Writes And Wrongs: To Tweet or Not To Tweet

Best-selling author Shiloh Walker pens this bi-monthly column of online advice for writers. Walker is a full-time author who is published in both e-book and traditional print formats. Now she shares her experience and advice to help aspiring and published authors figure out the "Writes and Wrongs" of the digital world.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?Before we can answer that question, some people are probably still wondering what Twitter is.

Well, first…in my opinion…it’s one huge, giant time suck. And I love Twitter. But it can be very time-consuming. Keep that in mind.  

Now…in more depth, just what is Twitter? Well, according to Twitter’s website:

Twitter is a real-time information network powered by people all around the world that lets you share and discover what’s happening now.

Twitter asks “what’s happening?” and makes the answer spread across the globe to millions, immediately.

How does this come into play for writers? Easy. It lets you interact with readers, others writers, agents, and various publishing professionals. You can find many of them on Twitter.

I can’t remember where I heard or read it, or who might of said it, but I once recall Twitter being compared to a cocktail party and that’s a good comparison.  

Another good comparison?

It’s one big conversation. Plain and simple.

You can have chats on Twitter with hashtags… the little # s, just putting up a #... ie: #askagent (FYI, these do come guidelines…they don’t like being queried with these, questions on hot trends, that sort thing, but great for networking), #litchat, and so on.

New release contests are a great way to utilize Twitter-another cool use of hashtags.

You can update readers on new projects, answer questions about current projects or old books, all sorts of things.

So there are some of the ways twitter can be useful.

But Twitter works best if you actually utilize it. If you get out there and chat with people, if you follow other writers, book bloggers, chat with them, interact with them.

The key there is interact.

This is crucial with social media, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, whatever.

M-W.com’s definition of social:

Main Entry: 1 so·cial

Pronunciation: \ˈsō-shəl\

Function: adjective

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin socialis, from socius companion, ally, associate; akin to Old English secg man, companion, Latin sequi to follow 

Date: 14th century

1: involving allies or confederates <the Social War between the Athenians and their allies>

2 a: marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one’s friends or associates <leads a very full social life> b: sociable c: of, relating to, or designed for sociability <a social club>

3: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society <social institutions>

4 a: tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others of one’s kind: gregarious b: living and breeding in more or less organized communities <social insects> c: of a plant: tending to grow in groups or masses so as to form a pure stand 

As you can tell, social requires somebody other than yourself…there are a lot of writers out there who use social media, but they don’t always use it in the most effective manner. For them, social media isn’t about socializing. It’s about themselves. They follow people and then immediately turn around and start pushing their wares books, making everything a hard sale tactic.

But if you want Twitter to work for you, you can’t do that. I’m a reader as well as a writer and I can tell you right now, nothing turns me off faster than a writer who follows me just so they can turn around and sing me their praises. They’ve never once interacted with me, never spoke to me…but now they want to tell me all about their work. It’s the modern day, publishing version of the stereotyped used car sales tactic.

I can also tell you just from observing various conversations, this is a tactic that often irritates readers.  Irritated readers aren’t always going to be interested in checking out your work. We know this isn’t good.

You can definitely use Twitter as a promotional tool, but it’s not so effective if you bash people over the head. It’s about clever promo…it’s not about "bash people over the head until they give in" sales tactic.

Twitter is social media. And social media is about interacting.

So that’s the question you need to ask yourself…if you’re thinking about getting on Twitter, do you like interacting with others? Or is it work? If it’s work, and I get that for some people it is, then Twitter might not be the right place for you. It’s fast-paced and can be a huge time-suck as well. Can you keep up and still focus on your writing? Do you like talking with others? If you do…well, Then twitter has a question for you…

“What’s happening…”  Twitter.com

- Shiloh Walker

Check back for the next installment of Shiloh Walker's column in two weeks. Seeking more specific advice? You can ask the author any questions about the "writes and wrongs" of online behavior here. Your question might even get featured in an upcoming article. And of course, you can also follow the Shiloh Walker online daily at her website, on her Facebook page and via Twitter.