After extolling the virtues of my favourite writing community platform, Facebook, I would be remiss if I didn’t give proper credit to the social media platform that took my writing community virginity: Twitter. I’ve written several posts on my personal blog about what an awesome tool Twitter can be, but there are some downsides as well, so let’s explore a little, shall we?
I’ve heard people describe Twitter as a massive river of all the information you can imagine, and at any given point in time you can dunk your head in and see what’s floating past. Every time you dunk your head you get something different. Much of this depends on who you’re following and what topics are trending. For example, I follow a lot of artists and creative types. In fact, out of the near five-hundred people I follow, more than half of them are either musicians, writers, entertainers, or other artists. I hopped on Twitter on last week just before dinner and all I saw were tweets about Eurovision 2015. Quite literally nine out of every ten tweets mentioned this topic. Not having the slightest inclination to give a crap about Eurovision I hopped back over to Facebook.
So as you can see it doesn’t always work out. That being said, Twitter does have something for everybody. I just did a random search for #ThreeLeggedDog and got back hundreds of results ranging from music, books, information about actual three-legged dogs, and one particular yoga studio that was really plugging the three legged dog posture. Now, because Twitter is so vast, when things catch on they really catch on. In the early days of my blog I was lucky to get a few hundred page views a month. I had the filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mall Rats, Chasing Amy, Dogma) mention my blog in one of his tweets and in the next thirty minutes my site received as much traffic as it had in the previous three months combined.
As a writer, especially in my early days, I found Twitter to be a very valuable resource. Because of the sheer size of the thing there was no problem that I could face that was unique to me. A quick search put me in touch with thousands upon thousands of other writers with the same problems, and hundreds upon hundreds with not just one answer but a whole bevy of answers to choose from. If I wanted to see who was currently writing, and find out more about them, a simple search for #amwriting did the trick. If I was having trouble with ideas for a blog post I’d look for #writingprompts or #flashfiction. Mired in a perpetual state of revising? No problem, #amediting to the rescue!
For all the help Twitter is, let’s be clear that it’s not all bubble gum and rainbows, as I found out once I started following more than a hundred people. As it turns out there are a lot of folks out there who either don’t “get” Twitter or who think shouting into a hurricane is somehow productive. Twitter is about engagement, not mass marketing. It’s about having a conversation, not talking at somebody 140 characters at a time. If every tweet you send is some variation of, “Buy my book!” or “Look at me!” you’re going to turn off a lot of potential champions. Twitter users become less inclined to engage in a conversation or share your tweet with others if the only thing they ever see from you is shameless self promotion.
There are also a lot of people looking to be super creepy, judgemental, righteous, racist, bigoted, homophobic, or simply looking to pick a fight. I picked a Twitter fight not that long ago. I think I came out on top, but as a general rule I’m officially recommending you don’t engage the whackados on Twitter (or any other social media platform).
Overall, Twitter is a good tool to use and a place where you can find a real sense of community – whatever you want that community to be. It can also be a great way to promote your work, or the work of someone else (try it!), and if nothing else you can use it to look at pictures of cats – or three-legged dogs.
Andrew F. Butters is a 40-something married father of two living in Cambridge, Ontario. He will tell you that his first published work was Losing Vern as part of the Orange Karen: A Tribute to a Warrior anthology but in reality it was a 500 word anecdote about how he accidentally lit himself on fire that made it into the third installment of the Darwin Awards books.
Fire is not the only foe for Andrew as he has received four severe concussions and four “minor” ones, the last coming in the summer of 2011. It goes without saying that he is totally on board with head protection and brain health. He also advocates for LGBTQ++ and is a firm believer in equal rights for all members of society.
Andrew sometimes lets his love of attention override common sense. Evidence of this can be found at http://potatochipmath.com.