7 Ways Twitter is a Writer’s Endless Holiday Party

‘Tis the season for office holiday parties. But if you’re a writer without a day job, you might feel left out of this dreaded sacred tradition.

Do not worry, writers! Twitter is the holiday soiree that never ends. What’s more, the same rules of etiquette expected at a holiday party apply to Twitter.

1. Don’t Come Empty Handed

When you attend a party you would normally bring a bottle of wine, or some kind of gift for the hosts, right? Think of Twitter as your host. What kind of gift would Twitter want from its guests? Words!

TWITTER TAKEAWAY: Come to Twitter with something to say. You don’t need to be clever and groundbreaking with every tweet. But do speak up on Twitter. If you need ideas, read last month’s post “How to Tweet so People Will Listen” for specific examples.

2. Don’t Do All The Talking

You know that guy at the party who never comes up for air? The one who monopolizes every conversation and brings the topic back to his own life whenever the next person takes a breath? Don’t be that guy.

TWITTER TAKEAWAY: Listening is the key to Twitter success. If you’re following 400 people, but you never read their tweets, then you’re being “that guy.” It can’t be all about you. Make sure you’re tweeting about and with other people.

3. Circulate Among The Guests

At an office party, it would be bad form if you spent the entire time hiding in the corner with the two people you like at work. It would also be a lost opportunity to network.

TWITTER TAKEAWAY: Reach out to different people on Twitter now and then. We all have our comfortable “tribes,” but sometimes Twitter can get cliquey. Combat this by retweeting someone new every so often. Respond to questions. Respond to observations. Interact with various people. (Hint: by various, I mean, they shouldn’t all be fellow writers.)

4. Don’t Keep Telling the Same Story

While you’re circulating at a party, you wouldn’t want to keep telling the same story to every single person. Sure, it was a funny the first three times, but after a while you start sounding like a robot.

TWITTER TAKEAWAY: Be careful about over-tweeting the same links and messages all day long. Okay, so your first chapter is available on Amazon for free. Unless that chapter is going to magically slip out of our e-readers dipped in gold, we don’t need the reminder every hour for four days.

5. Make New People Feel Comfortable

It never feels good to walk into a room and feel like everyone is talking about you. Or in the case of Twitter, that nobody is talking about you.

TWITTER TAKEAWAY: Give new people a chance. Interact with them. Follow them if their Twitter bios interest you. Say hello. This doesn’t mean you have to follow everyone, but it’s nice to give new faces the benefit of the doubt.

6. Be a Connector

Even better than the person who welcomes a new face at a party is the person who takes the extra step of introducing the newbie to others.

TWITTER TAKEAWAY: Invite others into the conversation. Connect people who clearly have interests in common. It’s easy. Take a look at an introduction I made recently.

7. End Conversations Gracefully

There’s an art to ending a conversation at a party. Some people find it so difficult to gracefully walk away that they have to create signals with friends and spouses as the emergency cue for help. The good news for Twitter users is that the environment on the Twitter feed is even more casual than a real office party. In fact, the biggest Twitter etiquette mistakes occur when people act overly formal. Therefore ending a conversation “gracefully” on Twitter means something different than ending one in real life.

TWITTER TAKEAWAY: While at an actual party you might feel funny walking away in the middle of a discussion, on Twitter it’s expected that interactions are short and sweet. Likewise, when someone says thank you on Twitter (which I believe happens way more often than necessary for the quick and casual atmosphere of Twitter) it is completely over-the-top to then tweet “you’re welcome.” Being “graceful” on Twitter means knowing when to leave well enough alone.

In real life, at some point everyone needs to leave a party and go home for some peace and quiet. It’s no different with Twitter. Don’t forget to turn off the computer, put away the smartphones, and shut out the noise of the Internet. We will all be here when you get back. 

Also, don’t drink and tweet drive. Happy holidays!

Photo credit: via Flickr by DBarefoot



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.


  1. says

    Great points. All the Twitter parties I’ve held do feel like trying to have a conversation on the top of the limo as it’s speeding down the highway. You just catch what you can and hope you get to meet some new people and that the wallflowers got some information they didn’t know about when they came.

  2. says

    In a former life, I was a career counselor at a college. We used to teach students the rules of engagement for attending dinners with prospective employers– etiquette rules of dining and conversation. After all, this was a completely new territory for them! And so Twitter feels for me too.

    I love the idea of the party. I am still learning my way around Twitter and appreciate the seasoned advice given here. It is hard to be the new kid on the block, especially if you’re not known. “Big names” will follow me because they want the followers, but the point is not the interaction– even casual. I know. I’ve tried.

    I’ve also had to learn the art of leaving a conversation graciously. Slowly but surely I’m “getting” all the etiquette rules of Twitter dining as well. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think just like in “real life” this Twitter etiquette takes practice. And you have to let certain things roll off your back, too, like the bigger names not responding. That used to really annoy me, but the truth is they can’t respond to everyone AND actually write books. Right?

