Twitter etiquette: auto-DMs

Spam makes baby twitter bird sad.

Spam makes baby twitter bird sad.

I recently got into a discussion with someone on Twitter after I unfollowed them. They tweeted me and asked why, and what they could do to win me back.

Never mind the fact that I’ve never had anyone do that before — most people, especially those with thousands of followers like this person — take the occasional loss of a follower in their stride. I’d  never had a personal interaction with this person beforehand, and had only followed them for a few days before I unfollowed.

I tried to explain my reasons to them (as I write this I still haven’t decided whether to relent on the unfollow). And I’ll explain them here for you.


This is spam. It doesn’t matter whether the DM contains a link, or even whether you’re asking them to do stuff on behalf of someone else — it’s still spam: an unsolicited request to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Think of it like this. When you tweet, your followers see the tweet in their timeline. If they’re looking at the time, anyway. They can either choose to read it or ignore it, and if they choose to read it they can then elect to do the thing you’re asking them to do, or not. It’s like an ad on TV, or in a magazine.

When you DM someone, they will definitely read it, sure. But it’s more like telemarketing: ringing someone up (probably at dinnertime!) and asking them for stuff. I don’t like people ringing me, or DMing me, unless I know them or have otherwise invited contact.

A lot of people send auto-DMs when you follow them. Some are just “hey, thanks for the follow”. Others contain links to blogs and things — which is, to my mind, a little obnoxious. Put the link in your bio; I’ll find it if I want to.

For the record, I usually don’t unfollow someone for this particular offence. But I know people who do, so my advice would be don’t do it.

The person I unfollowed not only sent the auto-DM welcome message (with link), but then went on to send another DM to all their followers a few days later. It didn’t contain a link, but it did ask me to do something. It was spam. Again.

I’ll give someone another chance once, but twice? When I don’t even know you? No thanks.

I think a lot of people with things to sell on Twitter are bewitched by the idea that a DM is a guaranteed read. What they don’t realise is that it’s almost always also guaranteed to piss people off.

If you want people to click on your blog link, or like you on Facebook, or do whatever it is you are tempted to ask them to do, then my suggestion is this: be engaging. Be sociable. Be friendly, and genuine. Don’t just tweet about your product — you can mention it, of course, but it shouldn’t be more than a quarter of your overall tweets (probably less). Talk about other things. Show that you’re a person.

And have the link in your bio, so that when you’ve won people over they click on the link because they want to. Because they like you, or are a fan.

Thus endeth the lesson/rant.

Blog memes – Thursday’s Children and #MondayBlogs

This is my last Thursday’s Children post. Not because I have decided to take my bat and ball and go home (no bat, and also — no home!), but because the organisers, Rhiann and Kristina, have decided that after organising it for a full year it’s time they moved on to a new project. I respect that, although I will miss the meme, which is about sharing the things that inspire you.

thurschilbadgejpgThe meme has been a great thing to get me blogging. Since I joined in April I’ve posted Thursday’s Children blog posts at least once a fortnight — depending on other blogging and real life commitments. And it’s also drawn some extra traffic to my blog that I otherwise might not have had, because each Thursday’s Children blog post is registered at a central list and the participants often drop in on other blogs to say hi and see what’s inspiring them.

And Thursday’s Children inspired me. Talk about the snake eating its own tail … in a nice way, obviously.


If you’re a blogger and also on Twitter, there’s another meme you should be aware of: #MondayBlogs.

This was created by social media guru Rachel Thompson as a way for people to share their blog posts once a week, and to find and retweet others. It is, unsurprisingly, held every Monday — although given the various timezones around the world, Monday goes for way more than 24 hours.

Here are a few tips for participating in #MondayBlogs.

* Write a blog post that others will want to read.

* Tweet about it on Monday. Make sure you include the #MondayBlogs hashtag, and that your tweet actually reveals something about the post.

* If you also include the account name @MondayBlogs, they will retweet your post as well. (DON’T include the account name as the very first thing in the tweet, because that prevents your followers who don’t also follow @MondayBlogs from seeing it. Include a character — even a “.” will do — before the “@”.)

* You can find other blogs to read and retweet by either checking the hashtag contents or the @MondayBlog tweets. I prefer the latter because each tweet only appears once instead of dozens of times as it is retweeted.

