What is Twitter really for?

I have 386 followers on Twitter. This may not seem a lot to those who have 6000 or more but to me, it does. 386 human beings-okay one or two are companies, radio stations or websites-feel I am worth following on this social media platform, space, outlet, soap box or whatever you want to call it, out there in cyberspace.  They want to follow ME? They want to see my posts about anything and nothing? They are seriously interested in my sayings and doings and want to hang on my every word? That’s what I thought when I first started tweeting a year or so ago. And then, I tried my best to entertain these followers who had made such an effort to find me. How? And why? Had they seen my picture on my website and fallen in love with me? Or had they seen some of my posts on writers’ websites and found me incredibly witty? Probably a combination of those and other things, I thought, which gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling of love towards my followers. I was POPULAR, I thought.

But then, slowly, painfully, I realised that it was the OTHER way around. All those followers wanted ME to follow them, that’s why they follow me in the first place. They wanted me to listen to what they had to say and didn’t even notice my cute little posts. Just like ‘friends’ on Facebook, ‘followers’ is just a term for… well, people on the Internet connecting with you for different reasons, mostly selling. To you. And I do the same. To them.

Most people, as I understand it anyway, are on Twitter because of marketing (aka selling stuff). Just like me. They, or maybe I should say we,  sell stuff . On the Internet. We want to attract attention to our stuff, so we have to raise our Internet profile in order for our stuff to be noticed. So that those who want to buy the stuff that we have for sale can see us. And we have to make sure we tell them about our stuff in such a way that the public out there realise that ours is a lot better than anyone else’s… Now, a lot of people will say this is not so, they are on Twitter to express their opinions or to connect with the world or announce important news or discuss politics or say angry things about celebrities. Or event to be nice and say thank you for things other people have done for them. Of course. That too. But mostly it’s about selling stuff.

You see, we are told (or advised) to use social media for marketing. Everybody says that’s what you should do, especially if you are an Indie author. And anyone who knows me would also know that, short of lying down in front of a truck or posing naked in a big city department store window, I’d do anything for a bit of publicity. I have flaunted myself and my books on lots of websites, boards and fora, even where I shouldn’t have, in ways that were perhaps less than discreet. As a newbie, I spent a lot of time and effort doing this, thinking I would gain readers and raise the old profile. And maybe I did succeed to some degree.  Maybe all that effort resulted in sales for a while.  But you can’t keep this sort of thing up forever. At least I can’t. I  got tired and bored with it all. My tweets were few and far between and I went back to doing what I enjoy; writing. My posts on writers’ sites are now fairly random, concentrating on those that discuss the writing craft, life in general and anything that excites me as a writer.  In fact, I mostly post on a new site that has all of that. It’s called the Writers Bistro .

I had been away from Twitter for  while but kept getting e-mails to say I have new followers. So on a whim, I had a look what was going on. Well, it was the same old thing, writers telling me about their books. Okay, I know there is a whole science attached to Tweeting. You are supposed to use # before names of groups or outfits or websites so that you get noticed there. I know I am very BAD at Tweeting, I know I should retweet and get retweeted over and over again and all my writer colleagues will help me if I help them. I know a lot of my writer friends will not agree with what I’m saying here. They will say that they get lots of readers and sales and gain friends and influence people through Twitter. I’m sure they do, too.  Which makes me feel I’ve failed somewhere, that there is a part of my being an Indie author that I’m not doing right. I’m sure that’s true.  But isn’t life too short to do things you don’t enjoy?

Don’t get me wrong. Twitter is a wonderful invention.  But only for those who know how to work it.

Thank you for reading this post. And if you want, you can follow me on Twitter…

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen R. Hulse
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 15:27:03

    I absolutely agree, Susanne – Twitter isn’t for everyone. Personally, I try my best to keep writerly or marketing related tweets to a minimum on my personal Twitter account. Oh, I succumb to the temptation to slip in a plug here and there – but mostly my personal account is just that: personal.

    It’s where I get to be silly, inconsequential and outright random to my rapidly beating little heart’s content. Doesn’t matter if anybody actually reads those tweets. Doesn’t matter if I’m never retweeted. Call it a safety valve which allows me to to continue the cold, hard and relentless marketing I know I have to do elsewhere.

    So at the end of the day, no you haven’t failed. You’ve simply realised that for you, if it isn’t working for you personally, it isn’t worth the effort.

    As you so rightly point out; life’s too short.

    Besides which, it simply means that you’ll find another way to accomplish what you feel to be your Indy authorly obligations via some new and exciting alternate avenue.

    Of that, I haven’t the slightest shadow of a doubt.


  2. ByJamesPiper
    Aug 30, 2012 @ 05:54:59

    You’re not along. Promoting one’s books, and self, as an indie author, makes writing a novel look like you’re pouring a glass of milk.


    • Stephen R. Hulse
      Aug 30, 2012 @ 09:58:26

      Tell me about it, James! As a publisher, I spend more of my time these days playing nanny-cum-sheepdog to my authors and their titles, than I do actually writing my own books. Promoting probably takes up around 75-85% of my working week! (Ha! “Working week” – as if I ever have the luxury of a weekend off.) There’s still the odd moment when I long wistfully, and misty-eyed for the days when I was a creative lone wolf.


  3. Mridula
    Oct 28, 2012 @ 13:31:34

    I concur !


  4. Harry Nicholson
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 16:45:54

    Twitter has left me bemused – but your post has brought some clarity, and thanks for that. Lately I’ve taken to posting haiku on Twitter – sort of setting poems free into the night sky.


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