Friday, October 5, 2012

Help me "get" Twitter

I want to tweet.  I really do.  I've even already had a Twitter account for over a year now.  I check in semi-regularly to read up on all the cool and interesting folks I follow -- book folk, mostly -- all people I'd like to get to know better, and cyber-befriend, and you know... 'network' with.  But when it comes to posting or commenting or whatever, I can't quite bring myself to dive in.  Forgive the nerdy sci-fi analogy, but to me, Twitter is like this heavily populated, alien planet, and I'm trying to land a shuttle there.  The problem is the world's so busy, and spinning so quickly, every time I try to penetrate the atmosphere, I skive off and carom back into space.

I should really say this: I'm interested in the people I follow as people, not just networking opportunities.  I'm a friendly guy.  I dig rapport in all its myriad, wondrous forms.  And if it helps make connections in the publishing industry, so much the better -- book folk tend to be interesting as hell.  I would like to advance my writing career as well, and these days, every article on the subject recommends social networking.  Specifically blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.  And as near as I can tell, the real party is on Twitter.

Therefore, I too, would like to partake of the party.

Here are my primary tweeting deterrents:

  1. It seems like most Tweeters are checking in multiple times every day.  Don't know if I can commit to that.  I've got way too much non-internet life going on, know what I mean?  Writing itself is a big time-sacrifice.
  2. Even if I made the time to faithfully tweet, what could I possibly contribute?  I come up with a Facebook status like once a week.  And you know my track record with this blog.  I can comment like hell on other people's posts when I feel like it, but when it comes to originating anything, well... I don't want to be like the guy who's tweets I was reading a few days ago -- #1, I want a cheeseburger -- #2, I'm in a drivethru getting a cheeseburger -- #3, this cheeseburger sucks -- #4, I hate the place that made this cheeseburger and we should all boycott them and put them out of business.  
  3. Most of the book folk I follow devote many of their tweets to promoting their projects: releases and appearances and reviews and things.  I have none of that.  Which leaves me feeling distinctly unqualified to commiserate.  Like in middle school when all the other kids had their pumped-up kicks (props if you get that reference).  It really does seem like a lunch table, and all I have to bring to it is the fact that I still write, even after many years of many unpublished books.  I maybe shouldn't try to shoulder my way into a seat, you know?
  4. The final reason I'm reluctant to tweet -- "Author platform".  What the hell is that, anyway?  Isn't it supposed to be where you connect with potential readers?  How much does that really happen on Twitter?  Realistically, how many readers get on Twitter to follow writers they haven't read and haven't heard of?  Someone please explain how that's supposed to work, because I'm obviously missing that angle.  And really, I shouldn't tweet if I don't understand what I'm doing.  What if I do it wrong?  What if my shuttle's thrusters accidentally spark a fire in the Twitter-planet's atmosphere and it sweeps through the domain and slays all the inhabitants?  I'd just feel bad, you know?  All my Twitter friends would just be gone.

So there it is.  'Ray's musings on all things Twitter-related'.  The reason I wrote this post, and not an update of my various writing projects (as was promised last week) is because I really want to get into it, but I need some guidance first.  Anyone out there have any advice for me?  Can you answer any of questions?  Placate any of my insecurities?  I'd sure appreciate it.  Disclaimer-wise, in case you caught any anti-Twitter sentiment up there, you should know that I have nothing against it.  In fact, I have a sort of a sick, stalker-ish fascination for it.  I'm just a little skeptical as to whether or not Twitter is appropriate for me, or for my 'author platform'.  Whatever that is.

Your thoughts on that?

(and, um... hashtags?)


Mary said...

With more public figures, companies and organizations turning to Facebook, I think Twitter has become the MySpace of the day. If you're not using it to network and haven't really been able to connect with fans & writers, it may be time to ditch the Twatter and look elsewhere, as social media is always evolving.

Vikki said...

Ray, I used to be just like you. I so did not get Twitter at all. It was way too overwhelming when I'd look at my feed, like way too many people talking at once and 90% of the time I had no freakin' idea what they were talking about. It provoked an instant panic attack. But I made lists, put my main follower list on tweetdeck (which is only about 30 ppl) and it made it much less panic attack-ish.

