bad twitter

Dear Fellow Author on Twitter:

I’m writing this open letter to you because I just received a direct message from you saying, “[your name] uses TrueTwit Validation Service. Please click here to validate.”

Now, I know there are a lot of people out there giving social media advice these days to authors trying to gain visibility for their books. They’re a dime a dozen. In fact, there are so many of them, I don’t want to be one of them. I would rather spend my time writing zombie books. Yet here I am, writing a blog giving advice on how to use social media. I’m doing this letter to you as a blog, and thus not calling out your name(s), because I’m too polite–and I don’t want to harm my own brand–to send it to you directly. But you forced me into it. So here goes. Although it’s not solicited, I’m going to give you a piece of advice on how to use Twitter. Ready?

Don’t use TrueTwit Validation Service.

Let me repeat that.


I am not a spambot. I’m not a webcam whore, I don’t have McDonald’s gift cards, I’m not offering to sell you 5,000 followers, and I don’t have penis enlargement pills. Er, I mean, I’m not selling penis enlargement pills. So why are you treating me as if I am?

Look, I wanted to follow you. I saw your profile on Twitter and I clicked it on. If I clicked the follow button, it’s because I saw something in your tweets or your profile that I liked.

Before I ever saw a single one of your tweets–before we even had a chance to have a conversation–the first thing that happens, the very first contact I ever have from you, is an unsolicited direct message saying, “[your name] uses TrueTwit Validation Service.” You want me to prove I’m not a webcam whore, a 5,000 follower peddler or a purveyor of penis enlargement pills. This is the first thing you say to me in our entire conversation.

Do you know what I did as soon as I received this message? I mean, immediately–after not even five seconds had passed since I first laid eyes on your message?

Yup. You guessed it. I unfollowed your rude and suspicious ass.

All it took was one automated direct message to turn my attitude toward you from “I like what this person is saying, I’d like to see more” to “get away from me and don’t come back.”

That means you’ll never get a chance to make me smile, or to enlighten me with some bit of information you might share, or give me the chance to observe you conversing with friends–some of whom I might also want to follow, and perhaps a very few of which might become very good friends of mine. That’s how I find friends on Twitter. The people who I really like and treasure on Twitter are very often people I never sought out, but who came to my attention through @ replies or RT’s by someone I did follow.

Most importantly for you, it means I will never buy your book. You just lost a reader, a customer, a potential fan, a potential reviewer, perhaps even a contact who could help you spread the word about your book(s) among like-minded people who might have bought, read and loved them as much as I might have.

But none of that will ever happen, because you signed up with TrueTwit Validation Service. You employed an electronic bouncer at the door of your Twitter account, a faceless, insensate e-thug who shoots on sight and presumes everyone is guilty until proven innocent. Your insight, your humor, and (again most importantly) your books are all on the other side of this bouncer. He is your ambassador. He is your envoy, your vanguard. He’s your face. And he just made me walk away.

Now, you say, I’m being harsh. I mean, since I’m not a spambot selling penis pills or McDonald’s gift cards, I have nothing to fear from the bouncer, do I? It’s just a click, a captcha. Is that such an imposition? If I really want to connect with you, why should I object to doing this? Especially when it’s obvious that I hate spambots as much as you do?

I’ll tell you why, Author, and I hope you don’t think I’m being too blunt here, but it shows two things about you. It shows that (1) you don’t know how to use social media, and (2) you’re willing to let a few bad apples spoil everything for everyone, because you can’t be bothered to putting in the elbow grease to deal with them yourself. Neither of these are very flattering impressions you want to leave in the minds of your potential readers, customers, colleagues and friends.

As for point number (1), it distresses me that, in this era when there are literally terabytes of web pages and blogs out there about how to use (and how not to use) social media, you still haven’t seen posts like this or this. You may have a thousand more followers than I do, but that very first TrueTwit DM positively shouts from the rooftops, “I’m brand spanking new at this and I don’t know how it works.” If you’re new to this, that’s fine–all of us were new at one point in time–but the trick is not to advertise it.

Point number (2) is more serious and troubling. You’re going to let them–the webcam whores and penis-pill peddlers–set the terms of engagement on your Twitter? Because you got followed by a couple of spambots, you’re going to make a bunch of innocent people squint at some incomprehensible captcha in order to follow you? Really? Really? You would give them that power? You would let them do that?

This is different than making blog comments registration-only or other routine behaviors to root out spam. If I come to your blog and want to leave a comment there, I’m coming into your home (digitally speaking), and the fact that I have to put my name on your blog is not unreasonable, especially if there are swarms of spambots who will take any chance to get their foot in the door of your place. But Twitter is not the same as that. By following your Twitter I’m not coming into your home. I’m tuning into your channel. I’m not putting you out at all. You lose absolutely nothing.

But by using TrueTwit–by putting that e-thug at the point of your first connection with your followers–you’ve lost everything you could have gained from me. And it’s so pointless. You probably think, “Jeez, why is he so hot and bothered by just clicking one little link?” It’s not the link. It’s the principle. If you understand this, you will take a much larger step into the world of social media.

I hope this doesn’t strike you as too harsh. It needed to be said. I’m sure you’re a great writer and I wish you the best. But please…please…get rid of TrueTwit. If a spambot follows you and starts tweeting you annoying links, block them. Or, if you’re really paranoid about being followed by spambots, go through your followers list, click on the suspicious profiles and block them prospectively. But fire the bouncer. The first voice your readers should hear–the first face they see on your channel–should be yours, and it should be a welcoming one.

Thanks for reading.