Twitter: A series of observations in 140 characters or less

What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail

Always try to find a silver lining.  The other night, suffering horribly from allergies and with a sick baby, I woke up at about 11:30 p.m. and really didn’t sleep again for the rest of the night.  Somewhere about 3 a.m., I came up with a great short story idea.  It’s dark and horrible, and people will be a little nervous about me when they read it, but hey, better to get it out on paper, right?

What does the future hold?

I think next Friday I’ll be doing a piece on the Atlantic Hotel in Missoula, Montana.  If you’ve read my novel The Imaginings, you know that this is one of the pivotal settings of the book.  And it’s definitely an interesting place.

But without further ado…

The following series of thoughts will follow Twitter rules for length, which, if you don’t know already, must be less than 140 characters.

The previous statement made it in 140 characters. I’m not sure why it has to be 140 characters. Who came up with that?

I will say that it makes one more adept at stating their thoughts in a quick, concise way, unless you feel it’s important enough (1/2)

(2/2) that you carry it into two tweets.

I will also say that while I still struggle with this in my writing, I’ve learned to tweet only using one space between sentences.

When did we come up with that? I always remember it being two spaces. But now that’s considered amateur. Hard to teach an old dog new tricks

(That last one came in right at 140. And notice that I had to leave off the end punctuation. That’s okay in the Twitter world.)

But anyway, I first heard about Twitter with some commercial that showed the twitter bird saying, “me, me, me.”

Anyone remember that commercial? I thought it was really funny. And for quite awhile, I thought I would never join Twitter.

Most people say writers should join. Here’s a link to 1 such article (Twitter would actually shorten this link to fit)

Then I wrote a flash fiction piece for @vamplit publishing, and they said I had to have a Twitter account. Dammit!

(If you didn’t know, the @ in front of vamplit would let them know that I had mentioned them in a tweet.  You can also (1/2))

((2/2) do a hashtag # in front of a word, such as #horror #writer, and people searching for that will find your tweets on that topic)

Which brings up one thing I’ve really liked about Twitter. You can join groups talking about certain things, such as #storycraft.

#storycraft is a weekly 1 hour twitter session where people get together and discuss various topics about writing hosted by @AuthorKimKoning

With life as it is, I haven’t been to #storycraft in months, but I met some great people there and got some great tips.

Honestly, it was the longest time I spent on Twitter, which brings me to my next point.

I wrote a tweet once that said, “I’m pretty sure I’m doing this wrong.” And it’s true. Here’s what I do at Twitter:

(I realize that I may lose followers over this post)

(And what’s up with that?  “Followers”?  Did Charles Manson start Twitter? Jim Jones? There has to be a story here)

Anyway, I tweet my blog posts (actually that happens automatically from WordPress).

I also tweet the blog posts of other writers with whom I’m friends.

That’s about it. And the latter is the large majority of my tweets. I don’t really feel right putting out a lot of self-promotional stuff.

Sure, I occasionally will throw in some random thought or observation, but I always feel a little silly (see the tweet about “me, me, me”)

I don’t consider myself enough of a celebrity that people will actually care what I’m doing or thinking 24/7.

Maybe it’s because I don’t really care about what most celebrities are doing 24/7.

Do I want to know Stephen King’s thoughts on writing? Sure. What he had for breakfast? Not so much.

So I’m doing it all wrong, right? I’m not really interacting. And I’m only really on when I’m promoting someone else.

But I don’t think I’m alone. Most of you are already familiar with automated tweets that you schedule in advance without even being present.

So is anyone out there? Or is it getting to a point where we’ll all just schedule our tweets for an audience of no one?

It’s like late night infomercials. Or radio from midnight to six. I used to be a dj, and that was my schedule, but (1/2)

(2/2) I was never in the station during those hours. I pre-recorded everything and then went home.

Or to the bar. It was weird to hear myself on the radio while I sat having a beer.

But the sad thing was there was no one at the helm to answer the calls from those poor teenagers making requests we couldn’t play anyway.

