There has been a lot of talk of engagement on Twitter lately. What exactly is engagement? The Macmillian Dictionary defines engagement as
definition 4: the action of parts of a machine when they connect with each other or definition 6: the feeling of being involved in a particular activity.
You could even go as far as to say engagement means definition 3: a battle between armies, because, let’s face it, Writer Twitter isn’t always friendly.
No matter which definition you choose, engagement means a give and take between people or things. So when someone on Twitter says they don’t follow back without some engagement first, or they threaten to unfollow you if you don’t engage with them, what does that mean exactly?
This kind of attitude has always baffled me because first of all, they don’t understand what kind of social media tool Twitter is, and second of all, TWITTER IS F*CKING HUGE. “As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the micro-blogging service averaged at 330 million monthly active users.” Obviously, no one is going to have 330 million followers, but even in Writer Twitter, the number of people following you can grow to the double digits quickly.
So what does engagement really mean? What are you asking for when you expect (demand?) people to tweet with you?
For sake of simplicity, we can pick on a relatively small account. Say you’re following 300 people. You have more people following you; let’s say this number is 1,000. We’ll keep an even number because my math is terrible. Let’s subtract the 300 you’ve followed back, leaving you with 700 people following you that you have not returned the favor to. Let’s subtract 200 of these because we’ll just assume they aren’t real people. Sexbots and whatnot. That’s 500 people, writers, potential friends, and connections, mind you, you’re not following. What if all of a sudden half those people started engaging with you. You tweeted something funny, an article that hit home. They try to chat with you. Suddenly you have 250 people engaging with you.
What are you going to do, ignore them? This is your dream come true! You want engagement! Now you’ve got it! Oh, you say, 250 people aren’t just suddenly going to want to talk to me. Okay, fine. What about half that? What if 125 of those people started tweeting with you? Then what? You still don’t buy that? Okay, 75. It’s #FollowFriday. They haven’t been pissed off by your snotty attitude yet, so they try to get into your good graces by giving you a happy shoutout. Seventy-five #FollowFriday happy weekend shoutouts. Yee-haw!
You better believe you respond to these people because this is what you wanted, right? All right, I know I’m being facetious, but let’s be real for a minute. Even if you had 25 people on a daily basis wanting to tweet with you, that’s a huge time suck. There are days, like #FollowFriday, or #WriterWednesday, where I do get quite a few notifications, and I do have to take the time to sit and thank everyone. I’m getting to the point where I may not be able to always answer all my notifications, but for now, I’m trying my best. I respect my followers, as should you. Someone thought you were interesting enough to follow, or you’re part of Writer Twitter, whatever, and you thank them by . . . ignoring them. Nice.
I admit, you can look at my numbers, and see my following and followers are not even. And that is fine. Some are bots, some are huge accounts I know will drop me after they get a follow back, huge marketers with 100K following/followers, writers who only tweet their books and nothing else. Yes, I do not follow those accounts. And I’m not suggesting that you do.
I follow back writers, readers, bloggers, agents, anyone human related to the reading/writing/self-publishing/traditional-publishing industry.
What I am suggesting is that with an engagement entitlement attitude, you do not.
I get that if you’re a big-time author you’re not going to follow back everyone. I was lucky and Karen M. McManus followed me, or vice versa, before she became famous. You can see that she’s no longer following everyone who follows her. I was lucky, and I’m able to tweet with her now and then.
So, why do I have a problem with this attitude, this need for engagement on Twitter? Because it’s the wrong platform for it. I’ve suggested to a few people on Twitter that if they want to keep their groups small, then they should invite 200 of their nearest and dearest and form a private group on Facebook. Chat away until your heart’s content, and you won’t have to worry about those pesky people wanting a follow back without saying hi first.
Twitter and Facebook are different.
Twitter is used for quickly exchanging information. Read an excellent blog post about editing, tweet it! Found a shortcut for formatting? Share it. Twitter is also for supporting your colleagues. Congratulate someone on their new release. If someone has a question, and you just read a book about it, let them know! Twitter has it set up now that tweets pop in your feed from people whom you do not follow. They did this to broaden your horizons and help you find more people to connect with. Don’t be annoyed by it! Use it to find your next Critique Partner or Beta Reader. If you need something, would you rather be able to ask 200 people, or 10K? Build up your account. Spread out your reach.
Twitter is like being at a gigantic party! Grab a drink and say hello to everyone. You may not exchange business cards with every person you meet, but you never know when you’re going to make a connection. Or know someone who knows someone who can help you. It only takes a moment to follow back a living, breathing writer.
Do not insist on engagement. Twitter isn’t made to be a small group of people, your profile open to the public, and anyone can enter.
If you want privacy, switch over to Facebook and start a small writer’s group there. Share resources, tips and editing, vent. You’ll be happier.
I adore tweeting with people. Maybe I’ll only tweet with them once or twice and they’ll slip away, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. They’ll pop back up one day, and then I’ll be the one to say hi.
And I’ll just make one last point before I go–you’re a part of Writer Twitter. Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to be, oh I don’t know, writing? Insisting on engagement isn’t fair to the people on Twitter who spend the bulk of their time either working their day job, taking care of kids, and in the little time they have left, writing. Don’t punish your connections for doing what you should be doing, too.
Come say hi to me on Twitter and tell me what you think! I’ll see you there!