As far as actual tweeting - just forget # 3 & 4. Use it as a brief, goofy creative outlet. A way to be snarky in 140 characters or less. Boys Don't Read did a really good post a while ago about Twitter (I think it was Bryan's post, actually) and he pretty much nailed it.

On a personal note, I'd love to see your twitter musings. And you're on my "cool people" list, so that should make you feel special.

(And now I'll tell you my guilty little secret about Twitter. STALKING YOUR FAVORITE CELEBRITIES!!!! For a geeky fangirl like me, it is like THE MOTHERSHIP HAS LANDED because most that I follow are just regular, every day working actors/writers/producers and they often interact with their followers and, if you're witty enough, they sometimes respond/retweet you/follow you back. Have I mentioned that Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker from The Walking Dead follow me? Norman has even DMed me. And Michael read my blog. Yeah. That's right. You're jealous. I can tell.)

Charlie Rice said...

I can file the people I follow into four types. Writers, comedians, family, and some celebrities. As far as the writers go, most use Twitter as their personal spamming service and some of them actually program their tweets every 20 minutes. Few are just regular folks that tweet real stuff, and they're the people I talk with the most. Once you figure out who is who, make a list and you're set.

Mercedes said...

Oh, Ray! This is perfect! I would like to get back into Twitter! It's been wonderful for me. I've met some GREAT friends that I keep up with on FB. I found my agent via Twitter. Here's the number one suggestion I have for you:

Get Tweetdeck. It's free, easy to install, and when somebody references you directly, they put it in a separate column. That way you can respond to everything they say to you, and you're not dropped out of the conversation.

Twitter kind of gets the convo going, and it's fun because you can have many people involved at once, but I usually move it to FB or email to follow up. It's easier to talk there.

If you do get back on, let me know, my friend!

Ray Veen said...

Mary -- I'm wondering the same thing about Facebook. It seems many of the writers I like (famous or otherwise) are fairly inactive there. It appears they now prefer to tweet their feathered butts off.

Vivi -- Super jealous, for real! Love Walking Dead, especially Reedus (but maybe more so in Boondock Saints). And thanks for the sage Twitter advice. I will disregard 3 and 4 and approach Twitter from a more fun angle. You are simply the best, you know that?

Charlie -- Also some sound advice. I must figure these list things out. And thanks for pointing out the spam; I think I see what you mean. It's the 'real' writers I'm interested in.

Mercedes -- Sounds like Tweetdeck is must-have. It's some kind of app, yes? And get ready to join me cuz I'm gonna do a real tweet or two, real soon. Fer serious. Like maybe tonight. See you there?

Mary O. Paddock said...

I moved very reluctantly to twitter back in July when I released Sing (I think I actually "followed" you, by the way).

What I hate about it--it moves too fast. It's impersonal. I have amassed the requisite 1400 or so followers and don't know most of them (apparently the goal is to hit more than 10,000?). I make an effort to say hello when they follow me and I always follow back, but I rarely initiate it. I retweet pretty religiously--about ten or so at a sitting.

What I do like about it--I've made a few connections with people I genuinely like--one writer reviewed Sing on his pod cast. Very cool guy (funny too--check out his blog "trailer trash with a girl's name"). Yes, there's a lot of spamming, but it's easy to look past and if everyone reciprocates then the word gets out. The camaraderie (once you make the connections) is comforting.

It's certainly a way to get the word out when you have no where else to go and don't have thousands to invest in marketing. And I'm going to continue using it until something better comes along.

I check in twice a day--early in the morning and in the evening--about twenty or thirty minutes a visit. I use a tweeting service that auto-tweets book adverts(key lines). I make brief contact with a couple of people and occasionally throw out more personal comments about my own stuff. It's driven more traffic to my blog, and sold a few books. Not exactly a gold mine, but a useful enough tool.

I will say that when most people on twitter want to actually have a conversation, they nearly always move to FB. But if you're hoping to advertise on FB--I'm not sure it's as effective. People have to know you're there first which still means you have to go somewhere to attract an audience, which leads us back to twitter.

Heather Kelly said...

