Thursday, 16 October 2014


I'm guessing I came to Twitter comparatively late. I used to use Facebook, mostly for keeping in touch with people I used to work with and that is still Facebook's forte for me. But in terms of constantly posting status updates Facebook seems a little self-indulgent; you are still posting what you want people to think is happening rather than what is really happening.

Then a friend suggested Twitter. Naturally I'd heard about it but didn't really 'get' it. Why 140 characters? I can post an essay on Facebook if I like. What's with all the hashtags (an innovation Facebook has since embraced).

Then I started on it, followed a few of my favourite authors (and the very very few friends on it that I could find) and didn't look back. The 140 character limit is liberating rather than restrictive. It encourages a quick, fast, instant post so what is posted is more what is really going on and can't really be dressed up too much.

I quickly realised the main trick is not to look at the number of followers you have or to stress about it. Obviously every extra follower is a good feeling - after all these are very nearly all strangers - although there are fair number of people on who only follow in order to get a follow back (a game I don't play - I'll follow you back if you look interesting)  But if the number goes down - well it doesn't matter at all. I don't post on Twitter because I need someone to read it. I post on Twitter because it's got to be said somewhere. I blog for very much the same reason (and after all Twitter is supposed to be about micro blogging).

The other mistake I made at first was to try to read every post that appeared in my feed. But after a very short time the number of updates makes this impossible, and it's not really necessary. It becomes a sort of stream-of-consciousness thing, ticking away with the occasional tweet grabbing your attention and deserving of a favourite, a retweet or - if you a feeling brave - a reply. Replying to a post by someone 'famous' you admire is just as daunting as asking for an autograph (for me at least). One of my early fond memories of Twitter is a conversation I had with the science fiction author and scientist (and someone with a fine taste in music) Alastair Reynolds (@aquilarift) about the vaguaries of Sky+ reliability,

The other astonishing thing was that I very quickly had a number of independent authors following me (and that spurred me into my blogging and book reviewing too). This brings us to another really strong point of Twitter: marketing.

I don't mean that in the sense of a huge company attempting to make some sort of promotion for their products go viral (which works so rarely you wonder why they bother) but rather the power if gives independent authors and small publishing houses to get their message out to a number of people. They can promote their books at pretty much zero cost. And once retweets and reviews are posted by others... well it can snowball into an effective campaign without any outlay at all. So next time a tweet comes from a small independent trying to get someone to look at what they have, give serious consideration to a retweet it could make a real difference to them.

So enjoy your tweeting and don't worry about how many people are following you. Although if you want to put my count up it's @PhilLeader. See you there

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