* Try and retweet at least a few other people’s blog posts. (I try not to retweet too many links at once, which means I spread it out. And I always read the blog post first, to make sure I’m not inadvertently sharing something offensive — which is why I only manage to share a few each week.)

If you want to learn more, I recommend this post by Rachel Thompson.

Anway, to close, I’ll leave you with the children’s poem that inspired Thursday’s Children in the first place:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Twitter Contest to Win an E-Copy of ‘The Best Man’ by Ana Blaze

Beth Chase is too busy planning perfect weddings to worry about the lack of action in her own love life. But if she was looking for a man, she wouldn’t be looking at Colin Pratt. Her boss swears that Best Man Colin is a quiet scholar and science fiction writer who couldn’t possibly cause a fuss at his own brother’s wedding. He’s clearly never met the man in question. Snarky, sexy and more than a little inebriated, Colin is the final obstacle between Beth and the last perfect wedding she needs to make partner. Of course, when she helps him into a taxi at the end of the night she has no idea that he’s only just begun to poke holes in her professional exterior. Colin might have the skills to seduce a romance professional, but can he convince her that he’s the best man to share her happy ever after?

The Best Man By Ana Blaze

Find The Best Man on Goodreads, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or Smashwords. The Best Man is also available from Entranced Publishing.

Watch the trailer here.

 Contest Details

Entering is easy. Just tweet @ana_blaze and include the hashtag #TheBestMan between midnight EST on 7 June 2013 (NOW!) and 11:59 p.m. EST on 8 June 2013!

 For example, you could tweet:

@ana_blaze I married #TheBestMan I know.

@ana_blaze #TheBestMan is on my must read list.

@ana_blaze #TheBestMan made me breakfast in bed.

@ana_blaze I love sexy nerds. #TheBestMan

@ana_blaze I wish Beth would plan my wedding. #TheBestMan

@ana_blaze Being #TheBestMan is tough, but someone’s gotta do it.

or even just:

@ana_blaze  I want to read #TheBestMan!

You get the idea. Twitter rules ask that we don’t have too many duplicate tweets, so it’s best (and frankly way more cool) if you come up with your own tweet. Ana is really looking forward to seeing what folks come up with. And hoping for some tweets about how to be #TheBestMan. It’s also best if you are following Ana on Twitter. Apparently that’s the only way to guarantee that your tweet shows up in the search.

You’re welcome to tweet (and enter) more than once, but please not more than once an hour. Let’s not annoy the Twitter-folk too much.

This contest is open internationally.

Void where prohibited. 😦

You can find Ana at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Goodreads.

Website design: creating an attractive author image

Today’s guest post is by Amber A. Bardan, contemporary and paranormal romance writer and winner of North Texas Romance Writers of America‘s 2013 Great Expectations. 

I’m so excited to be guest blogging for Cassandra today! I thought I’d blog about something I know a little be about. My day job (as in the job that actually pays me money so I can spend the rest of the time writing) is as a Web and Graphic Designer. Let’s face it the reason you get an author website is so publishers and agents can look you up and see that you appear professional. Obviously you want your website or blog to look pretty, and thereby enhance your professional image.

It’s also the foundation of your one day ‘published author’ platform. I want to stop here a moment and say something; at the end of the day your writing is what is going to sell you – everything else is secondary so don’t stress too much if you have no domain, few blog followers, and only a couple of Twitter followers. These things are only a complement to good writing.

However, the advantage of setting yourself up professionally is that other writers, prospective readers or whomever our blog/website is targeting are far more likely to take you seriously if you look the part. So here are my tips on creating a good looking author website.

Creating Strong Visual Appeal

·         Keep it simple

Look at the majority of successful bloggers and aspiring writers; their blogs and websites are usually simple. If not, they usually have professionally designed themes.

Either way they are not generally loaded with photos, images, clip art, hundreds of colors or varying text sizes—it’s simple and consistent.

·         Quality graphics

If you are going to use graphics to enrich your website or blog make sure they are good quality, royalty-free images. Nothing looks worse than tacky clipart on a website. Sites like Shutterstock, iStock and Dreamstime have millions of beautiful, professional images available to purchase for a very small fee. You only need one great image to create a website background or blog banner.

