Simplifying Twitter: Be a Person, Not a Brand

This is Nina Badzin’s first official post with us as a monthly contributor and WU’s own Twitter expert. Welcome, Nina!

Enter the search terms “Twitter tips” into Google and you’ll find approximately 918,000,000 results. So why would Writer Unboxed bother adding to the mix? One primary reason: To teach you how to use Twitter as a human being.

As opposed to what, you’re wondering?

As opposed to a brand.

In many other advice posts you’re going to read about how to “stay true to your brand” and other self-promotional tips with equally smarmy buzz words.

You, dear Writer Unboxed authors and authors-to-be, are not brands. Your book is not a brand. You are a person. The readers you want to reach on Twitter are also people, not brands. Therefore, you have to engage on Twitter as a person (not a book cover, or a commercial for your book). AND, you have to connect sincerely with other people.

Frankly, acting like a person on Twitter should be easy. You have been a person for most of your life. (I’m subtracting junior high.) But one look at a Twitter feed will show you that too many people struggle to relate online. Therefore, this new monthly Twitter series on Writer Unboxed is intended to give you focused advice on how to be an online person instead of a brand and how to connect with other people in a way that makes good use of your time, rather than wastes it.

Now, before I go on, there is one threshold issue that must be addressed. You without Twitter accounts have undoubtedly noticed and are already asking, Why bother being on Twitter in the first place?

Fair question.

We all know the answer: Nobody needs Twitter. The only thing a writer needs to do is write, right? In theory, that’s true, but we also know that those dreaded words “online presence” have planted themselves in our creative orbit, and they don’t seem to be going away. Twitter is a piece of that “online presence” puzzle, but it’s not the only one. There’s blogging, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and others. Choose all, one, or none.

I am not here to sell you on Twitter so I hope we can eliminate any debate of Twitter’s merit or lack thereof. I’m here to help those who are interested use the site to the best of their ability.

For newbies and beginners, you will want to start with “The Science of Twitter,” a post I wrote here last year about basics like the mechanics of a tweet. It helps to know, for example, that tweets starting with the @ symbol are not seen by most of your followers. For a more nuanced discussion, see “The Art of Twitter,” where I discussed why numbers mean less than you think and how to foster what I call an “authentic following.”

What we’ll do in this series is keep the two aforementioned narrow goals in mind: Be a person. And connect with other people.

Three ways to get started in the right direction:

1. DO have a picture of your face, not your book cover as your avatar.

2. DO write an inviting bio that makes you sound like a writer, but also a regular person, not a salesperson.

Writer Unboxed co-founder Therese Walsh has the perfect Twitter bio. After reading it you know she’s an author, but you know she has other interests, and you also know she’s not going to inundate you with “buy my book” tweets. Generally speaking the “buy my book” tweeters tend to have long, clunky Amazon or Facebook links in their bios as well as too many capital letters that say things like FIRST CHAPTER FREE. It comes off as desperate.

3. DO NOT send automatic direct messages to new followers thanking them for the follow or inviting them to learn more about you. You also should not feel the need to thank new followers in the general Twitter stream.

The auto-DM advice and thanking people for following you gets at an issue I’ll analyze more in future posts, but let me provide a quick summary here: Any attempt to act overly formal on Twitter usually backfires. If you think of Twitter like a dinner party (the typical comparison), then thanking each new follower is like saying to the people who looked at you during the party, “Thank you  for glancing at me for that one moment across the room.” That’s weird, right? It would never fly in real life. Same goes for Twitter.

I know some of you are Twitter regulars. In the comments let’s help the newer users avoid coming off like a brand. What tips can you share?

Other resources:

-The Twitter tips series on my blog covers etiquette such as why I think there’s too much thanking in the Twitter stream.

The Writer’s Guide to Twitter by Writer Unboxed contributor, Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Photo by cobalt123 via Flickr

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About Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin is a writer and blogger who lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, as well as the Huffington Post's books, parenting, religion, and technology pages. In a strange turn of events, Nina has become the go-to gal for Twitter advice. This confuses her parents and her husband to no end. She tweets at @NinaBadzin and blogs regularly at http://ninabadzin.com. You can find her on Facebook, too.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Nina a great article, I’m going to keep an eye open for the rest in the series. I’m particularly pleased you dealt with the “to thank, or not to thank” new followers question. What I try to do with new followers (and it’s a good way of seeing whether I want to follow back or not) is that when they follow me, I go into their twitter stream and find something to RT that would be of interest to my followers. I don’t send it as a straight RT – I send it as a normal tweet ending with “via @xyz” where @xyz is the new follower. So, while I don’t “officially” thank them, in this way I do acknowledge that they’ve followed me.

