I’ve been on Twitter since (checks self) 2015 as @jlgfellers. No, I don’t have other accounts, but I do manage one for a small publishing company. Neither has a huge following, but my author account has more because it’s been around longer. That said, here are a few things I’ve learned, especially in the last two years, about navigating the minefield that is the twitterverse as an author that might well keep you out of trouble with the twittergods, your followers, and your readers. These aren’t quick-fix solutions that’ll give you lots of followers and engagement. Rather, these are survival tips.
1) I didn’t mean it that way: Use hashtags with discretion. Research each by opening Twitter on a new tab and searching the hashtag. Nothing is sacred or safe online, so be careful. A hashtag might well mean the opposite of what you think.
2) Beware of misinterpretation: Just because you tweet something doesn’t mean your followers will interpret it the way you intended. Use your 280 to make your point crystal clear. GIFs and photos can help there if need be.
I didn’t engage those
I blocked instead. 🚫
3) Trend Bombs and Trolls: Twitter trends can be educational and fun until the trolls get on board (those trends can also be horrifying and misleading, but I’m not going there today), and believe me when I say that the trolls will appear sooner or later. The last trend I was involved in… I don’t remember the hashtag, so I’ve apparently blocked it out. Anyway, while the trend seemed fairly innocuous, it landed me a whole lot of new followers along with enough trolling to last me a lifetime. No, I didn’t engage those bridge-loving vagrants. I blocked instead because, as we all know— and if you don’t please learn this now— thou shalt not feed the trolls. I akin them to energy vampires. They live for conflict and would suck negative engagement through a straw if they could. Save yourself the stress unless it’s your sort of thing then, by all means, have at it. Me? I have better ways of occupying myself.
4) So many hashtags: Yes, you can easily overdo your hashtags. I’m guilty of it myself, so I try to be forgiving of others if they overuse hashtags now and again, but if you’re on Twitter you’ve seen hashtag laden posts and rolled your eyes at them. Use one or two hashtags, three at the outside, but for the love of… just stop at three, okay? You’ll thank me later.
5) HorrificallyLongLinks/ThatShouldBe/Shortened_ ButArentForWhateverReason/Maybebecauseyou_weretoolazytodoanything.dobetter: If you include a link in your tweet, please have the decency to use a shortened version. There are a lot of places to shorten links including Tiny Url and Bitly, so go make use of one. Note: Twitter sometimes does actually remove the link and replace it with content, but it doesn’t always so stick around and see if your link converts or stays a link. If it does what you want, great. If it doesn’t… delete and redo to correct the issue.
“It is a ponderous chain!” – Charles Dickens,
A Christmas Carol
6) Threads so long they’re more like weighted chains: Threads can be a great means of fleshing out ideas that can’t be contained by a single tweet, but I’ve seen threads that are ten, twenty, or even thirty tweets long. At that length, it becomes a speech or a rant, and few people are going to read the entire thread. Save your breath and fingers. Make it short and sweet. Yes, I’ve written threads, but they’re few and far between, and I try to keep them short if at all possible.
7) Overpromotion – My own Beast: Hi, I’m Jeanne, and I’m guilty of occasional overpromotion. Before I had knee surgery last month, I prescheduled three weeks of tweets through a service, a great idea, but in hindsight, I overscheduled my book promotions. Two a day, one for each novel in my current series, was too much. One a day in rotation would have been better. Yes, I will be ramping up in June for my upcoming July release, but I won’t be inundating my followers with buy links because… no. It irritates me when others do this, so I’m going to refrain if I at all can.
8) Direct Message Abuse: Don’t DM every new follower with an auto message or even an individual one. Just don’t. For me, that’s a reason to unfollow.
9) Worrisome list makers: I don’t appreciate Twitter list makers and, actually, Twitter is cracking down on this because it can be misused and it widely serves no real purpose other than making people feel singled out. I’m on three lists from my early Twitter days. Meh. I need to go back and unfollow these people, but that won’t remove me from those lists.
10) ALL CAPS ANYTHING: Don’t. Just DON’T!