But anyway, back on topic, here’s the tricky part. I’m still getting new followers.

I haven’t done anything on Twitter in two months, yet I’m still getting new followers. Where are they coming from? Is my silence appealing?

Are they fans? Fellow writers? Or are they just people following me in hopes of getting more followers themselves?

I’m guessing it’s mostly the latter. And if that’s the case, it’s one of the same things that irritates me about Facebook.

Do they even know me, or are they just gathering names? Did they look at any of my tweets? What if I’m a complete lunatic sociopath?

(Actually, that would probably just get me more followers)

And if they’re fans, what sort of obligation do I have to them? I love the community of fellow writers, but do I have the time?

It’s like I said about my blog last week. Just because people are still reading, do I have to keep writing? Or is it just a good idea?

What do I want from you?

Your thoughts? Don’t worry, you can make them longer than 140 characters. In fact, I hope you will.

Hope to see you back next week for my post on the Atlantic Hotel.

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22 thoughts on “Twitter: A series of observations in 140 characters or less

  1. You say you don’t like twitter, man!!??
    You are perfect for twitter!
    What you just did is a twitter-er’s dream–you must have a special thought process to allow you to do that!
    All my tweets are tiny then filled in with #hashtags until I reach 140.
    Glad you are back sir!
    Perfect season.

    1. Thanks, Penelope. Admittedly, I had to check and adjust a few to get the 140, but most of them I was able to do just on visual. So, damn! Maybe I am perfect for Twitter 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is going well for you and your various projects.

      1. If you can do it just by looking you should take advantage. For most of us mere twitter mortals it is an arduous task. 😛 One of my goals this past few months has been to increase my followers, and it really is helping with getting new eyes to my blog and books. I also found a way to get rid of people who don’t follow back in once fell swoop–it’s . If you need help just ask. Thanks again–great post Paul.

        1. Hey Penelope, thanks for the thoughts (and the link). Interesting enough, I haven’t really sought out more than a handful of people to follow. I usually am just following people who have decided to follow me.

          Glad to hear that your increased activity has helped get more people seeing your work. You deserve it. I think I’m getting some perspective on Twitter and will hopefully be using it more to my advantage (and pleasure as well… otherwise why do it?). I’m thankful to Aniko for her recommendation of Hootsuite.

          Thanks again for your comments.

  2. I love this post. It echoes my views on Twitter. I used to find live people out there. Not so much, anymore, but sometimes I still try.
    (Under 140 words.)

    1. Well done, Marie. And yes, I do wonder how many people are ACTIVELY following Twitter. Actually, I have had a few “conversations,” but it’s rare that I have time to monitor the activity.

      Thanks for your 140 characters 🙂

  3. When I first signed up for Twitter, I couldn’t see the logic in it and kind of let it sit there, untouched, like moldy bread. Over the past year, I’ve learned to embrace it not just as a marketing tool, but as a way to meet people. I’ve gone to cons where I’ve met Twitter buds face to face for the first time. Really cool. Not always easy to condense my thoughts, though. But I’m learning!

    1. Good point, Hunter. I think that’s how I look at blogging. I loved going to WHC and meeting people whose blogs I had read for the past year. I just don’t think I’ve committed enough time to Twitter to really get to know anyone that I didn’t already know through blogging. So I feel like I’ve been using it just like you originally did: signed up for promotion, but didn’t really use it effectively.

      And I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that brevity isn’t really my strong suit, either.

      Thanks for your two cents, my friend.

  4. Love it! I retweet other blogs too plus mine. Some conversations, but have to be at right time-I have a life! Never done 2/2 but love #. Thx

    140 exactly, just wanted to see if I could do it. I’m still trying to figure out the best hashtags to use for different subjects, and I don’t auto-follow people. I see no point in following the marketing companies that follow me, and I check the tweets of the others. Some are just w-a-a-y out there! Thanks for an enjoyable read.

