Writers On Twitter: 7 Twitter Taboos You MUST Avoid

by Alicia Sparks on August 23, 2011

Now why would I want to do that...?

Okay, “must” is a strong word, but let me tell you a little story…

You know that “Similar to You” section on the right side of your Twitter profile?

Well, the other day (and contrary to its usual function – for some reason, it normally only suggests I follow other users named “Alicia”) it suggested I follow someone who is not only a fellow writer, but also a writer I know.

We’ll call her Jane.

Jane and I belonged to the same e-mail group for writers a few years ago, but have since lost touch, so I was actually excited to see that she was on Twitter, and immediately clicked through to her profile.

Boy, how fast that excitement turned to disappointment.

You see, Jane – like a lot of other writers I’ve seen on Twitter – was committing a Twitter taboo too heinous for me to overlook even though I genuinely enjoyed her friendship years ago.

Well, two, actually.

First, every single tweet was automatically generated from one of her blogs. There was no interaction with other writers on Twitter (or anyone else, for that matter). No replies, no retweets – nothing. Second, every tweet, as you can imagine, was self-promotional.

With a slightly heavy heart, I opted not to follow Jane and closed the tab containing her profile.

Then, I decided to write this post.

Before we launch into it, let me first point out that I know there are zillions of articles out there instructing people on how to use Twitter; providing Twitter tips, especially tips for marketing on Twitter and gaining followers on Twitter.

Please note that this is not another one of those articles; rather, this is a post on a few of the behaviors that I’ve come to label as Twitter taboos: Behaviors that will prevent me from following you most of the time, or, if I do follow you, make it extra crucial for you to kick ass in some other area.

1. Using Only Automated Tweets

Setting up automatic tweets of your latest blog posts is fine, right? Yet, if you don’t care enough about your followers on Twitter to post an actual thought once in a while, why should they care enough to follow you?

2. Interacting With No One

Even if you have a nice blend of automated and “real” tweets, if you’re not interacting with anyone, you’re not connecting with anyone. If you’re not connecting with anyone, you’re not going to be very effective at marketing on Twitter, are you?

3. Doing Nothing For Anyone

How much fun are people who never retweet or post relevant links to blog posts or articles that they didn’t write?

No fun at all.

4. Having No Profile Picture

Okay, so technically you can’t have no profile picture; Twitter has its generic standby that all users get until they upload their own. So, better phrased, “Using Twitter’s Generic Profile Picture.”

Doing this for any longer than it takes to open up your hard drive’s Picture folder and choose a decent shot of your mug (or cover of your novel, or logo for your writing business, or whatever) is dumb. It’s just dumb.

Let Twitter help you correct this dumbness.

5. Being ONLY A Writer

You’re a writer, and you tweet about writing and follow other writers and, you know, write. You do other stuff, though, too – right? If your Twitter bio or stream tells me nothing about you as a person and provides only information about you as a writer, how am I supposed to know if I’m interested? Or, that you’re interesting?

I know @ToddRMoody is a pilot and that @martharandolf kicked cancer’s ass. I also know that @mollygreene doesn’t spend too much money on wine (a woman after my own heart) and likes her dog. I even know his name. It’s Frank.

The point is, you have a life outside of writing, and you’re much more interesting when you admit it.

6. Tweeting Once In A Blue Moon

I hate finding interesting writers on Twitter, only to discover they haven’t tweeted in a month and a half. Usually, this means they’re way too busy to keep up with a Twitter account (which means they’re likely to commit taboos #2 and #3, as well), or they’ve abandoned the account.

Or, they could’ve taken time off to have a baby (in which case a courteous “On hiatus – just had a baby!” would be nice).

7. Promoting The Hell Out Of Yourself

I want to know what you’re doing. Really, I do. I’m interested in what you’re writing, or what you’ve just posted, or the interview you just gave. Otherwise, I wouldn’t follow you. I see what’s going on with you, and I can learn from that – and vice-versa.

What I’m NOT interested in is All You, All The Time. Post a link to your blog post or your most recent article in Whatever Magazine or the occasional link to your book on Amazon, and then ask me how my day’s going.

(NOTE: This goes for bios, too. For example, @hazelindeed managed to let me know she has a YA novel coming out and enjoys life’s simple pleasures. Likewise, @mizwrite tells us she not only writes for LifeScript.com, but she’s also married with kids.)

So, what about you, writers? Agree? Disagree? Have your own Twitter taboos to add to the list?

Image Source: Twitter Buttons

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly Greene August 25, 2011 at 10:57 am

Alicia! Well-written, pertinent, and SO TRUE. Thanks for reminding us that Twitter is a conversation, not just a platform. I also personally cringe when a new follower tweets or DMs me “thanks, new follower!” with a personal pitch or a link to their website.

