One thing about Twitter that I'm undecided on is the volume of tweets that, IMHO, should be DMs. Seeing "@joeschmoe No kidding!" is a waste of my time, is it not? Of course, I know I've broke this rule myself on occasion, but I try to think about it everytime I reply to someone. If I really want everyone to read it (because at heart I'm an arrogant selfish jerk!) I'll at least try to give some context to the reply.

Finally, I don't know that I totally agree with #3 about the automated DMs. If it's not too sales-y, I don't mind it. It's somewhat more personal than no "thanks for following" message at all. But that's just me.

Real Person said...

Found this article after asking google for Twitequette tips. As a newbie to Twitter I wondered whether I should thank those who have followed me and how to go about it. I thought it would be the polite thing to do. But I see you say it is not necessary. Of course I wouldn't do auto thanks since I don't even know how, lol, but was going to do it manually one at a time.

Re using our real photos, I've read this advice before. And I disagree as there's a whole 'nother world out there most people can't relate to, ie, disabilities. Not everyone is 35 and good looking. Wait until post-menopause on top of long term chronic illness where you live in bed 99.99% of the time. No way I'm putting my photo on the Internet, besides the fact I quit photos of myself 10-15 years ago.

Ditto for real names. If you're on Social Security Disability, they crawl the Internet looking for your name, it says so in their official literature. And even if you're lying down in your bed using a mobi phone to access the net, as I'm doing right now, and not doing anything that generates any income whatsoever, SSD automatically assumes if you can type with your pinky finger (as I'm also doing on the phone) that you can somehow leap out of bed everyday, shower, do hair makeup the works, iron your clothes, get dressed, grab all your stuff, run out the door and go do a 9-5 job all day everyday. So, no, I won't be using my real name either. I wouldn't even be on Twitter if my parents hadn't given me this mobi, as I can't afford it nor would I want to sit at a computer fior Twitter's sake :)

There could be other reasons people would prefer not to use their real names or photos. Maybe they are just shy, or possibly domestic abuse situations, or they don't like their name, or they are concerned re identity theft, etc etc. Not to mention Big Brother data-mining, profiling, etc.

Well this is long enough. My pinky needs a rest, lol. Thanks for the twitequette tips.

Unknown said...

I googled twittequette sincerely hoping no one would have coined the word yet. You disappoint me.