Wednesday, January 8, 2014

IWSG: Twitter as a Cocktail Party

Today is IWSG day, a one-time-per-month event where writers can blog about their writerly insecurities and other stuff. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for hosting! Today I'm going to talk a little about my experiences so far with Twitter, my interpretation of an online cocktail party, a public schmooze-fest of private conversations and information sharing. On Twitter, users get exposed to a gazillion hashtag hors d'oeuvres, and the flavor of cocktails, or tweets, you'd sample vary from the sweet and fruity to the scorching and ruthlessly bitter.

I tried to stay away from this party for as long as I could, even when I'd hear stuff like: "Twitter can bring more readers to your blog." "Twitter can help you generate a fan base before you're even published." "A huge follower base will make you more attractive to agents and editors, who do care about your social media presence."

I ended up joining Twitter, but for none of those reasons. 

When first I signed up for my current Twitter account, my main objective was to "follow" some authors, agents, and editors for glimpses into their psyche and to get industry updates.  I didn't tweet much back then. Some industry insiders criticize people like me: "There's no point in having a Twitter profile if you don't post regularly." Admittedly, I felt a bit uncertain about what to tweet at first. That said, I also believe that each Twitter user should define what they want from their experience, as opposed to letting someone tell them what a "legitimate" Twitter experience should be. So I remained satisfied in my silence. 

When I first began posting on Twitter, it was mostly because I wanted to earn an extra point or two while I entered kidlit-themed giveaways, as in "I just entered to win an ARC from so-and-so..."  Announcing a giveaway might've made me "resourceful," which earns you attention in Twitter's kidlit industry scene. But honestly, by posting about a giveaway on Twitter, I was just being a contest freak, hehe.

Gradually, during the last year, I began using Twitter more often for other things, like sharing posts and articles, and tweeting random thoughts and experiences. So perhaps I am showing others more of "me." And sometimes being me means challenging the recommended Twitter guidelines dished out by well-intentioned veteran Twitter users. For example, I'm a huge foodie and dessert enthusiast. So I just don't buy this rule that so many people dish out: "Don't tweet about what you've just eaten because people don't care." You know what? Sharing about food is part of who I am, and I don't mind hearing what people are eating or what they've made, just as long as they're not posting about their lunch every single day (which I wouldn't do either).

As I'm connecting with more people, I'm slowly backing away from the punch bowl. And even that took some time. It's so easy to share and overshare on a public platform like Twitter (and even the blogosphere) that I have to be careful not to veer into TMI territory. Though I must admit that I really admire some people I follow who share so much about themselves online without reservation. In fact, some of my favorite people to follow are those who go to the places I can't go in an online forum. At least not right now.

I don't tweet everyday. But I'm slowly getting the hang of it, even though I didn't join for the reason that a lot of people tell aspiring authors to join for, nor do I necessarily do things the way people tell newbies to do to maintain a following. It can be liberating to start something for my own reasons, and only my own reasons, and to build it up into something at my own pace, at my own guidelines.  


If you're on Twitter, feel free to follow me @CynthiaSociety.  


Have you ever challenged or broken social media "rules?" 

29 comments:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I love the idea of Twitter as a big cocktail party. It's constantly on-going. Sometime you show up and don't find the conversation interesting, so you leave. Sometimes you jump in and have a few exchanges. You can leave anytime you want.

And when you have a book out, you can search for your title and eavesdrop on what people are saying about you. (If you dare)

If I'm not already following you, I'll go do it right now.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Oh .. looks like I already do. *waves hello from across the party*

Ruth Schiffmann said...

After one of the agents I wanted to query closed to submissions just days before I sent my query, (which she tweeted about for weeks in advance) I decided to finally join. So, like you, I finally joined twitter to keep up with the latest from agents and editors. I'm still finding it a bit overwhelming, but I enjoyed your thoughts on the subject.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I really enjoyed this post, and I am definitely going to consider it as I continue my hemming and hawing about joining Twitter. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm new to Twitter too. Just followed you. I'd love to get on there more but some days the reading blogs takes all my social networking time.

Bob R Milne said...

Social media can be a scary thing to dip your toe into, but I think the best approach is to ignore any 'rules' and just make it your own. I started on Twitter and Facebook for much the same reason - get some industry insights, do some self-promotion, and start building that 'fan' community. It's worked very well, but I find I enjoy interacting and having those short conversations even more rewarding.

Julie Luek said...

I will look for you on Twitter. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to use it. It's a tool, and like you, I don't want to get sucked into the TMI aspect of it, Facebook or any form of media. How to connect, be authentic and use it well. Tricky territory.

Laura Marcella said...

I like twitter, though I don't tweet often; I try to tweet something at least once a day. I usually tweet my blog posts, other posts that I think others might find interesting or helpful, and quotes. Mostly I like reading what other people tweet and link to! I'm @LauraMarcella

Hope you're having a great new year!

Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

Lauren said...

I'm ON twitter, but I'm not INTO twitter, if that makes any sense. I post once in a while.