·         Color Choice

This is the biggest problem with DIY websites and blogs! We all know ‘those’ websites with black background and yellow or magenta text… Apart from not being visually appealing, color choice effects visibility and your website’s or blog’s accessibility.

Chose two colors—with big contrast. You might introduce a third color for enhancement, but only use it with a light hand.

De-saturated colors work well. But always use web-safe colors (no neon yellow or magenta)

When using a color for a background or text I suggest always pairing it with white. For example, with a dusky blue background, use white text. With a white background, use dusky blue text. You can use more than one color against white, such as a white background with a dusky blue text and pale blue embellishments, but never put a colored text on a colored background. 

·         Templates and Professionals

Another option is to purchase professional services in the form of professional web design or web/blog templates. This option can give you a very professional and individual result—if you choose your source wisely. Of course, custom is the most expensive option but there are more affordable templates available from template stores for a small cost (some are even free). If you do choose this option ensure you do your research; look at portfolios and get a good understanding of what is included, what you need to do yourself, and total costs.

You can find Amber on Twitter or at her blog.

Amber A Bardan

Inspired by others’ successes


I didn’t think I would be participating in Thursday’s Children this week, because I had so much scheduled for the blog: cover launches, new release blog tours and giveaways. But it occurred to me that the very reason for all these posts was actually a source of inspiration to me, and that maybe I should share it for anyone else who is struggling right now.

The fact is I get a huge buzz from the successes of other authors—especially my friends, obviously, but also people I follow but am not even that close to on Twitter.

In the past couple of weeks one person in the writing community on Twitter got a three-book deal. Another got an agent. Two others have launched their books, while two have revealed covers for their books. And I know of someone who has had a contract offer and is considering it now (and no, I won’t say who it is—I don’t want to steal their thunder).

I don’t know if there’s something in the water in Publishing Land at the moment to make all these awesome events occur at once, or whether it’s because my circle of writerly folks on Twitter has expanded to the point where I’m just hearing more news. It could be a little of both. But I LOVE IT!

I’m not saying a tiny part of me isn’t jealous—but it’s not the kind of spiteful jealousy that makes me resent the successful people. It’s not the kind that eats at my heart, or even brings me down a little. It’s more of an “oh, that must be nice!” reaction, which is completely overridden by the happiness I feel for these people.

At the end of the day, we’re not all competing for one job; there are a lot of publishers and agents out there, and just because someone else gets picked up for something, that doesn’t reduce the size of the pie for the rest of us. (Mmm, pie…) It’s also a good indication publishing is thriving despite all the changes to the industry, which has to be good news for all of us.

Also, I’ve had UB40’s cover of Kingston Town stuck in my head since I heard it on the radio on Tuesday, and who could be gloomy with such a cute little reggae tune playing? (Given the peppy nature of this post, maybe Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin would be more appropriate, but my brain isn’t listening.) 

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Finding new Twitter follows more lazy ways: hashtags and advanced searches


Two weeks ago I blogged about how a great way to find new people to follow was to look at the lists to which others have added you, because odds are there’ll be a common theme uniting you and them. Here are a couple of other ways I’ve used recently to find people to follow, both for my personal account and for the Aussie Owned and Read account. (By the way, Aussie Owned is running a giveaway at the moment; you should check it out!)

Contest hashtags

Yesterday, the queen of Twitter pitching contests, Brenda Drake, ran the latest in the series: #PitMad. In case you’re not familiar with the idea, writers come up with a 140-character hook for their manuscript (including the hashtag) and post it periodically throughout a ten-hour period. Agents and publishing houses can check the hashtag and request to see queries for those pitches that interest them. It was fabulously successful and quite a few folks I know got requests.

But the other upside of a very popular hashtag such as this is that, like a list, it unites people who have similar interests. In this case it’s writers, but there are loads of other hashtags out there you can use.

Advanced search function

Did you know that Twitter has an advanced search function? You can find it here. It lets you enter in various criteria to search for (must or mustn’t include certain words, from or to a certain account, etc). The location function seems a little flaky (whenever I tried “Australia” it didn’t work, so I had to do it by capital city) but otherwise it’s quite effective to find people who have the same interests as you.

