Answers To The Virtual World, Pls

Behind the curve as ever, I have recently realised that I must get to grips with social media. I have both a twitter and a facebook account that are linked to this blog and update with each post. And that’s really all I do – due entirely to a fundamental lack of understanding as to how the rest of it works. I have occasionally scattered favourites and retweets and likes in a random manner, without much clue what I was doing. Will you please help me figure this out, social media savvy folk?



1. When is it appropriate to retweet, and when to favourite?

2. The more people you include in a tweet, the fewer characters you have – who should be included in a multiple conversation when there are twitterers involved who you don’t know?

3. What’s the right netiquette on twitter – who should you thank and how?

4. I think once in the past I managed to tweet a link. I used tiny URL – is that the best site for twitter links or is there a better way?



Facebook confounds me by a process of elimination. I don’t feel the urge to tell my facebook friends that I’ve just had a nice cup of tea. I have no small children to photograph (and come to that the only camera we possess now is on Mr Litlove’s phone and I don’t know how to use it). I’m not very good at posting links because I rarely read newspapers online (or indeed know how to link to them). So what’s left? What could I possibly say? In essence, this is a philosophical question: beyond the link to my blog, what is facebook for?

Any help or insight into the above most gratefully received!


32 thoughts on “Answers To The Virtual World, Pls

  1. Hi Dr B!

    1. Do what feels right to you. Favourites are now sometimes more visible to others than previously (thanks, Twitter).

    2. You can link tweets now – just hit “reply” (the little curved arrow icon), and tweets will show up in people’s feeds as linked together, which helps everyone follow conversations a lot more easily. You can be a bit more expansive in your tweeting, and it also means it’s not really necessary to use the clunky “1/3, 2/3. 3/3” way of numbering tweets any more. So you can tweet something, then reply to your own tweet and @-mention anyone you wanted to tag but ran out of characters for.

    3. If you got a link via someone then tweeted it in a new tweet, it’s polite to thank or “h/t” (hat-tip) them – e.g. “[URL] interesting blog on subject, food for thought here (h/t @examplename)”. If you RT someone else (not manually), no need to thank as you’re already spreading their tweet to your followers.

    4. Twitter automatically shortens links for you now, so you can post in the longest, gnarliest URL in the world and it will only ever take up 22 characters. 🙂

    Hope this is helpful…

    • Jo, it’s lovely to hear from you, and thank you so much! This is extremely helpful. Particularly glad that favourites do mean something, and that links are automatically shortened!

  2. I’m hopeless with this modern stuff so Jo’s advice is good for me too! I use Twitter mainly to follow things I’m interested in or publicise the blog but I’m never sure about the etiquette for thanking for a retweet. As for Facebook – that’s a bridge too far for me! 🙂

  3. I’m not much good on Twitter – have been too busy writing – but I am a prolific “passive” user of FB, wandering on to see pictures when I should be doing something else.

    How are you enjoying your Siri Husvedt, btw? Great page design to have your books up there.

    • I’ve just finished the Siri and am thinking about it before writing a review. It was amazing in all sorts of ways, and yet I put it down for about a month in the middle of the novel and struggled to pick it up again. One of those weird responses to reading that are hard to understand! I’m like you – I do like reading other people’s posts on FB, just never know what to say myself!

  4. I’ve recently re-engaged with social media, and have a better understanding now about how it’s used. But I have to say it’s very noisy. I prefer the blogosphere because you can choose the blogs you follow. Facebook chooses for you. There are good conversations there, and so many people use FB as their primary platform as opposed to reading blogs that interactions happen on FB that wouldn’t otherwise. But getting to it is time consuming. FB and Twitter work much better with a tablet or smartphone than on a computer. Since I got my tablet, I read news on it, rather than in hard copy, and it’s so easy to share, that I do on FB, and there is a positive feedback when someone likes the share. FB friends who are active on FB tend to prefer to comment on blog posts there rather than at the blog itself, so in that sense it operates as a good blog platform. Are you on FB as a profile or as a page? They operate differently, and in terms of blogs, I think sharing as a profile reaches more people. But how accessible do you want or need to be? What would you want out of FB or Twitter?

    • Good question. It’s a bit chicken and egg as I don’t know what I want until I understand what I can have, if you see what I mean. I think I suffer from not having anything like a smartphone or an iphone and no pad or tablet. Everything I do is on the computer, which is certainly not very twitter friendly. I’ve got the usual sort of thing on FB, I’ve just never added much to it. I do like blogs because it feels more like a polite, full conversation which can happen at the time I choose. But I’ve got SNB to think of too, and how we use our platform better there. Thank you, Lilian, it really helps to have this discussion!

