Thursday, January 05, 2012

Twitter: Who Do You Follow? Why?

What I'm reading: The Bargain Bride, by Marbara Metzger (bike) Saving Fish From Drowning, by Amy Tan (book club)

Promo alert – there are only a few days left to get Deadly Secrets for your Kindle or Nook (or apps thereof) for 99 cents.Also, my contest for a USPS Flat Rate Box of Books ends Jan 6th. Details here

Although I never thought I'd be a Twitter person (Tweeter?) I've found the platform to be a fun place to visit. Working in relative isolation, it's like the office break room, where you can exchange quick bits of information, pictures, and other updates. Do people care what you eat for breakfast? Probably not. But they might care about your weather (I've got one follower from Florida who's extremely jealous of the climate up here. Others are glad they don't live where I do.) People ask and answer questions. Also, quite frankly, it's a way for me to know what my kids are up to!

After the holiday weekend, I noticed I had a rather large (for me, anyway) number of new followers. I thought I'd share what makes me follow someone, or follow them back.

First, unless it's clearly a spammer, I'll never block someone who wants to follow me. There's no limit (as far as I know) as to how many followers I can have, so why kick them out? I also don't "unfollow" people who don't follow me back. To me, it's not a game of reciprocity. If someone finds my Tweets interesting, why not let them have access to them? If they unfollow me because I don't automatically follow them back, that's their right, and if that's the way they're using Twitter, that's fine. I think it's a kind of snobbery, but that's just my opinion, and they're free to have their own.

Here's how it works for me. I get an email that says Jane Doe is now following me on Twitter, and there's a link to her profile. I'll click over to that and look at:

How many followers she has. If she's got 50,000 followers and 50,000 people are following her back, odds are nobody's going to see my tweets anyway. The Tweetstream is far too fast, and unless you've got lots of lists with a limited number of people in each, it's totally unmanageable.

What she's Tweeting. If it's nothing but promo for herself, I'm not going to follow. While social networking can be a useful marketing tool, to me, seeing only promo posts is tantamount to watching only the commercials on television rather than the programs.

Does she tweet at all? I've seen some who I call "collectors"—they just want followers, although they never have anything to say.

And, then there's the person who follows you, but when you check her profile, she has to approve you before you can see it. That's an automatic 'no, thanks.' She asked me, not the other way around, so why is she hiding?

There are those of "celebrity status" who have thousands of followers but only follow a handful back. Again, that's their prerogative, but it's easy enough to create a list for that handful of people so they don't get lost in the stream. And I'm not talking true celebrities, (I've never followed one) but just those popular enough to attract thousands of followers.

Normally, I'll start with a 'generic' follow if it's someone I don't "know" well enough. Once I see their tweets, especially if they mention me, I will move them to a list. Oh, and if I follow someone and immediately get a "thanks for the follow now go buy my book" message, I'll delete them as well. My take on Twitter is that marketing should be more about name recognition and having people interested in YOU rather than hitting them over the head with promo. My guesstimate is that my posts are about 25% marketing and 75% chatter.

My management system is TweetDeck. I can create lists, and although I might have almost 2000 followers, I'm really only aware of what a few hundred are saying—and even then, I don't catch all their tweets. I have my Family list, my Writer's list, my Foodies list. I have another list called "extras" which includes people I'm interested in, but don't necessarily fit into a category. I've got a list of fellow authors I try to support, so I can see their tweets and retweet if I think it's appropriate. Which brings me to another pet peeve, although I won't unfollow or not follow someone who does it---adding "Please Retweet" (or Pls RT in twitterspeak) to a self-serving post. I get cranky when I see those. And if I do RT, I delete the "Pls RT" part. The exceptions, for me, are actual worthwhile, noble, charitable causes, or things I think the universe ought to know about.

I've even created a list of people I follow who inundate the tweetstream when they're active. By moving them to a separate list, I can still see what they're saying, but they don't usurp the tweets of those I want to hear from. And, just like with the regular Twitter site, I can see who's talking about me. If I'm mentioned in a tweet by someone I don't know, I'll pop over to their profile, and use the criteria I've mentioned above to decide if I want to follow. Your mileage may vary.

Want to follow me? There's a link on the sidebar, or find me at @authorterryo
And I'd love to hear what you like or don't like about Twitter, if you use it, and how.

Another Field Trip tomorrow. Blog visitor Karen C shared some pictures of the Grand Canyon. Don't miss them.

Illustration by Kate Greenway 

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Cynthia Woolf said...

This is a really interesting blog. I just went through and culled my twitter list. I was following lots of people who don't follow me.

I'm still learning about twitter and tweeting. I'll admit that to begin with I only used it for promo. I'm finding it can be a fun way to connect with new people. Writing can be such an isolated business, that tweeting is a good way to get me out of my office, so to speak. Like I said it's a learning process.

Thanks for the post.

Karyn Good said...

I like how you have a solid set of parameters. That's something I need to do, so I'm using it effectively and not wasting time. Like Cynthia, I need to do some housecleaning. Because it's fun, I like to check in and see what's happening!

Susannah Sharp said...

