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Ten Twitter Blunders Writers Make

Writers everywhere are flocking to Twitter. In some ways it’s become the water cooler of the writing world where we can hang out, chat with like-minded writers, meet new friends, celebrate good news, and keep tabs on industry happenings.

While there aren’t any hard, fast rules for using Twitter, there are some blunders that might hinder our effectiveness, especially if we’re hoping to use it as way to broaden our web presence.

Here are ten top blunders that I see writers making on Twitter, and since I’m not a Twitter guru, please chime in with your thoughts!

1. Over-chatting. We should be aware of how long we’re carrying on our conversations with others. If we’re starting to clog up the twitter stream with a lot of @’s to the same person, then perhaps we should send them an email or carry on our conversation via direct messages.

2. Not interacting enough with others. Some people over-chat, and then some don’t chat at all. Remember twitter is a social media. If we’re relying too much on scheduled tweets, posting only links, or tossing out a tweet and then disappearing, we’re not maximizing twitter’s potential.

3. Not responding back to tweets or direct messages. I admit, I can’t always keep up with responding to everyone who sends me a tweet. And granted there are times when direct responses just aren’t necessary. But if we’re only having one-sided conversations, then we’re missing out on relationship-building that can help us long term.

4. Forming cliques. Of course everyone is going to have a closer group of friends. That’s only natural. But if we want to broaden our web presence, then we have to make an effort to meet and interact with new people. Using hashtags like #amwriting #litchat #yalitchat #followfriday #writers can help us meet other writers.

5. Bordering on unprofessional. If we’re using Twitter for purely personal reasons without a thought to how it might help our writing career, then I suppose we can say and do whatever we want. But if Twitter is part of our writing platform, then we should be unique and let our voices shine through, but show some discretion in what we share. Also, our twitter name should be the one we plan to have on our published books. And we should make sure we put "writer" somewhere in our bio.

6. Not following people back. About once a week, I make a point of following people back. If someone is obviously using twitter as spam, then I don’t. But I always try to follow everyone who is legitimate. I personally don’t see any reason why we would limit our following, especially with the ease of creating lists and organizing followers via Tweetdeck and other applications.

7. Sending auto-direct messages to new followers. They’re cold, impersonal, and totally defeat the purpose of twitter. I never respond to auto-mated messages. However, if someone makes a point of sending me a personal direct message, I will usually try to interact back.

8. Using twitter as a billboard. I’ve noticed that published authors tend to do this the most. They hop on Twitter primarily when they have a book signing to announce, a new book to promote, or an interview to share. Or they use twitter to feed links from their blog or facebook, and that’s it. Those authors are essentially spamming and doing themselves more harm than good.

9. Focusing too much on self. Yes, it’s okay to post links to our own blog posts. And yes, it’s okay to share personal information. But if that’s all we do, then we’re missing out on one of the great things about Twitter—the opportunity to genuinely encourage, support, and promote other writers.

10. Using inconsistently. No, we don’t need to be on twitter all day, every day. But again, to get the full benefit, we need to make a point of jumping into the tweet stream on a somewhat regular basis. If we don’t have anything to say, then we can always respond to the tweets of others, ask questions, or retweet interesting links.

Those are some of the blunders I’ve noticed. What about you? If you’re not on Twitter, what’s holding you back from the water-cooler? And if you are hanging out there, what other blunders have you noticed? What kinds of blunders bother you the most?

72 comments:

  1. Wow, Jodi...this is the most USEABLE advice I've seen when it comes to Twitter. I'm putting it in my handbag, slinging it over my shoulder, and taking it with me on Twitter. Thanks!

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  2. Really great advice. I try to jump in the "stream" at least once a day, and I do have to force myself because it becomes so time consuming with all the nifty links. But that's also what's so fantastic about it. Most tweeps seem to be genuinely helpful and encouraging. Twitter is such a great resource for connecting with other writers.

    *off to make sure I'm following you*

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  3. I'm trying to get the hang of it but not with much success. Tweeting to me feels like being stuck in a lift and muttering things to oneself - to keep at the bay the feeling that no one is out there - and even if they are they couldn’t care less. And so you hit some buttons – out of a growing sense of Being Lost in Space you hit them all - and they all lead you back to the idea that you’re stuck in a lift and it’s just not going to budge.

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  4. Great list, and nails the biggest twitter fails, I think.

