How NOT to use Twitter

We stumbled across a tweet from Neil Fletcher last week and it struck a chord. Sonja and I have been talking about how we can promote our book, and the dangers of overselling ourselves on Twitter. Clearly we are right to be cautious about it, as Neil explains in his article, reposted with his permission here:

‘I was amused last week to gain another follower on Twitter.  What tickled my funnybone was the fact that this guy has followed (and very quickly unfollowed) me at least half a dozen times before.

Clearly, he loves Twitter as he follows about 62,000 people.  What astonishes me is that he has about 58,500 followers.

Why am I astonished?  Why do I want every other tweet to say “read my book”, “do you know I’ve written a book”, “have you seen this quote from my book” and so on?

Yeah, we get it – you’ve written a book.  Once you’ve told me that, you don’t need to tell me again – I can retain information quite well.  Now tell us something new or, at the very least, wait a couple of weeks before you tell me again about your book.

No, I don’t mean the other half of your tweets should be “have you read my blog”, “what do you think about this article on my blog”, “thanks for retweeting about my latest blog post”.  (Are you getting a feeling for why I’ve never followed this guy back?)

And, yes, I am fully aware of the irony of publicising this blog post on my Twitter stream!

Clearly, the guy is intelligent – he’s written a book – and, if his publicity is to be believed, he is or has been a pretty good salesman.  Why then is he getting this so wrong?

I understand the need to publicise the book, I understand the need to publicise the blog but, please, show me something beneath the surface – who inspires you, what articles have you read and enjoyed, what bugs you, anything but constantly banging on about you!’

So, we have been warned! We share Neil’s belief that to succeed on Twitter you need to share more than sell – to have real two way conversations instead of pumping out a stream of one-way self promoting traffic. Whether it’s a book or a business, Twitter works brilliantly if you use it to connect with people. Strike the wrong note, and your promotion will backfire. We’ll be treading carefully!

But please do tell us if we overstep the mark….

Neil Fletcher is a product sales manager for one of the world’s largest engineering companies, trying to blend new selling skills with old. Friends and colleagues occasionally describe him as ‘never knowingly under-opinionated’.

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  1. Griselda

    Hi Sharon, I understand Neils frustrations and the need to be careful how you promote your book from your twitter page –
    BUT there is some value in repeating tweets because you have to bear in mind that most of your followers will not be online at the same time (due to working times and even time zones). Some level of repetition is needed to reach a wider audience.

    Also a better way to promote your book is with some help from other credible and respected personalities on twitter. Get other “tweeps” to tweet about your book, its incredible content and the launch so that it creates more of a ripple effect. In which case it won’t be just you telling us how great your book is. Hopefully with this approach, Neil and others like him will not take offence but start to notice and probably be intrigued enough to get a copy.

  2. Neil Fletcher

    Griselda, I absolutely agree with you that there is value in repeating tweets to maximise your exposure across working hours and timezones. My particular ‘beef’ in this instance was the almost constant tweeting about the book and the blog. Some level of repetition is desirable; CONSTANT repetition is not!

    Your book promotion idea is also very valid – I may even take it further and ask the credible and respected personalities to post a blog review and then tweet about it. This would overcome, to a certain extent, the transient nature of tweeting.

  3. Sharon Tanton

    Thanks Griselda, and Neil. We’ll definitely try and excite other people about the book, so that they spread the word for us. That’s the way it should work with valuable content – create something that people really want to talk about – and they’ll want to share it. Then it moves away from self promotion to a dialogue – your audience adds their thoughts to the content, and the story gets bigger!

  4. Charles H. Green

    Neil, Sharon, Griselda, thanks for a great point. I too find the auto-follow and mindless-bot takeover of Twitter (and every other media is under threat) to be a Very Large Negative.

    I’d go a little further; as Twitter users become more sophisticated, they n0 longer read their general stream, but rather use searches or lists or @ names, so the excuse of multiple time-zones isn’t as valid as it used to be. I agree a little repetition doesn’t hurt, but, I don’t know, maybe 3 times max?

    One great way to use Twitter – and Sonja and Sharon, you guys do this – is to generously bring attention to other people. This gets called by the name ‘curation,’ but it really does three things:

    a. It does curate, i.e. it wholesales information that is of interest to people who have similar interests to your own;
    b. It creates a coherent point of view, your own, that allows people to see information filtered through a particular perspective;
    c. It creates a community, with a sense of shared obligation, which will among other things reciprocate by tweeting your own books back to you when they come out.

    And it works! And it beats the heck out of some 50,000-follower auto-blabbing machine. I read you, not them.

  5. antony

    I agree wholeheartedly with the post and comments and won’t follow anyone who looks like they’ll clutter up my twitter stream with relentless self promotion.

    I am being followed by one twitterer who is following over 270,000 people, followed by nearly 326,000 and who ends his biog with “interact with me now!”. How is he going to have the time to interact with someone new?

  6. Neil Fletcher

    Charles, I love your compression into three short points of how Twitter can be great. You have given us an outstanding example of how to communicate succinctly without losing anything. I doff my hat to you, sir!

    Antony, I take it a stage further and tend to steer clear of those who tweet relentlessly every 10 minutes throughout the whole of the day. I may be missing some nuggets of gold but, like everybody else, I just don’t have the time to read everything. I find myself increasingly just skimming through my Twitter feed looking for faces I know and stopping to see what they have to say. I guess it’s a low-tech version of the lists mentioned by Charles.

    You make a valid point about interaction when huge numbers are involved. That said, I do follow a guy who has over 25,000 followers and follows over 22,000 people but still finds the time to respond to my tweets. It may help that I also interact with him on LinkedIn. I think a lot of people dive into social media expecting very quick returns but I don’t think it works like that. If you take the time to identify the people you really want to interact with and then take some more time to engage them, it pays off. It’s a long game which requires patience but really delivers in the end.


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