Twitter Etiquette (why incessant self-promotion doesn’t work)

My pal, author Deryn Collier, posted a blog last week on what she called Twitter Swear Words. It was all about the ubiquitous “BUY MY BOOK” tweets that some authors post dozens of times a day. I confess: I was guilty of this myself when I first signed up for Twitter.

I had a couple of friends who were authors who did this, and they seemed to be successful so  I assumed they knew what they were doing. After all, they had hundreds, sometimes thousands, of followers and I was a newbie. And so I would post, and re-post, tweets about The Beggar’s Opera, the book trailer, reviews, and so on.

As I became more familiar with Twitter, I began to see how useful it is for discussing other stuff with really interesting people. After a while, I hated getting repetitive posts from other authors promoting their books- it cluttered up the feed. Yes, I’d think, you have a free download. I heard you the first time. It was a little like being around a toddler in a candystore who keeps tugging on your sleeve bugging you: can I have that? Can I have that? Those repetitive demands for this or that started to wear pretty thin.

And so one day I asked Twitter the question: “What should you do if you keep getting tweet after tweet from the same author promoting their books?” The resounding answer from everyone was “UNFOLLOW THEM.” The consensus was that Twitter is far too interesting to follow anyone who repeats the same information over and over again, period.

Since then I’ve taken that advice, and I’m ruthless about it. I’ve even unfollowed people I considered friends because of their incessant self-promotion on Twitter. I’m sorry: as interesting as you are in person or in other media, I just don’t find that interesting.

Now don’t get me wrong. Self-promotion is still a big part of Twitter, so it’s not a matter of throwing the baby out with the bathtub. But I think it’s about knowing when to self-promote, and it isn’t every hour, every few minutes, or every fifteen seconds, or with the same tweet repeated over and over throughout the day.

If I have a new follower, the first thing I do is go to their Twitter profile to see who they are. If I see the same tweet in their profile repeated several times sequentially (these are almost always tweets urging people to buy something or download something for free), I don’t follow them at all.

I do the same thing with anyone who uses auto-DMs. These are direct messages that show up in your Twitter inbox within seconds of your following someone. And once again, they are messages of self-promotion, ranging from “download my free e-book” to “follow me on Facebook.” They make me feel like I’m at a cocktail party and someone  has slapped a business card in my hand before we’ve  been properly introduced. I unfollow those people too.

Deryn’s blog points out that she does the same thing and from the comments she had on Facebook the day she posted that blog, I’d guess a lot of other people feel  the same way. Which means that over-doing self-promotion on Twitter actually turns off potential readers and alienates the people you’re trying to reach.

I’ve met more people via Twitter than any other social media I can think of, and I’ve made genuine friends as well as some terrific professional connections. But I think that’s because I don’t talk all that much on Twitter about my book or my real estate career these days anymore. I tweet about all kinds of things, and I tweet a lot, but only maybe one in fifty tweets or even one in a hundred is about my book or a new listing. My other tweets may be related to publishing or the real estate business, but that’s not the same.

I think the thing to remember is this: the product you’re selling on Twitter isn’t your book, or your free download, or your product, or your service. It’s yourself. 

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6 Responses to Twitter Etiquette (why incessant self-promotion doesn’t work)

  1. Steve Vernon says:

    Great post, Peggy.

    Twitter is an awfully fine line to walk successfully. I play the game out there – because it’s kind of fun – and I try to be fairly unobtrusive about the self-promotion.


    Subliminal. Bet you never even noticed it was there!!!


  2. “I think the thing to remember is this: the product you’re selling on Twitter isn’t your book, or your free download, or your product, or your service. It’s yourself. ”

    Quote worthy sentence right there!


  3. Linda Adams says:

    I’ve been doing the same thing, plus eliminating the ones who send incessant writing links and RTs. I was briefly on Triberr with a group, and it was great initially because people were sending out links to my blog. But they weren’t coming to the blog and reading it! Anything that makes people go on autopilot turns into a spam-fest. I’m terrible at Twitter’s cocktail conversation to start with because I’m an introvert, and I’ve all but given up using it as a promotion tool because I don’t have time to wade through the spam.

    Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller


    • Peggy Blair says:

      Hi Linda,
      I’m a big fan of Twitter; I’ve made some great friends from it but you have to be careful, I think, who you follow or it can certainly turn into a steady stream of spam for sure. Thanks for the feedback!


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