Social Media is interesting, and breaking the rules can work, but you have to be careful about which rules you break.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm still trying to balance Twitter. I've been on it for years and still have no idea what I am doing.

Pat Hatt said...

Twitter can opens up many doors, the cat and pat are there but we barely use it much any more at our lair

Mike Louie said...

80% of my career revolves around social media so I feel at home on Twitter :)

While there are no set rules, there is general online etiquette. And while there are guidelines, there are those who push the envelope to differentiate themselves from their peers. I'd like to think I do that. I probably fit in the TMI category for those concerned about intersecting personal family life with professional life with the unchartered cyberspace territory known as the Internet.

For all users, I recommend thinking about their goals and how twitter can best serve those goals. For me, it's to be as openly transparent, authentic and encouraging for my followers. My social media background and blogging ultimately paved the road for two of the biggest milestones in my life: my wife found me and my employers found me. Both my wife and my employers read my stories, visited my web sites, and gave me a date/interview to be the person I am today.

The way I see twitter is akin to how I see blogging: simple extensions to your personal brand and another effective outlet to inform people what you think about and care about most. You won't be everything to everyone, but you can be particularly interesting to select individuals who inspire and encourage you to continue being who you are.

Thanks for sharing, Cynthia. See you on twitter too :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I try to behave on social media and I try to never get involved in political discussions. I visit twitter a few times per day but it is a big party I don't always have time for.

Suzanne Furness said...

Your twitter experience sounds quite like mine! I joined to follow and find info rather than post but slowly I am getting into it. I'll head on over and follow you!

Cherie Colyer said...

When I first joined Twitter it was for the same reasons you did. I've also tweeted about giveaways I've entered. Let's face it, it's fun to win. Most my tweets are sharing blog posts I think other may find interesting and of course keeping in touch with friends.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Some social media "rules" are really just one person's personal preference for how to use the media. Others just seem to me like common manners.

Nicole said...

Right now, I only follow agents/editors on my personal Twitter - no proactive posts from me yet. But I manage several Twitter accounts for clients, and it's definitely a great way to connect and share info.

David P. King said...

I found myself using Twitter more than anything else, expect the blog. Now I find myself slowing down there, too. When and wherever the momentum is needed, I think. :)

Sherry Ellis said...

I'm on Twitter, but I honestly don't spend much time following what's going on. I'll post reviews I've done, tweet interesting articles I find, and occasionally promote things either I do or other authors/musicians do. Social networking can really suck up a lot of time!

Margo Berendsen said...

I'm still figuring out the tweeting world, even though I've been on and off for 3 years now. I've just had a really hard time connecting... probably because i've been so on and off again :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

I use FB a lot more, but I do tweet periodically and I interact with other periodically.

Medeia Sharif said...

I see that I'm already following you.

I used to be on Twitter a lot, but these days I pop in and out a few times a day. On busy days, it's once a day, so I'm not really noticing a lot.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I still haven't gone on Twitter yet, but it's hard to resist an online cocktail party! I'll look for you if I ever decide to join in on the fun. Happy tweeting Cynthia!

Julie

readfaced said...

I really appreciate your post. I JUST started on twitter a couple of weeks ago (I don't even have a link to my account yet on my blog) and it is exactly how you described. People just chat like they are all old friends. It is very intimidating not being part of the multiple conversations.

Leanne ( http://readfaced.wordpress.com/ )

Mina Burrows said...

Break social media rules? #allthetime LOL! I love hash tags. Twitter brings the internet to me. At least that's how I look at it. I don't spend as much time as I used to on it, but I still enjoy it. :)

Pk Hrezo said...

I felt the same way at first, but quickly found it to be way easier than FB. I love the chats. If you can find a few chats you enjoy, this is the best use of Twitter. Followers will enjoy your exchange in these chats and you'll gain new followers from meeting new tweeps. I reply to anything interesting and sometimes I make a new friend, sometimes I don't, but it really doesn't matter as long as I'm having fun and being personable. I mean, everyone on Twitter wants interaction or else why are they there, right?
I'm off to follow you ...

Mark Koopmans said...

Aloha Cynthia,

Love this post because I don't do Twitter for any real reason other than to *slowly* build a general following - so I don't do (m)any of the Twitter rules - except for thanking peeps who RT my Tweets.

Like my blog, my Twitter is a "part" of me, so you get what you see and if you don't care for it, I always say don't let the Unfollow button hit you on the way out :)

Stephsco said...

I signed up for twitter in 2007 thanks to an early-adopter friend, and posted maybe a dozen times in about three years. I really picked up with it when I used twitter to network with writers. Now I love it and consider it my primary social media outlet.

As long as your posts aren't all about self-promotion, I think it's pretty open on the "rules" of using it as a writer.

Tara Tyler said...

im still a wall flower at the twitter party... but i followed you! and tweeted it!
i post fun quotes from my editing. not sure what else to do with it... i think it takes a lot of work and time to connect on it.

have a great weekend!

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