  5. I have no idea how to use Twitter (and have no desire to), or Instagram or Linked In for that matter. I am only on FB to spy on my children and make certain they do not post embarrassing pictures of me (usually with a wine glass in my hand) as they are wont to do – or for linking The Curious Reader posts. I don’t go on FB to do that, but do it from Blogspot. I’m not a big fan of technology, I guess.

    • Ha, my son won’t even link to me on facebook, so sharing is not a worry! And at the moment, I think I’m happier NOT knowing what he is doing. 🙂 I like seeing the candid posts that other people’s children put up of their parents, though. I can see the interest in that! 😉

      • I think it’s probably a good thing not to be linked to one’s son’s facebook page…it was with some relief I noticed that my son has fallen for snapchat instead of facebook, which saves me untold worry when I stumble across something he’d posted.

        And, I don’t even want to know thing one about snapchat. In case you were going to fill me in. 😉

  6. My insight is this: If it doesn’t feel on some level natural, organic, or useful to you–don’t do it. Social media works best when the user likes it. It can be immensely useful for certain types of networking, much in the same way that blogging can be, but it doesn’t work well if you’re forcing yourself to do it, any more than it works well to force yourself to talk to people at a cocktail party. Facebook is one huge virtual cocktail party. Twitter is one huge virtual telegram system (the main difference being the ability to embed links [and yes, the tiny URLs are best for that] which enables you to share more information. Twitter is great from a professional standpoint if you’re a journalist, a public figure, or someone whose “conversation” people like to follow. Forex, when I used Twitter (I don’t anymore), I followed a bunch of opera singers who would tweet photos and ongoing stuff from backstage…Joyce DiDonato is particularly famous for doing this, and by doing so, she is really breaking ground in making art music seem accessible and cool–Twitter can be amazing for making otherwise distant people seem as if they are having a personal conversation with followers. Conversely, I think Facebook is useful for deepening (I originally typed “exploiting” but then thought better of it) relationships that you might already have, and which may be useful or simply pleasurable.

    • David, that is all extremely useful. I can see how following the opera scene might be easier and quite rewarding on social media. And it’s very clever to think of twitter as a virtual telegram system. Also, facebook as a cocktail party. That explains why I quite like going there to read other people’s posts but post nothing myself. Finally, the two-way mirror and a bowl of snacks!

  7. After the initial excitement of Twitter back when it was first getting started I don’t spend much time there. I check in now and then and send a random tweet now and then or comment on someone else’s tweet which then, depending on whether or not they are online at that moment, might spark a short but interesting conversation. Jo pretty much covers everything. Regarding you question about favoriting or retweeting, generally favorite is similar to liking something and retweeting is sending someone else’s tweet out to all your followers, sort of passing it along.

    FB, gak. The only time I logon these days is to wish someone a happy birthday. I don;t even have my blog connected because I’m pretty sure my “friends” from high school most of whom I never even talk to, pretty much don’t care about my blog. Most of the time I don’t even know why I have a FB account!

    • Twitter always makes me flustered. Something comes in and I think oh oh what should I do? I must favourite or retweet or thank or something, and then in the fluster the moment passes and I often end up doing nothing. I tend only to do happy birthdays and likes on FB, but also in this random and chaotic way. I think any decisions I can make about social media, the better I will feel about my relation to it!

  8. Linking to your blog is sufficient if you have a folowing that accesses your blog site that way. You wont likely grow an audience quickly without some type of paid promotion, but it makes a handy bulletin board for your current followers. It’s a posting site, it doesnt require you to have an emotional attachment to it. Post any info the peole who read it might find helpful or interesting. Most of your blog posts will do that kind of work.

    If it’s a personal FB account, just delete it. If you have to inquire of its effectiveness or purpose, it’s not for you. Go do something cooler, like watch grass grow.

    I have a FB account and it is locked down tight; it’s only accessible to 72 people I made friends with in person. No compiter games or internet relationships, it’s just a way for a small circle of trusted comrades and family members to giggle with each other, or bitch it up. Some of them are disabled and some have no phones, so it is a nice tool to communicate instantly.

    I’ve linked a FB to my blog, and I just leave it to do whatever it does. It isnt there to rack up ‘likes’ or promote my net presence, but it’s a free avenue to new info. Why not leave the door open for passing readers? If I blog something, it’s not unimportant, so why not throw it out into the cosmos?

    Twitter? Im not Justin Bieber. Wtf do I need Twitter for?

