I resisted the Twitter thing for a long time.  I didn’t quite “get” it, and didn’t really have the time to devote to another social network.  But in preparing to put myself out into the world, I figured that I needed to at least stake a claim, so I opened up an account in September and started using it in earnest in May.  And now I’m finally starting to feel like I get it.

First of all, if you’re a writer going after traditional publication, holy shit you need to be on Twitter.  I can’t really speak to how it allows you to connect with readers (although I’ve had a number of lovely interactions with my favorite writers this way), but as far as connecting with professionals in the field, it’s a gold mine.  Editors and agents are on Twitter, and they’re openly discussing what they’re looking for and what they’re seeing, providing updates on where they’re at with queries, and even answering people’s questions about the process.  And that’s not even touching on the pitch parties (which I’ve discussed before).  So yeah, get your ass over there.

Of course, management can still be a problem.  On G+, I will scroll backwards through my stream and just keep going until I start recognizing posts.  G+ gives you call kinds of circle and volume controls to try to keep it reasonable (and I’ll have to discuss circle management some other time), but with Twitter, following someone is largely an all-or-nothing proposition.  So, here’s how I handle it.

First: Tweetdeck.  I started using it because I needed something to schedule tweets for SFFPit.  It works well for that, but what I really use it for is the column feature.  (Note: There are many other clients and tools available to assist with Twitter, but this one is working well for me for now.)  I’ve got mine set up with nine columns:

  1. My “Can’t Miss” list – This is a private list I set up that includes people I have a personal connection with (so the people I follow for them and not just their content) as well as the agents who currently have my materials.
  2. #tenqueries – Several agents use this to tweet about their slush pile.  Quite fascinating.
  3. #MSWL – ManuScript Wish List.  Agents and editors talk about the specific (sometimes extremely specific) things they’re looking for.  So if you have something that fits, you know who to put it in front of.
  4. #pubtip – and…
  5. #querytip – Various insights into the process.  These hashtags are somewhat prone to abuse, which makes the Mute feature extremely useful.
  6. #askagent – Occasionally agents will announce that they’re going to be open to questions using this hashtag, so it’s a good chance to find out specific information about the process.
  7. Monday Blogs – I love Monday Blogs as a thing, but having it incorporated into my main feed was getting a bit overwhelming and made it harder to see everything else happening on a Monday.  So, within Twitter, I have this account set to not show retweets.  (That way if it posts anything directly, I still see that.)  Instead, that account has its own column in Tweetdeck, so I can go through specifically looking for things to read and RT, separate from my normal reading.  5 sanity points restored.
  8. #SFFpit – Although the event is over, there’s still some occasional chatter, so I keep this column open.  Plus, it’ll be all set for the next one!
  9. FBK – This one is a collection, which is a special sort of Tweetdeck column where I can add specific, individual tweets.  I’m using this one to gather my inspiration pictures for Camp NaNoWriMo so I don’t spam my followers with them and can find them again easily.  Very useful.

It’s a lot of columns, but most of them aren’t very active, and the touchpad on the Chromebook (which is a magic rectangle of happiness) makes it just as easy to scroll horizontally as vertically.  So it’s very easy to read those thoroughly and get caught up.

(Edit: Tweetdeck lets you combine searches!  It’s actually quite simple; just shove OR in between your hashtags.  So now I have the following combo-columns:

Many people seem to use variant hashtags to cover basically the same content, so this lets you track them without getting columnsplosion.  Ain’t technology grand?)

So that leaves me with the main Twitter feed.  Since I know that all of the important stuff is in Tweetdeck, I can scroll through very quickly, skimming and looking for good stuff.  I also give myself a time limit for how long I’ll spend at a stretch.  Once that time is up, I close out of Twitter, even if there’s still stuff I haven’t read.  It’s a constant pep talk I have to give myself, trying to remember that I can’t see everything cool on the internet, and that’s okay.  If I don’t want social media to take over my life, I have to set limits and be smart about how I approach it.

Of course, I’m only following a couple hundred people at the moment.  As I continue to develop my presence over there, I’ll have to continually re-evaluate this strategy: adding and adjusting lists, reprioritizing hashtags, perhaps moving to different tools as my needs change.  The biggest thing to remember is that I cannot let Twitter, or any social media or stuff that isn’t day job or writing, dominate my life.  I have to limit how much time I spend there, and then figure out how to maximize that time so I’m using it most effectively.

How about you guys?  Any tips or tricks I should be trying?  Anything that works really well for you?

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