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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Twitterless

by Mike Duran

I was recently asked, "Do you Tweet?" "No," I replied. "But I've been known to crow." Okay, bad joke.

Really, it's a legitimate question being asked these days. What with Twitter becoming one of the fastest growing social platforms, more and more authors are using and advocating the free service. The line of reasoning goes like this:

Twitter provides up-to-the-second info on people and events you're interested in, allows you to stay connected to a vast array of friends, followers and cultural icons, and assists you in building a platform for services, exchange of ideas, or product sales.
Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, in a post entitled How Much Time Does Twittering Really Take? writes that Twitter "...offers an unparalleled opportunity for brand-building, social networking, and customer engagement."

So why not Twitter?

As a marketing or PR tool, Twitter excels. Large groups of people can be alerted with news or updates in a matter of seconds. With the push of a virtual button the title of your book, teaser, giveaways, release date, and signing venues can be broadcast to friends and followers. You can connect with other authors, become fans of the biggest of dogs, and peek in on their daily escapades and personal thoughts. There's no question that Twitter can serve a valuable purpose for the businessperson, author, or run-of-the-mill groupie.

However, in my experience the majority of tweets are utterly inane. Took dog 2 vet. Cleaned barf from bck seat. Feeling blah. Chugged Monst3r. Feeling better. Work sucks. Got caught tweeting. Now w/out work. The minutiae is never ending. Call me anti-social, but I just don't care enough about anyone to need a 24/7 ticker of their daily life. Heck, why not just implant webcams in our foreheads, then we'll never be without the smarmy details.

And
is there a better way to inflate your importance than Twitter? Nowadays, building your brand means carefully cultivating a digital image. You can pick and choose your Profile photo (preferably one that doesn't reveal your double-chin and receding hairline), and share info and interests that do nothing but make you look cooler than you really are. You needn't reveal anything about your short-temper, snootiness, chemical addictions, or previous marriages. It's the ultimate "sock puppet." You can engineer tweets to subtly exaggerate your significance (Spotted Snoop Dawg in Rio. I didn't have time to chat), convey class (sushi after the Getty overlooking Pacific before the Bowl), or simply congratulate yourself for some accomplishment (Sold article to High Times. Dude!). Talk about shameless self-promotion. Twitter is the ultimate House of Mirrors, where no one is as they appear.

Making friends is a stated objective of Twitter, and there is an unspoken esteem placed on people with lots of them. Of course, out of one thousand friends you might only know 75 of them. But in the Land of Twitter, that doesn't really matter. You see, Twitter friends come in two kinds -- The people you actually know and the people who are trying to up their follower count. The former is the kind you must learn to love, communicate with, and forgive. The latter is the kind you get promotional blurbs and sales pitches from. Don't get me wrong: there are people I've never physically met who I find witty, informative, and interesting. But I'm mistaken if I think that "friending" any of them will make me either witty, informative, or interesting.

For a writer who is building a brand, Twitter can be a useful tool. However, there are many tools and many authors who have succeeded without ever tweeting. In fact, many of those who enthusiastically endorse Twitter are often ones who already have an existing following, several existing platforms, or an established business. So of course it's easy for Agent X or Author Y to endorse Twitter -- their name and product is already out there. Shaq is guaranteed a gazillion "friends" just by showing up. But using Twitter as a means of self-branding has a downside, primarily that of motivation.
"Befriending" people (in the Twitter sense) can simply be a means to selling them something. Perhaps that's the nature of the author /reader relationship. But it feels so... sneaky.

Okay, so I'm behind the times. But I've seen enough technological trends to know that most developments are not nearly as revolutionary as they seem in the present. (Case in point: My Palm E2, one of my most important writing tools, is now obsolete.) First there were blogs. Then MySpace. Then Facebook. Now Twitter. Devices and apps will come and go. Some will remain and morph. At some future point, Twitter will be replaced by (or re-incorporated into) another technological tool. And when that day comes, we will debate its upside and downside. Until then -- and until I get more time, money, and discipline -- I shall remain Twitterless.



