Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

You all knew this day would come. I’ve talked about Facebook, I’ve talked about Google+, and I’ve mentioned blogging more than a few times. But what about Twitter, the social media platform that literally causes marketing professionals to lose control of their saliva production?

What is Twitter good for?

  • fast and brief conversation; anything in depth doesn’t fit in 140 characters
  • feeling like part of a community/building community
  • being able to respond, quickly and briefly, to fans/readers/customers/etc.
  • access to people who are well-known in their fields and have a large(ish) fan base, aka networking
  • small amounts of self-promotion (the key word being SMALL) about your latest book, blog post, upcoming appearance, or what-have-you
  • finding out if it was just you or was that really just an earthquake

However, I have noticed certain habits of Twitter users that can be, to state it bluntly, irritating or even off-putting. Here are my top three:

1. Huge volume. Last week someone I follow on Twitter must have posted twenty or thirty different “truism” tweets within fifteen minutes, completely flooding my timeline for that entire period. Another person has tweeted twelve random links (not RTs, mind you) in the past hour; and this isn’t rare or unusual behavior for him. At a certain point, volume no longer provides value for your followers, but instead merely feels like spam.

2. Automated Direct Message Upon Following. I can only assume people do this because they have failed to comprehend how slimy and inauthentic it feels to be on its receiving end. If you want to automate your Twitter account to follow everyone back and happily give numbers to spammers, well, at least it doesn’t affect me directly. But sending me a spam message because I was interested enough to follow you has the effect of giving a poor first impression. Happily others agree with me.

3. Large amount of repetition/over-promotion. Twitter is a fleeting platform, so I understand the need to share an important piece of information (my book is out! I have an awesome new blog post! my story is out!) more than once so that your followers don’t miss it. Share it more than twice in twenty-four hours, though, and my patience wears thin–plus it had better be really important to you. Tweet about the same blog post every couple of days, while possibly disguising that it is the same blog post, and I will never again click on any links you share. I made the mistake of following one well-known personality who not only has a volume problem, but has scheduled all of his tweets to be shared four times a day. Yes, that’s FOUR times. For ALL his tweets, most of which are random links that I can’t imagine he’s super invested in. Again, this feels like spam, and perhaps more importantly, it makes this person appear to be inauthentic. And being inauthentic on Twitter is the kiss of death.

People don’t like to be marketed to, they like to be connected with. Social media is all about achieving marketing through connection, which will hopefully make the experience more palatable for everyone. Commit regular acts of spam and no one wins.

Disagree with any of my pet peeves? Have any of your own to add? Let me know!

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Earlier this week we covered Facebook’s new direction, including both the potential large upside for writers and the accompanying privacy concerns. But what about Google+? Where does it fit into this picture? (Disclaimer: my husband, you may remember, works on Google+, so I’m not an uninterested party here. Apparently I also need to tell you explicitly that these are my opinions and not his. So yes, all mine. Especially the brilliant parts.)

Google+ has only been public for a little more than a week, and has only been live at all for the past three months. So we’re still in the very early days, which means there is still a lot of room for conjecture. First, let’s talk about a few differences between Facebook and Google+ (although with all of FB’s recent changes, there are less of them than there were). I was happy to have independent verification that Google+ is not doing the creepy cookie thing that makes me so concerned about Facebook and its privacy. There’s also less chance of accidentally posting information you don’t want posted, which is always nice. With its recent integration of Hangouts (group video chat) with new tools, especially Google Docs and screen views, Google+ lends itself well to collaboration in creative, business, and educational fields (and even recreational). The Google+ stream is not filtered the way Facebook is; you see all the posts being shared with you, although not in straight reverse chronological order as sometimes new comments will make an old post jump back higher in your stream. Google+ has garnered a reputation for hosting more in-depth discussions and conversations and for being a great platform for meeting new people.

I’m reluctant to talk about Google+’s real names policy because I know that many people feel passionately about it and I don’t want this conversation to center only on that. Regarding writers, I will say that I don’t think it’s Google’s aim to penalize those of us who write under pseudonyms. I personally expect that once Google+ has matured a bit more, this policy will lose its relevance, if for no other reason than that Google will find it impossible to enforce such a policy. For writers in particular, as long as your pseudonym looks like a standard American name (ie first and last), the odds are that you won’t have problems. But it is a concern that Google needs to address in some way so that users feel completely comfortable investing in the site.

A baby hedgehog with a lot of potential… (Okay, you’ve got me, I just wanted to include a hedgehog photo.)

Why might writers consider being on Google+ right now?