I jumped into twitter a few years ago, got scared, and jumped back out. But I tried again, and love it. There is nothing like a famous (insert the profession that gets you weak in the knees) agent retweeting one of your fabulously funny tweets.

But, there is such information there too! the #mglitchat and #yalitchat can be great discussions (they each happen once a week, in the evening). Set up a tweetdeck account, and have each column following a different hashtag. #amwriting #10queriesin10tweets (by the fab Sara Megibow) #askagent, #indiechat, #nescbwi, and just see what people are talking about in different topics.

And, I'll let you know the next time we do a twitter game--I find those to be super fun, and a good way for newbies to jump in.

One of my favorite twitter games was the one when we asked people how they occupied their kids in order to get some writing in. Laura said she "Told the kids $10 was buried in the woods. #YesImWriting" Good stuff.

Also, retweeting is one of the easiest ways to get your feet wet. I find almost all of the day's blog post reading from twitter. It's fast and effective.

Favorite people to follow, other than agents and friends? Anne R. Allen has great blog links all the time.

And, to all those dudes who are tweeting at me to BUY MY BOOK, that's not how twitter works.

I totally agree with Vivi--use it to be fun and goofy (but always professional!)

I think you will be EXCELLENT on twitter. :)

*rambling comment OVER*

Heather Kelly said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention the fast and furious sprint writers out there in the twitterverse. You can join in by adding #1k1hr to your tweets--there's always someone doing it. Yes, twitter can make your writing day more productive. :)

Hashtags are fun.

*rambling comment REALLY over*

Heather Kelly said...

Okay, one last thing. If you reply @someone, and start the tweet with the @someone, the ONLY people who see the tweet are people who follow both you and the person you replied at. If you want the tweet to be more public, just stick anything, even a period before the @someone. It's just one of those weird things.

So: "@RayVeen Welcome to twitter." And only @brainbliss sees it. ".@RayVeen Welcome to twitter!" And all my followers see it and welcome you aboard.


*who knows when this rambling collection of comments will end, if ever?*

Ray Veen said...

Thank you so much, Mary and Heather. That is super good information, and all stuff I will try. I see now that my #3 was really a visceral response to what you're calling 'spam', and that it's actually not a bad thing that I don't have much to say in that area. At least not until I'm more established, right? Right?

And seriously, Heather, thanks for taking the time to type all that information for me. It's like you've written an entire blog post, just for me, in my comment section, on how to navigate Twitter. I'll definitely be checking out that hashtag link.

K. M. Walton said...

Ray, the best tweets, IMHO, involve plain old wit and cleverness. You, my friend, have heaps of both. Who cares about published/not published...wit/cleverness win every time. Tweet away.

Sarah P. said...

Hi Ray, I personally, just don't get Twitter. I have an account too, I've tweeted some things but really, 140 characters? I'm a writer! I want to write! As your other commenters here are proof of, there is a party on Twitter and people are meeting each other and forging great connections but it just isn't my scene. Facebook makes sense to me. Twitter doesn't. Although, I hear the young people are moving off Facebook because their parents and grandparents are using it. So the young people are supposed to be on Twitter. So maybe you will build this enigmatic "author platform" on Twitter. If you figure it all out, let me know and maybe I'll give it another whirl...yet again.

Kelly Polark said...

Tweeting should be fun, not a chore. Stop in when you can! We'll be happy to see you when you stop by. And just be yourself. Tweet your blog url when you have a new post. Tweet random stuff. (I prefer reading the random stuff, but I also do click on blog links too since it's right there.)
I love Twitter. I like the casual vibe. I use it to ask celebs about books for my book recommmendation site. I tweet my blog post links. I like talking with people about a variety of things.
So looking forward to seeing you around there, buddy!!

Ray Veen said...

KM -- Thanks very much. And BAM! I'm following you.

Sarah -- I think ultimately, I won't be a prolific tweeter, but for now, while I'm 'getting my feet', I'm really digging in trying to figure it out all out. Glad to see I've inspired you to tweet more. Have your read the other advice in my comment section?

Kelly -- 'Casual vibe'. I like the sound of that. Though right now I'm feeling pressured to make a good impression. And yeah, I'm already following you.