    If you have it just because you can’t focus for longer than a sentence, go nap in traffic.

    • Well I’m also thinking of Shiny New Books – we have twitter and facebook accounts and a lot more reason for promotion than I personally have with my blog. I watch my colleagues doing useful things with social media and feel guilty! Though I completely agree that both twitter and FB can become time sinks that don’t actually bring anything of use if you’re not clear on what you’re engaging with them for. As for this blog, I’m just linked to both types of social media and mostly that works okay, though I do like to know how to say thank you when someone retweets or likes or whatever. What this conversation is really helping me to see is that I need to decide exactly what my policy is, what I do want to do, and then I’ll feel able to exclude all the other stuff. Thank you, Leah! You’re always a help.

      • Youre welcome. Look at it this way, there was marketing before and there will be marketing after Facebook and Twitter. Just do what you do, and do it well; your fans will do the rest 🙂

  9. Hi there!

    I use twitter on daily basis, so I might be able to help here, I hope.

    1. Retweet what you think is worth sharing with your followers (usually links to headlines, articles, news, videos, etc). Favourite a tweet if you like it (people can click on the favourite and browse through them to way back) so it can be pretty defining as to what you’re interested in. It’s also handy as bookmark.

    2. The more people you include in a tweet, the fewer characters you have – who should be included in a multiple conversation when there are twitterers involved who you don’t know? Reply to the people you first conversed with, chances are the newcomers follow you both (hence why they can see & reply to the tweet) and therefore can still follow the conversation. It’s also polite to reply to their tweets without including the others.

    3. What’s the right netiquette on twitter – who should you thank and how? If they tweet you encouragement and generally positive stuff, thank them. If they follow you and say something nice, the polite thing to do is to check their accounts, if you like it, follow back. If not, just reply their tweet with a thank you. If someone asks for a follow back, don’t feel pressure about it.

    4. Some sites provide support to direct the links for you, otherwise, you can always copy and paste the link and tweet it (just add a few words after/before the link to let people know what’s it about).

    Useful to keep track of your friends or people you no longer have contact in person. And there’s loads of online games you can play there.

    • Lily, thank you SO much for taking the time and trouble to share your wisdom and experience – I really appreciate it! I think finally the secrets of social media are becoming clear, though I can see I’ll need to practise a bit to get it right.

  10. Hi Victoria

    I have never used twitter so I will say nothing about that. I was for a long time skeptical about Facebook and am a relatively recent user (a couple of years) but since I now make regular use (daily) I will try to explain why and what.

    I joined at the suggestion of a couple of my professional contacts (I know them both very well); my flute teacher and the photographer I work with from time to time. They clearly use it as their primary means of communication with their friends and also (sometimes) make use of the messaging feature with me; something I have found useful too with other contacts. I have a small circle of friends all of whom I know “in the flesh” too. Many put up posts of share links to items that much of the time I find of considerable interest. I subscribe to a few people (Unwoman, and Yerbury Studio are two examples) whose work I find of particular interest and FB provides a way of keeping up to date with what they are doing without the hassle of going off to a range of sites that I may or may not remember about.

    For some of my interests (fashion photography) it certainly seems to be a medium with quite a lot to offer; for example many of the “Alt Models” have active FB pages where you can see work that either doesn’t get published or that is published in some magazine I don’t get to see (or are too mean to buy!).

    My own community of physics has some people who make excellent use of FB as a way of bringing my attention to other sites (weblogs usually) which are of direct interest.

    So in summary I find it a useful medium to communicate with some of my friends who don’t run weblogs or use email for social interaction; a medium in which I can be alerted to a number of activities of people (or organisations or companies) whose services or products I have an interest in; a medium in which I get to see some fabulous pictures and music and video that I wouldn’t easily discover on my own (too much time). So I am not skeptical about whether FB has a role in my life any more 🙂

    Your mileage may vary (or indeed tend to zero)!

    • Dark Puss, thank you so very much for your insight. I am beginning to understand that both facebook and twitter work well when you’ve fastened on your particularly interests and concerns and want to concentrate networking and information exchanging within a neat network. I never really got this before!

  11. I really don’t like twitter although I have a number of followers on it because my blog is automatically linked in. I never use it in any other way. But I do like Facebook and use it regularly, though I rarely post anything except shared links to things I find interesting, thought-provoking or funny. My blog is linked there too. But I love the way I can keep up with people I may never see in the flesh any more, and in fact have become closer to some of them through finding we have shared interests. I’m very discriminating, and frequently ‘hide’ people whose posts have started to bore me. And like Dark Puss I use the messaging facility quite often. So I’m a fan.

