Four weeks ago, I created a Twitter account so that I have a social media presence for my writing business. As such, I’m using it to follow writers, publishers, general writer-y things, and a few mindset positivity accounts for good measure. I am cultivating a dream, after all! Whilst I do have a personal Twitter account, I barely engage with it other than for the occasional tweet about my thoughts and for asking Stagecoach Bus to check if a bus is actually running so I can make it to work. I rarely scroll or engage with communities etc. so it’s been a generally great experience to use it with a purpose and interact with like-minded people. But I can’t help feeling that sometimes, I’m stuck between two different Twitter worlds.
I’ve found it an interesting experience so far and what I talk about in this post pertains to a writing-focused Twitter world, but I wanted to share my observations – or my perceptions – anyway. So here’s a summary of ten things I’ve learnt over the last month.
1. It’s a great platform to connect with people across the world
Being on Twitter has enabled me to interact with people all over the world. I like that it doesn’t feel weird to follow or interact with somebody that I’ve never met, and we can chat and engage about mutual interests. I like to engage with people – whether that’s to debate, talk or ask and answer questions, so it’s wonderful to be able to do this with people I’ve never met straight from my phone. I also like that people are free to ask questions and get support from a community we’d otherwise be non-privy to and there seems to be a great community vibe. It’s probably my favourite thing about Twitter so far.
2. There are some really talented writers
This was, of course, something I knew, but being on Twitter has enabled me to see them more clearly and appreciate their talent. I love reading others’ work and there are some real diamonds that I wouldn’t otherwise know about if I hadn’t found them via Twitter. I enjoy the fact that I can openly read and engage with other peoples’ work and I have even found some accounts that provide writing training and educating, so I suspect I’ll benefit in the long run, too. These people also seem really open to supporting others and I’ve had a lot of engagement and offerings of assistance, guidance and feedback. I like this side of the community and find it different to the world of my personal Twitter, where I follow a vast mix of people, but where the atmosphere is generally quite negative and there seems to be constant arguing or griping. I utilise my writing account in a somewhat different way, so it’s naturally little more positive because I’ve created a feed of writing-related things.
3. There is a follow/follow back etiquette
This is one of the things I found really confusing at the start. Some people only follow others to be followed back, and if this doesn’t happen, they unfollow. This was quite strange to me initially as I couldn’t really grasp the concept or the point. Why follow in the first place if you’re only going to unfollow? Are people following others because they’re genuinely interested and then hoping for a follow back because that’s an unwritten rule? Or are people only following others to receive a follow back? And is it essential to follow back? And do numbers really matter? So many questions!
I’ve heard and now witnessed first hand, that some people spend time following a vast amount of accounts and when they follow back, they unfollow. Or when they don’t follow back, they unfollow. I had somebody this week follow me for a little while, I didn’t follow back (because I wasn’t really interested) and they unfollowed. This made me wonder, am I being rude? Or is it just a numbers game and nothing personal? I’m sure that this is Twitter basics 101, but it surprised me that people would behave like this. Obviously, there are some people following people just because they want to, but it was interesting to observe nonetheless.
Could I say the word ‘follow’ any more times in one paragraph?! Jeez, let’s move on.
4. I still don’t understand Writers Lifts
When I joined Twitter, I thought writers lifts were a way of sharing mutual interests – for example, somebody might post about a mental health blog, and then everybody contribute any recent posts they’ve written about mental health. I liked the idea that there’s a common theme and I can read content that I’m interested in. With this in mind, I’ve tried out the whole concept by tagging #WritersLift in some tweets. But my tweets don’t seem to get much engagement from it, and I’m not sure if I’m using the hashtag correctly or that my content is simply not of interest!
The accounts that do seem to get engagement with writers lifts are the people who are doing them to celebrate reaching another thousand followers, or having a birthday, or writing another X thousand words of their work in progress, or because it’s Saturday, or they took a shower. I think they can be done for literally any reason, but it seems that it’s only the accounts with larger followings that get much engagement with it. I don’t think it’d be wise to do one for my increase in one follower in the last week, so maybe I’ll steer clear for now. I’m also starting to question whether writers lifts are for generating traffic to written work, or are designed to get more Twitter followers. Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure.
5. Everyone is addicted to coffee and defined by their Harry Potter house
So often now, I click on a person of interest’s profile and their bio is as follows:
Writer – Hufflepuff – don’t talk to me until I’ve had coffee.
I had never noticed it until I started this account (though I suppose I wasn’t really actively seeking writers to follow), but I think the majority of writers must be huge HP fans. It makes me think of the olden days back when I was a teenager (a whole 14 years ago!) when the bio you’d put on a chat room (remember those?!) would consist of your age, sex and location, abbreviated to the more commonly-known acronym – ASL. My reply would be ’14-F-Liverpool’, but I think the 2020 version would be 29, (insert Harry Potter house here), addicted to coffee. And yes, as you may guess from my inability to place myself in a house, I have never gotten involved with the Harry Potter hype, but I sure as hell notice it more than ever now! I guess I missed a trick there. Still, an observation nonetheless and maybe encouragement to one day read the Harry Potter series. I do, however, adore coffee – I think it’s one of life’s greatest blessings, but never one to join the masses, I’ll probably leave it out of my bio for now.