As an aside, if you’re trying to market a book make sure you don’t just follow writers. Follow readers too; try searching for fans of popular novels in your genre. If they follow you back you’ve gained a possible new fan (so long as you play your cards right).

So those are two of the ways I use. Do you have any other methods to find people who share your interests?

I’m Pinteresting

Pinterest_logoThat’s like being interesting, only with art.

I’ve read a few blog posts on social media for writers, and everyone kept mentioning Pinterest. I’d always thought that was a site for scrapbooking DIY projects and recipes, so I was scratching my head as to what writers use it for. So I posted on Twitter, and a few of my tweeps filled me in.

One good summary of it, and what made me decide to get a Pinterest account, is Nicole Evelina’s blog post on the subject.

So anyway, I’ve set up my account here, if you wanted to check it out or follow me or whatever it is people do on Pinterest. If you leave your account names in the comments I’ll follow you back. Once I figure out how. :p

Collaboration, not competition

A guest post by Sharon Sant on one of the downsides of Twitter. I’d love to hear what you think.

I’ve made a lot of friends through writing. Many of these are in real life, through my university course and local writing networks. Many more have been via social media. It’s been a strange experience in many ways, particularly ‘meeting’ people virtually. Some of my online friends I’ve since met in real life and they’ve been every bit as delightful as they are in the ether. Some, I know I will never meet, and that makes me sad, because they are people I feel I have a strong friendship with, even a deep affection for, despite never having met them face to face.

In today’s writing world, I think there is no stronger tool than collaboration with other writers. In the days of ink and quill, writing was considered a solitary affair, but not anymore. In our rapidly shrinking world, we have so many ways to link up. We’re in constant contact every day, updating each other from across the globe about how many words we’ve done, when we’re taking a break, how our editing is driving us nuts. We participate in blog hops and Nanowrimo and virtual launch parties.

Some of us take these relationships, cherish them and build on them, because we understand that you can’t make it alone. People just like you are the people who will root for you, will retweet you, will send readers to your blog, will beta read for you and critique with the best of intentions, will give you heads-up on news, will egg you on when you flag. And you will do the same for them. In my opinion, that’s how it should be—a community based on mutual respect and collaboration.

But I have also encountered the flip-side of this. Take this example: a friend on twitter chats to a friend of theirs who has exactly the same interests as me, has other mutual friends, even writes the same genre. I follow that person, attempt to chat to them, and I’m ignored. I don’t understand why. Not for a minute am I suggesting that everyone has to follow me because I follow them, or reply to me when I mention them, but I fail to see the logic in not doing these things when we quite clearly have so much in common. We have all the necessary ingredients to make another strong link in the chain; why would you throw that opportunity away? Why would you actively set yourself apart from other writers like you? What does this achieve?

Sometimes, I admit, I feel envious of others I consider vastly more talented, successful or popular than me. But I fight those feelings because I think that life as an indie author is hard enough without negativity taking hold. I’d rather try my best to be happy for others, even when I have a down day and I don’t feel like it, than sit stewing in my juices. The writing journey is a much more fulfilling one when you can share it with people who understand each step.

Sharon Sant holds a BA (Hons) in English and creative writing and is currently researching a PhD in literary studies. She is a freelance editor and is the author of YA novels, “Sky Song” and “The Young Moon”. You can find her blog here.


Finding new Twitter follows the lazy way: lists

I’ve been slowly accumulating followers on Twitter, a few a day. And, unless the person breaks some of those rules I’ve blogged about previously, I tend to follow them back. Since November 2012 when I joined, I’d crossed over 500 followers and follows as at a few days ago. Not bad given I haven’t been pursuing followers aggressively like some people do.

Then Carissa added me to a list called Authors (with the description “authors of pure awesome”—thanks for that validation!).

For those of you that don’t know, Twitter lets you build lists where you can add people and then view their tweets as a single stream, filtering out stuff that isn’t relevant to your list theme. And you don’t have to follow them either (which can be a handy way to keep your number of follows down if you’re in Twitter ratio territory).

For example, I have a list for Agents and a list for Publishers. I follow the agents but not the publishers … and if I get to the Twitter ratio threshold of 2000 I’ll probably stop following the agents, knowing I can keep track of them via my list.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I decided to check out who was on Carissa’s author list. And though I have a writer list of my own with over 400 members, her list also had 400 members, most of which I didn’t follow.

