Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Twitter Etiquette 101

Graphic made using picmonkey.com

Hello All!

As you may know, I participated in this year's Pitch Wars competition led by Brenda Drake. The main goal is to procure a mentor or mentors who help you polish your MS for the much-anticipated agent round. But while this is the main incentive to participate, another large part of the event is the interactions found on the hashtag feed.

Mentors and mentees alike chatted about their writerly hopes and dreams, some offered their services to shine up entrant’s submission packages, and others were there to cheer on their friends. With so many people interacting in the hashtag feed, I was overwhelmingly happy to see so many encouraging, warm and welcoming people in one place. Several people described it as a writer’s tribe, and I agree.

But, something soured those positive interactions, and this brings me to the subject of today’s post: Twitter etiquette for writers. A disclaimer: all humans are individuals. All interactions are, likewise, individual occurrences. These tips may work for you, or they may not. You take what is useful to you, and leave out the rest. This is fine.  This is meant to be a poke in a particular direction, and if it doesn’t jive with you, that’s okay. 

Treat Others With Compassion

I almost put the “Golden Rule" for this first one, but then I stopped. “Treating others how you want to be treated” can be a misleading phrase—not everyone thinks they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. (Hint: you do deserve respect, and you deserve to be treated like a human being)

Instead, I use the word “compassion,” because from compassion stems many other qualities like understanding, sympathy, and patience. Treating others with compassion on Twitter sounds like a lofty aspiration, but hear me out. 

Compassion is associated with having a desire to alleviate another being’s suffering, and that is one of the driving forces behind what I decide to tweet. If someone’s having a bad day, I try to lift them up, post a gif that will make them laugh, or send them a few words of encouragement. When someone is discouraged with their writing, I try to tweet them hope-filled tidbits to help. This is how I proactively practice compassion in my online presence. 

On the flip side of this, I do my best to not cause anyone else to suffer because of my tweets. I realize that these two things are very much ideals, and ultimately, I can’t force anyone to react to my words the way I want them to (just like an author can’t force a reader to interpret and receive their book in a particular way). The only thing I’m trying to do is to not post negativity on my feed. I know not everyone takes this approach, and I am not saying this is the right way all the time. This is just one approach in the sea of many.

To the writers on Twitter: treat each other with compassion. Realize that everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses, struggles and pain. Treat others with respect because not everyone has had the same experiences, education, and background that you have. Do not contribute to the nastiness in the world for the sake of tearing others down—be a light in someone else’s darkness.

Be Not a Bully

Pitch Wars is a great way to connect with others to discuss the many ins and outs of the writing life, and it’s an excellent way to grow as an author. But no large event would be complete without a dash of drama and an ounce of sourness from a few bad apples.

Twitter is a public forum. This does not mean that you should publicly bash or shame others. (Disclaimer: this is in reference to actively terrorizing a person because they live a different way, have different opinions etc.)

Now, I know there are some total trolls on Twitter, looking to pick fights by tweeting things they know will elicit a response from people. I get that. How you deal with trolls is up to your personal views. I typically steer clear from confrontation as it tends to make me physically ill, but everyone is different. 

Pick your battles, and pick your words carefully. We are writers, after all.

Stop and think before you tweet something. People are allowed to disagree with you, and it doesn’t give you the right to harass someone for their views or orientation.

If you aren’t sure if a tweet sounds like you are bullying someone, chances are, you are probably bullying them.         
Of course, there’s a lot of grey area here when it comes to online dealings like: Where is the line between standing up for what you believe in, and bullying someone into conforming to what you see as an “obvious right way to think”? I’ll also leave that up to you to decide.

Writers on Twitter: don't be a butt to other people. It isn't cool, and it makes you look like one online.

Be Classy

Like the previous tip, when dealing with other authors or industry professionals (or other human beings, in general), be classy. The writing community on Twitter is small, and word gets around quickly by means of mentions, retweets and quotes. If your goal as a writer is to have any sort of career in the industry, remember that your Twitter handle is an extension of your author brand. This is not to say you can't be outspoken about what you believe in, but, just like in real life, don't resort to bullying, stalking or any other harmful behavior.

So, be classy. Don’t moan and complain about a particular agent or publishing house that’s rejected you, because you’ll be burning bridges with that. Just because an agent or publisher rejected your MS, it doesn't mean they reject you as a person. You may have a MS that is perfect for them in the future, but if your name brings up a bitter taste in the agent's mouth, chances are they may think twice about reviewing things from you. Don’t give other professionals a reason not to work with you.

Don't Be Sneaky

I’ve been seeing this more and more lately, so I thought I’d bring it up. When someone follows me, I go to their profile first before I follow back. If I see that they engage with other people, and I think we have some things in common, I may follow back right then and there. Or, I may wait. 


I want to see if they will unfollow me for not following them back. This sneaky trend of following people only to unfollow them back after they follow you (or unfollowing if a follow isn't reciprocated) is unseemly. Sure, it makes it look like you are much more important than you are because you have more followers than following. But to me, this isn't genuine. 

Don’t do this—it's just another way you’ll look like a butt on Twitter (see previous tip).

Refrain From the Auto DM

Now I'm really getting into the nitty gritty of Twittering. Want to know what's the quickest way to get me to unfollow you?

Send me an auto DM.

It's happened several times like this: Twitter recommends me to follow someone, I check out their profile, and hit follow. Then my DM box is sent spam saying "Hey, thanks, buy my book/service!"

No. Just...no. Don't do it. It isn't good marketing, and it makes me roll my eyes and certainly not check out your book.

If you want me to see something, engage with me. Make it mean something to me. Then I will be more willing to look into your book or page or whatever.

Don't Turn Your Feed Into a Commercial Channel

What's the fastest way for me to decide not to follow someone at all on Twitter?

Finding out that their feed is one big commercial advertisement.

If I see that your feed is filled with nothing but advertisements for your book, I won't follow. I understand that authors need to market their books and services, but I need to see that you are an actual person behind the screen. I will retweet your ads more if I know that you post other things as well. Perhaps this is a personal pet peeve of mine, but I'm putting it in anyways. 

If I wanted to see advertisements until my eyes bleed, I'd watch cable television. 

What are some of your etiquette tips for using Twitter? Comment below or find me here

Just remember: be courteous, be classy, and pick your battles. There are grey areas to all of these things mentioned, but I hope I can provide you with some things to ponder over as you go about your writer life.

And as always, may your words be great and your pages many.

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