Last night I committed one of the cardinal sins of any author who is trying to build up a following, and I committed that sin most gleefully. I unfollowed over 1000 people on Twitter. That’s crazy talk, you say? They’ll unfollow right back, you say? Maybe it is crazy, and I’m sure many people will unfollow me, because the only reason they were following me in the first place was because I was following them. This is exactly the problem with Twitter and writers.
When I first decided to make an online presence for myself I scoured the interwebs for advice. I read every blog I could find on the subject, and watched what other writers were doing on Twitter. Everything I read told me one thing: to follow other writers, and lots of them. You’ll learn about the craft they said. You’ll build connections, they said. Bullshit.
At first, my foray into Twitter was a pleasant one; I met many nice people, some of who I still talk to today. But as I increased my following, just to get folks to follow back, my Twitter stream was hijacked. Before long, no one was chatting anymore, no useful tweets, no more conversational questions that had led to so many great talks in the past. What I ended up with was one giant rolling billboard for every writer trying to pitch his or her book. A virtual onslaught of shortened links, small excerpts and mostly non-witty comments thought up just to get me, and others, to click said links.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the power of Twitter, and its ability to get your name and book out there among the masses. But the problem was that I wasn’t interested in many of the books that were being shoved down my throat with fifteen tweets a day that said the same thing. People might as well have posted “I don’t have anything interesting to say, but please buy my book anyway, and I’m going to spam the hell out of your timeline until you do.” I’ve read several books that were recommended to me through Twitter, and even a few from links that I’ve clicked. But more often than not I just watched as those links spiraled downward, being replaced by more links, and excerpts that I didn’t care about.
It’s my own fault, I followed advice from people I’d never met, or would meet. While Twitter is a great marketing tool, I realized I had done it all wrong. I had followed back every writer who followed me, and I went looking for other writers, no matter the genre, or subject matter. What I should have been doing is following those who I had shared interests with. I followed romance writers, YA fiction writers, and even some business writers. None of which I’m interested in. Not to say anything negative about these people, it’s just their genre isn’t my cup of tea.
So, I decided to take back my twitter feed. I started out yesterday following 1562 people, mostly other writers, and bloggers. Think about that, 1562 people. It’s no wonder I couldn’t sort through the spam to get to the good stuff. I’ve seen some Twitter users who follow several thousand people, and a few really ambitious folks have tens of thousands they follow, hoping all those people will follow back. I’m now following 279 people who truly interest me. I don’t even care if they follow me back or not. That’s not what it’s about for me anymore. I like what they have to say, so I follow.
When I started my house cleaning yesterday I had 2073 followers, now I have 1964. That number will most certainly drop drastically over the next few days. I’m assuming those who run the un-follow programs will see that I’m no longer following them and in turn drop me as well, and that’s okay. Those people aren’t interested in what I’m saying anyway. They were only following me as long as I followed them.
I’m not trying to knock anyone else’s way of doing things, if following every person who follows you is working out, and you’re selling a ton of books that way, then great. More power to you. But for me, I had lost something that I truly enjoyed in the beginning, and that’s interacting with other people who have the same interests as I do, and isn’t that what Twitter’s really about anyway? Or am I being naïve? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.