50K Twitter Thoughts
Posted on August 7, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 51 Comments
So, hey, I am about to (or just have) passed 50,000 followers on Twitter, which makes it a nice moment to have a couple of thoughts about the service.
1. Yay, 50K followers, almost all of whom are real people and not spambots or a bunch of eyeball-hungry twitterfreaks engaging in a mutual SEO handjob. Basically, if you’re following me, you tend to be a real live person who wants to be following me. So, you know. Thank you.
2. I gained 40% of those followers in roughly the last year, since a year ago this month I was getting plastered in frosting on Neil Gaiman’s front lawn to mark the occasion of reaching 30,000 followers. I’ll be curious if this sort of accumulation continues .
3. Any time I feel smug about 50k Twitter followers, I just have to think about Wil and his two million plus followers. That takes care of that.
4. On the flip side of that, I am frequently amazed at the people who I think are awesome who have fewer Twitter followers than I do. That just seems wrong.
5. Obviously, I know only a very small fraction of the people who follow me. I suspect most of the people who follow me do so because they were fans of me and/or this blog and/or my books. However, I do suspect that a non-trivial portion of my Twitter followers found out about me on Twitter, through retweets or following conversations I have with other people they follow. They might not even know what else I do. I kind of like this.
In general, I expect most people follow me because they want me to amuse them. I think this is fine. I like being amusing on Twitter.
6. I follow (currently) 275 people, almost all of whom are people I know personally in one way or another. There are very few people on my follow list who I don’t know in some way (or at the very least, are not close friends of people on my list who are close friends with me). In fact, here are the only complete strangers to me on the list: Mara Wilson, Daniel Lanois, Lee Newton, William Beckett, Hank Steuver, Vienna Teng, Sam Bisbee, Wesley Stace and Johnette Napolitano.
I follow these folks because, well, I’m a fan, basically. These people are great musicians and/or good writers and/or funny as hell. However, I feel a little weird following people I don’t know and even weirder when I tweet at them; I worry about coming across as, you know, creepy. Yes, I have Fan Tweet Anxiety. And then when they occasionally tweet back at me, and I’m all, like, oh kewl they’re totally my Twitter friends and we could have awesome adventures together! Which kind of validates my whole “I’m coming across creepy” concern, I think.
All of which is to say I am really no good at being a fan on Twitter. Yes, I suppose this is a little bit ironic.
7. As noted before, I think most people on Twitter follow me because they want to me to be amusing there. I follow people not because I want them to be amusing, per se, but because in general they are friends of mine and it’s a really cool way to feel connected to them during the day — and because my friends tend to be clever people, they are often amusing as well. Given the open nature of Twitter, that means we are often amusing together, to the delight of bystanders. Twitter, in other words, is finely tuned for garrulous exhibitionists. I like that about it.
8. It’s also interesting to me how differently I use Twitter from Facebook. On Twitter, I am largely in performance mode, saying and doing (hopefully) funny and amusing things, with occasional side trips on my various hobby horses. I figure that most of the people on Twitter know me because of my public persona as an opinionated writer dude, and there’s no harm continuing that persona there, and anyway I don’t take it personally when people unfollow me.
With Facebook, on my personal, private account, I do almost none of those things. I am relatively quiet there, and have a personal rule not to post about any contentious topics, or to respond to any. The reason for that is that most of the people I friend on Facebook are family and old friends, many of whom have drastically different political and social views than I do, and many of whom I suspect have never been to this blog or read me on Twitter. I don’t want to argue with them about any damn thing. What I want to do on Facebook is see pictures of their kids and pets, not have the online equivalent of a permanent, awkward Thanksgiving dinner.
The difference between the two is why I like Twitter so much more than Facebook. I like what Facebook does for me — keeps me in contact with very old friends and family — but I like being on Twitter.
9. I won’t lie: I kinda wish Twitter would validate my account. It’s a pointless ego bauble, but it’s also a pointless ego bauble a lot of my friends already have and I want to too. There, I said it.
10. Hey, did I say thanks if you follow me on Twitter? I did? Well, let me say it again: Thanks.
I follow you on Twitter for a lot of reasons – your writing, this blog, the fact that I used to read your movie reviews in the Fresno Bee – but the biggest reason I follow your Twitter feed is because you are a silly man. And that is a valuable commodity in this world, where so many people seem to be so serious all the time.
I just became follower #49,990 because I realized I wasn’t following you already, possibly because I don’t know how to use Twitter right anyway, but I like reading things from people who do.
