Blogger: Kathleen Y’Barbo
Location: PR Office, The Woodlands, TX
Weather: 37 degrees, cloudy
For those few of you who haven’t heard, Twitter is one of the fastest growing social networking sites on the Internet. Nielson Online predicts the number of Twitterers will reach 1 million by April, 2009. With all those people sharing thoughts in real time at no more than 140 characters per post, the possibilities for publicity and marketing are endless. So, unfortunately, are the chances for making a Twitter faux pas. Thus, today we’re going to talk about Twittiquette: proper postings that do not propel followers to flee.
First, Twitter is, by its nature, a public forum. Anything posted can be seen by anyone with a Twitter account. So my first warning is to those who over-share. Consider the prolific poster who has taken to Twitting his every move, even to announcing where and when he will take his wife to dinner. While that sort of openness can endear the poster to the masses, it can also provide way too much information to unsavory characters who might read with glee that a home will be standing empty during certain hours or, worse, that a wife might be left home alone for several days. No amount of personal safety is worth risking, so please post carefully-including photos-and with the knowledge that you don’t know who is reading your posts.
Second, within the bounds mentioned above, be interesting. While it may be true that you’re soaking beans on the stove for dinner and painting your toenails, it will be the rare Twitter follower who honestly cares about this unless you can state it in an interesting way or tie it in some way to the process of writing or publishing. The true test of an interesting Twit generally comes late in the evening when the Twittiverse starts signing off and heading for bed. Suddenly, in the midst of those “night Tweets” posts will come one so clever that I smile. If you’re that person, congratulations. If you’re one of the kabillion others who merely state how sleepy you are, shame on you. You’re writers. Do better than that or slink away quietly!
Third, be clever. A post worth reading is one that makes the most interesting use of the limited characters provided. Pithy comments, beautiful prose, and delicious irony are all parts of the Twits I read. When a Twitfriend can make me interested in the fact her husband wore his Prada coat to the rodeo and came home with mud on it, that’s good writing…and it’s cleverly done.
Fourth, provide valuable content. This is a tricky one because not all who post on Twitter will be talking about writing and publishing. Some do, and those are almost always keepers for me. Consider becoming an expert in something and Twitting only on that. Brandilyn Collins posts her word-of-the day. The Novel Matters gang posts teasers for their blog. I follow several excellent Tweeters who talk exclusively about PR and marketing. One gal posts recipes when she feels like it and another sends out random-but always timely-Bible verses. While chronicling your writing journey can make for great Tweets, reconsider any negative comments regarding the process. Lest you’ve forgotten, in this very public forum, the person reading how much you hate your book or how little you want to write could very well be the editor who was considering contracting your next book or a reader who was eager to get her hands on the book you’re hating to write.
To recap: The four rules of Twittiquette:
1. Be careful
2. Be interesting
3. Be clever
4. Provide valuable content
Now go out and be prolific-in 140 characters or less!