      Nina :)

  3. says

    Thanks for the lesson. Twitter has always been a challenge to me. These tips will help. You didn’t mention one of my main problems, though. How does a long-winded story-telling fool like me ever learn how to be concise and not get cut off in mid thought?

    • says

      Hi Carolyn,

      Learning to keep our thoughts concise is probably the most rewarding part of Twitter. It’s a fun challenge for writers to say what we want in less words. At least that’s how I see it!

  4. says

    Perfect! – I got to get better at being a connector. I have never thought to do that on my own, even though I have been the recipient of someone else’s generous introductions.

    • says

      I find it works especially best for local people where there is actually a potential to meet in person. OR, people can connect themselves and meet in person like we did. ;)

  5. says

    Interesting post, Nina — found via Porter Anderson tweet. After 12 months on Twitter I’m still learning too — agree with all your tips!

    One approach I’ve adopted which also seems a kind of ‘basic courtesy’ to me is to follow back human beings who seem to tweet in good faith. I have ‘sub-lists’ set up on tweetdeck to follow those I’m most interested in, with others simply ‘flashing by’ in the main timeline. To me this means I don’t miss key friends, colleagues, and news providers, but also ‘gives new people a chance’ as you suggest.

    I actually accessed your blog via an earlier Porter A. post of his own (the one mentioning ‘face down in the me-pond!’) and noticed you follow waaaaaaaay less (thousands less) than you have followers. When I see this with a person who’s not a super-major guru/expert or celebrity (ugh) or global ‘presence’ it kind of turns me off … can’t explain exactly why, except as noted above, it seems a kind of lack of courtesy to me, and/or almost an ego thing (I’m so important, and you’re not …). I’m sure this is NOT the case with you — would love your thoughts on this!

    Cheers and thanks for sharing these tips.

    • says

      Hi Carolyn,

      I’m so glad you brought up this point. I use Hootsuite (kind of like Tweetdeck) and also use lists. I’m a BIG pusher of lists actually. Here’s the thing: everyone I follow is on a list, which means I’m really following those people. I understand your method of following anyone who does not seem like a spammer, and it’s one I would probably advise for writers selling books so as not to insult anyone.

      Since I have nothing whatsoever to sell, I feel that my experience on Twitter can and should be more authentic. Really, it would be nice if everyone’s experience could be that way. In other words, I really follow people, I don’t “follow” them. I’m careful about pressing that follow button. I look at the person’s timeline more than the bio. Though I do give the benefit of the doubt more often than not. It’s just that I’ll unfollow if someone is overtweeting, overselling, over #FFing, or generally taking over the stream when I’m looking at Twitter.

      I’m willing to bet that the most of the people I am not following are not even aware of it. They are likely not very engaged in Twitter, or, like you, they are engaged but following most people who follow them, which means they are not really reading those tweets, including mine.

      I think I follow close to 700 people right now. I’m also willing to bet that although more follow me, the number of people who actually read my tweets is closer to that 700 number, probably even less. That is the number people should spend time thinking about–the number of what I call “authentic followers.” Otherwise the number of followers is meaningless. It’s better to have 50 people who really read your tweets, RT them, respond to them, etc., than 500 “followers” who are letting your tweets pass by unnoticed.

      I hope that explains my thoughts on the numbers piece a bit. It’s really not an ego thing AT ALL. It’s a sanity thing. I try to keep the number to one I can actually manage. And because of that, I have tons of fun with Twitter. I love it! I do follow anyone who really engages with me. I also follow plenty of people who not follow me because, but I love their work, or their tweets and I absolutely get that it’s impossible for them to follow everyone. I mean follow, not “follow.”

      Thanks so much again for bringing this up because it’s a GREAT and fair question. And maybe a good topic for my next post here. :)


      • says

        Thanks for your reply, Nina – excellent and thought-provoking. I’m definitely still learning, so if I may add a few more comments after thinking about your points …

        The use of lists definitely seems worthwhile, though I’m still figuring out how best to manage them. I’m not sure how you can ‘authentically’ follow 700 (wow), even via lists — thus far I have around 6-8 lists of at the most maybe 15-20 each and they’re all private, named, for example, ‘Personal’, ‘Best Felixstowe/Suffolk/UK’ (where I live now), ‘Best Paris’, ‘Best Global’, ‘Best Writing’, and so on. They’re quite fluid — I add and delete from them regularly, based on what I see ‘going by’ on the master timeline of everyone, or what I read online, or whatever.

