Twitter: building a brand or making a mess?

On Twitter tonight, a group of people were discussing the follow/unfollow activity of another user, and it highlighted what a mess my Twitter stream really is. I have some horrible, horrible Twitter habits (not as horrible as some people’s, before imaginations run wild, but still pretty rubbish).

Brand, consistency, and links 

My Twitter stream started off as a consistent short fiction stream. I wrote under a pen name, Martha Williams, using @marthawriting and then @martha_williams (neither of these is mine now). I shared my own work and others’, and joined a thriving online writing community.

This worked well until I decided that I wanted to write under my real name. I could have simply changed the account name to @tmupchurch, but before I did, I decided to delete my tweets – to have a clean slate before starting again.

Deleting tweets is a tiresome and boring process so I used an app which deleted everything, but for some reason Twitter still logged the account as having 42 tweets, even though there was none left – and for some reason, this tiny, nonsensical mathematical glitch irritated me beyond all belief and I deleted the entire account. My account with about 4k followers. It might even have been verified, I think that happened at some point (I know, don’t even…)

My consistent fiction stream with 4k followers – and any brand I may have been building – was gone.

Restarts and reciprocity 

I started again as @tmupchurch (via @tuwrites – both still mine) and several things changed. Firstly, more real life friends joined in, because they knew me. My first reaction was to wonder why they were following me on Twitter when they can see me in real life, and my second reaction was to wonder what was wrong with the ones who didn’t follow back?

But the main effect of real life friends was to diversify the content of the account. The fiction theme became a blend of fiction, sport, politics, education, business, #Brexit (lest we forget), wildlife, mountains, and a whole host of other topics. This was not a cohesive stream, it was a mess.

I tried to tidy it up by deleting old tweets about anything other than fiction or literacy, and using software to filter out inactive followers, those without profile pictures, or accounts that were purely self-promotional (“Buy my book! My book, buy it! Buy this book, it’s mine!” and so on). I personally enjoy Twitter as an information-sharing facility and it works best as a dialogue; anything that is not a two-way conversation is definitely of limited interest. 

Business vs personal tweets 

In an attempt to keep my tweets focused, I split my account into three parts – scientific writing on one account, fiction on @tmupchurch, and personal tweets from a third account which never found its feet because honestly, who has that many hours in a day? This last account meant that I unfollowed people from @tmupchurch, re-followed from a new personal account, changed my mind, and then moved them back again to @tmupchurch, losing pretty much all of them in the process and qualifying myself to write a book called “How Not To Use Social Media.”

So how should I use it? Did I even need two accounts?

I read around and came across an article by Mark Schaefer who addressed the question, do you need a corporate and a personal Twitter account? The answers are nuanced depending of course on objectives, but for me, the answer seemed to be no. The quote that stood out was

When networking, the most powerful relationships are built on trust and friendship, so it’s OK to let people know a little bit more about what is going on in your life.

In contrast, ads consultant Gavin Bell wrote an article recommending two separate accounts: a business account for company news and updates, and a personal account to engage readers – but in a 2018 update, he said that he’d deleted his business account as all the engagement had come through the personal account. A more recent 2018 article in Content Marketing World said pretty much the same; again a lot of people just went with one account and let the readers do the filtering.

The balances

I guess with all things there has to be balance, and the balance can shift over time.

Should I be professional to engage employers? But also personal to build a network? 

Should I abstain from politics or anything that might offend some readers? But also use the platform to get ideas and viewpoints out there? 

Should I retain a focus so that my stream is useful to other writers? But also provide a tapestry of different ideas and topics that might interest people? 

In the end, I decided this all amounted to one giant over-think, and it’s best just to say hi to people and get on with life.

And so

… in conclusion, I’m going to keep my online mess – if only to honour those fabulous souls who’ve stuck with me through my long-winded learning process. It’s been a great place to make new friends and to re-engage with my own friends on a different platform. So for those of you who managed to hang on in there, thank you!

I’m finally going to settle where I am, and stop moving around quite so much.

I’m at @tmupchurch sitting in a mess of fiction and personal tweets, so come on over if you want to chat about mountains, wildlife, running, or even – occasionally – writing.


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