    One related question – do I have to thank people who RT or mention or favourite a tweet of mine? I try to avoid having a stream of “thank you” tweets by sending a single tweet listing all those who’ve RT’d etc, but I’m unsure whether it would be better to do nothing.

    Thanks, and looking forward to the rest of the series
    Judy Croome, Johannesburg, South Africa

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    • says

      Judy, I think that’s a perfect way to sort of “announce yourself” to someone you started following or to someone new to following you.

      I have lots of opinions about when/where/why to thank for RTs. I don’t mean to be pushing the post I wrote about it, but it goes into all the details, which would be a lot to go into here. I hope you find it helpful!

      http://www.ninabadzin.com/2011/05/31/the-twitter-thanking-crisis/

      For favorites, I think it’s especially unnecessary to thank. Personally, I favorite links that I plan to click on later. I use it as a bookmark. There’s nothing to really thank me for. “Favoring” the tweet doesn’t mean I’ll RT the tweet or comment on the post. I think many other people use the “favorite” function that way, too.

      Let me know if you have other questions!

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  2. says

    Thanks for starting this series Nina. I’m not on Twitter but am considering it if I can figure out what to really do with it. I’m going to check out your other posts on this too.

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    • says

      Natalie,

      I think you already have a great attitude about Twitter by acknowledging you would want some sort of purpose with it. Sometimes the best way to start is to follow interesting writers who use Twitter well. All of the Writer Unboxed people (right sidebar) are great examples.

      Good luck and let me know if I can ever help.

      Nina

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  3. says

    I’m a Twitter veteran and still can’t believe how much there is to learn.

    I changed my avatar to my book cover about the time it was coming out, just to increase more “cover awareness” for someone who might stumble into a bookstore, recognize the image (if only subconsciously) and pick it up! Now that it’s been out for several months, your post reminded me to change my avatar back to my face. Good call!

    Another tip, if you *are* in a book promotion mode, it’s okay to promote, but *sprinkle* your promos in among lots of other “normal” tweets so as not to become overbearing and annoying. It’s also a good idea to promote other people’s work, as well. It creates good Twitter Kharma!

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    • says

      Yes– karma is a great point. Part of my “don’t over thank” issue relates to karma. Retweeting someone, visiting their blog, or even responding to a tweet means so much to a person than a generic “thanks for the RT” or “thanks for the follow.”

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  4. says

    I have avoided the Twitter involvement thus far but will be curious to read the comments to this article. I’m keeping an open mind about it. Frankly, I find the same holds true for blogs: communicate to me as a person, not just shouting at me as a brand with constant hoopla.

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  5. says

    I am thrilled to see you here! Of course! And I know your readers will learn so much from you. Nearly everything I learned from Twitter came from you (and Clay Morgan), and while I keep myself on a strict Twitter diet, I do think it is an essential part of every writers’ platform. And those of you who are new are in for a treat!

    Instead of struggling to figure it out, wait for Nina to break it down for you. Wise, she is.

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  6. says

    As a non-author, but a definite book buyer/ reader, I would LOVE to see a human side to the person behind the book, through their tweets, either observing their world, or interacting with others. A smattering of book tweets etc is acceptable, of course (just as with bloggers, tweeting links of their own posts is), but temper it with other things.

    I’ve been seeing A LOT of just links on Twitter recently, and am wondering where the conversation has gone. I hope your series will get more people thinking about how they use it.

    Great post, Nina!

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    • says

      I second Alison’s statement about “just links” tweets. If you’re going to link to something on twitter, make sure that you explain what the link is for. Just a brief statement to entice readers to click is all it takes. This also serves to prove that you actually are promoting this link, and it’s not a twitter hacker spamming with your account. After all, it’s basic common sense not to click on a link of dubious origin.

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      • says

        Alison and Bredeen, great points about not OVER-linking. Twitter truly is an art and a mix of RTs, conversation, regular every day “stuff” is all part of a good mix. I’m sure this is where some Twitter newbies are throwing up their arms in exasperation. The bottom line is this: Be human. Connect. Right?

