In my last post here at Writer Unboxed, I mentioned that – despite what the “build a platform” drones might chant outside your bedroom window at night – writers don’t have to be on Twitter. It is not required. Believe it or not, we are all grown-up people here (or let’s pretend we are), and we have the right to pick and choose which things we participate in. Shocking, right?
I resisted the siren call of Twitter for years. Everyone and their dog was talking about how it’s so much better than Facebook, but I’ll admit I have an obstinate streak, and the sheer volume of “You should be on Twitter” comments had me vowing I would never touch the thing. To be honest with you, I feel silly for taking that stance for that reason. There are many reasons for writers not to use Twitter, but sheer stubbornness is surely the least valid. Needless to say, since I write an entire column about it, that I am now decidedly on Team Twitter.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m on Team Twitter because it’s turned out to be a fantastic “fit” for me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see that it’s a horrible fit for others, or that it has drawbacks. I have several friends who used Twitter for years before deleting their accounts – and as far as I know, they couldn’t be happier with their decision to jump ship.
This post is for those of you who haven’t made up your minds yet. Maybe your writing buddies are trying to talk you into it but you have reservations. Maybe you want to try but feel intimidated. Maybe you have an account you never use and are wondering if you should delete it. Maybe you’re already active and secretly loathing it, wishing you could cut it out of your life. No matter where you stand on the scale of undecided, a nice old-fashioned pros and cons list is always helpful!
Pros of Twitter:
- It’s one of the best ways to learn about the writing/book industry in real time.
- You can follow agents and editors for inside tips. Professionals share insights on Twitter that they simply don’t share anywhere else.
- If you’re querying or on submission, you can get a much better feel for agent/editor personalities (so you don’t end up with someone you don’t mesh with, or worse, don’t respect the way they handle themselves or their clients).
- There are plenty of opportunities to learn about the craft of writing.
- It’s a great place to ask questions and (usually) get answers.
- Connect with other writers and build a support network.
- Find potential readers.
- Build a stronger bond with existing readers. (This is big if you already have some successful books out. Readers these days appreciate interacting with authors.)
- It can actually help teach you brevity with your prose.
- Expand the reach of your blog.
- Find more blogs to follow.
- Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.
- It can be really fun!
Cons of Twitter:
- It can be too fun. (Read: distracting.) If you already have trouble making yourself focus on your writing, Twitter becomes another temptation.
- Twitter is a confusing place at first. It takes a serious commitment to learn the ropes.
- Using it as a self-promoting machine is a waste of time. Twitter is for interacting with humans and building connections, not constantly advertising your book. If that’s all you’re interested in, your efforts will be better spent elsewhere.
- If you hate shortening your thoughts, you’ll be miserable.
- If you’re impatient with annoying people, you will be irritated often.
- Doing Twitter well takes time. If you don’t have any time to dedicate to learning the ropes and maintaining a presence, you likely won’t get much out of it.
- If you already have a grudge and/or have no interest in Twitter, you might not be able to give it a fair chance – self-fulfilling prophecy and all.
- If you’re content with your other platforms, Twitter might not add anything.
- If you struggle with self-esteem as a writer, Twitter can be a dangerous place laden with comparisons, number-mongering, and cliques.
- If you’ve given it the old college try and still felt miserable, why put yourself through that? There are plenty of other options!
There are more factors, of course. One important aspect that I don’t think anyone can predict is that indefinable “click” factor. Twitter truly does have a culture all its own, and like any culture, it may or may not be for you. I never thought I’d like Twitter, but once I’d been on it a few weeks and really got the hang of it, I was hooked. Maybe you will be too. You never know until you try!
Are you struggling with a decision about Twitter? Or if you’ve already made up your mind, what are some pros and cons you can add to the lists for those who are undecided?