It seems like every day, I hear of a new social media tool that, as a writer, I am told that I MUST be on. The latest, of course, is Twitter, and I’m not the only one. In the past year alone, Twitter has grown by an astounding 1342%, which means that every day, thousands of users are getting their tweets on. The question remains: productive tool for writers or just another time suck?
My conclusion after diving in? Hmmmm, unsure. Probably a little bit of both.
I’ll admit up front that I was very, very dubious about Twitter. I already have a blog, which I use strictly for professional purposes, and I’m already on Facebook, which I use strictly for personal purposes (I don’t friend people whom I don’t know, etc), and this, to be honest, was enough for me. The blog allows me to disseminate marketing info as needed, and Facebook allows me to keep up with friends whom I otherwise wouldn’t have. So…where does Twitter fall into the mix?
Backtrack just a little: for those of you who don’t yet tweet (what updates on Twitter are called), Twitter is essentially just a tool for you to provide bulleted shots of “what are you doing right now?,” akin to those Facebook status updates, but unlike on FB, people tweet often – numerous times a day, citing what they’re doing, where they are, forwarding on information from other Tweeters, passing along links that they deem important or just entertaining. That, in a nutshell, this is Twitter. That’s it! Another difference between Twitter and Facebook, and this is a big one, is that anyone can see your tweets, unless you create a private profile, so conceivably, the breadth of your reach – marketing-wise – could be much wider. AND, you do not have to reciprocate friendships, so unlike on FB, in which you see all of your friends’ info and vice versa, if someone follows you, you do not have to follow them. Which, actually, I like because I can control the flow of information that comes my way.
Okay, so with that out of the way, here is my experience: I’ve slowly warmed up to Twitter, though the jury is out on whether or not it is imperative. I signed up several months ago when fellow writers were urging me to, claiming it was a tool that I simply couldn’t live with out. Huh? Really? But I created an account and waited for the magic to happen…and it didn’t. I didn’t really see the purpose of filling people in on the minutia of my day, and I definitely didn’t need to read about theirs. I also found the Twitter home page really confusing and overwhelming, and those Twitter acronyms? Forget it. My brain had a meltdown.
But a week or so ago, I resolved one last time to give Twitter a chance.
The first thing I did, and this was very, very helpful, was install Tweetdeck, which organizes your tweets into manageable masses. It also helps you respond, forward and direct message your followers, which takes a lot of the scary acronyms and symbols out of the equation. From there, I tried to figure out just what the heck I’m using it for! I think that using it entirely to pimp my blog or promote a book defeats the purpose: one of the things I’ve found most fun about Twitter is getting tiny glimpses into other people’s lives (which, I know, contradicts my above statement about hearing about minutia), but hey, I’ll admit that it’s great fun to read what John Mayer is doing at this exact moment. So I’ve been playing around with a combination of work-related tweets and a few personal observations, while not making it too personal because again, you simply don’t know who is reading your posts. I’ve been told that the best way to build your followers is to tweet things that are then retweeted (RT) by your followers. I suppose posting interesting links about the publishing industry might get this done, but I haven’t yet mastered this, which is fine by me. My goal is not to have 1000000000 followers.
I think if I were still a magazine writer, I’d find Twitter a lot more useful for strictly work purposes. I can see how you could post a source question and have it retweeted all over the Twitter universe, or come up with story ideas from followers’ random musings. But as an author, I think the only thing this is really good for (and I can be convinced otherwise), is spreading your name, voice and general readership awareness. Which shouldn’t be underestimated. But also might not be worth the time I’m spending on there. We’ll see. Talk to me when I have a book launch, because then, yes, I could see where Twitter might make a difference.
For now, I’m enjoying it for what it is, and trying NOT to get sucked in the way that I do on Facebook. But I’m curious to hear your Twitter experiences – ways that it’s worked for you, and ways that it hasn’t. And if you’re tweeting, come find me: @aswinn.com.