    I might add one more and that's the #ff spammers who - in an attempt to help promote everybody on their list will put out tweet after tweet after tweet consisting of nothing but @s. Luckily those only come on Friday, but I'd *much* rather get a name and a note like, "#ff @jodyhedlund because she has great blog posts about the writer's life #followfriday"

    The robo-tweeters are irritating and so are the braggarts. I follow a lot of people back - perhaps too many because my friends timeline moves too fast to follow sometimes - and when I find somebody who ONLY posts the "quality content, market droid" links, they get tossed. Likewise the "Wow! I'm so great!" posters.

    Twitter is a great way to build social presence because of the immediacy and opportunity to interact directly with another. The halo effect that occurs when the people who follow you get to "listen in" on the conversation adds a lot, too. Don't underestimate the "lurker effect" of people who will enjoy the by play vicariously.

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  5. Awesome advice! I have to admit - I'm not good at following people back. I always forget because I rarely ever get on the actual Twitter website. Thanks for the kick in the pants I needed, Jody!

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  6. Glenn, I think Nathan brings up a good point. Don't overestimate the "lurker effect" that Twitter has. People will "hear" what you say more often than you realize! But sometimes to get the interaction going, YOU may have to make the first move and start responding to the tweets of others.

    And Katie, I think when we don't follow people back, it gives off the impression that we're "cold" or "uncaring" or even "clique-ish." If we're trying to grow our web presence then I think we only stand to benefit by following back those who legitimately offer us the hand of friendship.

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  7. I love reading other peoples tweets, but feel bad when someone follows me because I think I have nothing to offer. Twitter still confuses me and I don't quite get it yet...

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  8. Terrific advice, Jody!

    I love Twitter, but right now I'm not using it effectively due to time constraints. I'm working harder to do better though.

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  9. Thanks for the advice. I'd love to hear your thoughts about facebook. I've used it for years for my personal friends, but am just beginning to use it professionally.

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  10. Great advice and I must confess to blundering on a few of those points. I'm not always consistent and sometimes, if I get a funny conversation going, I tend to get carried away. Those little sentence can be quite entertaining.

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  11. Super advice Jody. I need to interact more. Right now I'm just a bit overwhelmed with it all. I mean writing is THE most important thing I can do. So everything else that we have to do sometimes gets in the way of the writing. :-)

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  12. Wonderful tips and great advice, Jody!

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  13. You covered a lot here. I'm extra sensitive to #4--I try really hard to include as many people as possible and once again this is where I'm a little odd, sometimes it causes me to avoid sending out those WWs and FFs b/c I'm afraid I'm going to leave someone out.

    ~ Wendy

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  14. Great post. I am slowly getting the hang of twitter.

    I despise the automated messages. "Hey, thanks for the follow. Now check out how I got published ~insert link~". It reminds me of junk mail companies that use handwriting fonts for the address and pretend sticky notes inside.

    One problem I've had is putting a question out and no one will answer.

    So, I will ask here! Can someone explain the whole #MentionMonday, #writerWednesday, #followfriday, thing? I know I am supposed to thank people for mentioning me, but I don't know why I am being mentioned and what else to do in return!

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  15. The last tip means a lot to me. I may not be a published author, but I appreciate those that tweet regularly. It's also good advice for me!

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  16. This advice should be on the twitter home page when you sign up, thanks Jodie! (although I suspect a lot of these we know already they are just hard habits to break)

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  17. Dawn, #MM, #WW & #FF (Mention Monday, Writer Wednesday and Follow Friday are, respectively, all ways to direct your followers to people you think they should follow. So, for example, if I want to tell my followers that I think they should follow you, I might on Friday tweet, "#FF @DawnAlexander because she's funny and a great writer!" That recommendation would then pop up in all my followers' tweetstreams. It's one way writers can help out other writers.

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  18. Hi Jody,
    I'm finally just starting to get the hang of it.:) Thanks for the pointers.

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  19. I'm guilty of #2. But in my defense, I stay on for about 30 minutes and no one replies to me. I'm sad, can you tell?

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  20. I have been guilty of over-tweeting but only at times of great moment such as The Archers' 60th anniversary episode, when I had to keep apologizing to my American followers who had no idea what #sattc meant. Ordinarily I try to limit my tweets, because I'm quick to unfollow anyone who crowds my feed.

