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Navigating the Twitterverse

Navigating the Twitterverse: 9/5/2015

In the span of a month since launching my website, my followers in the Twitterverse have grown from less than 100 to almost 700. I’ve gotten a lot of great messages about my art, a lot of favorites and even caught the attention of the official account of BBC America, which favorited one of my paintings. Twitter has been very encouraging, even if it feels very much like a bunch of cacophonous voices screaming into the digital void.

A couple weeks ago, I hit a wall when I discovered that Twitter won’t allow you to follow more than 2,000 people and that the amount of people they’ll allow you to follow is related to the number of people following you. This policy was designed to keep people from doing exactly what I’d been doing - aggressively following people as a way of building a following. I just wanted to share my art with like-minded people. My initial strategy had been to simply follow any account that mentioned Doctor Who or Sherlock in the person’s bio. As it was, this strategy could only take me so far, which wasn’t far at all.

I want to make some living from my art, even if the living is a meager supplement to my current salary as a senior writer. So far I’ve made very little. I’ve had a few commissioned paintings, but I’ve only made $6.50 selling prints on (which I can thank my sister for). Whenever I post links to Society6 on Twitter, I get several people to favorite the tweet and will even get some re-tweets. But nobody is actually buying the prints. I figure that I’ll probably need 10’s of thousands of followers before I’ll actually make any money. With Twitter limiting the number of followers I can make, I have to be more conscientious about who I follow - the accounts need to be active, they need to be clearly obsessed with DW or Sherlock, and they they need be willing to follow back.

As such, I’ve been spending the last couple week combing through the list of accounts that I’ve followed to eliminate and unfollow accounts that clearly aren’t going to offer me much in return. I’ve gone from 2,000 to 1200. These are the types of accounts I’ve found, upon closer examination.

Semi-Celebrities: Most of these accounts are people who you wouldn’t recognize on the street, but who are well known for something. Many of them were people who have directed Doctor Who episodes or written Doctor Who novels. Some were actors who played minor roles in the show, mostly in the classic era of Who. I’ll follow the official accounts of a few Doctor Who related actors, writers and directors - the ones that I’m genuinely interested in following. But I’ll get nothing from the others. Unfollowed.

Disproportionate Follower to Following Ratio: I found a considerable number of accounts with far more followers than following. With celebrity accounts, this makes sense. But these accounts were, as far as I could tell, not celebrities. And their tweets didn’t suggest some unfound wisdom being imparted to the masses or a humorous voice that garnered a larger audience. These accounts garnered a lot of suspicion. Either the majority of the followers are fake or the person simply doesn’t follow anybody back. Unfollowed.

Role Playing Accounts: I discovered that I had followed hundreds of Role Playing accounts. These are accounts where people pretend to be various characters from Doctor Who. They rarely follow anybody back and aren’t interested in much more than pretending to be the voice of the character. Unfollowed.

Podcasts: To be honest, I have no interest in listening to a podcast. I’ve never understood the appeal of a podcast, which is strange because a podcast is really just a blogger who likes the sound of their own voice. Still, there’s something peculiar about podcasts that I’ve noticed. They either take themselves far too seriously or they think they are a comedy troupe. I probably liked a couple hundred Doctor Who themed podcasts. If I were a skilled self-promoter, I’d view these podcasts as an opportunity. If I could get one of them to discuss my art or share my art, I could reach a new audience. But most of the podcasts appeared unwilling to follow many people. Unfollowed.

Acive Accounts: By far the biggest number of people that I followed who didn’t follow back are active tweeters that mention Doctor Who in their bio or have a photo with something Doctor Who related. This really is going to be the core of my audience. I looked closely at these accounts. Were they tweeting about Doctor Who? How often was Doctor Who a topic of their tweets? If DW was clearly an obsession, I’d favorite several of their tweets. I called this seeding. I would seed their account and wait to see if it resulted in a return. This seems to work. Some people want interaction before they’ll follow back. If I seeded an account and got nothing in return, I’d unfollow. In my view, Twitter only works if it’s a two-way street. Unfollowed.

In-active Accounts: This was the most depressing type of account that I found. Similar to the Active Accounts, these are accounts that were clearly Whovians based on their photos and/or bios, only they hadn’t tweeted or had any activity on their account for months or years. I followed hundreds of these dead accounts. Some of these accounts were really depressing. It stuck with me. One account last tweets in January 2015. The last three tweets talked about the last time she’d cut herself, that she was thinking about cutting herself, that she had cut herself. Another account said she was so sad and alone. Her last tweet, in 2012, simply asked “Will somebody please hold me and tell me everything will be alright?” No favorites. No re-tweeted. Another account that last tweeted in the summer of 2014 said he couldn’t take it anymore, that he’d had enough of this world. The last tweet was simply, “Goodbye.”

I ran into account after account like this. People whose last tweets talked about suicide, self-harm, loneliness, sadness, etc. The unheard voices. Screaming into the digital void. These are the voices that stick with me when I’m trying to sleep. Reluctantly Unfollowed.