Sunday, March 27, 2011

Twitter and Third Grade Kickball

In third grade I had a crush on a kid named Eric and I loved playing kickball. Loved. What I loved more than playing kickball was winning at kickball. Burned into my memory is the day my teacher chose me as team captain. Being team captain meant all sort of wonderfulness. I got to be the roller and I got a reprieve from standing in line praying that I wasn’t picked last.

Of course, the first kid I picked was Eric and I intended my friend, Tiffany, to be next. As the other team captain (also a girl) worried over which of her two best friends she should pick first, Eric whispered in my ear to pick Mark. Wow – dilemma time. Do I pick who I want, Tiffany, or do I make Eric happy? Eric presented very good reasons on why I should select Mark, all of which he explained while the other girl did eeny meeny miny moe: if I wanted to win, which he knew I did, I would pick who he suggested.

Standing in line, staring at me, waiting patiently for me to pick her was Tiffany. Guess what? I picked her then I chose exactly who Eric told me to select. From the first day of school, I dreamed about being team captain. I thought the moment would be awesome and exhilarating. It was, but then it wasn’t. Nothing made me more uncomfortable than when we got down to selecting the final two. The pressure rested on me who would be chosen last. Eric – who had plenty of opinions until that point, told me I could choose.

That moment severely sucked – I had to put someone in the scenario I prayed so hard would never happen to me.

So what does any of this have to do with social networking? Nothing really, other than when after I sold my manuscript, my agent encouraged me to join Twitter. When I opened my Twitter account, the memories of that day in third grade tumbled into the forefront of my brain. I knew no one. Not a soul. It was just me, my profile, my profile picture, and my whole zero Twitter followers! I was officially the last kid.

Unlike Facebook, when you follow someone on Twitter, they don’t automatically follow you back. As I selected my first people to follow, the day in third grade rested heavily on my heart. Would I be the one person on the face of the planet with zero Twitter followers? Would I become the laughing stock of the writing community as the only pre-published author no one wanted to follow? Would my agent and publishing house look at me and my zero followers and wonder what the hell they were doing with me?

Um…no, but try telling that to the very pessimistic side of me that took over that evening.

A few minutes later my first follower showed up. By the end of the night, I had five followers. Five. Me and my whole five Twitter followers were going to take over the world (Mwa hahaha). Okay – not really, but I had to think of something to make me laugh. Entering the world of Twitter was a very humbling experience.

Not only did I have to find people to follow, I hoped that people would follow me. Then if and when anyone did follow me, I had to have something worth saying in 140 characters or less and it should be interesting. Wow – that’s no pressure.

So, while I’ve gone on to have more than five followers (I’ve broken in to triple digits), I’m not even close to suggesting that I have figured Twitter out. Stumbling around in the darkness with ear muffs is probably a better way to describe it. With that being said, I have learned a few things that I would love to pass along to anyone else considering jumping into the deep end of the ocean:

Who to follow? Well, anyone, but I suggest following people who would interest you.

• Is there an author you really like or admire? See if they are on Twitter.
• At first, I found most of the people I followed by going through organizations I belong to – YARWA, SCBWI, and the Apocalypsies. Some of my friends in these organizations have what are called Twitter lists. Twitter lists are created by the user so they can follow the Twitter feeds of that specific group instead of scrolling down all the feeds to find those specific people. Sometimes I used my friend's Twitter lists to find people to follow. For instance, one of the Apocalypsies made a list of all the other Apocalypsies on Twitter. I went to her list to find them.
• Twitter is also helpful in suggesting who to follow.
• If I’m reading a blog, I will now look to see if they have a link to Twitter so I can follow them.

How do you attract followers?
• Be active. Like everything else in life, you have to participate for people to know who you are. Don’t consider yourself a social butterfly? Don’t worry about it. You’re only typing 140 characters. No one will see you sweating or your red cheeks or know that you reread your twitter fifteen times before you posted it.
• Comment on other people’s twitter comments. I’ll be honest, I smile when I notice someone has replied to something I said on Twitter. I imagine most people feel the same way. If they aren’t following you before, they may follow you if you show an interest in them.
• Talk about a wide range of things. I’m a writer so I talk about writing. I’m writing a story that involves baseball and I love music so sometimes I talk about that. Most of my Twitter followers are writers, but I also have a few Mumford & Sons fans and baseball fans following me now.

Random things I’ve learned along the way:
• Twitter is a great tool for promotion which is why my agent suggested it, but Twitter should not be used only as a promotional tool. If the only reason you get on it is to push your blog or book people will notice. I have a tendency to overlook those links because I don’t know anything about those people. On the flip side, if someone who actively tweets about random things in their life and is invested in the Twitter community posts a link – I’m more likely to check the link out.
• Don’t Retweet everything. I can’t stand it when the same person Retweets fifty things in a row. Retweeting can be fun and awesome, but pick your favorite ones or divide them out amongst the day. Maybe this is something that annoys only me.
• Don’t let Twitter overtake your life. It can become very consuming. I started following people in batches of fives (kind of like querying agents). I slowly worked up to the Twitter following I have now. I’m in Twitter to network. It won’t help me if I follow a thousand people in the first week and then can’t cultivate a single relationship because I’m too overwhelmed with all the feeds.

I still have lots to learn and welcome any tips, advice, and comments on the above.


bethany griffin said...