    Advice for new tweeters: don't try to follow too many people too fast. I hesitate to follow someone who follows 8,000 people but only has 20 followers. Build your community slowly, and don't worry if author X has 20,000 followers. It's not a popularity contest.

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  21. Jody - found this super post on...Twitter! I'm a publicist and work a lot with social media as part of a publicity strategy. One thing I'd add, along the lines of not using twitter as a billboard, is not to overdo the mutual congratulations and cheerleading. There's little value-added in this. People's eyes glaze over these tweets since there's nothing specific about the book or the author to intrigue them. Instead, insightful comments about the book in question (specific to its content!) or even tweeting lines from it, are a lot more interesting and compelling.

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  22. Hi Everyone! Thanks for chiming in with your advice! Love all of your wisdom!

    And Sharon, thanks for bringing up the overdoing on mutual congratulating. I hadn't really thought of that. I DO think the congratulating is a great way to help spread buzz for our fellow writers. And in twitterland, buzz is a really good thing. But I can see how being more specific with our congratulations can help that person even more. Thanks for that tip!

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  23. V.V. Denman said: I'd love to hear your thoughts about facebook. I've used it for years for my personal friends, but am just beginning to use it professionally.

    My response: I think Twitter and facebook are two entirely different animals! Maybe I'll have to do a post on the differences that I've found between the two! But in the meantime, I'd say that if you're wanting to go more professional with Facebook, consider starting an Author Page. (They used to be called "fan pages" but are not simply called "pages.")

    You can add a Page from your personal account and manage it very easily. I have the link to my Author Page listed in the sidebar of my blog and elsewhere. It's a great option to have, especially for readers. I reserve my personal page for "personal" stuff, although I still get readers/writers who request to follow me there too. And that's okay. But my preference is for people I don't know very well to follow my Author Page.

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  24. Really great pointers and tips, Jody! I love to blog and Facebook more than I like Twitter. I think this is a social networking tool which is different for everyone. Although I try to divide my time evenly between the three of them, Twitter really doesn't appeal me as much as the others. I try, but since Twitter is my least favorite and gets shoved down the priority pile, it's often neglected. I'd rather neglect Twitter than my family, lol.

    You have some great things you point here, though. I might try harder to be more interactive.

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  25. Awesome post, Jody! As a new Twitter user, I'm always afraid of breaking some unspoken Twitter etiquette. This is a really helpful list. Now I'm off to re-Tweet it. :)

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  26. So I'm going through and making lists on Twitter. I didn't even know about this option before...it will save me time in the long run. Thanks for mentioning it in your post!

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  27. This is such great advice... thank you! I admit, I'm not really a twitter girl, but I want to be! I think what's holding me back is fear... I don't even understand # and @ so I'm afraid I'm going to do (or say!) something stupid!

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  28. Add me those who hate the generic "thanks for follow" DM. Especially if it includes "check out my blog @___". Blech.

    And the auto-generated #ff and #ww. I'm not flattered that the bot found my name on a list, and am not inclined to care about the other names thrown in with no explanation why I should follow. It clogs up the timeline and is just annoying.

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  29. My biggest fault is probably the inconsistency. I just can't stay with it regularly. :O)

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  30. Twitter isn't my favorite thing, but I've already talked a lot how depressing social media is for me. Honestly, I enjoy reading others' tweets, but I rarely say anything or respond back. It has to do with the social role I was cast in years and years ago. I'm the person to be talked at--the listener--rather than the talker, and it's really difficult to break out of this mold for a social media that feels like a conversation. Blogging doesn't have the same feel at all. As with all of this social media, I keep trying.

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  31. I love that, the water-cooler for writers. I agree with all your points here Jody. possibly I see the clique or personal tweets at times - or dare I say TMI! I blush at some tweets in my stream.

    I enjoy twitter but I've made a declaration to write more and tweet less this year, how am I doing? I'm trying to focus more on writing offline.

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  32. I too agree with each point you've made, and it took me a while to get the hang of Twitter, but now I really enjoy the "water cooler" atmosphere.

    I'd add two more to the list...

    1) Avoid bad language. It's unattractive and unprofessional.

    2) Don't bash anyone. We've all got our strengths and weaknesses, and there's no need to advertise the down side.

    Have a great week, Jody!

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  33. Agreed! Fantastic tips. With so many writers unsure of how to use Twitter, you've created a very helpful list.

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  34. Amen to all of this!

