Twitter and the back cover blurb

I get numerous spammy auto-bots following me on Twitter everyday. As I trawled through them yesterday something occurred to me. A person’s Twitter bio is very much like the back cover blurb of a book.

To explain, Twitter is infested by scumbags that have bots set up to auto-follow anyone that might be vaguely interested. For example, I happened to post a tweet the other day that had the words “real estate” among the 140 characters. For the next two days I was getting bombed with dozens of followers that all happened to be real estate agents. In places like Dallas. Arseholes. When I was chatting about this on Twitter with @timothywcrane we thought it could become a new Twitter sport. I said perhaps it could be a sport where you try to attract certain auto-follows and he said, “You could set it up like scavenger, collect one whore, one political intellectual, a marketer, and 2 sports buffs, etc…” Could be quite a laugh, though I have no idea how you’d make that work.

Anyway, I digress. The point is this: as so many scumbag spammers always have these auto-follow things running, I don’t just automatically follow back everyone that follows me. I try to go through and selectively follow back. Sometimes this is just too much. I might get up and see twenty new follows sitting in my inbox and I can’t be arsed. Especially before my first coffee. They often get an automatic mass-delete. However, when grumpiness allows I go through these follows and check to see if I want to follow them back.

Given how many there are I make pretty quick decisions based almost entirely on the little Bio on a person’s Twitter page. And this is where it occurred to me that it’s like the back cover blurb of a book. This is what my Twitter page looks like:


That little paragraph to the right of my name is the Bio section. My decision on whether or not to follow someone back is entirely based on what’s written here. Mine says:

Alan is an author living on the south coast of NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu.

It’s short, slightly whimsical and says that I’m a writer, what sort of thing I write, that I teach Kung Fu and that I’m a motorcyclist and animal lover. Quite a lot of info in a very small space. Hopefully there’s enough there for people decide if they want to follow me or not. It’s really not that hard to have a decent bio.

When I’m checking to see if I’m going to follow someone back I’ll make the decision based on what’s in there. If the person sounds interesting, especially if they have an interest in writing, martial arts or motorcycles, I’ll most likely follow back. They have that one short paragraph to sell themselves to me, just like the back cover of a book.

Here’s a few things that’ll guarantee that I won’t follow you back:

No bio – You’re probably a robot. Or a whore. Or a robot whore. Not interested.

Listing your religion – I’m not interested in anyone that defines themselves to others by their belief system.

Implying your religion – If your bio says something like “To God Be The Glory” then that tells me all I need to know about you. Not interested.

Selling – A bio that reads something like, “The best marketing strategy book on the market today! Click Here!” Fuck off. If you turned out to be an interesting guy I might have bought your book. But as you slap me upside the ear with it on our first encounter, you deserve a virtual door slammed in your face. This applies to all aspects of selling, be it services, products or anything else. Twitter is a social network. Chat about things, share interesting info and you might get a sale later. Put something about yourself in the bio and drop a few sales pitches in among your tweets. That’s how you does it!

No picture – I don’t know why exactly, but this just bugs me. It doesn’t even have to be a picture of you. An icon or graphic will do.

Company logo picture – Here’s where I’d prefer no picture. You’re obviously on the hard sell. Not interested.

There are lots more examples but I’m sure you get the idea. Also, making a really long post about Twitter seems somehow wrong. And this post is long enough already.

I really enjoy the interaction on Twitter. Certainly, it’s one of the ways that I build up my author platform and I use it to spread information about my books and other writing. Hopefully it helps me sell a few books. But I actually enjoy sharing interesting links with people and seeing what interesting links other people post. I have a laugh from time to time joking with people I’ve never met (and almost certainly never will) about all kinds of subjects. There’s so much to be gained from this kind of social network, so don’t blow it immediately with a poor “back cover blurb”.


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9 thoughts on “Twitter and the back cover blurb

  1. Tis true what you say, I have a miniscule following, and that’s because I have blocked as many ‘bots as I have real people. But the author’s bio, does infact say way more, in word’s anyway, and like, there’s an entire book that tells you something, perhaps not about the person, but tells something. A story. What’s weird is that author’s used to ech out a living being anonymous, and now, they have to shameless self promoting whore’s. Writer’s have always been that, underpayed and underappreciated as they are, but maybe it’s time for self pressing again. Walt Whitman self published…just imagine if he hadn’t! So ya, I agree with you about Twitter profile’s. And ya, I agree there’s dinks out there. It just goes to show that we are at a very intersting place, as a race, as creative writers, journalists, artists and humans. It’s almost like you are saying that unless one conforms to twitterprofilingrulesalaYou, then not interested. At the same time, one just has to deal with the billion followers, which I don’t relate to as I have, 30 or somethin’. I appreciate your topic very much. I hope that you don’t get too cynical. Twitter is weird man.

    best to you,

  2. Well, Twitter is certainly weird.

    As for “unless one conforms to twitterprofilingrulesalaYou, then not interested” – well, yeah. That’s exactly what I’m saying. But I’d venture the rules “alaMe” are shared by lots of other people too. It’s a bit late for me not to get too cynical. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. This is a good post, and quite frankly, I’m SICK OF BOTS following me just because I happen to use certain keywords. I once quoted G4 as saying “E3 is our March Madness” and just like that, I had a March Madness bot following me. What makes me angry is that whoever did this didn’t even bother to research me before following (if they had, they would’ve discovered I don’t really care for basketball on tv).

    I do a little research on everyone I follow because I see no point in following someone just because they are supposed to be hot, or the say they can make you a million dollars. Screw them and those who program them.

    You want to sell me, at least make an attempt at getting to know me, and then pitch. Otherwise, click your heels three times and go to hell.

    But that’s just me. Great post.

  4. Alan,
    I know you said you didn’t list all of your examples… but I just HAVE to share one of mine…. I actually just read a bio that said “I like pain and to cut myself”….she also listed her religion as satanic…

    and I’m not even kidding…THERE was a door that I slammed and ran away ran away…

  5. That little corner is the first place I go when deciding to follow someone! If it’s still unclear, a read through their posts tells me the rest.

  6. To be honest, I haven’t yet got the hang of Twitter and how one has conversations on it. I don’t understand how overnight I can lose 200 followers. They were probably bots, because I don’t block followers, though I definitely check out people who follow me before I follow back. Bio is one prerequisite. Photo is another. Tweets is a third. If they’ve never posted anything, why follow? Number of followers is a fourth. If someone has 25,000 followers, the chances of noticing anything anyone does is miniscule.

  7. Pat – all your points are valid. I use Tweetdeck to sort followers into groups and I keep interesting people in various groups so that I can watch their tweets more easily. You have to accept that you’ll miss lots of interesting tweets simply due to the instant nature of Twitter.

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