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  7. Shana Norris says

    I pretty much agree with Alison. As a reader, I often link to an author’s Twitter if I’m tweeting about reading their book. But I rarely follow the author. And ONLY if a scan through their recent tweets tells me that they’re tweeting about everyday things/thoughts/events/news/subjects that interest me vs. only or mostly about their own books.

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      • says

        I love the way Shana said this: “if a scan through their recent tweets tells me that they’re tweeting about everyday things/thoughts/events/news/subjects that interest me vs. only or mostly about their own books”.

        I agree. I love when a real person (& author) can tweet everyday things and thoughts in interesting ways. I’d love to hear more about what Shana said, finding a balance. Could that be a future column, Nina? :) Thanks for all of your thoughts.

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  8. says

    First of all, thanks for the shout out, Nina. I’m glad–and sort of relieved!–you like my Twitter bio.

    I think I’m most a person on Facebook. I’m still working on my Twitter balance, so I’m going to enjoy this series a lot. So glad you’re with us!

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    • says

      I think you’re doing a great job. It’s hard to manage 2 Twitter accounts, you’re managing it so well. I also do the tweets for @GreatNewBooks and it’s certainly a challenge to tweet for a person (me) and a site as well.

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  9. says

    It’s kind of a slippery slope, Nina, and I love using that expression.

    I have a brand and I have an “actual me.” They are largely synonymous but I always write on Twitter and in my blog in my brand. For example, while I might like mountain biking in real life (I don’t), mountain biking doesn’t fit my brand so I wouldn’t include it in my bio or write about it on Twitter or in the blog.

    In other words, I stay consistent to my brand even if it causes me to omit or somewhat embellish stuff about the actual me.

    Which frankly doesn’t come up very often. Except that I AM a picture snapper, haiku lover, and have been hanging for a dark and stormy night for so very, very long.

    Damn it, that would be taken!

    http://www.nouveauold.com/2012/10/terminator-5-final-chapter.html

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    • says

      Perry–

      I hear what you’re saying. Yes, if you are mostly tweeting with other writers, I agree that TOO MANY tweets on biking would be over the top. However, read some of the other comments on here. Readers are saying they are not interested in authors’ twitter accounts when it’s about writing and nothing else. So a mix is usually welcome.

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  10. says

    I thought that it would be courteous for me to send DM to thank new followers. Is it a total turn off? I’m so curious to know. I will look forward to more discussion on that here on your blog. Thanks for the tips though.

    -Keiv

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    • says

      Keiv,

      I’d say many (if not most) people find that it comes off like spam. I often see people tweeting about how annoying it is. It’s not just me!

      It’s better to interact with the person. Respond to a tweet, RT something they tweeted. That’s much more “interesting” and more importantly, PERSONAL, than “thank you for following.”

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  11. says

    I love the simplicity of your formula: be human. It’s very much what I do on Facebook, but the recent decline of Facebook due to its IPO and related advertising policies is making me reconsider Twitter as a promising alternative social media site.

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    • says

      Great point! Agents do a great job of everything we’re discussing here. Most tweet about publishing and other book-related talk, but they also show other sides of their personalities.

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  12. says

    I will not follow a person if I see that all they are doing is talking about themselves or trying to sell something with every tweet. I look to see that they are interacting with their followers, responding to other people’s tweets, retweeting, and being a person, as you say.

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    • says

      I’ve also gotten more selective about who I will follow back. If every tweet is a link to Amazon to buy the person’s book, I don’t follow.

      That said, I’m still a little unsure of how to cultivate meaningful interactions on Twitter without being on it 24/7.

      Great post, Nina!

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      • says

        Jackie,

        I really don’t think you have to be on there as much as you think. I use a few tools to cut time in half (I think). One is lists, the other is the “favorite” button to save links to check out later. I have been on Twitter for almost 3 years and have made great connections which have led to numerous writing opportunities. In those three years, I have sent (I just looked) 6829 tweets. That’s actually a small number for 3 years on Twitter. You will see that some people have sent something like 25,000 tweets in just one year. I don’t see how that’s necessary.

        This is for sure a topic I will cover in depth. I had something else in mind for next month, but maybe this is more key!

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  13. says

    That’s where I’m going wrong. Cursed, cursed formality.

    No, seriously, I like to have fun, but you’ve nailed a paradigm I find myself slipping into at times. Helpful, Nina. Thanks.