    My agent was the one who dragged me kicking and screaming to Twitter almost a year ago, and I'm so glad she did. I'm also glad I sat and lurked for a few months to get a feel for the flow of things, and then I went out and read several good resources about it (Shel Isreal's TWITTERVILLE, Joel Comm's TWITTER POWER). Oh, and Kristen Lamb's WE ARE NOT ALONE: THE AUTHORS GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA is another excellent resource.

    Great post, great tips!

    Tawna

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  35. I know so many writers who could benefit from this advice. Thank you.

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  36. I tried twitter for a while and it was the cliquishness that drove me away. I did everything you're supposed to do - getting involved in conversations, etc. People would follow me just to follow. I felt like I was back in high school talking to myself, hanging out watching the cheerleaders do their thing. I tried but it was a major fail for me.

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  37. Robin: I kind of feel that way. I'm trying to give it another chance. We'll see. I do like the interaction, but it moves SO fast for me.

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  38. Great tips for those of us still wading in the Twitter stream. Maybe it's time to jump in with both feet.

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  39. yes please authors, do NOT send out auto DMs!!! Many people will unfollow you for doing that! It's a pet peeve of mine. I really enjoy authors who are engaging in their conversations. While talking about your WIP or current book is ok, have actual conversations. Talk about what you're reading. Talk about the movie you just saw. Oh and if you're not using a desktop ap like TweetDeck or Seismic, check your @ replies button. there may be people who are talking to you and you don't see it bc you're not following them.

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  40. I'm still learning my way around Twitter. You've made some great points. Thanks for the heads up.

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  41. I have to chime in with the whole #FF thing. I don't mind it, typically. I've started following new people with that, and have had a few include my name using that (and I appreciate it). However, what I hate about it is that I have one particular person I am thinking about...and that person has well over 1000 followers (I checked the profile), and proceedes, every Friday, to list out EVERY SINGLE ONE of her followers...EVERY SINGLE FRIDAY.

    It makes you have to scroll and scroll and scroll past it all to be able to see or read other posts. I've debated not following that person any more, but so far I don't think I have...for whatever reason.

    Great post, and definitely gives Twitter users something to think about!

    Shelley
    http://inkscrawls.blogspot.com

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  42. Good post, Jody! (and I agree -- I don't like those auto-DMs either!) :)

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  43. Great tips, Jody!

    I would love to follow more people on Twitter, but there is a limit. I don't know the exact logic, but I follow roughly twice as many people as follow me and have hit a ceiling. So for every new follower I get, I can't follow back unless I unfollow someone else. Major bummer. :(

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  44. Robin & Michelle, The cliquishness on Twitter happens. But I think overall, the writing community is really supportive. If we jump into conversations, most of the time, other writers will include us. It just means we may need to be more proactive for a time (just like we have to be when we first start blogging.)

    Seriously, having lists of people on Tweetdeck helps a LOT with the speed of the conversation. I can organize followers into different columns (like social media experts, agents, blogging friends, WordServe clients, etc.). I pay the most attention to the tweet streams in my lists. Hope that makes sense.

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  45. Great advice and information.

    As a reader who enjoys following authors it honestly kinda irks me when I see the authors are all clique-ishly talking to each other (I esp see this when the authors are only following each other and not fans). I realize they dont have all day to talk to a bunch of people but indulge them by @ing them once in a while.

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  46. I really still feel like a fish out of water with twitter. I'm trying to learn about hashtags, @ messages, and retweets. I'm starting to get a feel for it, but I think I've made some mistakes along the way. I like your list though, that is helpful.

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  47. I don't use it as regularly as I should, but this week I've outdone myself. :) Good pointers, particularly those on what we shouldn't abuse Twitter to do.

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  48. Jody, my only pet peeve that isn't listed here is when writers venture into politics. I tend to ignore those tweets, but I wish they weren't there in the first place. That's not why I'm on Twitter!

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  49. those are great tips! thank you!

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  50. Being new to twitter I am bound to make mistakes. We all probably made most of these here. It makes us human I guess. I actually don't get the 140 character rule. Who can say anything in a few words. I do thank twitter for introducing me to a gaggle of writers who challenge me every day to do better. Reggie

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  51. You offer some really great tips, Jody. I know I've certainly seen people who don't follow along with these ideals and I've stopped following some of them for exactly the reasons you've stated (over chatting and the Twitter billboard among them). Thanks for a great reminder about the kind of friendly and professional habits that cultivate friends and professional connections.

