Wednesday, April 22

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 2 comments
In the past, I was pretty reticent to join Twitter. The stream design felt overwhelming, and the brevity of what could be posted seemed to favor witty one-liners over genuine engagement. But since 2012, I've learned the ropes a bit and see the benefits of the medium.

I also see a lot of habits among some tweeps that aren't compatible with my goal of making genuine connections with readers and a supportive author community.

Maybe that isn't why you're on Twitter. Fine, but don't take it personally if I choose to unfollow or even block you for some of the following behaviors.

Numbers hounds

There are a cluster of habits that point to a tweep's primary desire to have a high follower count. Unless someone is a genuine celebrity, having a followers count that is disproportionately higher than follows tells me this person cares only about appearing popular or famous.

Here are some typical numbers hound behaviors:

Random follows
This type follows every last person their followers follow, even if there is not one single point of intersection of interests. Doing this makes you look like a bot account. I will assume you hired a click farm if you have no apparent interest in the things listed in my profile.

Repeated follow, unfollow, refollow
If I choose not to follow you, it's usually because your content doesn't interest me, not because I didn't notice you. Dropping and adding over and over just so you show up in my feed merely makes you annoying. Do it enough and I'll block you.

Folks who repeatedly favorite my content, but when I follow them abruptly stop doing so and ignore me are clearly only motivated in building their follower counts. If you like my content, connect, but don't play stupid games like this. I'll thank you for your favorites, but I won't follow.

Pushy types

These folks want to connect, which is great, but they overstep the boundaries without taking the time to adequately build a relationship first.

Here are some behaviors I deem pushy:

Aggressive mentions
These folks drop my Twitter name into tweets with their random musings, or with information about their book for sale. Folks, this is what your own Twitter stream is for. If I'm interested, I'll favorite or retweet. But using the mention function in this way is like being a door-to-door salesman. It's invasive.

Reserve mentions for interacting with something I said, to thank me, to let me know you're giving a shout out about something I did that you liked (shared useful info., wrote a book you loved, gave helpful advice, that sort of thing).

Nonstop sales stream
If your tweets are constant "buy my book" or constant sales pitches of others, it's going to feel like nothing but noise rather than connection.

If you've been guilty of this, make sure you add value-added tweets to your stream. Use the #Discover and search for helpful #writingtips or #inspiration to retweet. If nothing else, go hit up a quotes website, gather some inspirational messages and schedule regular doses of nice and "you can do it" among the sales. I'm willing to bet those tweets will garner you the most followers. Everyone needs more positivity.

Tit-for-tat offers
If you choose to like my FB author page, great, but don't tell me you liked it and I ought to like yours back. You know why? Facebook algorithms will screw us both over if our author pages are full of fake fans. The REAL fans are exponentially less likely to see new content.

If you like my books and my page, and are genuinely seeking to be my champion. God bless you. But for Pete's sake, don't do it to oblige me to owe you favors. That's really just a form of extortion.

Offensive content
If your stream is filled with hate speech, foul language, constant put downs, whining and complaints, or p0rnographic material, I'm going to unfollow. I'm clearly not your target audience.

Note that I said "filled"--occasional grousing is normal, as is occasional salty language. But venomous verbal attacks of things I care about are not great connection-makers or conversation starters.

And erotica writers, please don't read it as "judging you" when writers of other genres like me don't follow back. Maybe we're judging ourselves, as in, I know what things would tempt me to be unfaithful to my marriage, at least in my imagination, which Jesus taught is bad for me and which St. Paul taught me to flee from. Also, I write Christian YA and I carefully curate my follows so that my part of the Twittersphere is a safe place for teens who want to live a life of faith.

Direct messages: the gray area

I have really mixed feelings about DMs. Here are the kinds of DMs I see regularly, and how I feel about them:

TrueTwit notifications
If I get a TrueTwit notification, I'll know you are carefully curating your feed, which is totally legitimate, if a bit of a hassle for me. I get not wanting bot accounts bothering you.

However, bot accounts tend to unfollow pretty quickly if you ignore them. So do other annoying types mentioned above (except the follow/unfollow/refollow--those you have to block). In the meantime, this hoop you require new followers to jump though is likely to turn away good, genuine connections who don't have time for your hoop routine. Consider ditching TrueTwit, and simply follow back only those accounts with interesting content.

Buy links
This is just a private version of aggressive mentions. I ignore these.

I'd prefer you showed me in your feed that your book is one I want to read. Show me cover art, share interesting interviews you gave to bloggers, share snippets, that sort of thing--in your own feed.

Other site links
Mostly these are tit-for-tat Facebook like "suggestions"--like my page, I'll like yours. I highly doubt the like I give will be returned. And I don't really want fake fans anyway. I ignore these requests also.

Better that you periodically tweet your FB page link (a few times of week max), so that your real fans can find it.

Bizarre comments or threats or links
I assume your account has been hacked if you tell me someone is spreading rumors, or you ask for financial help, or you send a condensed link with a vague teaser like "you won't believe this!" I might do a mention ("@joeschmoe bogus DMs are being sent from your account") in hopes you will see it, and then unfollow you just to distance myself from your hacker.

Get-to-know-you questions
These can be wonderful or just weird.

A good one might be, "I liked the blog post you shared about dialect.  What book or author do you think does that well?" or "I loved the Harry Potter books, too. Which is your favorite?" or something along those lines. It shows that you engage with my content and want connection. As long as you don't require great effort for me to answer ("how can I get published?") or get too personal ("are you married?"), I will likely interact.

If it's clear you have a stock question that's auto-sent to every follower, ones that tie to your content but show no knowledge of mine, I'm apt to ignore. "Who are your favorite cowboy hero's?" was one such question posed to me. That assumes I like cowboy romances--I don't--and that I don't mind grammatical errors like your inability to make the word hero plural (it's heroes, silly). I promptly unfollowed this writer, despite the good writing tips she shared in her feed. The DM made it clear she's far more interested in selling and engaging with readers than being part of a writing community.

Free content
This is actually a decent tactic, giving a Twitter follower access to free content like a short story, if they'd like to know more about you and your writing style/genre/themes. It is a gift that invites deeper connection, a generous gesture.

I'd caution to not do this with brand-new followers. Interact for a while first. Otherwise, it will seem pushy.

Requests to connect elsewhere or promo opportunities
Sometimes folks use DMs to ask how to connect on sites like Goodreads or Pinterest, because they'd like to connect there too. That's perfectly fine. I'll answer when I have time to respond.

I've been offered guest posts through DM also. The most effective ones say something complimentary about my content and give a link, so I can see what their site is like. Because I write religious fiction, I have to take care to stick with sites that aren't promoting erotica or occult material. That's just basic branding.

So if you want to reach out to followers this way, think value-added and friendly, helping connection.

What Twitter behaviors do you consider turnoffs? What alternate suggestions do you have for folks who've made these mistakes?


  1. I get a lot of DMs asking me to visit their buy links. I don't have enough time to visit my own links, guys. Nice list, Laurel. Tucking it away for quick reference.

    1. I hear you. Time is our most precious resource!