When I attended a writers’ conference a few years ago, one of the pieces of advice given to authors, and author wannabes, was to get on Twitter. “It’s a great platform to promote your work,” they claimed. And since I’m all about shameless self-promotion (not really) I did consider the recommendation.
In these days of transition in the publishing world, and economic crises restricting marketing budgets, publishers look for potential authors with existing platforms through which they can market their own books. So, having tens of thousands of followers on Twitter might actually help an aspiring author secure a publishing contract.
However, acknowledging my addiction to Facebook, I decided that becoming a “twit” would not be a good idea for me. I’m already fixated with thoughts of how to transpose everything I do, and see, into scintillating status updates. To begin trying to mentally re-configure those updates into 140 character tweets could add another layer to my already aggravating obsession. So, as I’ve heard the suggestions to get tweeting repeated several times each year, I’ve remained steadfastly opposed to it. Until now.
Yesterday I gritted my teeth and opened a Twitter account. Here are the five most useful things I’ve learned since:
1. You can choose how to use Twitter. I’ve decided to use it to inform myself. Considering my interests, I’ve begun following BBC Africa and Reuters Africa, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Stephen Lewis Foundation and Free the Slaves, Chocolate Karma, Vegetarian Times, World Fair Trade Organization, Nick Kristoff, Jacques Poitras, and, of course, Phillip Lee.
2. Twitter can be a time-saver. The beauty of this tool is that you can get brief tweets from the sources you’d usually get your news from. I’m old-fashioned and still visit news sites and human rights-related sites individually. With Twitter I can simply scroll through the tweets and open links that interest me to get the rest of a story.
3. You might learn things from Twitter that you’d miss otherwise. Rather than the flood of unnecessary information I feared, I’ve found, so far, the results of Twitter membership to be quite interesting. The first tweet I received was from Human Rights Watch and it contained a link to a video of Bahrain security forces opening fire on peaceful protesters. Although it made me cry, I think it was important to watch and I’m grateful that I received the information. I don’t think I’d have seen the video had it not been for that tweet.
4. Twitter can provide you with great ideas for supper. Vegetarian Times magazine tweeted a link today to a recipe for Spicy Broccoli Sprout Sushi. Twitter can also provide you with information on countless topics once you learn what a “hashtag” is.
5. “Twits” can be clever. Nick Kristoff of the New York Times has been tweeting about the uprising in Libya. Today he chirped, “Having failed to bomb his people into submission, #Qaddafi is now using his TV speech to try to bore them to death.”
So, I’ve decided to put Twitter on a probationary period. I hope I’ll find it more beneficial to my life than disrupting. And there may even come a day when I cave and use it for self-promotion. Because, as I learned from tweets that use the #Quote hashtag, “If You Can’t Be Famous In Reality, Be Famous Online.” — @BillyRamey http://twttrlist.com/A1B3