Twitter for Authors: the Good, the Bad, and the Obnoxious

Twitter for AuthorsI enjoy Twitter. I just want to get that out there. I like the immediate response to world events. The sense of connectedness. I like interacting with other writers and enthusiastic readers. But lately I’ve been enjoying Twitter less than usual, and it got me thinking about the role of Twitter for authors.

You see, when I started using Twitter I was having conversations. It was all about two-way communication. Then, as I followed more people, and more people followed me, I started noticing automated tweets advertising the scheduling tools some writers use.

“Enjoy the freedom of being away from Twitter, while still sharing compelling content with your audience.”

The language here is important. Freedom is being away from Twitter. Instead of having conversations they are sharing content. It isn’t a medium for discourse between equals — it’s about you and your audience.

“Keep your followers engaged. Share quality content, even while you are away from Twitter.”

Same principle here. Clear division between you and your followers, and more content sharing while you are away from Twitter.

These tweets are symptomatic of what was souring Twitter for me. Is souring Twitter for me. Given the kinds of accounts I follow it’s mostly authors doing this, but I’m sure it happens elsewhere in the Twittersphere. It’s broadcast syndrome.

Image of Megaphone

Some people treat Twitter as a megaphone.

There is a principle in Twitter that if you follow people, some will follow you back. Follow to be followed. It does increase your following, but as I searched for writerly types to follow I found my Twitter feed flooded with stentorian proclamations about this book or that book.

I understand the need to generate buzz around the time your book launches. Hell, when an author I know has a book coming out I’ll retweet with the best of them. But what I see from some authors is nothing but self-promotion. There’s no communication, no conversation. Just a deluge of scheduled tweets aimed at selling books rather than making a real connection.

Judging by the ratio of automated tweets, these authors aren’t even on Twitter. If you wanted to strike up a conversation, it would likely be as one sided as the rest of their timeline.

Now, scheduling tools do have their place. If you follow more than a few hundred accounts your feed quickly becomes a free-flowing stream of chatter. It’s easy for a tweet about a blog post or useful article to get lost if you only put it out there once.

People dip in and out of Twitter throughout the day, and from different time zones. I don’t see anything wrong with sharing these kinds of tweets more than once, perhaps on an automated schedule.

But if all you tweet is self-promotion and you’re never actually on Twitter yourself to contribute to the discourse, then what you’re doing is polluting the feeds of your followers.

Rather than just rant, here’s what I’m going to do. If I see an author whose timeline is mostly automated tweets and little or no interaction with others, I’m going to unfollow. I’m sure I’ll lose followers by doing this, but if those people are busy enjoying their freedom from Twitter I figure they aren’t seeing my tweets anyway. What good is a follower who isn’t interested in what you are saying?

I’m going to take control of my Twitter feed and tune out the people who are only interested in shouting at their followers rather than talking to them.

Do you use Twitter? And if so, how do you handle the megaphone brigade?

8 thoughts on “Twitter for Authors: the Good, the Bad, and the Obnoxious”

  1. I’m with you all the way! If I see nothing but your book, followed by your book, I unfollow immediately. The best people to follow, in my opinion, are those who share useful information and links, and not only their own items, but others peoples as well.

  2. Totally agree! In fact the only thing that’s kept me on Twitter is having a list of people whose Tweets I want to see, and mostly I just check that list now – and only occasionally dip into my main account, which has grown out of control! And the message function seems to be all automated messages now too 😁 Great blog post, as always.

  3. I have trouble seeing Twitter as anything other than a broadcast tool for sharing content, or, at worst, for self promotion. I think I’ve had one ‘conversation’ on Twitter – with you – but given the word count, I can’t see that it was ever really designed for conversation. Rarely does anyone answer my comments, acknowledge my retweets, or comment on anything I tweet – and it seems to be the same for anyone else ‘not famous’ (or infamous, as the case may be).

  4. Lone wolf here! Even after exploring all the other social media platforms, one of my favourites is still Twitter. Maybe it’s because I know my way around it after using it for years. Also I think it might because if I have a quick thought about writing or something else, it’s easy to communicate instead of having to think about writing a whole blog post. I don’t follow anyone who uses it purely for self promotion and have started using lists too. I like the supportive writer community on it. I think it is just one of those things that either clicks with you or it doesn’t – for me it is still worth a few minutes each day.

  5. I have such a love hate relationship with Twitter at the moment, for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned. When I first joined Twitter back in March 2009, it was such a great place for conversation and connecting with other like-minded people. In fact, many of the bloggers and writers I started following and conversing with, are some of my longest social media friends today. But, in recent years I fell out of love with it. There is just so much noise there! And I know I’m in the minority, but I haven’t been a fan of them introducing the photos with tweets. It makes it easy for users to simply scroll and stop at something eye-catching – don’t we already have platforms for that? With Twitter you use to have to stop, read and interact. I feel it’s lost that. And because I feel like that, I know I’m not using it to it’s potential, so it’s really a catch 22 for me at the moment.

  6. I’ve only just joined Twitter last week and I’m struggling to see the point of it outside promotion. I’m going to have to google ‘Twitter for novices’

  7. I agree totally. Promoting my ZEPHYR series on Amazon (ahem, first book free) is about engaging with readers & other writers on Twitter. I unfollow the Round Team accounts as I identify them & don’t think I’m losing much.

  8. Late to the party on this thread but wanted to add my tuppence-worth. I’ve got to agree with you on this one.
    I use a penname on Twitter for my author stuff and I’ve got another Twitter account for stuff related to my job as a doctor. There is a massive difference in the content of the feeds. The doctor feed tends to be full of people having discussions and plenty of animated discussions. No one is selling anything. Twitter is a lot of fun.
    I like Twitter – I ‘get’ it and I click with it. However, I’ve been a little dismayed sometimes when looking at the author feeds. There is a lot of automated content – and even when it is not it is still about relentless self promotion. A considerable amount of humble-bragging and very little conversation.
    I will persist with it but I do agree that careful curation is the way forward.

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