Monday, January 14, 2013

Confessions of a Twitterphobe (January Theme by Tamera Will Wissinger)

Four months ago if someone had told me that today I would be writing an article to inspire reluctant writers to consider joining Twitter, I would have said they didn't know me one bit. I had no interest in Twitter. None. I had already jumped four major online hurdles in 2012: I had developed a website, made a Facebook Author page, become a Goodreads author, and learned how to post an article on Blogger and Wordpress. Enough, I thought. I don't need to be on Twitter.

And then, on October 2, 2012, as members of one of my debut author groups, The Class of 2k13, planned to go live with our website, I received an email from Demitria Lunetta, one of the class's social media leaders. At the bottom of her very nice memo about setting up the class Twitter account, there was a very nice note directed to me:

“Tamera...sorry to call you out, but you're the only one without twitter. Let me know if you need any help, otherwise when you set up your account I'll add you to the list."

Notice it doesn’t say, “Tamera, are you going to be on Twitter?” or “Tamera, if you decide to jump into Twitter…” but “when you set up your account.” That’s pretty definitive. GULP. And yet, I did not want to do it. Panicked, I wrote to another classmate, Polly Holyoke, who had helped me out of other jams I’d gotten myself into.

In a series of emails between October 2 and 3, Polly calmly and patiently walked me through the benefits of at least trying Twitter while I put up every barrier I could think of. Some of my best arguments: What good would Twitter do me? I'm an author with no books out yet. Who would follow me, who would I possibly follow? Wasn't it a social network that would steal my time? What would I tweet? What about privacy? I stopped short of whimpering; “but I don’t want to,” although I did think it. Emotionally, this felt like the eve of my first day of junior high – I was petrified and in uncertain-intimidated-afraid-lock-down-passive-resister mode. Recognizing this, here is what Polly told me:

“My gut feeling (which you can totally ignore- of course!) is that you should probably sign up (which takes five minutes), play with twitter, see if it has any value for you, and then stop in a year if it doesn't. It's hard to judge something objectively until you've really used it and understand how it works/who it reaches.”

Oh.

Why didn’t I think of that? With this one simple paragraph, Polly simultaneous took all the wind of fear and uncertainty out of my sail and floated a gentle breeze of encouragement and control to lift my sail from another direction.

I did as my friend suggested. I poked around. And within a day, here was my reaction in a response to Polly:

“…as I looked around I realized that twitter works because of the network effect of all of us connecting in a small way to make a big impact. So I got over my issues and dove in. Thanks for helping me work through it...”

I had spent gobs more energy worrying and wondering about Twitter than it took to just sign up, look around, and educate myself. That’s what happens when preconceived notions go unchecked.

I sent my first tweet on Friday, October 5, 2012. Here’s what it said: “Poetry Friday is here: ‪http://laurasalas.wordpress.com/  Enjoy!”


Image courtesy of twittericon.com
Simple, painless, interesting to me, and something that other readers and writers might be interested in. I began to follow a few writers. Kit Grindstaf, a fellow author from my other debut group, The Lucky 13s, was the first to say "hello" and follow me. Soon after, others began to follow me, and my network has slowly grown from there. Among the activities that I’ve participated in on Twitter: 
  • Celebrated book releases and good news of friends and acquaintances
  • Interacted with authors whose books I love 
  • Connected with people who have enjoyed reading advanced copies of my book
  • Linked people to events, articles, and information that I find fascinating, noteworthy, or amusing 
Most of my tweets are reading and writing related, but some aren’t. I have initiated tweets about my upcoming debut novel, but only on occasions when I have something truly newsworthy to say. I control what/when I’m willing to tweet, so none of it feels like a privacy invasion or takes up too much of my time. I do still have a lot to learn, but I am learning, and I’m having fun and I’m no longer afraid.

As far as the impact on marketing: I don’t know if there will be a payoff and I may never know. One of the wonders of networking in this way is that for every tweet I send, there is the possibility that one of my followers will retweet or respond, activities that, if I react, reach their followers and mine. In this way it's possible to make connections far beyond my own network.

The marketing possibilities don't stop there. In addition to readers and writers, also on twitter are booksellers, librarians, and teachers, publishers, editors, and agents. In a way, Twitter is like an ongoing virtual industry conference, and I have a small billboard and a backstage pass. This alone is a very compelling argument for why any author – well published, newly published, or pre published – might want to consider Twitter.  Beyond the possible reward of drawing attention to myself or my writing, though, I simply like feeling connected to people and information that I wouldn’t have been aware of before.

