Coming to Twerms with Twitter

As a would-be author and freelancer without a limitless supply of spare time, how on earth do I cut through the noise and make the most of Twitter?

tweet-150421_1280I’ll lay my cards on the table; I think Twitter is a monster of epic proportions.

I’ve tried to get to grips with Twitter for the last two or three years. I’ve listened into webinars, I’ve read blogs and I’ve watched videos; I’ve downloaded a dozen pdf e-books claiming things like 5-steps to Twitter Mastery, 10 Ways to Triumph over Twitter and so on; I’ve perused introduction-to’s and how-to’s and papers on the ethics of Twitter, the rules of Twitter and Twitter best practise; I’ve found out how often you’re supposed to Tweet and how many off-topic Tweets you can get away with and how you should thank people who re-Tweet you; and I’ve debated the wisdom of following thousands of people simply so they follow you back – even though nobody, nobody could possibly actually read thousands of people’s Tweets every day.

But I confess, after all this, I still haven’t tamed this yabbering monster in any meaningful way. I haven’t made friends with Twitter, I don’t have time to feed Twitter, and resent the white noise which streams from Twitter, day in and day out.

I know somewhere in there, there are gems and usefuls; links to fascinating blogs, tips and insights, information I’d struggle to access in any other way. I get it! But it’s like sifting a barrel of yellow sand to find a handful of white grains. I lose the will.

I know I’m missing a trick. I know I should do Twitter properly – for two very important reasons:

  1. I’m a writer – and a realist. I know I’m more likely to self-publish than be published in the conventional press. I don’t expect to enjoy the benefits of a corporate publicity engine, so Twitter is supposed to be a great platform for me and I’m supposed to embrace it. I’ve made a start, but it’s a stuttering, lacklustre one.
  2. I’m a professional freelance marketer. So it’s my job to understand Twitter and promote the opportunities it affords my clients to spread their message further and wider. And I do, I do. I know it has much to offer certain types of business. I can set my personal feelings aside and open their eyes to the benefits, even show them how to get started and build their presence. But I’m no advocate; on a personal level I don’t feel the Twitter love.

It’s this dual-personality that’s giving me the most problems. I can’t decide who I am on Twitter, and I think I should probably be two completely separate people. But how do I achieve this? I have a mixed following now, and I’m not sure how to go about splitting myself apart.

A while ago, I decided to commit to using Twitter for Writing Julie only. For a while this worked just fine. I unfollowed a few of the marketing related feeds I’d been tracking. Instead I added agents, publishing houses, writers and bookshops to my follows. I re-Tweeted my writerly blog posts. When other writers followed me I occasionally followed them back – but not always, because that’s how you end up with thousands of followers and follows and I was, and still am, resistant to this approach.

But then Marketing Julie started to creep back in. I began to use Twitter to keep track of feeds for a couple of my clients and, guess what? People I followed, followed me back. Imagine! Not only that, but I’d like to re-Tweet to help build my clients’ profiles and it’s a bit confusing, not to say pointless, to do this to a follower list which is perhaps 75% writerly.

So now I’m stuck and perplexed. I know I need to make some changes, to tame my two-headed beast. If I only felt the slightest love for Twitter, I’d be excited about this. Instead, I’m dragging my heels, big-time.

I think – although I’d appreciate any advice you have on this – I need two Twitter identities, one marketing and one writerly. But how do I separate out my followers and persuade perhaps half of them to migrate? Do I just abandon them and re-follow on another identity, hoping they’ll all jump on-board again? Or is there an easy way to do this? I bet there isn’t!

Then there’s the issue of devising a Twitter strategy, or rather, TWO Twitter strategies. Because I’m a marketer, and strategies is what we do.

I also need to decide whether I follow the few or the many – given that if I follow the many I’ll almost certainly be wilfully ignoring the majority of them. It feels like a nonsensical approach, with little value for anyone. Yet everyone’s doing it, which makes for a crazy, noisy world. So should I go along with it and add to the noise?

I just don’t know.

I’d really like to hear from you about your personal Twitter experiences. I want to love Twitter, so please share any positive stories you have. If you’ve found a workable approach to Twitter, please share that too. If you’ve created two Twitter identities for two aspects of your life, tell us how you make it work. What tools do you use, and how do you use them? If anything amazing or inspiring has come out of your presence on Twitter, inspire us in turn.

I genuinely want to tame this monster and I don’t know where to start.

20 thoughts on “Coming to Twerms with Twitter

  1. I love twitter (as you know) and have found many good writing friends there. It is chaotic sometimes and for my first few months I felt totally lost. Now I’m more used to it I find it positive, invigorating, and at times, very supportive. It’s really down to the contacts you make. The best part about twitter is you can flit in and out to suit you.
    The best way to discover new people is to see who people you already know and like are interacting with, then follow them and introduce yourself. You can also create lists to fit those you follow into more manageable groups (e.g. writers, bloggers etc.)
    I would advise you to have two accounts and unfollow then follow back like you said. You may lose some followers but the longer you leave it, the harder it gets. Hootsuite is good to keep an eye on both your accounts in one place.

    1. I’m definitely coming round to the idea of two accounts, although it could just end up being twice the trouble. I do use lists, but I’m still not filtering enough, and I know I miss Tweets from people I do want to properly follow, amongst those in which I have a more passing interest. The thing that perpetually frustrates me is the amount of inconsequential stuff that weighs Twitter down – and I’m as guilty of that as the next person – under the guise of keeping up your presence. So much extra noise!