This is a timely post, Terry. I finally got so fed up with someone I was following that I blocked them, just this morning. All the posts ever were, were lists of names of people who followed him and he would retweet all of those people's huge lists of names. None of them meant one single thing to me and he never had one single thing to contribute that was helpful to me. When I looked at my Twitter stream, it was just a whole bunch of @s and it just got so discouraging. I feel better already and he's only been blocked for an hour.

I tend to use the same criteria you use, and I am also very liberal as far as not caring whether they follow me, etc. I also get aggravated when all they do is post ads for their books, but I can usually live with that if it isn't terribly obnoxious.

I haven't tried Tweetdeck or anything, but it sounds like it might be useful for me, so maybe I'll take a look at it.

Thanks for a useful post.

Anonymous said...

Good advice, Terry! I tend to read and do more retweeting on Twitter than actually adding many original tweets. I can't ever think of what to say! LOL I guess it's the 140 characters limit the trips me up (no, you're saying, you? ;)). Anyway, thanks for the interesting post!

(PS. I just tweeted this post for you. :))

Terry Odell said...

Cynthia - I don't care how many people don't follow me back if I'm interested in what they're saying. It does get you "out of the office."

Karyn - rule #1 is turn off any alerts when people send you tweets (except for my kids; I like to know what they're up to). Then you tweet on your own time and terms

Susannah - I found the Twitter website impossible to figure out; TweetDeck works for me. There are others, too. (I'll go delete your duplicate posts)

Julianne - thanks for the tweet!

mona Karel said...

Just this week I stuck my toe in the Tweet stream. Still not sure what I'm doing, and since I haven't activated the Droid I got in June (long story!) I'm still doing this on the computer. Step by step. Inch by Inch.
Anyway, my Tweeter-dress is @MonaKarel

claudia celestial girl said...

I've found it incredibly useful (as an Indie author and publisher). Loads of new people who I would never have met, including editors, book cover designers, etc. Also connecting with some of my favorite authors (Dara Joy!!!) I use the 'lists' feature (you can create up to 20 lists of those you like to follow) to separate the vastly different range of folks that appear in my timeline, from sports (tennis), to all about marketing, to comedy (Stephen Colbert!), to science and STEM education sites.

Colleen Collins said...

I use TweetDeck, too. I've found Twitter useful for networking with other private investigators and writers (sharing informative articles, tips, news). I also read regional news on Twitter (I learn things more quickly than via traditional news channels such as TV).

I like to post articles I've written (mostly about private investigations, typically geared to writers writing sleuths). I think Twitter should be about adding value, not bombarding people with self-promotion. I occasionally promote a book, but I keep it to less than 10% of tweets.

Fun topic, Terry.

(I'm @writingpis for those interested)

Terry Odell said...

Mona - I do ALL my social networking on the computer. I don't need my phone pestering me all the time(not to mention, I can barely read or type on that little screen.) My Nook is easier, but I see no reason to use my phone for social networking.

Claudia - sounds like you've tamed the beast!

Colleen - you've pointed out some excellent uses of the platform.

Kathy said...

I don't twitter or tweet as the case maybe. I haven't figured it out. I receive emails saying so and so is now following you and I'm thinking okay and? I don't know I haven't gotten into is all. I love to instant message with friends online all the time. Otherwise I just do my thing lol.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I pretty much do it the same way, although I periodically go in to "Just Unfollow" and delete tweeps who haven't tweeted in more than six months. That's because I keep hitting a wall when I try to follow more than Twitter allows based on the number of my followers.

Terry Odell said...

Kathy - doing your own thing is always a good idea. Whatever works

Patricia - I was unaware of rules about followers. You learn something every day.

Cara Marsi said...

I'm still trying to feel my way around Twitter so your post is very timely. Sounds like you've got it under control. I don't quite "get" Twitter. I try to do 10 tweets or retweets for every promo tweet. But I never know what to say in my tweets. I'm so boring. Thanks for the post.

Jemi Fraser said...

I approach twitter in very much the same way - although I hadn't thought to add my personal lists to my tweetdeck - great idea! :)

Karen C said...

I guess I'm the odd duck here - I don't use or have any plans to use Twitter.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I follow everyone back unless they look like they might be spammers. Although sometimes I get behind! Like now. I need to go through and do an update.

Maria Hudgins said...

Thanks for making me think about this. I follow authors i know and like, the husband of a sick friend who's keeping us current on her progress, a couple of celebrities I have crushes on, and a couple more who are just plain funny.

Terry Odell said...

Cara - what's boring to you might interest someone else. I get reactions from tweets I think are totally lame.

Jemi - it's the lists that make things manageable for me.

Elizabeth - I follow most back, but some just don't make my cut - like today's request from someone whose profile says, "I love life; I love sex; follow me." (and he/she has zero followers. Wonder why!)

Maria, funny is good. That's part of the appeal.

Karen C - I never thought I'd have a twitter account. No reason to feel like an outsider. It's not for everyone.

Kris Bock said...

I'm still trying to figure out how best to use Twitter. I don't really "get it" so I'm working my way in very slowly. But I'm going to go follow you now.