Hello, goldmine of people with similar interests. 🙂

I follows the bulk of them. In the last twenty-four hours, 77 of them have followed me back. I don’t expect they all will—I don’t automatically follow those that follow me, so why should they? I certainly won’t take it personally.

Another thing about lists: if you’re a writer (or anyone else) trying to build a social media platform to help tell the world about your book, then Twitter is partly a numbers game. I’ve read that you need to have thousands of followers before you can hope an agent or publisher will take your Twitter efforts seriously.

So if that’s your goal, but you’re wondering how on earth you keep track of your favourite tweeps when you’re following hundreds or thousands of people, lists are the solution. Set one up; call it “my faves” or “the bestest tweeps of all” or “the Avengers”—whatever you like. Then make it a private list, so only you can see it. That way everyone else doesn’t wonder why they didn’t make the cut. 😉

Not that I would do that. *shifty eyes*


Three things not to do on Twitter

This is an actual, genuine, bona fide post by me! I know, right?! After all the guest posts I guess you thought I’d abandoned you. I’m drafting this in a haze of aching limbs and dust clouds, but we’ve done a major amount of packing and cleaning and I’m taking a break.

And sitting. Love the sitting.

Anyway, here are three things I’ve noticed lately on Twitter that bug me. Don’t do them, mkay?

Don’t do it, or the bird gets it.

1.       Only tweeting about your product

If someone follows me, I always have a look at their tweets. If all I see are links to or promos about whatever product they are selling (usually a book, because that’s the Twitter circle I move in), I don’t follow back.

I’m not saying don’t promote your stuff. But try and limit yourself to a couple of tweets a day: once in the morning and once in the evening. That way you catch folks in different timezones without being obnoxious. And try and mix up the tweets you use to do any promoting; if I’m on at the same time every day and see the same tweet from you at the same time, I’m going to notice. Scheduling is a fantastic tool (I use it all the time) but try not to be too obvious about it!

Talk to people. Try and keep a healthy ratio of chatting and useful links to your promo stuff: I’ve seen it suggested that you aim for five other tweets to every one promo tweet.

The trick is to make people think you’re people too. Because people want to follow people. 😉

2.       Complaining when people don’t reciprocate the Twitter love

There are a bunch of different weekly hashtags that people use to do shout outs to their followers or to people they think others should follow. For example, on Wednesday there’s #WW (WritersWednesday) and on Friday there’s #FF (FollowFriday).

The other day I got offended on others’ behalf when I saw someone complaining a person they’d done a #FF shout out for had gone for “lesser reciprocation” by only favouriting the tweet with the #FF, rather than doing a #FF back.

Maybe they did it because they were busy, and wanted to say thank you via the favourite. Maybe it never occurred to them to #FF the complainer back, or they didn’t have time. Maybe they are in fact rude.

But never, ever, ever complain on Twitter about it. It makes you look ungracious, and like you’re only promoting others for personal gain. That’s a secret best kept between you and your cat. Complain to them instead: they won’t mind. (Hell, they’re a cat; they’ll just ignore you.)

3.       The old follow/unfollow trick

When you hit 2000 follows on Twitter (folks you follow, not your followers), it imposes a ratio limit. You can’t follow more than 10% more people than follow you. So if I hit 2000 follows, and only have 1600 followers, I can’t follow anyone else till my follower number creeps up to at least 1819. (I think I’ve done the maths right. I’m tired!)

There are a few ways you can deal with this: I’m a big fan of using lists to keep track of my favourite celebrities etc rather than following them. But some people follow you in the hope you’ll follow back; if you do, they wait a bit and then unfollow you. That way you count as a follow without them having to increase their own pool of follows.

This is, as the young people say, a dick move. (Do the young people say that?)

If you’re wondering if this has been done to you, I recommend using the web-based app Just Unfollow. It lets you see who you follow who doesn’t follow you, and if you log on once a week or so you can review all your unfollows. It flags the ones you follow, with a handy “unfollow” button so you can kick their butt to the curb. You know, if you wanted to.

(There are other apps that do the same thing. That’s just the one I know about!)

If you’ve found these helpful, you should check out this post by Bad Redhead Media. She is my social media guru.