Great post, Katie! I plan to get active on Twitter during the summer. Then maybe I can stay active. I need to figure out groups. You want to give me a lesson in creating groups next time I see you?

Katie McGarry said...

Thanks Bethany! I would love to do a Twitter lesson. I actually heard about something called Twitterdeck this weekend and it's supposed to make Twitter easier. I think I'm going to try it out.

Shannon Marie said...

Love the post! I remember those kickball days too.... and Dodgeball.... and soccer.... and flag-football.... UGH! I'm glad they're over.

I'm not on Twitter but I need to be. Your tips help show me that even though it can be a big bad Twitter world out there, I can do it! And I'm sure once I'm on it myself, the retweeting will annoy me too.

Katie McGarry said...

Thanks Shannon! I think you could definitely benefit from jumping into Twitter. I promise its not so scary. In fact, it can be fun!

Diana Renn said...

Like you, I felt some pressure to join Twitter, but am gradually finding it fun. It's actually helped with the isolation of working at home; I feel like I have dozens of colleagues out there, and I love reading about their daily word count, or their revision goals, or their writing successes. Also nice to follow people who aren't writers and get other perspectives or types of news. That said, I'm not on it as much as I probably should be to get the full benefits -- I usually check in just once or twice a day, and some days I forget. And I'm not very profound or funny. I wish I could be funny on Twitter. I am amazed at what some people can do with 140 characters! (See I can't even write a blog comment under 250 words!!)

Katie McGarry said...

Thanks for commenting Diana! I try to check twitter between one and three times a day. I often use it as a way to procrastinate when I should be trying to write!

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for being the blog captain and getting the ball rolling - just like in kickball! I haven't attempted Twitter yet - thanks for sharing what you've learned.

leighbardugo said...

My feelings on Twitter remain mixed. But the post is delightful! Glad you're in the twitterverse :)

Katie McGarry said...

Hi Kristin and Leigh! Thank you so much for commenting. My feelings on Twitter can change day to day, but so far the good out weigh everything else!

Kristin Lynn Thetford said...

Great post! Twitter definitely takes a bit of learning (I am still going through the process), but it really is enjoyable! Connecting with other writers is a wonderful experience. :)

Katie McGarry said...

Kristin - it really is a great way to connect with other writers. Writing can be such an isolating job and twitter can make it less isolating. Thanks for commenting!

Angela said...

Loved reading your post! You can always find humor in everything!!!

Katie McGarry said...

Hi Angela! What can I say? A girl has to laugh.

Kimberly Sabatini said...

Great post Katie!!! The kickball analogy is should write for kids. *grin*

Ben Woodard said...

Hi Katie, Good luck with your blog. Twitter can be maddening, but highly useful. I've struggled with it for several months and may have figured it out. It's a powerful, confusing tool.

Katie McGarry said...

Hi Kimberly - I have lots of childhood memories and have thought about writing for children, but I love the angst of YA!

Hi Ben - Yes, I agree. Twitter is a very powerful and confusing tool!

Thanks for reading and posting!

Rae Ann Parker said...

Hi Katie! Twitter is not nearly as scary as 3rd grade kickball to me. Well, maybe at first. Now I'm hooked on it. I love connecting with other writers & readers. Glad to see the new blog & look forward to reading along.

Katie McGarry said...

Hi Rae Ann - I'm so glad to see you here! Now that I'm in it, its not nearly as scary!

Lisa Tapp said...

Geez, there was a lot of angst in elementary school. And we carry that insecurity right along with us as we try newer, bigger games - like Twitter. I'm a wannabe Twit, will probably join later this year. I'll be calling when I'm ready.

Joan said...

Wannabe Lisa? (Ducks)

Ya know I love ya girl!!! Welcome to you and the other Fusionists to the blogosphere!!!! Looking forward to learning lots including how to get over the trauma of Lisa M. trying to steal my best friend Debbie B. in lunch line in 3rd grade LOL

Kurt Hampe said...

Hey Katie, thanks for taking the lead on this and for the Twitter info. You get props for making it work for us all, plus you've got the start to a great self-help book. "Everything I ever needed to know, I learned playing kickball."

I've got words down for next week's post. Here's a hint: blobs of color. said...

Wow, Katie, a power athlete in the 3rd grade! I'm am honestly impressed! ...and intimidated.

A couple twitter tips people have passed to me (I can't figure anything out at twitter on my own): use hastags. The #thingie I found a couple I use regularly and I tend to pick up a new follower now and then from one of the groups. I use #yalit and #kidlit But there are many others.

Also, when you have good news to post about your book, etc, be sure to use the @yourupblisherhere. Publishers' marketing departments watch twitter closely. Sometimes there is an @ for your imprint and most publishers have a separate @ for children's books. Mine, for ex, is @harperteen

Eventually @harperteen started following me. And I was thrilled. Of course, I couldn't think of anything to post for about three weeks.

I'll also @ some other people now and then (editor, for instance) or for the hell of it I'll include an @yalsa or one of the big groups that have twitter accounts in a post.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Great suggestions! @GhostFolk--thanks for additional excellent suggestions as well.

Katie McGarry said...

Hi Vicky, Joan, Lisa, and Kurt! Thanks for reading and commenting on the blog!

Ghost Folk - thanks for the awesome tips. I used my first # this week!

Anonymous said...

Great blog post :)