Why exactly are we Tweeting? These people aren’t really reading tweets, are they?

My Twitter account got hacked last night and it took me until the morning to get it back under my control, but in the meantime it seems the worst the perps did was use my name to send a lot of spam tweets to my “friends.”

I’d feel a lot worse about this if I actually knew many of them.

I did hear from a couple of them. One is an old friend, one of the few actual friends following that account. Thanks very much Linda, for alerting me to the problem. The other was very sweet but it was a woman I don’t know. Like the vast majority of of my twitter follows, I don’t know anything abot her beyond her 160-character bio, what she shares, that I ever catch, in her 140-character tweets, and what she might link to, if I ever bother to follow those links.

She was paying attention, and more, she was concerned enough to send me, a stranger to her, a heads-up. But I doubt the vast majority of tweeters I’m following on that account ever bother to read incoming tweets.

Here’s something I discovered in the past week or so after re-activating this account and seeking to use it to network with other writers, agents, editors, reviewers, publishers and anyone else involved in words: Most of the people I’ve linked up with have thousands, tens of thousands, even more than 100,000 followers. And they try to follow that many.

On my professional account I’ve got about 800 followers, and I follow about 700, and I cannot keep up with what everyone is tweeting. On my writing account, the one that got hacked, I’m following about 450 so far, and have about 160 followers, and it’s beginning to get tough to keep up. I have no idea where anyone gets time to keep up with 50,000 followers. You could random sample incoming tweets, but that’s about it.

“They don’t read incoming tweets,” a colleague, another writer, suggested to me today. “It’s a one-way affair. They follow to be followed. They seek to be followed so that they can have an audience to whom they can tweet.”

But what if no one in that audience ever bothers to read their incoming tweets because they’re all following 50,000? Is it a sham? It is a new form of vanity press? Publish to write, not to be read?

We set up Twitter accounts to join a community and hopefully network and assist our career, or maybe to build that “platform” everyone talks about. We blog for the same reason I suppose, and reach out through links and push our blogs on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere, hoping to find readers for the blog.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. We write, we put it out there. We hope to draw readers and maybe, just maybe, get the attention of someone who might be helpful to our careers. But really, until the audience is built, what we’re doing isn’t much more than tacking our note to a bulletin board somewhere, hoping it will be seen by the right people.

And I suppose we blog and tweet within our writing community hoping, if we don’t share our ideas and news, to at least pick up and explore our colleagues’ ideas and news. That can be done by following a handful of blogs, or a few hundred tweeters. But 50,000?

Well, at least it’s fun. Writing is always fun, even if no one is reading.

One thought on “Why exactly are we Tweeting? These people aren’t really reading tweets, are they?

  1. Hey Scott. There are ways to make your Twitter account more useful. I have thousands of people on my feed, so it’s impossible, really, to follow each and everyone of them, unless that was all I did. That’s where lists become useful. As I follow or identify people I want to follow I add them on lists (which in my case I keep private, but you can make public) — so I have lists for journalists, for friends, for people tweeting about immigration, for writers, for government officials, for community advocates, for the news media. Instead of looking at the stream of tweets that never stop, I look at the feed for the list I am interested in at the moment. Say I want to see what journalists are thinking, I go to that feed. Say I want to see what’s the buzz in immigration advocacy circles, I go to that list… I only look at the main feed when there’s breaking news and I want to see what’s trending online. Anyway, a tip… I have you, for example, on my lists of journalists, people I know and writers… so I see your tweets (and here’s the key thing if you have so many follows that you’ve lost track, you don’t even have to follow accounts to put them on your lists).

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