    1. Well done on the 140, Jennifer 🙂

      I think maybe part of the problem is that I haven’t figured out how to really use Twitter (and haven’t taken the time to do such). I have figured out how to do lists (like fellow writers from the dark side), but I haven’t taken the time to see just what they are doing (as opposed to for some reason, seeing a million tweets on my home page, even from people I don’t follow). Maybe if I just watched what people were doing like me (or used the hashtag searches effectively), I might enjoy it more.

      Then again, I don’t necessarily know that I have the time to sacrifice to that endeavor. Such a sticky wicket. Or is it “tricky wicket”? I can never remember.

      Thanks for your comments.

  5. Jason Darrick 10/12/2012 — 4:03 pm

    Twitter is such a great marketing tool, but I think the key to being a successful tweeter (yikes) is that one has to make connections. I made friends before I made readers or buyers.

    There’s an addage out there that says “Twitter makes me love people I’ve never met, while Facebook makes me hate the people I know.” I think the character limit helps to foster that connection. It’s a micro-blog for just that reason, and hey, some folks DO want to know what others had for breakfast. To each their own. 🙂

    1. Jason, I’ve never heard that adage, but it’s stinkin’ awesome, and I can definitely understand the part about Facebook. The lack of face-to-face interaction (real face-to-face, not Facebook-to-Facebook) seems to give people license to say all their opinions that they wouldn’t necessarily blurt out if they were actually communicating in a real-life situation.

      And you’re probably right about the breakfast thing. I’m reminded of the show TMZ. “Hey, J-lo is at the airport McDonalds!” And we watch… or at least I’ve been guilty of doing such.

      So in your opinion, do I need to interact more, or is what I’m doing (my own blog and promoting others) okay? Or I guess more specifically, do you think I’ll have any marketing success at Twitter doing what I’ve been doing?

      1. Jason Darrick 10/13/2012 — 4:45 pm

        Promoting others is absolutely wonderful, but engaging in conversations has the same basic effect as being engaged in real life: people get to know you. I think that’s the key to successfully marketing yourself as an author.

        Readers don’t want a string of book-spam (guilty), whether yours or the works of others. Once in a while those tweets are necessary (and I’d wager that they’re expected at this point), but I think the most successful marketers have a decent mix of both.

        In summary: you’re doing very well, but if you have a free moment or three, try chatting on the tweet-box.

  6. “Twitter makes me love people I’ve never met, while Facebook makes me hate the people I know.” That is too funny, Jason! And true.

    I’ve had my ups and downs with Twitter, too, Paul. I felt pressured to use it, then I found a few uses for it. Lately I just haven’t made time for it.

    And yeah, what’s up with single spacing between paragraphs? It’s taken me a year to relearn that and I still don’t do it automatically. I run all my blog posts through find and replace to get rid of the lingering ones before posting. Agh.

    1. Thanks, Michelle, and I think you’ve nailed it on the head. It comes down to making time, and in my life right now, it’s just not a priority.

      And I’m not sure what’s up with the single spacing. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it, but like you, I’ve discovered the “find and replace.” I don’t do it for my blog posts, but I’ve done it if a magazine or anthology specifically requests it.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

  7. I use Twitter as a way to get a feed of links that people with similar interests found worth sharing. I do not view it as primarily a conversational tool, although I realize that puts me in the minority. I will chat, but I can’t do that in real time very often because I’m busy, well, talking to people who are really there. I don’t care if a tweet is automated, although I will send a thanks or RT if the information it links to is useful to me. I know this is terribly anti-social, and everyone is probably going to be very angry with me for refusing to play by their rules, but… I use technology (even Twitter) only in as much as it suits my needs. I am not sure why everyone wants there to be a real person at the other end, in real time; the nice thing about print (even electronic print) has always been that it can transmit across the boundaries of time. “Now” loses primacy in written conversation. Wanting someone to be sitting at the other end of their Tweet is a little like wanting all bloggers to be sitting, right now, at the other end of their comment stream. That’s silly. So I just disregard society’s rules on this one!


