I’ve been on Twitter for about three and a half years. I’ve met some of the most amazing, wonderful people there. As a writer, Twitter gives me superb access to interesting people all over the world.

A lot of people I know find Twitter very daunting, mostly because they’ve never really tried to use it. It can be intimidating to some to have only 140 characters to make a statement. But it works, and it works well. The more you do it, the more you’ll probably appreciate the way this micro-blogging site works.

Twitter can both be great or not-so-great depending on what you hope to get from it. I’m going to share with you the reasons I follow/follow back, don’t follow back, or unfollow.


1. I consider several things when deciding to follow or follow back. Does this person engage with others? If she is actively having conversations with other tweeters, I’m more inclined to like this person. For one, it shows that she realizes that there are other people on Twitter. And I’m much more inclined to like people who have a photo of themselves for an avatar.

2. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your own work in moderation, but I am a strong believer in cross-promotion. Does this person take a moment to recognize the works of others from time to time? To tweet content of interest?

3. Does the person’s follower/following ratio make any kind of sense? If someone follows me and I see that he is following well over 1,000 people, but only 132 people are following back, there is always a reason. A quick look will tell me that every tweet is virtually the same: they’re all about that person’s book, for example, or the tweets make little to no sense. If the person has 40,000 followers and is following only 2,000 back, I’m not going to assume that he’s found me to be a part of the scintillating minority. Rather, I’m going to think that he’s followed me to get the follow and will unfollow me soon after.

4. Did this person actually follow me or did a bot follow me? For example, I have a novel called Squalor, New Mexico that has nothing whatsoever to do with New Mexico, but often I’ll be followed by businesses such as a real estate company or an auto repair facility in Santa Fe. Nothing against these fine businesses, of course, but it’s clear how they found me and we likely are not tweeting about any common interests.

5. Does the person tweet original content or does she just quote? There are people on Twitter who do nothing but tweet the quotes of others. Once in a blue moon, if I see a great quote, I’m happy to pass it on, but in most cases I have little interest in following someone who merely tweets quotes.


6. I know that I am not alone in my loathing of people who send DMs (direct messages) to strangers upon following with links to their products or services. Just don’t do it. Really, do NOT do this! If there’s one way to guarantee that I will never check out your book or product, just send me a link about it. To quote my friend author Stuart Ross McCallum, @writer99 on Twitter: “e-converse before e-commerce.”

Some people may ask: If I don’t send you a link, how will you ever know about my new novel, The Vampire and the Hound Dog Get Married? My answer: Engage with people on Twitter as you would in person. Join conversations, start conversations, pay attention to others, retweet what others have to say, be polite, and follow the golden rule. Once you do that, you’ll find that people will click on your bio because they like you. They’ll want to learn more about you. And what do you know, they may even download a copy of your book to their e-reader.

One woman, upon following, sent me a DM that said, “Enjoy the ABC series.” Hello? I only agreed to follow her on Twitter, but now she’s assuming I’m going to read all three books in her series? On what planet?

Then, there are those who send a message saying, “Don’t forget to ‘like’ my FB page?” Hey, I have no idea who you are. We’ve just met. Do NOT assume I’m going to support you at hello. Okay, so how can you ask people to ‘like’ your FB page without being obnoxious? Try a general tweet like this: “Would appreciate ‘likes’ on my FB page. Happy to reciprocate. Just DM or tweet me the link.” Isn’t that better? You’re asking for something but simultaneously offering to help others.

Upon following, I often get a DM saying, “Let’s keep in touch on Facebook, too.” But this person doesn’t want a mutual friendship; she wants you to “like” her page. I am not a fan of this deceitful practice.

7. I’ve just spoken about sending inappropriate direct messages to people. The same goes for tweeting links at people. Not only do people do this, but they do it to people who are not even following them. When I have a new blog, I tweet it to the general public. I do NOT tweet links AT people unless someone specifically asks me to do so. Tweeting links at people is, in a word, spam. There are exceptions when good friends tweet links to me; I have no issue in these cases.

