Sunday 18 December 2011

Writers and Twitter – a personal view

Twitter helps to keep me sane and keep me connected. I follow a lot of writers and a lot of writers follow me. I also follow a couple of choirs, some teachers, one or two Holocaust organisations, a couple of language students, one or two news organizations, the Greater Manchester Police (I started doing that during the riots in August 2011), a few publishers and a favourite seaside resort in Spain.
How I use Twitter 
As soon as I switch on my computer each day, I check my Twitter account for mentions, retweets and new followers. Then, I take a look at the latest posts after I’ve finished certain chunks of work.  It gives me a five to ten minute break every so often. It’s a mental getting up from your desk and stretching your legs. When you’re working in such an isolated way it’s good to know there are other folk out there.
Why Twitter and not Facebook?
I’m not so keen on Facebook and I guess I might walk away from that sooner or later. I’m there because I feel that I should be. It constantly confuses me. At least Twitter is easy to follow. Even when they change it, it’s easy to get used to the new format. I love how it is organic – even if that can be funny at times.  I mentioned the word SEO recently and suddenly had all these bright young things approaching me and my multiple identities trying to sell me search engine optimisation. (No guys, can’t afford it and that’s why I went on the course- to find out how to do it.) You can guess what happened when I blogged about a girl in my latest novel having a puncture.  But on the whole it works very well and I’m quite chuffed that the Wiener Library found me before I found them.
Follow Friday
I guess within this system, we all have our likes and dislikes. For instance, I’m not too keen on #ff  (people you think are worth following you mention on Fridays).  Everybody I follow is recommended- or – durh  - I wouldn’t be following them. And of course, all those people who follow me are very wise. So they’re worth a look. Of course, I’m really pleased when somebody mentions me. Every time I do it though I feel very bad about the people I’ve not mentioned. So, I tend to duck out of that one.
Sample Sunday
On the other hand, I find #SampleSunday underused. I seem to be one of the few that use it.  The idea is you put up a sample of your writing on a blog every Sunday and then past a link to that blog in a Tweet. I’ve had quite a few hits on the samples I’ve posted and I’ve certainly read others’ samples.
To promote or not to promote
Some say you should, some say you shouldn’t. Some say your tweeting should be 80% about other things, 20%  about self-promotion. I tend to agree with the latter. I tend to unfollow anyone who only self-promotes. However, I have one writing friend who only uses Twitter for self-promotion. She does it charmingly and her Tweets are a joy to read. Several of her books / stories are on my reading list now. In her case it’s working. And I will unashamedly promote other people’s work if I like it.
Tweets as headlines
I’m following over 1,000 tweeps. (people who use Twitter). I can’t possibly hope to read every single one and especially not all the links that people have included. You have to learn to read tweets a little like the way you read the newspaper: cherry-pick what really interests you.
Cheating on the 140 characters by including links?
This was a point made by someone new to Twitter – and I notice that this person is now putting links into her tweets. No, not really. Twitter is also an extremely fast way of letting people know you’ve said something in more detail. They can choose whether to read the whole or not. I often click through on to a link and then find it not so interesting after all. On the other hand, I also find I haven’t got time to read an interesting post. Well, in that case I’ve saved the link and read the post later.
Do as you would be done by
I’ve shuddered a little when I’ve heard some people say they only spend a few minutes a day on it. But they accept 500 or more followers, scatter their worldly wisdom in front of them in the form of two or three posts, expecting 1500 viewings, and aren’t prepared to listen to what their followers have to say? Is that fair? It’s really a matter of finding a way of keeping time spent reasonable but also not missing out on what could be important and / or interesting.  You actually stand more chance with 140 characters than you do on Facebook and various newsgroups and forums.
How I’ve benefitted
·         I’ve found out about competitions and calls for submission for me and my students
·         I’ve found out about the activities of other writers
·         I’ve put out my own calls for submission.
·         I’ve found out about other books and events
·         I’ve told people about my books and events
·         I’ve laughed, joked and commiserated with friends
·         I’ve got news out real fast
·         I’ve found out news real fast
·         I’ve made lots of new friends
·         I’ve learnt to get my message across in 140 characters
·         I’ve had a good giggle
·         I’ve communicated to Richard Branson, Stephen Fry, Paul McCartney, Stella McCartney and one or two others. (Of course, I have no idea whether they’ve ever read my message, but that would also be true if I’d communicated with them any other way except face to face. At least this way there is a chance.)   
·         I’ve read some really good tweet-length stories     
·         I’ve shown my approval of others’ words very quickly and easily: I’ve retweeted them.    
A real joy
Yes, indeed. Twitter is a real joy to me. For me personally it’s the best the Net has brought yet. It even improves other platforms by the way it interacts with them. So, here’s to more tweeting.