Tweeting Success: Party Fouls

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 Tweeting Success: Starting off Right

In my last post on Tweeting Success, we talked about building your following. I suggested that you treat Twitter like a great big cocktail party. So, you and your author friends have split up to mingle with whatever readers you can find. You have pointed your pinchy shoes toward a cluster of potential readers and have decided to introduce yourself. Before you get going we should talk a bit about some DON’Ts of Twitter behavior.

The simple prescription is to be yourself, and behave as you would if you were actually face to face with people at a cocktail party. It’s up to you to decide what topics you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. If you’re a person who likes to talk politics or religion or fashion, have at it. But remember those are people (mostly) on the other side of that tweet. So the general rule is don’t say anything that you would be embarrassed to say to a person’s face or a group people at a party.

What I want to call out in this article is some party fouls you might see on Twitter. If people did these things in real life they would range from annoying, to off-putting, to straight up weird.


Imagine that you are standing drink in hand in front of a whole new group of people. You’ve just started a conversation with a likely candidate. As you’re talking about your shared interest in maritime history, another author walks up wearing a sandwich board and waving a copy of her book at anyone glances her way. Everyone who encounters sandwich board writer rolls their eyes. As groups they close ranks and exclude her from their conversations.

This is the real life equivalent of the spammer, that is a writer on Twitter who tweets nothing but self-promotion. I’m talking about more than 25% of their tweets contain links to their book listing, their Author Central page or their Facebook page. All they seem to say is “buy my book”, “like my page”, “follow me”. These tweets don’t add value to the conversation, and people will pay even less attention to them than they do to the wait staff silently handing out drinks. At least the staff will occasionally garner a “Thank you”. Spammers get unfollowed quickly, or they are simply ignored.

Are there times when it’s okay to tweet links to your books? Yes. When you have news, tweet a link.

  • Running a countdown deal or free promo
  • Just got a great review
  • Article in the media about you or your book
  • Won an award
  • Gave an interview
  • Have an event like a book signing

All of these are good excuses to tweet about your book, within reason. Stick to the no more than 25% rule and you should be fine.

Direct Messages

Where your tweets are public and anyone can see them, direct messages are private. In order to send a direct message to someone, you have to be following them and they have to be following you. In real life, it would be a bit like whispering in someone’s ear. That’s all fine between friends, but would you whisper in the ear of someone you just met in the middle of a cocktail party? More to the point, would you whisper, “Nice to meet you. You might like my book. Here’s a link to buy it.” or “Nice to meet you. You should like my Facebook page.” to someone you just met? I sure wouldn’t.

But I see that sort of thing on Twitter all the time. “Thanks for following me. Here’s a link to my free ebook.” Or even just a “Thanks for the follow.” In fact, there are services like Crowdfire and offer features that will send these messages automatically. This is the Twitter equivalent of junk mail, and it is possibly the most widely hated behavior on Twitter.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. There are numerous articles from blogging and marketing professionals confirming just how hated this behavior is. You can read some here, and here, and here. I’m sure you could turn up a dozen more with a quick Google search. Why do people hate DM’s so much?

Well, in the days of smartphones our near Pavlovian response to message notifications, imagine that your phone suddenly starts to ding you. Could that be a text from the girl you met the other night? An important text from one of your kids? Email from your day job? Nope, it’s an utterly pointless impersonal and unsolicited message from someone you just followed on Twitter. Just like email spam, these messages fill up our mailboxes and prevent us from seeing real personal messages from actual people that we know, and Twitter doesn’t have a spam filter for DMs to prevent that.

So do yourself a favor and whisper in people’s ears on Twitter if you know them, or you really do have something private to tell them.

TrueTwit Validation

As weird as whispering in the ear of someone you just met sounds, there is something even more socially inept that people do on Twitter. Imagine that you see someone admiring the artwork at the party. You like the painting too, so you think to strike up a conversation. You walk up and introduce yourself, but before this new person will talk to you, he asks you prove you are in fact a human and not an android.

That’s right. It’s like asking every person you meet to show you their driver’s license. But a shocking amount of people (certainly not you) on Twitter do this through a service called TrueTwit. You’ve probably gotten their auto-DMs, “So-and-so uses TrueTwit validation. To validate click here:”. Now, if you’re trying to build your audience and reach new readers, is it very welcoming to ask them to prove that they’re people?

TrueTwit sells itself as a way to prevent spam by preventing bots from following you. Bots are accounts that exist specifically to tweet ads or retweet items of interest on a particular subject. We’ll come back to those in another post, because they can actually be useful. Remember, followers are the people listening to you. That doesn’t mean that you have to be listening to them. So by using TrueTwit, you’re asking someone to click multiple times just for privilege of listening to what you’re saying. Who besides someone who already knows you is going to do that? Also, some of the worst offenders in the world of Twitter spam, aren’t bots at all (See item 1 above).

If you’re following someone who sends spam, unfollow them. It’s not hard. If someone looks like a bot or a spammer don’t follow them. But alienating people by both sending a much-hated auto-DM AND asking them to prove that they’re real isn’t going to build your platform.

Let’s recap on our ways to avoid Twitter party fouls:

  • Use your best cocktail party manners.
  • Focus on engaging with readers rather than spamming Twitter with links to your books.
  • Only send Direct Messages if you have something to say to a user that should be private between the two of you.
  • Be accessible by making it easy to follow you.