8. I’m much more interested in interesting people than I am in numbers. Some fantastic people who have been on Twitter for a while, just happen to have high numbers of followers, very high, and they actually engage with as many as possible. It’s easy to figure out who cares and who doesn’t. Then there are those who merely want the numbers. They think that if they spend all day and night amassing 30K followers, they’ll be more likely to sell their product. As I see it, the number of followers has nothing to do with sales. YOU are the product first, and if people don’t care about you, they won’t care what you are selling. And, please, don’t boast about how many followers you have. It just tells me that you couldn’t care less about anything but a number.

9. Many people use certain sites to find out who is following back and who is not. I use these sites, too. I won’t necessarily unfollow people who aren’t following me back, but these sites do help me to clean up my lists. These sites often offer people the option to tweet out the IDs of those who have unfollowed them. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be very childish, like calling someone out on the playground. If people unfollow me, that’s okay. But I do not tweet about it. That’s just silly. And when I see people who do this, it’s just a turnoff to me.

10. Politics and religion: For many, these are two subjects to simply avoid. While I do choose not to tweet about either, I am very interested in and most appreciative of the political tweets of others. But tweeting politics is always risky. Many people who do not agree with you will unfollow you. And I am one of them. So, while it’s fine to tweet politics or religion, just understand that you will alienate some people. If you’re okay with that, go for it.

To sum it up, our experiences, good or bad, are what we make of them. Behind the avatars are real people who, like ourselves, deserve to be treated with respect. Enjoy your time tweeting, and I look forward to seeing you in my stream.

And please, tell me about your experiences with Twitter. What are the reasons that you follow, don’t follow, or unfollow?



  1. Lisette, this is such an informative post! Thank you so much for writing it. Twitter, and social media in general, can be both daunting and overwhelming. With so many people vying for attention, it can be a challenge just to get noticed. Sadly, many people resort to spamming, due to being desperate, egocentric, or simply misinformed. I’m sure your post will help many people avoid the pitfalls that accompany the pursuit of success on social media, while encouraging reciprocity in their online interaction.

  2. Hey Lisette,

    Thank you for such an interesting and informative post.

    My experience with Twitter is a mixed one. I use to be a regular tweeter and formed some fantastic friendships. Admittedly, they were mostly mutual friends of my husband, who is an established tweeter as you know :D. It was a lot of fun and I am still friends with these lovely people. Sadly, I had to ‘ban’ myself from it because it became an addiction 🙂

    Now I am back on Twitter again but on behalf of a company I work for and the experience is very different. In the writing world, cross promotion is a wonderful thing and I got use to that. It is truly a wonderful industry in that respect. However, in the building industry, an architect is not going to promote another architect. A builder isn’t going to promote another builder. So I have found the experience less enjoyable and far more difficult to get results. I know though that I do not use Twitter to it’s maximum potential. Maybe I should stick to my day job and leave the social media thing to the experts and get back to the personal twitter experience I use to enjoy, but in moderation this time!

    Thanks again.
    Very nice website btw.

  3. Shykia,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. A lot of people really don’t know what to do with Twitter. Very simply, a lot of the etiquette on social media is parallel to real life. It takes time to get to know people. It can’t happen overnight by spamming your followers or tweeting links to those who don’t follow you. It’s a great way to get blocked, though. 🙂 You and I got to know one another a couple of years ago by engaging in small talk on Twitter. Just as if we had been at an event together in real life. 🙂

    You bring up such a great point. Not every industry is suited to cross promotion as the arts are. But any business that simply interacts with the community and cares about its followers, in my opinion, makes a very positive impression. 😀 Thank you so much for your input. I appreciate it so very much.

  4. I love, love, love your new site! As you know, I’m a HUGE fan of blogs and this one made me giggle a little. It was probably unintentional but I found it to be light and funny. I love your subtle wit and I love your truths. Way to take on Twitter! These are things I totally agree with. Some I can’t relate to because I don’t use Twitter as a marketing tool but I have found it effective. It introduced me to you and other wonderful authors that I would not have found otherwise. Thank you for your wonderful writings and I look forward to more!! 😀

    • Hey Scarlett:

      What a pleasure to see you here! I’m so glad you like the new site!

      And yes, it was probably not unintentional if you got a laugh here and there. A little snark often slips in when I least expect it! 🙂 Or should that be “most expect it.” Hmmm.

      I appreciate your support (and YOU!) more than I can say!