(But, just in case you’re interested, it’s 9:00 P.M. Pacific Time, Wilco's playing on my iPod, and I’m writing this in my jammies!)

11 comments:

Karen said...

Smiling here! Great post. I do Twitter or Tweet or whatever it's called in 140 characters or less. It was fun when I started but then came the pressure to have more "friends".

Numbers were important everyone kept saying. I started registering at apps that would increase the numbers. And sure enough I got follow responses.

But then I was told that if you didn't follow the follower, they would drop you. Yikes! I started following. My numbers grew but I lost the people I was really interested in amid an onslaught of information and "dog barf" I didn't want.

I've cut out a lot and yes, my followers have dropped in number but I hope to impress a publisher more with what I write (in more than 140 characters) than how many followers I have on Twitter.

(Off 2 make breakfast. Eggs this a.m. DH going into work late.)

Mike Duran said...

Yes, Karen, this "following" business has become a big deal. In fact, now a Twitterer can be de-Twittered. That's why Twiterless was developed. This new service “Keeps track of your followers,” specifically when “someone stops following” you. I guess it was inevitable. In an ever-expanding universe of iFriends, monitoring our digital wake appears to be a must. Thanks for the comment!

Mary DeMuth said...

Karen, a really nice tool to use is Tweetdeck. You can categorize those you follow. My categories are: Close friends, Writing friends, and Industry professionals. This helps me see all those tweets at a glance.

I've found Twitter to be a great tool for promoting my books and blogs. My traffic has at least doubled on my blogs, and tweeting really takes very little time. And, thankfully, I haven't dropped into the land of Narcissism.

Rhonda Langefeld said...

Thanks, Mike. Your thoughts about Twitter echo my concerns also. And, as you say, Twitter really helps people who already have an internet presence -- which looks like Mary's experience above. And even though I am Twitterless and will remain so, I still enjoy Mary's blog, and Novel Journey.

Carol said...

Too funny! Well written article. I do Twitter, but I only Tweet when I post a blog. I have it automatically set up so I actually don't even have to do anything. That way if someone wants to read a new blog post/devo, they can click on the link. Otherwise, I keep my barf cleaning, nose picking to myself. LOL. :)

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

What I enjoy about Twitter, as it applies to the publishing community, is the pervasive good heart of folks helping each other, by pointing to important articles, group discussions, great review blogs, retweets of applicable news that help spread the word. I am also a relational person who enjoys getting to know a bit about the personal side of industry folks' lives. (Your dog puked? SO RELATABLE! Now, back to the keyboard.) Without someone's astute Tweet, I would not have read your blog, which--and aren't you glad about this?--gave me the opportunity to gently disagree. :>\

Karen said...

Mary, I tried TweetDeck and it slowed my laptop so much that I had to get rid of it. I truly need a new laptop. Also tried Twittangle.com. Both applications still take time to organize, etc.

Also, I question whether those who choose to follow me are just building up a following themselves--adding to their numbers by my reciprocating follow. Especially when they are following/have followers 20,000+. IMHO, I think for platform/marketing, I'm better with less who really care. ??

queenbjan said...

I'm learning to tweet and FB with one post. I keep up with FB because those are real people I want to keep up with. Twitter is out there collecting tweets I don't have time to read anyway. But I am on Twitter for what it's worth. I don't push it.

lynnrush said...

Great post. Twitter has been pretty fun for me. I'm not too focused on getting followers, etc. But I do love to see the industry professionals' posts. Keeps me linked in. I much prefer Facebook to Twitter as FB is more interactive as far as I'm concerned.

But, I have to agree with Mary D--blog traffic has increased due to Twitter and Facebook for me as well. And I'm still unpubbed. **smile**

Thanks for the post

Janet said...

There are apps like Tweetdeck that allow you to give priority to interesting people, you know. Twitter is what you make of it.

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Lurker who was lured out by these exceptionally sharp words just to quietly nod her head and whisper: I agree....

Now back to the quiet of my twitterless life... and the tap of the keyboard keys for a WIP...

Thank you, Karen...