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?