      Best always,

  5. I’m not much of a tweeter, but I understand what the premise for tweeting is, and I think that Lisette’s 10 rules are logically and practically based. In all aspects of social intercourse, etiquette is a priority. That means respecting another person’s “territory.” It is no different than robo calls. We all hate them. Unfortunately their is no 800 number to call to get some company to stop calling you, and we know that even that doesn’t work all that well. So blocking someone is a necessary nuisance. Thanks, Lisette for a great public service.

  6. Congratulations on the new site Lisette and a great article to kick off with.

    For the longest time, I struggled with how to work twitter or work with it, but I eventually settled on a rule of thirds approach to it – ie. 1/3rd self promo and marketing, 1/3rd organic interaction and 1/3rd cross promotion.

    I think that if I stick to this I’m best placed to retain and build on this particular platform.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Dean. I absolutely agree with your ratio. There’s nothing wrong with self-promoting on Twitter, as long as that is not ALL one does. 🙂

      You’ve always been such a terrific supporter of your fellow author! And by the way, BIG congrats on your new novel, Gifts of the Peramangk. I can’t wait to read it.

  7. Love your new blog Lisette and as someone who is still struggling with twitter it is marvellous to have the tips. I have received the direct messages to like my facebook page or connect on fb etc. I usually don’t even answer them, they do bug me for the same reasons they bother you and others. I don’t know this person yet.

    I guess the hardest thing I have with twitter is keeping up with all the mentions. I wish there was some way to do this, but haven’t found it yet.

    When someone follows me and the picture they use is in a suggestive pose leaving little to the imagination or their tweets are full of rude or vulgar words I generally stay away from following back. I don’t know what they are there for and am uncomfortable with something about them.

    Thank you so much for this post. It is extremely helpful and insightful along with being humorous.

    • Thank you for your comments, Marta.

      It is indeed difficult to keep up with all of the mentions. I don’t even attempt to mention everyone I interact with EVERY time. That would be too many mentions in my stream and take way to much time. I just do the best I can. When I can, I really like to do individual mentions and tell my fellow tweeters what’s special about someone. Just do your best with the time you have. 🙂

      And yes, I completely agree. If I see a suggestive avatar or rude tweets, I’m not likely to want to follow that person, either.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and leave your thoughts. 🙂 Good luck with your new book, The Between Times.

    • I complained to a man who was tweeting his books to TONS of strangers. He told me that introducing people to good literature was not spam; selling insurance was spam. WRONG!

  8. First, Alan, thank you for this glorious comment. I love it.

    To readers of this blog. I first met Alan as his alternate ego and just couldn’t get enough of her. One day, she told me that she was going to close the account, but I was welcome to follow her creator: @ashtexas.

    I have been a fan of Alan’s every since. He is one of my favorite people on Twitter and an exception to my very flexible “rules” of who I follow and who I don’t follow. Alan is an absolute delight and always a pleasure to see in my stream. I like his tweets so much that I often go to his page just to make sure I see the latest. Especially when I need a smile.

    Thank you, Alan! You’re the best. 🙂

  9. I enjoyed every moment of this article Lisette! Great to meet a ‘real one’ on Twitter. I love Twitter for the very reasons you do, but get burned out on it for every reason you mention here. DM’s, links, garbage. I have found that I have to use separate lists to separate the wheat from the chaff. You for one have passed the test! 🙂

  10. LIke a growing number of people (thank goodness!) I am a big loather of the auto DM, as you know! As for those who tweet AT you – urrrghhhh! Recently I had this guy send me his book links and ask me to read and review. WTF???!!! I wrote back, politely, and said, this is spam. If you want people to see your links, tweet them in an interesting way, and retweet others. He answered, quite shirtily, that it wasn’t spam, he was merely asking me to review his book. I then pointed out that asking a complete stranger to read and review your book was a bit of a ‘big ask’ – especially when I’m not a book reviewer!!!!! I suggested he contacted book bloggers and submitted according to their guidelines. He told me I was being rude. You can’t help some people….!!!

    • Hi, Terry:

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ve had similar experiences when I’ve told people to please stop spamming me with their book links. “Alerting you to good literature is not spam,” one person insisted. I hope that every author out there believes in his or her work. But tweeting or DMing links, if unsolicited, to anyone, is spam. Whether that person is selling diet pills, vacuum cleaners, or great literature. It doesn’t matter.

      I meet a lot of wonderful people simply through interacting. That’s the way it should be.