    • Ooh I must find the ‘hide’ button, though I do tend to like looking at what other people are doing far more than doing anything myself. I began my facebook page to keep up with my students once they’d graduated and it is still good for that (see Jo’s comment above!). I would hate to lose all contact with them.

  12. I have a twitter but don’t follow it that much. I do respond when I get an email that someone has tweeted something especially for me.
    I love Facebook. It’s where I go to hear about what movies my friends have enjoyed or what to see when I travel. I repost things I find amusing or dismaying. The last thing I said on there was that I’d discovered that college-aged kids mostly can’t read cursive anymore, so if my prof friends were writing marginal notes in cursive, they should make a new plan. I’m on FB under my real name, which is available on the blog, although I don’t link to my personal facebook (some folks have a facebook page for their blog) so anybody is welcome to my party over there.

    • I must try to track you down, Jeanne! I note that several of my friends on FB have the admirable quality of being able to say something funny, witty and informative in a sentence and a half, which I lack. I find the minimum byte for self-expression is about 500 words! 🙂 I really must get into the habit of thanking twitterers who retweet – it’s nice to be polite.

  13. For me, Facebook is to keep up with personal friends made offline (many friends aren’t really into blogging but will read mine if I link it there) and Twitter is to connect with people who have similar interests (whether your thing is books, wine, knitting, feminism, or whatever, very quickly you can tailor your feed to reflect this). It is not just for following famous people or professionals.

    Favoriting and retweeting help people find you so apply liberally, especially early on. Often people will follow you after you favorite/retweet something of theirs and see if you have anything interesting to say. So, Twitter itself is an ongoing conversation, and if you are not going to check in regularly I doubt it is for you.

    For news and interesting info, Facebook is always days behind Twitter. I don’t think Twitter is great for extended conversations, but it is incredible for getting information quickly and especially for customer service. Seriously, you can spend days on the phone or emailing about an issue but one tweet to an airline or telephone provider usually gets you incredible service, or at least a response.

    I can’t imagine blogging without Twitter. For example, I blog and tweet about opera and it didn’t take long for the SF Opera to follow me on Twitter. So now when I link to an opera post there they see it and know I have written about them and sometimes pass it along their followers. Same with books and authors.

    • Sly Wit, thank you. That’s another extremely helpful comment with lots of insight into the ways of social media. It really helps me build up a picture of what they’re for and how they work.

  14. My advice? Stick to blogging. Facebook is a time sink, and your time is far better spent writing (so is mine, and I hate when I lose time to FB). I find Twitter mostly incomprehensible and extremely dull when I attempt to pay attention to it (after years of ignoring it. I initially joined it in 2008 merely because it seemed to be a place to explore how Americans felt immediately following the Vice Presidentidl candidate debates that year. I then proceeded to ignore it for the next 6 years, until I started my latest blog and thought it might be a good venue for linking to said blog).

    • Well, blogging is undoubtedly my first and strongest love. I remember the first few weeks when I felt to the medium born – it just worked and made sense. I can’t say that I feel the same way about twitter and facebook, but it’s really useful to hear how people make the most of them, and the ways in which they can be helpful marketplaces for information. What I really need to be able to do is express myself in less than 500 words a time…. 🙂

  15. I didn’t read all the commenst so you might have heard the same already. I don’t use Twitter every often and only thank people for the RT when I see them on the day they sent it.
    I don’t normally thank for a follow but I’ll follow back unless the person is dubious in some way or just after Twitter followers.
    I find it’s agood way to ask questions. But I’m mostly lurking.

  16. Victoria, your technology questions and, more importantly, your lack of a smartphone make me think we could have been raised by the same wolves! (Of course, my brother is about as media-savvy as they come and goes into almost immediate withdrawals if deprived of access to a laptop for any extended period of time–don’t know if that makes this a nature or nurture outcome.) I’m not on Facebook after being more aggravated by it than anything else. However, I was encouraged to join Twitter for the first Spanish Lit Month a few years back and still use it to link blog posts (my own and those of others I fancy) when I have something new to share. It’s OK, I guess, and I’m sure I could get more out of it if I spent more time there in between blogging endeavors, but I do find it slightly depressing that people often prefer to comment on blog posts there rather than on the blog itself. C’est la vie, I guess, and I suppose a multi-platform “discussion” is better than no discussion at all. Belated Happy New Year to you, by the way–I’m sorry it’s taken this Luddite so long to get over here to wish you well this year!

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