  2. I think you need to learn to use Twitter lists. Apologies if this is something you know about already and use, but lists are the only way I can hear through all that ‘white noise’ and they’re a great way to filter people you’re following. Using lists will also mean that you can keep one Twitter account (if you don’t love Twitter yet – I don’t see how you will love it more if you have two accounts to keep updated and monitor).

    In case you don’t know how to use lists: Use the wheel (top right) and scroll to lists. Create some lists eg, marketing, writers, and when you follow someone new add them to the appropriate list (and put accounts you already follow into the appropriate lists).

    Then when viewing Twitter only view it a list at a time. For example, I have a list called ‘writerly / readerly’ for people who tweet about writing, but don’t promote their own work too often. I look at the tweets this list produces daily, and hardly ever look at the ‘home’ feed – there are just too many people in there saying random things I’m not interested in.

    Hope this helps.


    1. Hi Claire – thanks for joining in. I’m familiar with lists and I’ve tried to use them. At one point I had all my follows in one list or another, but then I lost track. And I realised that when you unfollow someone, they remain in whatever list you had them in. It was then that I realised you can also include people in lists without actually following them! I’ve also tried Hootsuite, which lines up lists alongside one another, so you can see a whole screen of different feeds, rather than one feed, but that takes me perilously close to overwhelm. Lists certainly help, but I’m afraid I’m coming to the ‘two accounts’ solution as a way of filtering not only inbound Tweets but more importantly, outbound ones. I’m also beginning to appreciate that I’m unlikely ever to love Twitter!

  3. I started out loving Twitter. I still like it far more than Facebook, but it seems there is so much more white noise on it now. Everybody is retweeting everybody, and I barely recognize my timeline. Retweeting is great, but when a tweep retweets hundreds of tweets a day, it gets so noisy. I couldn’t do it without lists. Makes it easier to sort through the noise. I have one or two lists I check in on every day that contain my most interactive tweeps (like you!). I always enjoy visiting there because people interact with each other, and it’s a fun way to socialize (especially for an introvert). The rest of my lists I try to check in on periodically.

    So sorry, I don’t have any suggestions. I’m starting to swim in it a bit myself lately.

    1. It certainly demands rigourous policing. I’m doing more on Twitter for clients now, and that’s my main reason for needing the split-personality approach. And it’s fair to say that news aggregators for the freight forwarding and logistics sector are unlikely to be interested in my writerly crises – so it seems only fair to separate the two. I don’t think there are any easy answers, but some people have found that certain approaches help. And, by the way, you’re one of the people I realised I was missing!

  4. As you can imagine, I find this post highly ironic!! All previous answers vis-a-vis Hootsuite, lists and multiple accounts are bang on. And I know you know how to do this.

    While you can’t tell your marketing lot to hot foot it to @JLMarketing (or whatever) you can mention or DM them and ask them nicely, explaining that will be of more relevance. They are more likely to notice and agree if done individually.

    But given your issue is too much noise to hear, stop going to their parties…. Put yourself on a Twitter diet and restrict yourself to ONLY reading tweets from, say,10 accounts. Bung them on a list, add this list as a stream on HS and (if you really want to break free), don’t even add your all-tweets news feed. Then all you will see are the tweets from the 10 accounts you’re really interested in. However, suggest you also add streams for @mentions/replies and your sent tweets.

    I’ll be generous and allow you to view tweets of another 10 for your second account. Again, add them to a list and add that stream in HS.

    So all you’ve got to watch is 2 x tabs on HS, and eg 20 accounts in total.

    You can do it. And if all else fails, I know this great company (!) that can knock you into shape 😉

    1. Funnily enough, I’ve been spurred on by my own frustration. That, and massively distracted by the whole task this afternoon. As of now, I have two twitter accounts, my writerly one (same as it ever was), plus another for marketing (@julielawfordbiz). It’s great advice to DM people individually and persuade them to transfer over, and I will certainly do this. I’ve split both accounts into multiple lists and all now reside on Hootsuite, which is vital now, as Twitter only allows you to have one account at a time open. Now I have to sort out what to post, and where. Gah! What was the name of that great company?? 😉 By the way, thanks for joining in the bloggy-chit-chat at last, my friend.

        1. I don’t know. I hope you don’t think I’ve been ignoring you?! It’s just that this comment was flagged as requiring moderation – which prompted me to presume it was your first. I *always* reply to comments too. And I check my spam box regularly – haven’t seen you in it. What’s going on?

  5. You’re not the only one. I struggled and struggled to figure out a way to use it and aside from linking recent blog posts (which feels lame) I can’t think of anything. I’ve found my Facebook page to be more diverse for sharing random stuff, it just doesn’t have the reach I suppose.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one. But I’m torn when it comes to thinking of things to post, because if one struggles to think of things to say, then the obvious conclusion is…. not to speak! Twitter has become swamped with trivia and attention-seeking. Sometimes it feels like The Emperor Has No Clothes… but then again, underneath all the flim-flam, there’s a useful application.

  6. My dear lady I cannot help you with your twitter situation as I have never gone there and have no interest to do so. You will surely figure it out and use it to your advantage. But on another note my wife have read some of your blog and comments to me and thinks you are brilliant. Having said that I wish you the best always and please continue to work on getting your book published as both my love and I wish to read it.

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