    PS – Decidedly *not* 140 chars!

    1. Thanks, Aniko. And some good points. If we look at Twitter as advertising, then yes indeed, there is no need to be live all the time (although I do sit with baited breath waiting for responses to my blog 🙂 ). But I think Twitter started out as a social networking thing (much like instant messaging maybe?), then was discovered for it’s marketing usefulness.

      Seems to me that to use it as an effective marketing tool, it needs to be a little bit of both. Some automated but then some live, so it doesn’t seem too spammy.

      Thanks again for your back and forth with me about Twitter at TESSpecFic. Some good information. I think I definitely need to employ HootSuite for the automated side, and then perhaps if I just hopped on for a few minutes (literally) a day and interacted with people live, maybe that would be a better usage if I’m going to continue with Twitter.

      And no, yours was decidedly not 140 characters, but leave it to you to break all the rules 🙂

      1. the happy horror writer 10/14/2012 — 2:20 pm

        Paul, hi!

        I agree that a mix of auto and live tweets would be the best of all worlds. I do try to be live on Twitter a couple of times a week, and I enjoy the casual conversation and sense of connection. I just can’t see the point in getting angsty if someone isn’t live, especially if they have posted a link to something I find useful/interesting/entertaining. Even auto-tweets take effort, and I appreciate that someone sifted through the internet and took the time to share something worthy of my time. That remains true whether they did that work three days or three seconds ago. 🙂

        Happy weekend to you!!!


  8. Jen Pouyadou 10/14/2012 — 9:31 am

    I think it’s natural to use social media in spurts…it makes a bit more sense than waiting constantly for Facebook to ding (which for me has always conjured the image of the desperate teenage crush). Social media is supposed to ‘enrich’ our lives – not BE our lives…it’s a tool that can (occasionally) be entertaining as well as useful. No-one should have to change the number of spaces they put after a period – what would our high school English teachers say? They would fling their chalk to the ground in a frenzy.

    That being said, it is always a pleasure to find the link to your new blog in my inbox. So…keep up the good work.

    1. Jen,

      Thanks so much for your comments. And I agree (and I like the analogy to the desperate teenage crush 🙂 )

      And as an English teacher, yes, I want to fling my chalk… or I guess dry erase marker… to the ground. However, many anthologies, magazines, publishers, etc… are now requesting the single space. Hard to get used to.

      Thanks again, and I hope you have a good rest of the weekend.

  9. I’ve a sort of love-hate relationship with Twitter: it allows you to share links and suchlike with a large number of people, but at the same time tweets are like one raindrop during a storm. Individually, I wonder how much they’re worth. I have to confess that I spend very little time reading other people’s tweets (sorry, followers) and of the ones that I do read, there are still fewer that I pay a great deal of attention to. (Of course, it could just be that in order to get the best out of Twitter and the like you have to use it the right way – that is, in some way that I haven’t yet worked out. It wouldn’t be the first time. :-))

    Having said that, every little helps, and so I like to tweet other people’s blog posts and so on, and give random shout-outs once in a while. I’m not sure that it actually does much good, but it costs me very little effort, so why not?

    In general, my advice to any writer would be ‘less tweeting, more writing’. Admittedly, however, I’m not best-known for being marketing-savvy, so if you want to make many sales you might do well to disregard my advice!

    1. Hey Mari,

      Sorry it’s taken me awhile to get to your comment. I like your points, and you have honestly echoed many of my own sentiments. I, too, wonder how much good one of my tweets (your proverbial raindrop) does. And I also read very few tweets. Maybe this is why I feel like I shouldn’t be promoting my own stuff that much… it just feels like an abuse of the system. So like you, instead I chose to tweet the posts of other people. Maybe it will come around. I guess it does really, because I see other people putting out my posts. It is tricky, and I think you’re right that the key is “less tweeting, more writing.”

      So I guess I better get on that 🙂

      thanks again.

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