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  14. says

    I so look forward to more advice from you regarding twitter and using it effectively, while being a person instead of a marketing robot! Your advice has always been spot on! Writer Unoboxed is in good hands.

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  15. says

    I changed my Twitter bio! I think I’m a real person on Twitter, but you’re right, since my tweets are about more than my book, my bio should be too. I love the diversity Twitter allows all in one place, in a short amount of time.

    So happy you’ll be a regular here on WU, Nina! xo

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    • says

      Amy, there is no doubt you are “human” on Twitter. Also a great thing in your case (and maybe mine one day) is that you were on Twitter, as a PERSON, long before you were hoping people would buy your book.

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  16. Kendra says

    I also want to second Alison’s comment (although I think I’m actually fifth-ing it, or something, by this point.). I am on Twitter, though very small scale, but often find myself asking why. Every now and then someone does send out a helpful link about writing or just a “funny” that makes me smile. But for the most part, I’m learning what *not* to do via my Twitter stream.

    A reply thanking me for a follow is fine, but a reply thanking me and asking me to follow a link to their own book feels forced (and I never follow the links). I won’t do that if/when I’m published.

    There are also tons of floating lines being sent via Twitter, and by that I mean random quotes from their books that the authors apparently think are witty or intriguing. It must work for some because I see so many people doing it, but I find it very off-putting and sometimes down right annoying. I won’t do that either if/when I’m published.

    What I do enjoy is exactly what has been described here. Real people posting about their day, their cat, their daughter’s dance recital, and so on. When I feel like you’re a real person, not a salesman, I’m much more likely to go buy your book (and have on at least 3 occasions I can think of right now).

    Great post! Thanks!

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  17. says

    Nina,
    Hi. I like these tips and i look forward to your future posts about Twitter. It is a powerful but misunderstood tool for writers. I will read the resources you provided. For me Twktter is about sharing and learning and connecting. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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  18. says

    Thanks Nina! Very useful info, as usual — I think Valerie and I will now be editing our bio!

    The part about thanking for the follow is especially difficult for me. It is an interesting analogy of the dinner party. But usually I think of a twitter follower as someone who comes to my party. If someone has signed on to hear what I say, meet my friends, and try my appetizers, then I thank them for it.

    But…maybe it’s not really needed.

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    • says

      There is nothing wrong with a thank you. I just think it’s worth considering that there are more useful and “nice” ways to thank someone when it comes to Twitter. There is so much information flowing onto the Twitter stream all the time. If every single person thanked every single time there would be nothing else to see. Personally, I prefer someone interacts with me and makes it clear that they’ve seen my tweets than write a thank you.

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  19. says

    I’ve so been looking forward to this series, Nina! While I’ve been on Twitter for a while now, I’m certain that I’m not enjoying/utilizing it to full potential. While I’ve seen quite a few of those 918,000,000 Twitter tips you mentioned, the large majority have emphasized branding and not made much mention of humanizing the tweeter behind the tweets! As an author with two books jostling for a spot on the shelf, I well understand the need to promote. Even so, it’s a task I aspire to fulfill without feeling icky.

    I have plenty to learn about Twitter and I know I’ve arrived at the right place here, since I’m especially looking forward to doing it the *Nina Way* aka, human to human!

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  20. says

    I really loved the analogy of Twitter being a dinner party and that akward moment of thanking someone for glancing at you. Can’t wait to read more in this series. (and I’ll be tweeting about it!)
    Thanks

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    • says

      Thanks Amy! And I’m still thinking about Olga’s comment about about wanting to welcome the people “at her party” so to say. Things just aren’t that formal on Twitter. We are all there so see MANY tweets from MANY people. So the formality makes it seem a little like we think people are there just to see us. I’m not making a lot of sense . . . I will have to cover the “overly formal” issue more in another post!

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  21. says

    Great insight, Nina. Wondering about those RTs that authors send of positive reviews of their books written by readers/reviewers. I actually don’t mind them, because I’m always curious about the reactions a new book is getting; and I’m obviously following this author because of an interest not only in her as a human, but also her writing. This type of RT seems to fly in the face of “be a human,” though, and feels more marketing- and brand-oriented.

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    • says

      I think readers tolerate a certain amount of marketing from authors. We DO know authors want to sell their books! It’s the non-stop that becomes a huge turn off.