You’re welcome. And thanks for tweeting back at me about CHURROWAFFLES a while back. Made my day. : )
Is it the accumulation of Twitter followers or the accumulation of frosting that you’re hoping will continue?
Why not both?
I have way fewer followers than you. One, to be exact. I don’t know her, but she seems nice. At least she isn’t a spambot whore like other requests (male and female). But it doesn’t matter, because I never tweet anything.
I follow a whole 19 people, some of which I actually know personally. Wil is not one of them.
Very few of my actual-in-person friends are on Twitter. I think the first person I paid much attention to on Twitter was Phil Plait. Then he interacted with Wil, which led me to Paul and Storm. That led to other W00tstock and W00tstock-adjacent people, including you. I think the first Whatever entry I read was the piece you wrote when Kodi died. I’ve been a fan ever since. Now I follow about 500 people and organizations on Twitter, but the people in my W00tstock list are the only ones I really pay much attention to. I’ve had a little interaction with a few people on that list, including you, Anne Wheaton, Paul and Storm, John Roderick, and Marian Call, but mostly, I just follow along.
You’re welcome. I’ve been around, off and on, since… whenever it was you were taking apart civil war apologists.
I think the thing I enjoy most about you on twitter is the sense of fun I see you having. I like watching you and Chris Kluwe, and thank you, I didn’t know Johnette Napolitano had a feed.
I just squeed.
“I am frequently amazed at the people who I think are awesome who have fewer Twitter followers than I do. That just seems wrong.”
I know, right? I’m constantly saying to myself, “Look, I know my tastes aren’t THAT obscure; this person has to have way more fans than this. Certainly more than ME.” But I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s just that the person doesn’t actually do all that much with the Twitter account to cultivate any kind of following — they might use it for completely different purposes, including strictly personal ones.
Or I just need to beat the drum for them harder!
Congrats, John! Way way back in 2005, I met you in cyber space on Aol Journals. I followed your career bloom & followed you to ‘whatever’ at Scalzi.com & then to Twitter. It has been an awesome ride. Thank you.
You should follow Zoe Keating on twitter. Because she’s awesome.
Oh wait, you already do. Good man. Carry on.
I followed Wil Wheaton, who quickly led me to you. Now I’ve begun reading your blog and books and had the pleasure of meeting you in person at ALA in Chicago (I was the one in the Gamma Rabbit t-shirt). I follow about 100 people last I checked but I know I can always count on your tweets to bring a laugh into my day…often several times a day! Thank you, sir.
I am not on Twitter, and do not anticipate getting on Twitter, probably because my basic personality is almost opposite yours – I am a cliche engineer. In fact, I have so little idea of the details of Twitter that I was quite surprised when my daughter told me that you had seen her remarks on Twitter about planning to stalk you at Phoenix Comicon, and that she had hastened to send a follow-on Tweet that it was on behalf of her teen-age daughter and antique father, both of whom were looking to get books signed. I would not have expected that you would see what she wrote originally.
BTW, thank you very much for your polite and courteous treatment of my daughter and granddaughter when they separately caught up with you at Phoenix Comicon. Each of them had nothing but good words to say about their conversations with you.
– Tom –
On Twitter, I follow lots of people I don’t know because it’s great to have these little windows into lives that are different from mine. Facebook is for seeing what my cousins, friends, acquaintances are up to. Google Plus is for the photos the Android automatically uploads: I’ve shown both grandmothers how to access it.
I believe you forgot to list me under #6. Unless you think you know me well, and that we’re friends. Perhaps it’s better if you believe that. Carry on. Carry on.
What does it mean if Twitter validates your account? Google won’t tell me, and I haven’t logged in since I opened the account late last year to tweet a joke to a friend and follow three or four people (including you). Every once in a while I get an email saying someone I don’t know is following me, and I reflexively look over my shoulder. Less jokingly, I assume they’re bots and would like to know how to kick them off, but weeding a profile on a service I don’t use seems pointless, so I let them grow. I think I’m at a couple dozen fake people now. I used to think I would be at the forefront of AI rights when the computers wake up, but the more I encounter bots online, the more sure I become that I’ll be too busy trying to blast them into the regolith. Semper humanis!
Shit, even the cats are on Twitter. We’re dooooooooomed….
You subtweeted me tonight when I sent you an email that was supposed to have a link but didn’t actually have a link. I can’t decide if I’m honored or entirely outraged. We may need to box. We’re about the same size, I think, and not necessarily “in shape” so it should be a reasonably even match.
