When Writers Do It Wrong: The Top 10 Ways To Annoy Your Twitter Followers
Let’s talk about Twitter. If you’re a writer on Twitter, you’re probably trying to sell your books, promote your stories/poems, and/or share your blog, right? Maybe the instinctive number-hogging drive in humans has told you that the bigger the "followers" number, the better you’re doing. More equals better? More tweets. More retweets. More followers. More sales. More. More. MOAR!
But here’s the problem: more isn’t always the answer. Obviously exposure is great, but you really do have to think not just about quantity, but quality. It doesn’t matter if you have 80,000 followers on Twitter if you annoy every single one of them (even your mom). Big follower numbers and even lots of retweets don’t at all prove effective marketing. In fact, it can be counter-productive. Nowadays it more likely provides a circle of other writers also trying to wade through the muck and lots of mutual back-scratching.
So let’s look at the base problems. What we actually want are quality connections with readers who are genuinely interested in the work we’re doing. I mean, well-intentioned fellow writers are great (and valuable for plenty of non-marketing reasons), but ultimately they’re not the ones buying your book. Quality is impossible to measure, but stats aren’t. Stats are easy, so we focus on those instead. But here’s a trick: look at your analytics. (You can access individual tweet analytics by clicking the bar-graph-looking image in the bottom right corner of the tweet. You can access overall analytics by going to Analytics.Twitter.com.) Find one of your more-shared tweets in which you included a link to something of yours (a purchase link, for example). Are the “retweet” and “like” numbers significantly higher than the “link clicks?” Do the math: people are sharing you without actually reading you. Favors are all well and good, but what we’re really looking for are readers/shoppers, no?
Maybe you’re not convinced that numbers aren’t the goal. That’s totally fine. Your opinion is valid and you have every right to tweet however you want! You should probably go away, though, because this post is not for you.
But if you’re a writer looking to make deeper connections, worrying now that what you’ve accidentally been working on are meaninglessly large numbers, what can you do? It won’t be easy or pretty, but you can overhaul your presence. One tweet at a time, stop spamming people and start providing quality content. Marketing is important, but too much marketing has the opposite effect. It annoys the crap out of people and they mute you, unfollow, or take you off their private lists of people whose tweets they actually read.
Tweet less. Tweet better. Tweet relevantly. And for the love of all that is holy, stop annoying your followers. Here’s my list of the 10 most annoying things I see writers do on Twitter, plus (PLUS!) how to fix them.
1. You Connect Twitter to Facebook
…Or any service that allows “longer” tweets (but must be clicked on to read the rest of it). STAHP. Twitter ≠ Facebook. Trying to only use one and ‘shortcut’ to the other just annoys the people actually using that other platform.
Cross-pollination is great. Asking your Twitter followers to open Facebook every time your status goes beyond 140 characters is maddening. Rather than hooking your Twitter to Facebook, just share a link to your Facebook every once in a while.
“My baby’s poop just exploded out of his diaper and landed on my dog’s face! It smells like carrots! My dog thinks it’s delicious!”
I shouldn’t have to say it. Please don’t make me say it.
3. You Connect Twitter to Goodreads
It’s so tempting to hook all of your accounts together, I know. But if I want to follow you on Goodreads, or Instagram, or tumblr, or Foursquare… I’ll follow you on those platforms. If you tweet all of your actions on all of them I have no reason to follow you there, because I’m pestered by repeated content. Just tweet links to your other profiles once in a while; don’t automate the accounts.
4. You Share Every New Blog Post Without Comment
Sharing your new posts a few times each is perfectly fine! But a tweet that says, “New blog post is up! ____ (link, with no description)” is not going to get many, if any, people to click on it. How do we know it’s not spam? Likewise, if your blog post titles aren’t *always* self-descriptive, don’t automate your blog posts as tweets either. “@So-and-so just posted Vague Blog Post via Wordpress!” isn’t any better.
The better option is to take the time to actually craft a tweet that tells us what the post is about and piques our interest enough to click. Bonus points if each tweet that shares the same post is slightly different. If one phrasing didn’t catch my eye, a clone won’t either. Try it from a few angles and see what gets results. Make notes for future tweets.
5. You Tweet About Unfollowing
Why would you tweet about who you just unfollowed? Rude much? Even more baffling… why would you tweet about how many people have unfollow you? WHY?
The only way to fix this is to stop. Just stop. Unhook that external app that tweets your numbers and never look back.
6. You Have Really Long @ Conversations
This is a tricky balance. I mean Twitter is social media, and socializing is the point. It’s easy to get caught up in a conversation and forget that other people are seeing it go through their feeds. (Anyone who follows both users will see @ conversations.) So if your chat happens to be genuinely interesting/relevant, go ahead. But if it’s just niceties back and forth or overly personal talk, at some point it’s time to take it to email or DM, folks.
7. You Tweet Vagaries All the Time
This should go along with random song lyrics into the time capsule of the 90s internet. It’s generally not cool for any adult, and is definitely not cool or smart for writers. Especially passive aggressive or woe-is-me ones. “Gah! I can’t believe this! Just my luck. =(” If you need some attention, seriously, that’s okay, but seek it in your personal life, not as part of your author platform.
8. You Participate in #FF
I. cannot. believe. this. is. still. a. thing.
At one point, #FF (#FollowFriday for the long-winded or #WW for the writer-specific) was actually a cool idea. You would tweet one or two people who you thought were worth following along with explanations of why and spread the love. Unfortunately, this quickly turned into long lists of @handles with no explanation as to why we should follow them. This is digital clutter. Don’t do it. Even if everyone you tag retweets it (I’m dying; I’m actually dying) or likes it. They are the only ones.
If you really, genuinely want to share cool people to follow with your own followers, just do it in a tweet the old-fashioned way. “Hey, y’all should check out @So-and-so. She has fabulous things to say about baby poop.” No hashtag necessary; no giant lists allowed.
9. You Still Use Klout
Um, y’all? No one cares about Klout anymore. It was a cool novelty at first, sort of objectively measuring your presence across various platforms, but they went off the rails of usefulness the moment they started upping your klout when you shared/did things through them. It’s no longer a functional analytic; Twitter analytics is much more useful. So if you still have your Klout account hooked to Twitter, it’s time to sever the tie. No one wants to see those “I just gave @So-and-so a K+ about baby poop explosions!” tweets anymore.
10. You Retweet Everything
…Including other people who tweet all of these really annoying things. Yes, I know it boosts your numbers, and no, those numbers don’t translate into any valuable connections. Instead, it floods your followers’ timelines with back-scratching and buries your own content.
Want to start strengthening your connections? Only retweet things you genuinely find worth sharing, and your followers will thank you for it. Bonus points if you say a word or two about what/why you’re sharing. In the spam-cluttered cyber wilderness that Twitter has largely become, your humanity will stand out like a gold star. Don’t worry if your numbers dip a little; focus on how many people and interactions you actually remember once you’re no longer looking at the screen. That’s the real measure. Those are the human beings who might be interested in buying your book, because they know you personally and like your style; they’re interested in your content and are following you for a solid reason. That’s what we want.
If you’re a writer trying to leverage Twitter to your benefit, and you made it this far without cursing my name, you might be interested in checking out my other (generally slightly less snarky) column about Twitter for writers over at Writer Unboxed, which even includes an ‘Ask Annie’ feature. And I’m always available on Twitter @AnnieNeugebauer to answer questions when possible, so feel free to drop me a note.
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