Monday, August 17, 2009

The Problem With Twitter

I have to admit, I don't really get Twitter. It's not for lack of trying. Nor for lack of gratitude. After all, Twitter essentially got me a publisher.

But do I need to know that everyone is chugging coffee every morning as if their mental health depends on it, is addicted to reality TV stars (and their pointless Twitter updates), or is taking their cat to the vet?

I know there are beneficial twitter folks to follow. I have my local newspaper on my home page so I can be updated about traffic jams I most certainly will want to avoid, as well as updates on trials I am interested in. (Yes, I know this sounds weird, but honestly it is the only way I'm getting any information these days about the trial of the boy who murdered my friend). I know there are airlines who update flight statuses (can't you find that out via internet, also?) and coffee shops that offer coupons (what is it with the obsession to tweet coffee?) and whole plots to overthrow governments by organized protests that can only be organized via Twitter (hello, brave Iranians).

I know there are uses for it.

I just can't, for the life of me, figure out how it works.

This is my problem: if you want to effect some kind of change, or market yourself in some way (let's be real - I'm not trying to overthrow a government any time soon - I'd just like to meet other writers and get the word out about my book when the times comes to do so), you have to have a lot of followers. And if those followers have a lot of followers, what is the likelihood that they're reading your tweet anyway?

I can't possibly keep up with 2,000 people's tweets. And let's be honest. Some of you tweeters tweet A LOT!

And it isn't as if I'm not interested in your lives. I am. Really. I just can't keep up with all of you. And still keep a life of my own. Let's even say I stop vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, folding laundry and doing dishes ( gee, what heaven that would be!!), I still have to feed and clothe my kids, find time to write and edit, and squeeze in sleep in there. I could literally be at the computer all day reading tweets and replying to them and get NOTHING done - and be no closer to marketing my book better....

because, and let's be honest, how many of those people are reading and engaging in my tweeted life?

The catch-22 of Twitter is this: to make it useful you have to have a lot of followers, and if you have a lot of followers, you can't build the relationships with those people to make them interested in having a relationship with you - or even notice your tweets among their thousands.

So what do I do? I use Twitter to find people I might not otherwise know about. Writers. With blogs and website. Blogs and websites where I can actually get to know them and interact with them in something deeper than 140 characters.

Sure, I may still check in on Twitter to make sure they've had their cuppa joe and their cat is back to health, but mostly I find them in the real world: The blogging world.


  1. Huh. Interesting.

    I don't know that I don't like Twitter more than I like blogging, actually.


    It's just...I've met so many people. And struck up so many friendships with people I never would have found blogging wise. But I can go to favourite twitterers and go through their follow lists, and ERGO! New ones for me to follow, new conversations to enjoy!

    I dunno. I really like my bloggin, but I love my twitter. Make sense?

  2. I don't use twitter as much as a lot of people do, and I certainly never use it to write mundane things like "I'm drinking tea!", but I do like the spontaneous conversations I have on there sometimes where you never know who will join in.

  3. I stopped using the status update on Facebook because I doubt people care what I'm doing every second of the day.

    I have a Twitter account. I even get emails where I have a new follower. Then I feel bad because they are following me and I'm headed nowhere! I do plan on using Twitter to post when I've updated my blog. I plan on using TweetDeck, where I can post my updated blog link to my Facebook status and my Twitter.

    I couldn't keep up with Twitter when I only followed Heidi, Jen and Kerri. I can't imagine what I'd do now that I have more followers. Have a nervous breakdown??

    BTW - I've recognized you on my blog.

  4. Jen - I think that's part of my point that I completely missed saying.

    I like Twitter for the fact that I've found so many people there. I love it for that. It's easier to find writers there than blogs, I think. (And I do the same... go to their follow lists and find more).

    But once I've found them, I tend to go to their blogs and have my conversations there. I feel like I can actually get to know them by their blogs, whereas on twitter, I'm only getting a snippet of their day. And I know they are there. Twitter - who knows when people come and go? I end up surfing through six hours of back tweets to find something of interest - and then it's too late to get in a conversation about their tweet. Does that make sense?

    Lenore - I guess I've never really had many of those spontaneous conversations except with my writing group, who I converse with all the time anyway. It does sound fun... maybe I'm just not fun enough?


    I think I'm just not doing this right.

  5. Brit - wow. I'm blushing. thanks!!

    And I do care what you're doing each minute. You have the most interesting minutes of anyone I know.

    "Poking at dead body in dumpster"
    "Carrying my ice pick in a dark alley"
    "watching ice melt off the bed of a truck. Is there a body under that tarp?"


  6. You know Heidi, if I actually put that stuff on my status update, I would be more interesting. LOL Can you imagine what people would think though? I'd have men in white jackets pulling up to my office quite quickly!

  7. I'm with you, Heidi. I like blogging - and visiting others' blogs - WAY more. I joined Twitter a couple months back, about the same time I finally caved into the Facebook Craze, and while I follow some interesting folks on Twitter, most of them I met through writing blogs first.

    Although I've actually managed to drive a little traffic to my three blogs by using Twitter, I, too, am a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Tweets at any given second! I mean, my goodness, doesn't anybody play outside anymore? And if they do, can they resist tweeting about it?

  8. Laura - welcome!! It's nice to see new faces here... and now I have you on Twitter too, although I'll probably just see you at your blog! :)

    The playing outside comment reminded me of the other Twitter catch-22: you need to have an interesting life to tweet about, but you can't do interesting things all the time if you are tweeting!!

  9. Now, I'm following YOU, Heidi! What fun we'll have discussing our favorite coffee brands and most hated chores and other interesting Twitter-apt stuff! Maybe we'll even squeeze in an important nugget of truth or two. It could happen in the Twitterverse.

  10. to give you an idea of strength in numbers. My interview with MOlly went out on twitter - so many people picked it up and frwd it - in less that 2 hrs I had 500 hits. tweet deck keeps you organized. I create group where I can follow editors and agents. I try to keep up with authors but am not as on the ball there. I get some in the know info though. however only do it if you want to.

  11. Ha! I can't follow it to save my life. Honestly. Baffles me!

    I have to stay away or I'll never get anything done.

    Also I'd likely post ridiculous crap like, "Going to town to get new wheels for my canoe" or "Banana ceilings are great- why is the fruit always upside down?"

    Or, "I am conversing with imaginary people. Please do not attempt to talk to me for the next two hours. Thanks."

    So maybe it's better if I just write books instead. I dunno.

  12. Heidi - that is hilarious!! You are exactly the kind of Twitterer I need to follow! :)

    But writing is good, too. You do that exceptionally well.

  13. The only way I can manage Twitter is to follow only those that I know or share an interest with. It can be overwhelming, especially when you follow a serial Tweeter. I think it's still very new and a lot kinks need to be worked out. Some have mentioned having a "favorites" where you can follow people, thus create a following, but you can read the tweets from your favorites and eliminate having to scroll through all the pages. We'll see what happens.

  14. Now that I have installed TweetDeck, I can tweet! Yay!

    I have a group for my writing buds, blog buds, industry news. Let's see how this goes.