Twitter – a matter of personal taste or a set of rules?

It’s rare that I am moved to write a blog post on a whim, but today is one of those occasions. Over the last week, I have read so much stuff about how people should and shouldn’t behave on Twitter, that I felt compelled to add my two-penneth.

The first blog post I read was the usual stuff – don’t use Twitter as a sales platform; don’t only tweet about your books or people will stop following you; make sure you use the 80/20 rule – 80% about other people, only 20% about yourself.

Oh – and you should only tweet a maximum of six times a day. That’s another one.

And then today, I read another post that said people follow you because they are interested in who you are and what you’re doing. They don’t want to know about your chart position or your reviews, they want to know how your day is going.

Within less than an hour, I got pointed to another article, which says nobody cares about what you ate for lunch or what time you got up. Don’t mix business with pleasure.

And so it goes on. And on. Who are these people who have decided they are the self-appointed custodians of Twitter streams everywhere? And why do they think that they can set rules for everybody else. Who decides whose way is the right way? It is our followers who can, if they want to, vote with their feet (or rather, their mouse). If they don’t like what we tweet about, then they can stop following. They only have to click a button. Surely we don’t need every man and his dog telling us that we’re doing it all wrong?

It should be conversational – or so I’m reliably informed (regularly). But that’s all well and good if you have the wit of Stephen Fry, or Joanne Harris (who I love following, by the way). Some people are naturally amusing or interesting. Some try, and fail miserably. But that’s okay too. They can write about what they want (she says, screaming at the computer).

I now have two Twitter streams. One is aimed primarily at indie authors. It didn’t start like that, but the more I became interested in the whole indie business and what authors could do to promote themselves, the more I wanted to share this information. So I don’t tweet about what I had for breakfast – I share links to articles that I think might be of interest to other authors. If there are authors that I particularly like, I retweet them. I do chat with some of them too – but it’s generally about how they’re doing and in particular how their books are doing, because that’s what they are interested in – and guess what? I’m interested too. And yes, I tweet about my own book – probably too much in the past (but it didn’t seem to do me any harm, if I may say so, ever so humbly) – but less now.

Just this week I set up another account (and what a performance that was), because I knew that for people who have read my book and are interested in what’s coming next, they probably don’t want to know about the next big marketing thingy for indie authors. I want to talk to my readers and potential readers about books in general – and not just mine. I want to share reviews, retweet other authors, and offer tweets on anything that readers might be interested in (oh – did I forget to mention that according to one article, retweeting isn’t acceptable either?).

So can we just be clear about this, please? We are all different, and we all want different things. On my new account, I follow quite a few well-established authors. I’ve read and enjoyed their books, and I’m interested in what they have to say, and they have a wide variety of approaches. Without naming any names, one or two of them are quite politically outspoken. I don’t necessarily agree with their viewpoints, but I do enjoy the tone of their tweets. Forthright and assertive.

Then there are the ones who are funny – and there are quite a few of those too (although not necessarily the ones who write funny books, interestingly enough).

And then there are the terminally dull (to me) “this is supposed to be conversational” types, who believe that the key to this so-called conversation is discussing where they did their online shopping, or how cute their dog is. I hate those. Give me twenty tweets about a chart position and a load of review extracts any time at all rather than somebody’s lunch menu. I recognise that for other people, though, knowing what their favourite author had for lunch might be the most fascinating thing in the world. And that’s absolutely fine. It’s their choice.

Isn’t that the whole point? I don’t think I could write one funny tweet a week when I’m writing about murder and death. I might be able to list any number of ways of killing somebody, and a whole range of ways of describing grief or panic (I even had to look up how somebody feels when they faint, having never fainted in my life). But I don’t feel particularly amusing. God knows what I’m like to live with! (I gave this post to my husband to read, and he declined to comment on that last sentence – which probably says it all.)

The sad thing is, after reading all this “advice” I actually found myself tweeting this week about how I’d had to make bread buns because my husband wanted homemade burgers (Jamie Oliver’s Elvis burgers, to be precise). Living in Italy, the right bread buns are not readily available. Fascinating, I’m sure.

Perhaps we could all just settle down and live and let live. No need to complain about other people’s tweets on every blog going. Just switch them off if you don’t like them. No need to give people lectures on their Twitter strategy. We are all individuals, and we have a diverse range of interests.

And if you find you are tweeting madly but people are unfollowing in their droves – have a look at it, and work out what ‘s wrong. But the most important thing is to be yourself, and just do what feels right to you. Personally I am fed up of being made to feel guilty every time I read an article about the right and wrong way to tweet. So I will continue to do my own thing, and if all else fails, I’ll just move to Pinterest! I’ve not seen any rules of perfect pinning yet, but I’ve no doubt there are some, or if not there will be soon.

I appreciate that I am undoubtedly laying myself open to a barrage of comments from people about my tweets, or from people who have unfollowed me. That’s fine. Really. It was your choice, and I accept it.