        I started trying to put everyone I follow on a list, as you do — but coudn’t keep up, so tried ‘extracting’ those I considered were ‘best’ as I reacted to them based on bio, recent tweets, and clicking the link they provided. I keep them all private because 1) they’re fluid and 2) for fear of offending anyone *not* on my ‘Best xx’ list — as if anyone would care if they’re not on my little list! But still I just felt/feel my ‘choices’ and even my ‘categories’ of lists feels so personal and private to me — even though Twitter is so public. Argh.

        Then, like you, I have nothing really to sell, at least not in the monetary sense (but I’m conscious we’re all putting ourselves out there). I guess I feel that keeping a balance of following/following back is kind of a virtual handshake — if someone offers and ‘puts their hand out’ in what appears to be good faith (from recent tweets, etc. – ie not some automatic following machine) — it feels a bit churlish to me *not* to respond in kind – at least to follow back, put them on my running timeline — and then see if/where it goes anywhere. If I see tweets that engage me for a while, I then put them on one of my tweetdeck lists. I too look at the timeline more than the bio, and also unfollow, too, if tweets are majorly annoying, constant self-promotion, etc.

        I also block a lot of attempts that are obviously automatic, spammers, seeming-unsavoury characters, etc. – early on I read somewhere that it is good practice to have decent followers and not so many non-humans, spammers, etc. This made sense to me so I’ve tried to keep my own followers more or less ‘legitimate’ — for whatever that may be worth.

        Sorry this is so long – the topic interests me because after a year or two of my 20-something son encouraging me to get on Twitter, I finally jumped in in Nov. 2011 and found I love it — though still struggling with how best to use it. And bottom line, it still feels more right than not to me, to follow people even if our ‘connection’ is not as strong or deep as my ‘sub-lists’ may be.

        Cheers again and thanks for listening! I’m happy to have found your blog and Twitter tips :) All the best and happy holidays.

        • says

          Great discussion you started, here, Carolyn. Thank you!

          I guess the definition of “authentically following” makes a difference. I am not on Twitter every day. I do not see anyone’s tweets every day. But, when I spend time I on Twitter, I can quickly scan through my lists (all of which are public) one by one. I star or “favorite” things I’d like to get to later if there’s a link that seems interesting. Later might mean weeks or months when I take the time to really go through my favorites list and check out posts. I figure people appreciate RTs of their posts even if those posts are weeks old. I know I do! So that’s how I keep up. Basically, I do so at my own pace. But again, if I follow someone, he/she will land on one of my lists. I have a list called “new to ME” which is where I put somewhere temporary until I have a better sense. The lists are really just for me. I can’t imagine anyone knows they’re on one or cares. I could make them private come to think of it! ;)

          Anyway, thank you so much for the great points you addressed. I think we are both doing it right if it works for us, right?


          • says

            Hi again Nina,

            Love the idea of using Favorites and having them to return to at one’s leisure (ha) — I’ve never favorited a tweet but am going to try using that approach as a way to manage the viewing/reading!

            Re the following/follower numbers and balance (or lack thereof) … I have to ponder that one further since my instinct is still that I feel almost rude if someone follows me and I don’t follow back, at least for a while, in a kind of ‘friendly handshake’ or whatever. (I guess it would be, in the context of your twitter holiday party tips, like ignoring someone who offers a friendly ‘hello’ at a party). However — I do take your points, and definitely whatever works well for any of us is a good thing, and we’re doing it right if it works!

            Cheers and thanks for the great discussion.

  6. says

    I have to say, I find all of these posts about Twitter to be very helpful. As a Twitter newbie, it is both tons of fun and intimidating because I do feel like I’m a little person in the corner, trying to think of things to say but haven’t figured out how to tweet so that people will listen and follow (and not drop me). This will take time, won’t it? I’m intrigued by the idea of tweeting as one of my characters, but I don’t have the courage to shoot for that as yet.

    • says

      It definitely takes time. You’ll find your stride. Experiment. Follow some new people now and then. If nothing else it’s always a good thing to respond to people’s tweets. It’s a great way to reach out to others on Twitter in a genuine way. (A “non genuine” way of reaching out is tweeting directly to someone about reading your blog post or something like that. And yes, I have really seen that!)

  7. says

    Twitter is a private thrill for me: when I can take an idea and encase it in 140 words or less and whittle it down until PING! the entire screen is no longer in the red. I LOVE THAT.

    I find twitter challening and as mentally exercising as some do Sudoko. Love twitter.

    NICE job, N. Love your twitter how tos.

  8. says

    I love these tips, of course, especially #6. Connecting people is one of my favorite things to do on Twitter, especially when I know the match is just perfect. There’s nothing quite so satisfying!

  9. says

    Excellent and wise advice, Nina! I especially love your connections between Twitter etiquette and Holiday Party etiquette. Especially this: “Unless that chapter is going to magically slip out of our e-readers dipped in gold, we don’t need the reminder …” It made me laugh out loud. We, as writers, can be a socially misfit bunch. Thanks for helping to keep us straight!