Sunday, February 8, 2015

Author Etiquette on Twitter

by Kristi Belcamino

Blatantly ripping off Holly West and Steve Weddle's idea of "I posed a question on Facebook ..."

My question was this: What do you all think about someone who sends out an automatic direct message on Twitter when you follow them? AND does it matter what the message says? For instance, if it says, "Hey, you can find me on Facebook or Goodreads here ..." is that different than "Check out my Amazon page ..."

For the record, I do not send out direct messages on Twitter when people follow me. I feel harsh unfollowing someone the minute I get one of these messages, but have to admit I am tempted ... What do you think?

The reason I don't direct message after a follow is this: my understanding of promoting yourself as an author on social media means that the majority of your posts/tweets are not about selling your book. That you are essentially selling yourself and if people connect with you, then they might buy your book. It is about forging relationships and connecting with others and sometimes the bonus is that they want to check out your writing, as well. 

This "understanding" allows me to have fun on social media instead of feeling like a huckster. If I felt like a huckster, I don't think I could do it. I guess I feel like a heel and schmuck to unfollow a really interesting NYT bestselling author simply because she direct messaged me on FB where I could find her on Facebook and Goodreads. She didn't direct me to her books, not exactly.

So, back to the question and some of the responses I received. I received so many I wish I could quote from each one, but here is a sampling of what I saw.

The majority of people felt one of two ways - either the direct messages were completely useless or extremely annoying and offensive.

While I tend to bristle at direct messages after I follow someone, the only message I wouldn't take offense to is from my fellow HarperCollins author, Tonya Kappes, who is a lovely and genuine and sweet person. She said this:

"I have a direct message that says "thank you for joining my limb on the twitter tree" just bc I'm southern and we have a thank you for everything...even when someone runs over you  BUT I hate and immediately unfollow people who tell me to buy their book or follow them on other social media sites. I think it's rude."

Erin Mitchell who is my guru on all things authors should and shouldn't do, said this when asked whether the content of the message makes a difference. For instance, I wouldn't be offended or unfollow Tonya if she sent the message from her comment above, so to me, that is a lot different than someone direct message me a link to their book on Amazon.

"Yes, content matters," said Mitchell, "but my regard for someone plummets when they do it regardless. And I live in the south. For me, it just creates work.

The majority of the commenters had strong feelings against these auto direct messages.

"Hate it," wrote Mary Sutton. "I don't know if I've ever unfollowed someone, but I've been tempted. And if the rest of their tweets are just promo, they're gone."

"It feels like spam to me and I immediately unfollow," said Jody Casella.

Shenya Galyan said this: "I hate the automated messages, no matter what they say. Even if it's a thanks, it's not, really, because it's automated. It's a meaningless thanks. Now, if it's obvious that someone responds to my follow with a *real*, intentional thanks, then I love it. Then, and only then, it's communication and not auto-respond detritus."

"Not down with this. I think it comes off like robo-sales," said Dan Malmon from Crimespree Magazine.

"I hate it all," wrote Joseph D'Agnese. "How professional can you possibly look carrying a billboard ad on your fucking forehead?"

Joelle Charbonneau, said she unfollows someone the minute they send a direct message. 

"It means the conversation they want to have is about me buying something instead of a mutual back and forth that might include me learning more about their work," she said. "That kind of message signals a one way street that I'm not interested in traveling! (That probably sounds harsh, but after getting dozens and dozens of those messages I am still wondering why anyone thinks they are a good idea.)"

"It's Spammish and unprofessional," said Celeste Ward.

"Don't do it," said Steve McPherson.

My favorite anti-direct message comment came from the hilarious and talented  Carol Tokar Pavliska:

"It's the most disappointing thing ever! You see someone has left you a message and it holds all the promise of something shiny and new and possibly illicit and then it's just an auto response. Ruins my day."

Several people weren't bothered by the direct messages and simply didn't pay any attention to them.

Eleanor Cawood Jones said she ignores and erases all direct messages saying there just isn't time to deal with something like that.

"They don't bother me because I totally ignore them," said Lori Duffy Foster.

A few people defended authors who are desperately trying to boost book sales, in essence saying "Hey, we're all in this together, so let us be supportive and forgiving of an author's efforts to make it in this cut-throat world."

For instance, Mike Monson said, "I don't do it because it does seem unnecessary, but if someone does it to me I just delete and ignore, unless there is something in their message that makes their stuff seem particularly interesting. I mean, we are all just trying to get readers, it's okay."

And Melissa Olson added, "I loathe this practice. I've been making an effort to follow more people on Twitter lately (to build my own numbers), and I'm seeing a lot of these auto replies. There are two variations: either "hey, thanks for following me, I really appreciate it" or "Hey, please follow me on Facebook and/or buy my books on Amazon, etc". 
But here's the thing: saying you appreciate the follow feels pretty disingenuous when you and I both know you set an automatic response to say it for you. And asking me to do more things for you is beyond tacky. Following someone on Twitter is like saying "hey, I'm mildly interested in what you're about, and I'd like to learn more." To follow that up with "Hey, OMG, here are more things you can do to help me out" is just plain crappy manners.

"I should add, though, that while it annoys me, I don't unfollow people for doing it, because like Mike said, we're all trying our own ways to use this thing for business."

Julie Oest was one of the few commenters who said it's fine and obviously has more tolerance than most of us, including me! Good for you, Julie!

"It doesn't matter to me," she wrote. "If I'm following an author I'm doing so because I already enjoy their books. One automated message isn't going to make me stop wanting to know about upcoming releases and specials. I think people are too easily annoyed or offended nowadays. When something has a simple fix (delete it) then just do it and go on with life."

The outpouring was awesome so thanks to everyone who took the time to weigh in. After reading all the comments, I've come to this conclusion: Sending someone a direct message telling them to buy your book or follow you on other social media is at best, useless, and at worst, a way to make someone not only unfollow you, but hate you, as well. In other words, it appears to do more harm than good.

I'd say skip it. 

I'll leave you with Do Some Damage Steve Weddle's comment in the form of a picture!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm one of the creeps who do it then. I don't do it for my more established work or personal twitter accounts, but I created some automated tweets for the twitter profile I created for my film project. I agree that most people sound like they're trying to up sell them. But done right the DM is a way to tell new followers where they can learn about the screenplay/film they are following. I also do an automated "welcome" tweet, which your friends probably also hate.