11) Autofollows ahoy!: Don’t autofollow everyone who follows you. Look at their account. Do some research. I’m an author so I follow a lot of authors, but I also have fans that I follow too because they’re cool people. If someone follows you, check them out before you follow back. Go to their page. See what they’re about. I’ve discovered white supremacists, homophobes, obvious fake accounts, and what were probably bots following me. Hard nope there. I not only didn’t follow back, but I also blocked them while I was at it. Better safe than sorry. Always look at when an account was created, how many they’re following, and how many are following them. Oh, created last week, following 20K, and only 25 are following back? Nope. Block. And, personally, I tend not to follow anyone who shares overt erotic content and or splashes such images across their feed. I’m no prude, but I simply don’t want to see it. Yes, I do follow several erotica authors, but they’re tasteful with their content and they share other things too.
12) Bio and Header Blanks: Don’t have a bio and header for your own account? I won’t follow back anyone without both and neither should you.
13) Twitter Chattiness: Investigate chats and take part in them if it suits you. I know some authors who take part in five or more chats a week. Me? I only regularly attend one because that’s what works best for me; it’s where I’m comfortable.
14) Choose your retweets wisely: I retweet from a couple of groups I’m in. I retweet material I find amusing and informative, but I don’t bog my account with retweets of everything I come across, and I never ever retweet politics or religion. This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions on either, but I keep them off my Twitter accounts for lots of reasons, the first being fanged trolls just waiting for a reason to pounce. Be selective and work on themes. I tend to retweet authors I like and support, cats (because cats!), selected art, and subjects that are of interest to me like Appalachia and nonbinary info/support. No, those last two are not in conflict.
“…and anyone else who
wants to join in.”
15) Twitter games: At least that’s what I call them. You know them if you’re an author. Share your MC’s theme song and tag five others. These are fun to a point. They can make you think, help you share cool content, and help spread your name through the twitterverse, but they can also be annoying. And I hate tagging people when most won’t play along so I tend to leave things opened ended with an “and anyone else who wants to join in.”
16) Month-long games: You know those well if you’re an author. One question a day, relatively simple but informative stuff. Those are fun too if you have the time to keep up with them. I’ve picked up some great followers and found some terrific people to follow through these games. That said, you’re feed can get bogged down, so stick to one, perhaps two games each month. No more.
17) Quality vs Quantity: Look for quality and not quantity when it comes to followers. This should be a no brainer but some people seem to think high volume equates validation. No, it doesn’t. Again, quality over quantity. Yes, I know this flies in the face of the follow/unfollow strategy. Marketing is a real part of being an author, but I believe this strategy to be dishonest, and it says a lot of not-nice things about the people who use it. Number 18 will help you deal with this problem on your feed.
18) Tweeter know thyself… and thy followers: Check your number of followers at least a couple of times a week, and use a site like Who Unfollowed Me (I use their free version) to track who’s come and gone. It’s up to you who you follow and unfollow, but if someone has zeroed me out when I’ve been supportive, well, my support is hereby revoked. Actually, there are many accounts I follow just because they’re good accounts. For those, I don’t expect a follow back. The choice, however, is all yours, just like it’s theirs to unfollow you if they wish. And, while I’m at it, don’t approach or single someone out because they unfollowed you. They have their whatever reason, so leave them alone on the issue. Move on.
19) Know when it’s time to go: If you’re following someone and their tweets are getting on your last nerve you have several choices— ignore, mute, or unfollow. There’s no need to engage or argue. It’s their feed and their opinion. Ignore, mute, or unfollow. The same goes for any regular writing hashtags you take part in. If you’re interacting but it’s all in one direction, walk away. Simple as that. All give but not get isn’t worth your effort or stress. (I recently left one weekly hashtag for just this reason.)
🔥😈 It’ll eat your soul. 😈 🔥
20) Manage your Twitface time: seriously, don’t spend all day on there. It’ll eat your soul. I limit my time on all my social media because I have things to do and so do you, especially if you’re an author. Like, um, write. Yes, write. Write more than tweets!
Perhaps you like conflict, mayhem, and trolls on your Twitter feed. Maybe that’s the sort of content and followers you want, but it won’t bring me to your feed and I’d prefer if you’d stay off mine. Thanks just the same. I prefer a fun, informative feed that’s manageable and organically grows because of my persistence. If that makes me atypical, so be it. That said, if you want a manageable feed, try some of the tips I listed. Maybe then you’ll find Twitter to be a kinder and, I hope, gentler place.
About the Author: Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with their father and reading the books their librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s influences include author Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.