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  52. My take on it is quite simply that you should be yourself, and hardly use purely commercial techniques at all or at least sparingly. Fortunately they don't work anymore anywhere.

    I think you should use Twitter for everything you could possibly think of, be a complete human being there, as well as elsewhere.

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  53. Great post with good advice. I would quibble that I do not follow everyone back though. If I did I would be at risk of missing stuff from people I want to hear from. I like to follow people I'd like to interact with and will look at someone's timeline to see if that fits. I'd rather people did that with me and have less followers than loads of eg spam.

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  54. I'm definitely still in Twitter preschool, but I'm learning to crawl:) I love the ease of keeping in contact and constant writer tips with links.

    This is a portion of my writer platform, so I really appreciate your list.

    Always a huge help to us Jody:)

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  55. I've avoided Twitter, but its popularity is contagious. Before I jump into anything, I'll need to do more research on the basics.

    I'm interested in Kristen Lamb's book because it covers more than one area of social media.

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  56. Tracy! Thank you so much for answering my question!

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  57. Thank you Jody! I am new to Twitter and the information you shared was timely. I appreciate your insights! Now, I'll go forth and use this platform with caution and care :)

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  58. Jody, this is by far, one of the best blog posts I have read lately! Thankfully, I've never done the DM. You're right -- too impersonal. Good info. Thank

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  59. Good information here, Jody! I've only been on Twitter three months and am finding it has its pros and cons. I can't stay on it for big chunks of the day so I miss many conversations. I use TweetDeck to sort whose messages I see, but that's a limited advantage if it means I'm pretty much ignoring everyone else. I'm hoping I'll find more efficient ways of participating as I gain experience.

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  60. Thanks for the perspective, Jody. I haven't followed others who have followed me in the past because I hadn't learned about lists and of course there is no way I could manage truly following more than a couple dozen people!

    I'm following my followers now, managing things in TweetDeck. I'm curious to see how this changes, or doesn't change, my followers.

    What are your thoughts on why you follow most people back? To possibly meet more people by association - like friends on Facebook? Or simply to be nice? Or because it keeps them engaged and less likely to defollow?

    I haven't figured out the psychology in all this -- doubt I ever will, but I like to try.

    :) Great post, as always.

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  61. Thanks! I started a second twitter, and I want to use your advice to make it more useful in my career. The first one is pure silliness, though. Anyone else have a personal account? How's that working?

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  62. Joan, I think NOT following back on Twitter leaves an impression with others that you're uncaring or too good for them. Especially as a published author. We really do want to be approachable and friendly.

    I've found following people back to be very rewarding. I think people begin to see you as friendlier, they interact more, and in the long run we can develop a wider spectrum of connections and friendships, and we never know how those relationships can mutually benefit one another.

    I also think it can help in the promotion of our books, especially the snowball effect. People are drawn to authors who are friendlier and willing to relate. I know I've personally been turned off to buying books of authors who don't take the time to follow me back and connect with me on twitter.

    And then there are readers on Twitter. Writers are readers too. But non-writing readers want to connect. And I want to connect with them.

    Sorry for the long answer! I could write a blog post about the benefits of following back on Twitter. (Maybe I should!) :-)

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  63. Hi Shannon,
    No, I don't have a personal account on Twitter. I actually only have a handful of real life friends on Twitter. Most of my Twitter connections are writers. So I can't help answer your question! Sorry!

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  64. Jody,
    Excellent advice. Your #1 especially irritates me when I see it.
    For me, Twitter remains somewhere between a two-edged sword and a necessary evil.
    Thanks for sharing your experience and giving excellent tips for guidance.

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  67. It's not enough to go on Twitter every day, you need to vary the times of day you drop in or you'll only see and be seen by the same handful of people - the times I see tweeps from the east & west coast, UK, Australia and Asia are markedly different, and I want to interact with them all!!

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  68. Hi Sessha,

    Great point! I usually don't interact much with people from different time zones from around the world. But you're right, we can vary the times we're online so that we can try to catch different people.

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  69. Great post, Jody. Thank you.

    I want to add: Not retweeting the work of writers who regularly tweet your work.

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  70. Awesome post and very timely for me, as I'm trying to get the hang of twitter. I agree that, at times, I get that feeling of being in the lift and muttering to myself. I'm a very shy person and it's difficult to put myself out there, but I'm trying to connect more.

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