      You’re right. You cannot help some people. Goodness knows I’ve tried.

  11. This is all music to the ear. I don’t have your Twitter experience, Lisette, but if Twitter doesn’t have a human face, why bother?
    Coincidentally, the constant stream of plugs got to me too the other day and I tweeted:
    I went on a raw Twitter diet
    A de-tox with unprocessed tweets
    O’er-weighted with all that said ‘Buy it!’
    I slimmed to the selfless and sweet

    Thank you for brightening my morning! Best wishes from the Yorkshire Pennines. 🙂

    • Hello, Christina:

      I LOVE your poem! What a great way to express your frustration. I commend you. Somehow, when I get really peeved, poetry isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind. ha ha. Great job.

      I really appreciate you reading the blog and taking the time to leave me a comment. Look forward to tweeting with you, too.

  12. Thanks Lisette,
    I agree with your ten points. I would add a couple:
    1 I don’t mind if people don’t follow me back; they didn’t ask me to follow them.
    2 If anyone with who follows hundreds/thousands follows me, I rarely follow back. Unless they do nothing else, they don’t have the time to look at what those they follow say, UNLESS it’s a reply, RT or a DM about/to THEM. Those they follow are usually marketing fodder for what they’re selling.
    3 I follow around 250 and won’t follow many more as I can’t give them the respect of looking at what they say. Keeping up with my modest number already takes up too much time when I should be writing!

    Thanks again and best wishes

    • Hi, Barry:

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

      I really appreciate your thoughts and taking the time to comment.

      I also follow some people because I am very interested in their content, and it is not important to me if they follow me back. It just depends.

      Twitter is about relationship building. It should be. Clearly, we can’t get to know everyone we follow, but several times each week, I do get to know new people and it’s really great. I try to interact with as many people as I can in the limited time I have.

      All best wishes to you and good luck with your writing!

  13. All very useful – and I couldn’t agree more about the instant ‘look at my website’ or ‘buy my book’ DMs.

    I suppose I find it hard to take Twitter seriously. I’ve a biggish group of ‘friends’ I follow closely (and have fun with), and the rest just passes me by.

    So, for me, it’s like having company while I eat my breakfast, and then I get on with the business of the day (writing). If people are shouting about their books behind my back, I don’t hear them.

    • Hi, Jo:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Much appreciated.

      For me, and many others, I believe that social media mirrors real life. If I were at a social gathering, I would never walk up to a stranger and say, “Don’t forget to like my Facebook page,” or “Buy my book.” That’s pretty outrageous. I might tell someone about my books (once in conversation) if they asked, but then I’d ask that person to tell me what he/she did for a living. It’s a two-way street.

      I don’t have any problem with advertising one’s book on Twitter, but it’s all about balance and moderation. It’s also about building relationships and being a contributing part of a community. Sounds like you’ve got a wonderful group of friends on Twitter. How wonderful.

      All best wishes to you,

  14. Thank you for this article. I found it very interesting and very enlightening. I do often feel lost on Twitter. I don’t see how people find the time to be that active on twitter and still find time to write. I guess the fact that I live in the country and do not have a smart phone doesn’t help as I have to be on my laptop to access twitter. Still, I try to devote at least an hour to it a day. But even so, I often feel like there is so much out there and so many interesting people to meet if I only had the time to do so. Thanks again!

    • Hi, Lance:

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

      Twitter can be very confusing for some and a big time suck for others. For me, I don’t stay on Twitter for any length of time except under special circumstances. I try to make several brief stops when I take breaks and I also time a few tweets (using TweetDeck or HootSuite) to reach people who I normally don’t connect with during the hours that I’m asleep. It’s all about finding the right balance.

      All best wishes

  15. You have a lot of good, sensible information in this post. I get so tired of seeing the same Tweet 200 times. Now that I’ve started to build a place for myself on Twitter, I have to be more discerning about the people I follow.

    Janie Junebug

    • Hi, Janie:

      Twitter can be like Grand Central Station for the uninitiated. So much going on and you’re not sure where to look. You just need to catch your train and go in the right direction. But after a while, when you get the lay of the land, it’s easier to go right to where you need to go.

      Yeah, I know what you mean about seeing the same tweet 200X. It may be challenge for some people to change the wording in 140 characters, but it’s worth it.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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