1. Hatred of Facebook. It happens, and now there’s an alternative for having an online presence that is more conducive for conversation with fans and communities. Twitter can also do this, but it feels more ephemeral in time and is difficult for communicating more complicated ideas or sharing links (since they are truncated and therefore very mysterious). So this may partly depend on your style of communication, and of course, carries the downside of not having the sheer number of users as Facebook.

2. Early adopter status. One of the main benefits of this is getting a head start. Users who are early adopters tend to have large follower counts, both because they’ve been doing it longer and because they are present at the beginning when more people are looking for interesting content for their streams. For example, I have well over 1000 people following me on Google+ after three months, whereas I have friends in the three hundreds on both Facebook and Twitter.

3. If you are an sf/f writer, being active on Google+ right now is a no brainer, because guess what? Your fans make up a large portion of the current user base. Google+ is known to be particularly popular with the high-tech crowd, many of whom enjoy science fiction and fantasy. So the potential for building your fan base is very good. Not to mention that the artist communities (comic book artists, photographers, and writers in particular) are well represented as well–hence why Google+ is great for collaboration and networking.

4. Positioning. Writers want to be in the best place to take advantage of whatever changes may benefit them. Keeping up to date with what’s going on with these social platforms and understanding the basics of how they work means greater speed in adapting and leveraging them to work for you.

What I am most excited about, though, is the huge future potential of Google+. Remember how I said that it is becoming known as a great place to meet new people? Well, guess what the point of having a social media strategy is in the first place. Yes, that’s right: meeting new people in order to build a fan base. On Facebook, the vast majority of my friends are people I’ve met in real life. On Twitter, the vast majority of my followers are newer writers like myself, indie writers, and social media professionals who use words like SEO in their personal descriptions. I certainly have a fair number of writers following me on Google+ as well, but I’m also being followed by lots of..wait for it… normal people! I know, right? Who knew that could happen? And these people are all potential readers who might like my work. Plus, for an added bonus, they’re really interesting to talk to. So while I stand by my assertion that Facebook is great for more established writers due to its larger reach, Google+ is great for writers actively trying to build a fan base before they even have a publishing track record. If you read a lot about social media and writers, you have doubtless read how we’re all supposed to start building a “platform” a few years before our first novel hits the presses. Google+ seems positioned to be a powerful tool to do just that.

With its new search feature that came out last week, Google+ became a tool for discovery. I can now search for posts about subjects I care about on Google+, which is a great way to meet people. With its release of shared circles, in which users can take a screenshot of a current circle and share it with their followers, we’ve been given the means to share groups of people who we know are interested in photography, or current events, or reading, or whatever topic we want, which will also facilitate discovery. My hope is that Google will continue to pursue this line of development and begin to offer more advanced and refined methods of finding other users with similar interests.

Next week I’m planning to discuss ways for writers (or anyone else) to be interesting and discoverable on social media. And then maybe I’ll be able to tear myself away from this topic for long enough to talk about something else.

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Since I talked about blogging last week, I decided to continue my trend and talk a little more social media. Only this time, I will turn my attention to Google+ and Twitter, and one of the strategies I see being discussed and implemented. Okay, time to test out my backbone!The strategy I’ve been thinking about is automatic mutual following or circling. The idea is this: when someone follows you, you automatically follow that person back (unless it’s a spambot, although some people even auto-follow them). In your turn, you can hope for similar reciprocity when you follow somebody else. By doing this, you can build your Following count and therefore your social media reach and presence, presumably for the purpose of connecting with your audience.

I’ve seen this strategy pushed all the time and tried it myself on Twitter. I didn’t just do automatic follow-backs either; I regularly retweeted, shared cool content, joined in conversations, etc. This took a fair amount of time to do properly (sifting through all the material to find the articles I thought merited retweets, for example), and as the number of people I followed grew, my stream became so noisy I began to be unable to find quality content or the people I actually wanted to talk to.

I know, I know, Tweetdeck. But all Tweetdeck does is allow you to divide people into lists, and show those lists in different columns. It’s still the same amount of information to read. And most people don’t have time to read that much information. I began to realize that, in fact, most people weren’t reading the information I was sharing. The whole “I’ll follow you if you follow me” game was resulting in a torrent of what I like to call “Fake Follows:” follows in which neither person actually reads anything the other person is sharing, instead using lists and circles to avoid each other, while boosting up Follower count.