6. There is an underworld of forced-ness
Similar to point three, one thing that I’m noticing is that so many accounts seem to be purely about followers and boosting numbers. There are accounts whose tweets are purely asking for followers, or stating that nobody ever engages with them and they might delete Twitter (at which point people engage with them), or sharing their monthly goals which are to gain followers or get X amount of comments or replies. This is all fine to me and each to their own, but the part I don’t really like is there seems to be a concept of ‘follow for follow’ and ‘reply for reply’. If I engage with somebody it’s because I want or feel compelled to, not because I want any engagement back on my own stuff. Similarly, it feels strange to me to just comment on somebody’s work because they may have commented on mine? I like to read things, but that doesn’t mean I always want to comment on it. But, again, am I being rude?
I might be being cynical and a bit pessimistic, but it just feels kind of fake and forced, like that Black Mirror episode where everybody just does everything for a score rating. If you’re reading this and I’ve ever commented on your stuff – know that it was genuine. Each to their own – of course – and I understand that some people are trying to gain a following, so it works for them. It’s just probably not something I’ll engage with.
7. The best accounts I follow are the ones less visible
I’m finding the accounts I seem to follow that have mass followings tend to tweet more random questions and engage with followers than about writing. It’s not always a bad thing, I like some of the questions and they do still post about writing. But I do really like the smaller accounts that don’t come with the tens of thousands of followers, writers lift retweets, and random questions, who post invaluable content and whose writing I can read, who I can engage with about writing questions and so on. I love these accounts, but for some reason, they just don’t seem to show in my feed. I actively have to remember their Twitter handles, and seek them out if I want to read their content. It’s kind of annoying really, if anybody knows why this is, hit me up!
8. Random questions are the ‘in’ thing.
At first, I thought it was fun and really unique that some people I followed asked really random questions. I was new to the game and thought it was unusual. I engaged with a few and was impressed at the random-ness and ability to cultivate a following. And I do still somewhat like it. But when you follow a lot of people who do it a lot, your feed becomes more full of random questions and less about the writing, and it can get a little tiresome. I learned that it seems to be the ‘in’ thing to do; I’d probably have a go myself if I could think of something random enough that I genuinely wanted to know about people, but I just can’t really be bothered. I think it depends on what you use Twitter for – for me, this account is purely to engage with other writers, learn and read more writers’ stuff, so maybe it just comes with the territory and who I follow? That being said, I thoroughly enjoy following people who share their lives as well as writing-related things, so swings and roundabouts I suppose. Can’t have everything!
9. People still end up in my feed when I don’t follow them
OK, so this one actually bugs me. I thought the whole point of Twitter is that you can follow people who you want to follow and not see anything from people you don’t. I am becoming irritated by certain accounts, and so obviously don’t choose to follow them. However, they keep appearing in my feed because people I am following are engaging with them and I have no idea to get it to stop. Every time I see their posts, I do an inward groan, an exasperated sigh and roll my eyes (me, dramatic? No!) and think why do I follow this person, when they get on my nerves. But then I realise that I don’t follow this person, so why are they still showing up? There’s no reason for me to block them as such, they’ve not done anything wrong, they’re just not my cup of tea and I don’t want to keep seeing their tweets in my feed. Any advice on how to manage this would be very much appreciated!
10. You can follow and unfollow whoever you want
I’ve ended with the most important reminder, and it’s more to myself than anything. When I started on Twitter I became quite overwhelmed trying to follow or comment back to people. Twitter doesn’t always show me who’s followed me, and then I would see people tweeting about how rude it is when people don’t follow you back, and I got myself into a bit of a dither. What if I’m unknowingly breaching some sort of unwritten etiquette that I referred to in point three?
But then the rational brain kicked in, and I started to think ‘do I really have to follow somebody back, just because they followed me?’. I still don’t really know if it’s considered rude to not do, but I feel like I’ve regressed ten years and am back in high school worrying about something that is such a non-issue that it would have made me laugh if I wasn’t so engrossed in it. That was when I realised I’d succumbed to some sort of weird, invisible, non-existent pressure I’d imposed on myself in an attempt to navigate my novice way through the Twittersphere. And I’m not having it.
So the biggest thing I’ve learnt in my first month on Twitter, is that I don’t have to follow anybody back if I’m not interested, and likewise I won’t take offence when I follow somebody who subsequently doesn’t follow me back. I’m following people because I’m genuinely interested, and I’m engaging with people because I want to. If somebody chooses to follow me as a result, that’s great. I’m here to share and absorb content, and whilst it would be great to gain a following and have readers, I’d rather have people who genuinely want to read my stuff, as opposed to people just doing it for reciprocation. And I’m hoping that there are many others like me out there.
Overall, Twitter has some great positives for somebody like me who’s trying to learn more about a career in writing and really, the art of writing in general. I’ve enjoyed my use of it so far, and I’m enjoying interacting with people. So I think I’ll stick around for a little longer.
Who knows, maybe I’ll even get to be such a pro at it that I’ll end up doing writers lifts with all my thousands of followers. Doubtful, of course, but you never know.