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  22. says

    Great post, Nina! I’m fairly new to twitter, though that’s the account I use mostly for writing stuff. Some of it is announcing cool developments (like a cover reveal), but I chat with my author friends about life and writing and kids, too. I’ve found I dislike the all caps “PLEASE BUY MY BOOK” all day, so I know I won’t be doing that.

    I especially loved the bit about thanking new followers, as I’ve been confused about this and unsure what the right thing to do is, and I’m going to check my bio over there right now!

    Looking forward to more great advice!

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  23. says

    Fantastic advice! And I totally agree – the DMs are totally unnecessary. If they contain links, they’re downright obnoxious. Same for posting on the Tweet stream, because then everyone who’s following both people can see them, and it clogs it all up.

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  24. says

    Nina, I love seeing you here. Everything I know about twitter I learned from you. No, seriously. It is SO refreshing to read this about being a person, not a brand … in a world where people seem hell-bent on branding and platform-building, it’s really just marvelous to hear someone say just be a real human being. Yes, please. xox

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  25. says

    Great advice. I totally agree with you on the welcoming/thanking new followers thing. The dinner party analogy is perfect. In my opinion, one of the many obnoxious twitter behaviours is when someone promotes their blog posts, like 18 times a day, but they don’t tweet anyone else’s posts/articles etc. So, basically, they use Twitter as nothing but an ongoing ad for their work.

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  26. Crichardwriter says

    Hi Nina. I actually teach quite a bit about branding as part of my job (Career Services), and I actually think what you are discussing is not overmarketing your product instead of branding. When you set up any accounts online, you are branding yourself. It is about who you are and how you present yourself, making sure you are consistent about what you are presenting to the world; you can’t really avoid it. Branding is actually a good thing when it is done consciously; you want to make sure that what you are presenting represents you well. If you are constantly pushing your products on people, you are more like a telemarketer or over the top salesperson, and no one likes being approached in this way. I love what you said about making yourself human instead of only focusing on your product.

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    • says

      Very good points and we may just be having a semantics discussion here. If an author writes for children, then dropping a bunch of f-bombs in the Twitter stream would definitely be “off brand” and not something I would recommend. However, I think that same author can talk about other interests outside of writing, publishing, and outside of children’ books. That’s where the “stay on brand” message can go too far–when authors feel that they can only talk about writing, publishing, and their specific books.

      Great points and thanks for adding your two cents here, Cindy!

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  27. says

    I always appreciate your posts on Twitter etiquette, Nina, it’s so nice to have someone ‘who knows’ just say what’s expected and acceptable. Having said that, I do think it’s nice if someone thanks me for following them, as long as it’s also a greeting or well wish for a great day or whatever, and yea, it shouldn’t be an auto thing, but genuine.
    Twitter is most effective for those who can afford to be on there a lot. Like Jackie Cangro points out in her comment – Twitter is most effective for those who put in the most time. I used to do that, but honestly, my writing suffered – it really did. I wasn’t spending enough time in quiet contemplation, and THAT affected the creative side of me. And it also just plain cut into my actual writing time.
    Love all the great comments here.

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    • says

      Cynthia,

      Too much time on Twitter is NOT a good idea for sure. I’m going to copy and paste what I said above to Jackie because it applies here too:
      ____________________
      I really don’t think you have to be on there as much as you think. I use a few tools to cut time in half (I think). One is lists, the other is the “favorite” button to save links to check out later. I have been on Twitter for almost 3 years and have made great connections which have led to numerous writing opportunities. In those three years, I have sent (I just looked) 6829 tweets. That’s actually a small number for 3 years on Twitter. You will see that some people have sent something like 25,000 tweets in just one year. I don’t see how that’s necessary.

      This is for sure a topic I will cover in depth. I had something else in mind for next month, but maybe this is more key!

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  28. says

    I prefer to humanise the brand, rather than look at brand in the way you suggest.

    A platform or brand or whatever you want to classify it as, is a great means to create consistency and a unified message. If you try to build this around corporate means, then yes, things go badly, very very quickly

    If you humanise the brand, though, well, you get the best of both worlds. It’s all about how you approach things :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

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    • says

      Matthew,

      Ultimately, I’d say we agree. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being consistent in your tone and message (if that’s what we’re both considering “branding.”) But I think it’s dangerous for authors to think of themselves as products because it’s that thought process which tends to lead to the hard-sell tweets.