You had me at Vienna Teng and Johnette Napolitano.
LOVE them both.
not have the online equivalent of a permanent, awkward Thanksgiving dinner.
Which, I imagine, is so much worse for a teetotaler like you. Booze, the cause and solution of mankinds problems.
For what it’s worth, you slightly muffed the quote there. It’s “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
If you need me, I’ll be over there watching the first five seasons of The Simpsons on a loop. That’s what the cool kids are doing these days, right?
Truth be told I totally forgot where I got this quote from. Thanks for reminding and correcting me.
See, I have completely the opposite relationship with Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, I have three followers, and actually know one of them. Virtually everyone I follow is a stranger,
Most days, posting on Twitter feels even more like shouting into the void than blogging on Xanga used to.
Where on Facebook, I actually have friends who are my friends expressly because I argue with them.
I enjoy what Twitter does for me (keeps me updated on the activities of people who stubbornly use it as their main means of communication with fans) but I enjoy being on Facebook (I only feel alive when I’m fighting. It’s a problem. I’m getting help.)
I saw someone the other day tweeting to @verified asking them to hurry up and verify them, and asking other currently verified people to confirm that the tweeter asking for verification was, indeed, worthy of a blue check mark. So I’d guess if you could get @wilw and @neilhimself to vouch for you, that might about do it! Maybe! I read it on the internet so it must be true!
I would love to be verified too: mostly because it would amuse me to have Twitter decide a writer was more famous than any of the sports persons with the same name as me.
John, you are genuinely funny. Keep it up.
I apologize for no longer following you on Twitter. I only had an account for a couple of weeks, and I unsubscribed because the volume of ads was ridiculously higher than the volume of actual content (since I was following only a handful of people/organizations).
Mara (the only one of that list of folks in #6 I follow) has had a note on her FAQ for a while hoping to get validated, and still hasn’t. She’s right around the same number of followers. Meanwhile, it seems that every time a new celebrity pops up (see any Voice contestant), they get validated instantly. Maybe you need a reality show?
And then when they occasionally tweet back at me, and I’m all, like, oh kewl they’re totally my Twitter friends and we could have awesome adventures together!
I feel this way when you give an email reply or comment reply here. I try to restrain the creepy…But it gives me a buzz!
Congrats on 50K.
Working from home I use twitter as a water cooler break. Otherwise I would be talking to the dogs way too much.
Thanks for being so entertaining on Twitter, and for summarizing perfectly my own feelings on the limited (but still useful) value of Facebook.
I do too. I always have a twinge of “I hope he/she doesn’t think I’m annoying” when I tweet something to you or someone else I don’t actually know. Like this past weekend when my son and I were at Costco and he wanted a snack so I got us a couple of churros because you talk about them so much and I’d just finished reading The Human Division. I tweeted a couple of half-ass Hafte Sorvalh jokes while thinking, “Every idiot who reads Scalzi probably tweets him these same lame jokes when they eat churros. I bet he just rolls his eyes at us.” It’s actually a little reassuring to hear that you feel awkward about doing the same thing yourself.
*sigh* Sorry, screwed up the blockquote tag in that post. I’ve really gotta learn to use preview.
I suspect the reason Mara and I don’t get validated is because there’s no real worry about someone else pretending to be us on Twitter. In my case, someone is far more likely to pretend to be the latest InstaCeleb on The Voice than they are to pretend to be a 44-year-old science fiction writer, basically. Which makes me, realistically and perfectly understandably, a low priority for Twitter validation.
A lot of my friends are validated, but that’s because they are also celebrities. It’s not Twitter’s fault I occasionally hang with famous people.
Fixed it for you.
I don’t use Twitter that much (mostly to catch up on the football/soccer scene), but I do follow a few based on how awesome I think they are. So, you are welcome. And just so you know, I label all the email announcements of your tweets to me with a SPECIAL tag. See? Creepy is as creepy does.
Perhaps we could start a “Validate Scalzi” campaign along the lines of “Save Ferris.”
Might spark its own ska punk band.
Would it help for someone else to pretend to be you on Twitter? (not volunteering)
Wait… you mean we’re NOT having awesome adventures together?!
With 50,000 followers I’m not sure he needs all that much more in the way of validation. :)
What is an “SEO handjob”?
Downside to this many followers if you have a bad day or 3, you might go off and say something you regret. You do that to 3 people, it gets forgotten, 50,000 it gets around. I guess its the consequence of fame.
or then again you could do a Congressman Weiner and hit the wrong send button at the wrong time… then your budding political career would come to a crashing end.