So when I got the opportunity to start over again on Google+, I decided to try something different. I don’t feel obligated to circle someone when they’ve circled me. A revolutionary thought! Instead, if I have the time, I go look at the person’s posts that are visible to me, and I decide whether or not to add the person to my circles based on how interesting she is to me. And if someone starts posting up a storm about topics that make me feel stressed or bored, I remove them from my circles. (For instance, anyone who starts complaining all the time about Google+ while not being constructive or actually saying much of anything? Kaput. Life is seriously too short.) Meanwhile, if people who are reading me comment intelligently about something I’m sharing, I’m very likely to check them out again and see if their posts have become more interesting, giving them another chance to be added to my circles.

What I am left with is a much higher quality stream than I would otherwise have, without the charade that I’m following people who I never read. I circle people who I think are interesting without worrying about whether they’ll find me interesting in return. And I curate the “Amy feed” knowing that if anybody finds it extremely dull, they can always remove me from circles, which means I don’t have to censor myself from sharing on a variety of topics.

I don’t think Fake Following is effective at marketing or spreading the word about your book or getting people to spend money. What I think is truly effective is following people who give you value: with whom you can engage on a personal level, or who feed your artistic spirit (I follow some great photographers for this reason), or who give you interesting food for thought. These are the people who will enrich your life, and if you begin to develop a relationship or even a friendship with them, these are the people who will support you in your endeavors. You can’t fake this support; it must be earned.

So for those of you on Google+, I encourage you to share some posts publicly, so that other users can tell if they might enjoy adding you to their circles. And for those of you on Google+ or Twitter, I encourage you to choose authenticity over the Fake Follow, to follow people because you are truly interested in them, not just to add to your numbers.

How about you? How do you decide who to follow on social media? Are you interested in following people you don’t know personally?

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“Loneliness is the endemic disease of our time.”

My husband broke out this sentence last weekend, and of course, my response was, “Where’s my laptop? I need to write that down.”

There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence: at its most basic, the state of being lonely and all it entails, the idea of loneliness as a disease (and a widespread systemic one at that), and whether loneliness is more prevalent now than it has been in the past.

And once I add in the context of the conversation, which was about social media, there’s even more to think about. How does social media (Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, forums, online dating, etc.) affect loneliness? Does it make us feel more connected and satisfied on the whole, or does it, by diluting our pool of friends and sometimes encouraging quantity over quality and surface over depth, make us feel even more lonely?

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. Even if I examine my own personal experience, I’ve had both positive and negative reactions to social media.

The Bad:

1. Hearing about a party that all your friends went to, to which you were not invited, is not so fun. On the plus side, this means that when the party comes up later in in-person conversation (which it inevitably will), at least you’re not blindsided and can respond with the appropriate blasé remark.
2. Reading the never-ending stream of advice and opinions about writing and the publishing industry can be draining and kill my own inspiration and ability to work. I imagine this is true in other fields as well.
3. Time sink. Enough said.
4. Having a lot of Facebook friends is not the same as having friends who form my support network, with whom I have a private and personal relationship. And yet, sometimes Facebook distracts from the need to maintain those deeper relationships.
5. Friends’ internet time is not equal, so I will end up with more interaction with those friends who check their social networks frequently, as opposed to those friends with whom I have the closest in-person connections.
6. Social media makes me feel like I know what’s going on for people, and it makes people feel like they know what’s going on for me. Which is great, until I start to think about all the things I never say because they are too private for public consumption.

The Good:

1. One of the reasons I love blogging so much is because it allows me to use social media in a very content-heavy way, helping me balance the whole breadth vs. depth issue. Plus it gives me the chance to be a conversation-starter or to respond in depth to interesting conversations begun by others.
2. I am able to keep myself very informed and up-to-date on any of my interests or career concerns.
3. Social media makes it easier to reach out and create or find a community of like-minded individuals.
4. I can stay in at least nominal touch with a lot more people than I could have even ten years ago. Contacting someone out of the blue is also a lot less weird than it used to be.
5. Getting multiple birthday wishes (and having an easier time remembering and acknowledging others’ birthdays) makes me happy. Yes, I love birthdays.
6. Sometimes social media is great entertainment, pure and simple. And I love the way it lets people share content.

On the whole, social media makes me feel more connected, as long as I remember that it’s not a substitute for in-person time (or e-mail for those of my friends who aren’t local). What has your experience been with different forms of social media? Does it make you feel more or less isolated?

On Thursday, I’ll be exploring the idea of how loneliness fits into modern American society, and why it might be on the rise.

UPDATE: An interesting recent article on how Facebook helps people overcome shyness. It ends with the insight that some users become more lonely because of Facebook.

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