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  29. says

    Nina, I am so glad that you are here at WU. Congratulations to you. And lucky us! I have read many of your posts and learned from all of them and still feel flat-footed on Twitter. I am hoping that with your regular advice I can improve. Your sense of joy and fun and your smart common sense are inspiring. Thank you.

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    • says

      Laura–I think that’s all you need for Twitter (and i think you have it!) Just a sense of fun . . . Twitter is really not the key to big sales. It’s all about making connections with other people. Quality, not quantity is key! So really, a few good conversations on Twitter here and there means more than having 60,000 followers made of people who don’t even see your tweets because they come as white noise.

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  30. says

    Great post, Nina. I too love the dinner party analogy. I’ve been on Twitter for a while, and I love the connections I’ve made there. There’s a wealth of resources for writers, too, and I often learn about new books to read via Twitter.

    So, I agree with the fact that, as authors, we have to do some promotion. But, I’m 100% behind the Karma idea: if we are genuine and human and doing what we can to highlight the great works of those around us, that good will come back around. We won’t have to self-promote as much, which will make more room for meaningful connections and real-life tweets.

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    • says

      Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. If book sales happen via Twitter it’s more though that indirect karma element at play.

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  31. says

    Just came from a writer’s conference where every session seemed to include advice about how essential twitter and facebook are. Each speaker had a different idea about how to use them.

    Thanks for this.

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    • says

      Carolyn, you’re bringing up a very important point, which is this: There is more than one way to do the social media thing. What I’m trying to make clear here is that there really just one way NOT to, and that’s the hard-sell–the marketing type of tweets.

      Bottom line: be you, put in the some time but don’t let it overwhelm you or come at the expense of writing and you’ll do just fine.

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  32. says

    Fabulous suggestions! I think people get a bit carried away with branding these days and just as you mentioned, forget to be a human first. Besides, I don’t know many people who like to be sold to in a blatant manner. When we force our brand instead of being ourselves, that is exactly what is looks and feels like to the consumer.
    Thanks for the tips! I will be sure to implement them in branding, or rather humanizing, my blog.

    Stephanie D. Birch
    Writer Freaks

    writerfreaks.blogspot.com
    #WriterFreaks
    http://www.facebook.com/WriterFreaks

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  33. says

    Humble two cents: Love this post! Keep on Tweetin, tweeps. What we write about in our prose is most times about what we love, who we are & what we do. SO talking about those things that are in your book/brand IS you as a person, isn’t it? Perhaps it depends on how you talk about it. Also, its a learning curve, sometimes you will do it wrong–LEARN FROM IT. I don’t believe the hoopla/fear going around, you know, like “once its out there its out there & you can’t take it back, so now be VERY careful.” REALLY? What about you can only please some people sometimes. The thing I love about Twitter as opposed to Facebook is that its much more forgiving of do’s/don’ts. If someone doesn’t want to follow you, so what? I guess the same goes for Facebook too. Its about attracting people whether they want what you have or not. Its about making someone’s day better, even if just ONE person looks at the video or quote I post & retweets it, how great is that? I made someone feel good. As you can tell I love Twitter & it shows in that I have close to 60,000 followers. Its all about LOVE. hehe. So simple but not easy.

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  34. says

    This is good stuff! (I like tip number three especially!)

    One way I like to look at Twitter is as an extension of my writing voice, or voices. And the thing about that is that I guess I’d say that to me, my writing voice isn’t so much “me.” Rather, I think my writing voice is more or less my “brand.” And I think it’s okay to be that brand on Twitter. (Or maybe it’s better to call it a “persona.”) As long as (as you say) it also sounds like a “human being,” and is sincere.

    I follow several comedians on Twitter and I think they are very good at incorporating their “brand” into their Twitter streams. They’re Twitter voice is sort of an extension of their humor, an extension of their act. They are “in character.” I think it’s okay to call that a brand. Being a “brand” doesn’t have to mean being “insincere.” (Though it definitely can be.)

    Anyway, I hope this doesn’t come across as sounding contrary. It’s probably kind of a nit-picky distinction I’m making. Overall, I totally agree with you: being a human being is definitely the goal, rather than just using social media to plug your book or something. But I guess what I’m trying to say is just being yourself and being sincere isn’t necessarily interesting, either.