If you are a reluctant tweeter, I invite you to look around. You don’t even have to have an account to read tweets – you just need to know a person's Twitter handle. (Mine is @TameraWissinger) And if you sign up for an account, as Demitria recently suggested to me:

“…you don’t have to tweet at first. You can just follow people that interest you and see how it’s done, then jump in when you feel more confident.”

I’ll share one more gem from Polly, too:

“Tweeting is easier and much less scary than lots of other stuff you've learned this past year.”

So true. Thank goodness for the sound advice of writing friends who took my concerns seriously and helped me when I needed it! And I agree with them – Twitter isn’t something to fear or shun, but something to consider as one resource of many in our common quest to write as well as we can, share what we know, and to connect with others equally committed to placing wonderful stories into the hands of children.

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There are good resources online to help if you’re contemplating opening a Twitter account. Here’s a link to an article by Molly Greene that is specific to authors and that I’ve found useful:  

0-4,000 In A Snap: How to Build a Quality Twitter Following Fast

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Tamera Wissinger is the debut author of GONE FISHING: A Novel In Verse, arriving from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on March 5, 2013. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, Tamera shares her time between Chicago and Florida.

In addition to locating her on Twitter, online you can find Tamera on her websiteGoodreads, or Facebook.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks Tamera for sharing your thoughts on Twitter. I'm not on it but am deciding it's time to join. You're making me realize it won't be that hard to do.

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  2. You're welcome, Natalie. I'm glad you're considering jumping in. It really isn’t too difficult. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

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  3. Very good advice, Tamera! I'm still uncomfortable with Twitter; it seems the least "social" of the social media. It's possible to have a conversation, but it doesn't appear to be the "done" thing, and it feels weird throwing out bits of information into the void. At least that's how it feels to me, but I'm persevering!

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    1. Hi Tracy, Glad you like this advice. It is a bit challenging to try and convey a meaningful thought in 140 character tidbits, isn’t it? Especially a conversation – although I’ve seen those, done, too. I’ve been tricking myself into thinking of it like a game unceremoniously called: Can I tweet a full thought in a fun, interesting, or attention-grabbing way in 140 characters or less? If I get a retweet: 1,000 points for me! 1,000 more if someone replies! Points for a new follower! Points if someone favorites one of my tweets! (I don’t really keep track, but you get the idea.) Silly, maybe, but it keeps it fun and engaging without it getting too serious.

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    2. I like the game idea--going to try it!

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  4. Welcome Tamera! I am a Poetry Friday regular and am super excited about your debut. As for Twitter, it can be really fun -- I'm not sure how much I achieve from a promotional standpoint, but I find it an excellent information source. Some of my favorite articles/links/books ever I've found from other people's tweets!

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  5. Thank you for this welcome, Irene, and for your enthusiasm about my debut! I LOVE Poetry Friday, and I’ve seen your wonderful contributions there. (I’m hoping to participate more as I ramp up my blogging skills – that could be a whole other blog post.) In fact, I think you are the one who clued me in on Poetry Friday last year when I posted on The Lucky 13s blog for Poetry Month. Regarding Twitter, what a great testament that you’ve been able to find favorites through the tweets of others. I do love that something fun can be worthwhile!

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  6. I have a twitter as it helps me to advertise my blog posts. I follow a few authors and publishers and actually have quite a few followers myself but I am still completely baffled by how it all works. I find Twitter very confusing.
    Probably because I haven't spent long on it, but I find it daunting.
    I miss out on a lot of things because I don't check my twitter feed - it's something I need to get used to doing.

    Glad I'm not the only one that found it scary. :D

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    1. That's a good point about using twitter to advertise blog posts. I'm doing that, too. I know that feeling of being baffled and getting behind, too. Have you set up any lists? Once I figured that out, it helped me keep track of people whose tweets were most important to me.

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  7. I was reluctant to try Twitter, too, and now I absolutely love it. I agree--it's been fabulous for connecting with readers and fellow writers. On a personal note, I also got a chance to interact with one of my favorite musicians...something that never would have happened without Twitter!

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    1. You, too, Holly? I wouldn't have known. What a great example of how you use Twitter to connect with readers and fellow writers - and one of your favorite musicians! What a fun story. That is a unique bonus of Twitter - you never know who might respond to one of your tweets!

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  8. Okay, Tamera. I already have a Twitter account I never use, but you've inspired me to get in there and join the fun.

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