I've blogged before about how Twitter is a valuable (and free!) marketing tool for independent authors.
I though this time I would share some thoughts on how I use Twitter and maybe this will provide a few pointers to anyone looking to use this particular social medium.
There seems to be a great perception amongst some Twitter users that it is all about followers. Now I won't deny that the statistic of the number of people interested in what you are posting feels better for the ego the higher it gets. But I don't chase followers as the be-all and end all of Twitter.
Much like blogging, I am not on Twitter because I think I'm special or because everyone should pay attention to what I say. If someone wants to read my stuff or follow me that is their choice. I would rather have one follower who interacted with me and was interested than a hundred (or even a thousand) that simply followed because they felt they should.
The reverse is also true; I don't automatically follow back. Why would I do that? If you are an author, or otherwise of service to authors, then you stand a very good chance indeed of me following. But that is because it is what I am interested in. If you are in some way interesting or have something to say then I might follow you as well. But don't follow me expecting me to follow you back because you may be disappointed. I have a number of new followers each week whom I don't follow back and then they unfollow me. Clearly they are playing the 'get as many Twitter followers as possible' game.
Now I won't deny that some people are dedicated to following back purely to get a range of interesting feeds and that is fine. It's just not my thing.
I also routinely ignore any tweets saying 'retweet this and follow the retweeters'. Again that's not what I am after and shades on the verge of some sort of Twitter pyramid scheme. I'd rather retweet something of interest whether that gains me followers or not.
Buying followers? Again why would I do that? Are they all interested in what you have to say? Probably not. They probably don't really exist and are just a way of making money for the user offering the service. So what is the point? A retweeting service seems like a much better option, that way if someone sees a retweet they may decide to follow you - and that's one more quality follower.
So follow me if you want. I may follow back, but equally I may not. Them's the breaks on Twitter.
Retweeting and Favourites
You follow someone presumably because you like at least some of their tweets. If you do then why not retweet them? The majority of my tweets are retweets, but then my timeline is full of tweets recommending books, author information or resources and I have a lot of authors following me. So I tweet these out. It gets the message out and every one is appreciated, Twitter is fantastic at free marketing, but only if people retweet. But I don't retweet everything. I do read each and every tweet I retweet to make sure it's something relevant, of interest to others and something I agree with (and also to avoid too much duplication).
It is a bit of a lottery what I can retweet; I don't really do it much when I am away from work so most of it occurs during office ours (UK timezone) so if someone normally tweets outside these times I will probably miss them (for which I can only apologise). I also have several hundred tweets hit my timeline every hour and can't do them all. But every little helps.
Favourites are interesting because realistically nobody is going to check the tweets you favourite so the only purpose is to tell the originator of the tweet that you like it. That's fine and recommended as a quick way to show appreciation. But a retweet is a lot better. It is very rare I favourite without also retweeting.
Replying to Tweets
This is where Twitter becomes fun. Don't be afraid to reply to tweets. I do like to see what people thing of mine - good or bad. The most random conversations can be had - I remember discussing the vagaries of Sky+ with an author during my Twitter early days. Unexpected but it's always good to connect to people on social media. Just remember that everyone can see what you have written.
Direct Messages are rarer but do happen; I do like messages if they are relevant and interesting (and I have had a lot of good conversations). I generally ignore ones that say "Thanks for following! If you like me on Twitter you should see how crazy I am on Facebook. Come and like my FB page". I don't use Facebook that way (in fact barely at all) so these are generally ignored. Apologies if this seems rude, but I have to draw the line somewhere and I try to keep to Twitter.
Sometimes it feels as if there's a lot of pressure to come up with a witty, original, thought provoking and insightful comment all within 140 characters (with hash tags). But Twitter is for micro blogging not philosophy so I'll tweet stuff that might be of interest to others. Sometimes it will be something I have observed, or a conversation at work or a thought arising from work itself (I work in software support in a technical role). Sometimes I'll think of something (I think is) funny and will tweet that. I will also tweet what I am reading and of course blog entries. It never seems that I am doing enough compared to my retweets but some days are better than others. Don't worry if you have nothing to say one day. The next day you might be tweeting all morning.
I don't think I use hash tags the way they are intended. I do use a couple 'correctly' - generally #FF for follow Friday and #amreading if my tweet concerns me reading a book.
The rest of the time they are pretty random. Certainly I'm not trying to get any of them trending they are more a quick shorthand to re-express the theme of the tweet itself. Sometimes they are pretty ironic or just (supposed to be) funny.