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    • says

      David, I think we really do agree overall. Sometimes being “yourself” really isn’t enough and you have to turn up the personality a notch to make something “interesting” on Twitter. This can still be every day stuff, but perhaps said in a more clever way.

      Hey-we’re all writers here and should see that as goal no matter what!

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  35. says

    Great job, Nina! I think the best take away from this post for new Twitterers is that they will get out of Twitter what they put into it. If all you do is blast your followers with reviews/posts/interviews about yourself, you will have a very bland experience with Twitter. If you interact/joke/inquire about/praise others, you will have a community of followers who will support you in whatever project you are a part of. It’s called friendship.

    Essentially, Nina is pointing out that if you are going to utilize Twitter, you might as well make it worth your time. Fact: I have read more books than I can count by those I have made authentic Twitter connections with and have read NONE by those who have blasted me over and over with their “check me out” marketing efforts.

    Listen to Nina. She knows of what she speaks (tweets?).

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    • says

      Thanks, Hallie! And I too find that most of my reading picks come from Twitter friends’ suggestions. I also find I gravitate towards books by authors I’m excited to support because of a connection we made on Twitter.

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  36. says

    Nina– I love your no-nonsense approach to twitter, and I’m so thankful that you are educating the masses about the best way to use this medium (and I include myself as part of “the masses”).

    The over-thanking is so frustrating. Generally speaking, I am a “thank you” kind of gal. I still feel awful if I don’t write a thank you note in a timely manner. So, for me, the idea of “thank you’s” being bad was not immediately evident– but it’s an in-box crowding, and most importantly inauthentic, response. It doesn’t feel like real communication. And that is the secret to GREAT twittering. Finding a connection. Not auto-blasting anything into the world.

    I can’t wait to see the rest of your series!

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    • says

      This is really well stated, Katharine, because I like to be polite too. I always send thank you notes, etc. But Twitter is so different than real life. I don’t think people really “get” the issue with the overthanking on Twitter until they are following more than 200 people.

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  37. says

    One thing I’m cognizant of is retweeting/linking to info that people who follow (I hate that phrase BTW) may be well aware of. It’s not that I never retweet things that are trendy or already popular, but I do it selectively. I prefer to offer my tweeps info they may not have seen lurking, thoughts and articles from the darker corners of the internet.

    Something else I struggle with is hashtag usage. I’m trying to better balance “me” tweets (without tags) against informational tweets. But honestly, everyone doesn’t understand yet that Twitter streams are searchable without using hashtags, so returns for #publishing vs. publishing will be different. And anecdotally, I’ve noticed that I often pick up relevant followers after hashtagging.

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    • says

      Eric, I like that idea of not just recycling the same tweets that are going round and round. You’re seeking to add value to the Twitter stream and that’s great.

      Hashtags is entirely different discussion. The biggest issue with hashtags arises when people go to RT tweets with hashtags so when someone searches for #publishing, for example, they end up seeing the same tweets over and over.

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  38. says

    Hi Nina! I’m a little late to this party, but fabulous post as usual! :D

    I have a question about thanking people. I don’t initiate the ‘Thanks for following me’ tweets, but if someone sends one to me, I thank them for the return follow and usually add a ‘Hope your day is going well’ type of tweet. I do that, because I’ve read that you should respond to all of your @mentions. And since someone “spoke” to me directly, I feel obligated to respond back. But is that considered a no-no? And it has been concerning me, because I have noticed that the ‘thanks for the return follow” etc. can clutter my twitter stream.

    Thank you so much and see in you the Twittersphere!

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    • says

      I see no problem with those tweets as long as they start with the @name as the first part of your tweet so that your 2990 followers don’t need to see you thank one or two people.

      Quick run down:

      “Thank you @name for following me!” (2990 people had to see that).

      “@name, thanks for the follow.” (only @name and the few people following both of you see it. BIG difference and much more appropriate considering the tweet really only concerns @name.)

      Same goes when you’re thanking for RTs (again, I argue that we don’t need to thank every single person for every single RT.) BUT, I get that not everyone will listen to me on that. If you’re going to thank for RTs, I don’t see why 2990 need to see those tweets.

      Hope that helps! Nina :)

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      • says

        Yay! I was doing the thanking for followbacks correctly, and now I’ve been cured on the ‘thx for the RTs’ messages. Thanks for clarifying for me; I knew I was a little off with it, but not sure how.

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