I don’t use twitter. I can’t figure out how you read blurbs from 275 people. Not sure most people have enough to say where I really want to go through 2 sentence reports on their life. Blogs are better. They tend to be longer and to keep people reading them, they have to be more thought out.
@Johnny: I think its when people try to cross publicize each other. You re-tweet me and I’ll re-tweet you or something like that. I think he thinks people are just trying to get him to show them in his twitter feed to get publicity.
It’s a logical argument, but by that reasoning, it’s already been demonstrated that your cat is more in need of validation than you are.
My Twitter use is more like Robert Ernst Richter’s.
I have five followers. I know two. One is a restaurant and two are promoting books. Apparently the later three believe that if they follow me, then I’m obligated to follow them, so that they can promote their wares to me.
I almost never tweet. I suppose that I might have more followers if I tweeted more, but it seems likely to me that almost everyone who would be inclined to read my tweets are people I know and who are likely Facebook friends already. I get the impression that few of my friends use Twitter at all.
Nearly everyone I follow is at least somewhat well-known, and most of them either don’t know me at all, or might know my name and face but little else about me.
It’s the name of my next REO Speedwagon cover band.
The only two Twitter accounts I follow regularly are for one of my nieces (because she doesn’t update her blog often enough) and for Wonderella because of the great snark. I stick to blogging, even while seeing so many people disappear into the Twitterverse.
(Slightly off-topic: While I was off work with my broken arm, I was able to write more frequent blog posts, and saw about a 40% increase in pageviews. I did a few calculations, and realized I could reach Whatever-level numbers merely by writing a new post every minute and a half.)
I’ve got drums!
Though I’m hardly a Luddite, I do find it hard to see the point of using Twitter. I do use Facebook quite a bit, and sometimes will censor myself slightly (trivial to do with a few dozen “friends”) so as not to OVERLY offend anyone. I also sometimes just include a small number of people on a post (pretty much what one does in real life, isn’t it?). But I don’t see how to keep twitter and FB folks separate (and not offend one or the other) unless one just blocks folks on one or the other network, which is itself offensive. Unless one doesn’t know ANYTHING important about one’s friends and family, there are always going to be those awkward Thanksgiving moments……
Congratulations on the followers. Unfortunately, since I don’t use Twitter (too prone to verbosity) I have to admit I’m not one of them. But congratulations, none the less.
Well, since you brought it up: dude! You ARE awesome. Not up for debate.
Hi, John! Or Mr. Scalzi? I’ve left comments on your blog before, but we’ve never met. On my facebook page,someone pointed to the guest post on your site by the doctor about state laws requiring women to be shown ultrasounds of their fetuses before having an abortion. I was extremely impressed and started reading your blog. I found out about Twitter, somehow, and that you tweeted on Twitter so I followed you there. I read about Red Shirts on your site and thought I should read it if I liked your blog, so I did, and I really liked Red Shirts, too. You are right that you are enjoyable to read on Twitter but part of my enjoyment of your tweets and blog posts is the strength and good-hearted decency that shines through your writing. I just thought I should tell you, since you were writing about the subject, how I came to follow you on Twitter and what keeps me reading. Congrats on 50k followers and thank you for being, in my eyes at least, a beacon of humanity, integrity, and plain good sense.
Twitter is a funny place. I follow (and am followed by) mainly people in my (worldwide) tech community, but tweet almost exclusively about cats. Cats is how I found Kyle Cassidy (via LiveJournal, years ago), and became a fan of his. (He doesn’t know me.) Tech community is how I found you (Straight White Male post), fairly recently, and I’ve become a fan of yours. (You don’t know me.) You and Kyle chat to each other on twitter…it’s a very small world apparently.
Weighing in on this late, because I’ve been computerless for a week: I follow way too many people on Twitter, many of whom are authors, but I always look forward to and enjoy your tweets. You tweet like everyone else should: Like a real person with a sense of humor. I am also grateful that 90% (or more) of your tweets are not about your most recent books, like several of the authors I constantly think about unfollowing, except that they occasionally say something amusing. If you DO tweet about your books, it’s not in such a way that makes you look purposefully self-aggrandizing or desperate. Because I, and all your followers, already know your books are great, and know that you know we’ll read them if we want to — or not.
I’ve tried to add more to this, but it all sounded pretty awkward. I suffer from a bit of hero worship when I read my favorite authors’ blogs, so sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line between “appropriate length” and “oversharing/creepy” lies. And I only said that because you kinda said it first. ;)