Alicia August 25, 2011 at 11:10 am

Oh! I wish I’d thought of that one, Molly! HUGE turn off. I used to have way less patience than I do now, and I would immediately delete that person. (Of course, back then I was just getting my Twitter account going and most of those people were internet marketers of some sort – people who, at the time, I had nothing in common with.) These days, it’s still a huge turn off, but I’ll keep ’em IF I really find their info (site, updates, etc.) beneficial.

J.P. Hansen August 25, 2011 at 11:13 am

Social media is about participating in a community. I think that should come first. Marketing will then take care of itself.

Alicia August 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

Definitely a good point, J.P. I wholeheartedly believe that each of these seven can work against a writer (or any professional) who’s trying to be a part of a community.

Jena August 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

Great post, Alicia!

Here are a few that drive me nuts: 1) Vague “Check this out!” tweets with link (link to what? their new favorite porn site? a blatant self-promo video? a site filled with pop-ups and malware? or something interesting?). 2) Nothing but retweets. 3) 20 tweets in as many seconds.

Alicia August 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Agree, agree, and agree, Jena! Especially with the mysterious link one – in this day and age, clicking on any ol’ link could lead to something that serious screws up your computer (which sucks for EVERYONE, but especially those of us who work from them!).

If I’m not mistaken, there’s some sort of 3rd-party Twitter program out there that allows you to temporarily “turn off” your friends who tweet a million times a minute (you can turn them back “on” later). I wish I could remember the name of that… Of course, it might not exist anymore, given so many of them went the way of the Dodo after all that Twitter API hubbub went down a little while back.

Jena August 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I use TwitterGadget on my iGoogle page, and it allows me to mute certain people. I’m beginning to see the reasoning behind Google+ circles, which allow you to pick and choose without the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments that ensues if you unfollow on Twitter or (god forbid) unfriend someone on FB. 🙂

Alicia August 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Ha! Perfect ways of putting it. I haven’t checked out Google+ yet, but a friend of mine invited me, so I see it in the very near future. My big concern is getting overwhelmed with so many social media accounts. Maybe I’ll keep Google+ strictly WritingSpark related? We shall see.

But overall, you like Google+ so far?

Jena August 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Not enough people in my circles yet – I tend to see the same folks, and many of their posts are just retweets or reposts from FB or their blogs. One thing I *don’t* like about G+ is that posts can go on and on and on… I love the constraint of 140 character tweets. I guess it’s the editor in me!

Alicia August 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Ahhh, haha, I bet it is. On the flip side, those 140-character tweets are definitely an exercise is the extremely wordy writer in me, ha!

Nina August 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I cannot stand overthanking done as regular tweets that all followers have to see. Why don’t people write them as @replies!?!?!? There is NO need to thank as a public tweet for every follow, rt, #ff, etc. It ends up reading like a lot of nothing.

Alicia August 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm

You know Nina, this is something I’ve just discovered over the past couple of months or so. First of all, I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT. LOL 🙂 What is the point? What’s the intention? Maybe if I understood it, I’d see some reasoning? Second of all, after so much of it, I just get flat confused. I can’t keep up with who the #WW or #FF originated from, I can’t tell the original #WW or #FF from the Thank Yous, and before long I can’t track down how I got in the middle of it to begin with, ha!

Then I start wondering who I’m going to piss off it I don’t respond the the proper way. Hahaha.

Don’t get me wrong – I love #WW (and I’m sort of getting back into #FF, though I really loved it years ago – when it would actually trend) – #WW has helped so many writers – myself included – meet like-minded Twitter users. But these mass Thank Yous and Retweets are killin’ me 🙂

Krishna Papan August 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm

You really nailed my Twitter pet peeves here. Thanks for the rant so I didn’t have to do one myself!

Alicia August 27, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Ha! No problem, Krishna – glad you enjoyed it!

Jim March 16, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Great article!

I must confess I am guilty of at least one of these offenses, not directly interacting enough. But I do okay on the other six, so perhaps my sentence can be commuted to time served?

I know what you mean about the non-stop promoting thing. I find Goodreads to be the worst offender of that. It gets old especially to another writer. Sometimes I feel like replying back “Yeah I know you wrote a book. So you said, and said, and said, and said…”.

I try to do a self diagnosis every so often on all ofl my sites to make sure I am mixing up the posts. If I am going to over do anything, I’d rather it be promoting one of the animal welfare causes I support. I figure my books are there and anyone who has an interest can find them easy enough.

Great info!

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