Over the weekend, there appears to have been some sort of shenanigans with a certain user on Twitter, an individual who chose to say some things that probably should have been better left in private — or even completely unsaid at all.
Never the less, it did raise a few additional debates and comments from around the comic community. Some people were wondering why something like this would even happen, how grown men (and women, I suppose, although not in this case) could act like they were still in grade school. The only difference between then and now is the audience; the world wide web is a much bigger place to strut your stuff than the playground behind your local elementary school.
And then we realized: wait a minute! What if they just don’t know any better? What if, unlike some of us, they never had Highlights for Children and the adventures of Goofus and Gallant? Maybe all we need is a handy list people can use as a reference when they’re unsure what to do in a Tweet-related situation?
With that in mind, we’ve designed this handy Do’s and Don’ts of having a Twitter account. We’re gearing them towards Comic Pros, but keep in mind you can take this advice no matter what your profession — and, in fact, use this advice for your blog, tumblr, Facebook, Myspace, Friendster and more.
Please also keep in mind: this may seem like I’m going to be gearing my comics to a specific person due to recent events. This is not so, however. While the obvious recent online fracas is the catalyst for the existence of this article, this is meant to be incredibly generic outside of a few remarks. It is in fact meant for everyone. Hopefully my various remarks reflects as much.
The Do’s and Don’ts Of Being A Comic Professional On Twitter
Do: Promote your work or your friends work! If you have followers on Twitter, that can only mean one thing — people out there are interested in hearing what you’re up to (either that, or you’re just hilarious). These various followers that you may have, whether it be two people or two thousand, are all curious as to what’s next from you, and Twitter is a great way to keep them up to date. Letting them know what you have planned next (or perhaps even that you are no longer working on) is a great way to keep the fans in the loop. The same goes for sharing the work of a friend that you’re particularly excited to see, but don’t forget to @include them!
Do not: Shamelessly bash others with no relation! Perhaps it’s not the best use of your time to point out the perceived flaws and/or failures of others, especially if that person a) didn’t do anything to you, b) has absolutely no relation to what you’re doing or even c) could conceivably get you some work. Bashing others who have done nothing to you via a social platform is petty and unnecessary; at worst, it makes you look like an immature bully.
Do: Relate positive stories of working, either with yourself or with others! People who don’t work in the comic industry but follow you are interested in hearing about what it is like to go behind the scenes of comics. That’s the neat part of social networking — everything is instant, everything is now! You can deliver fans up-to-the-second information about your process, post pictures of works in progress or even take a minute or two to relate a fun con story. Whatever you choose to do, just remember that people do like reading about what a good time you had working on a book, and hey, if you show a positive work ethic online you never know who might be watching for a new gig.
Do not: Air your dirty laundry with photos of private conversation! I don’t mean to generalize, but in high school no one wanted to be friends with the drama queen. There just wasn’t any point to it; you could be the nicest person to him or her, but when it all came down to it they’d sell you out — most likely for no reason. No matter how angry you might be at someone, it is highly advised to keep all of your issues to yourself and the person involved, because nobody benefits from you having public digi-shouting matches with other creators (except maybe Bleeding Cool). Again, it just makes you look bad as the aggressor, because all of the sympathy will ostensibly go to the one you are attacking.Continued below
Do: Use twitter as the social networking tool it was intended to be! In the before-time, the long long ago, professionals who wanted to promote their work had a raw deal. They had to rely on other people getting the word out via message groups, magazines, flyers and town criers. Now you can promote your brand new work immediately to everyone, and your message can even go out to people beyond your immediate spectrum thanks to the magic of retweets! If you have a new book or want to connect with another professional, it has never been easier to get out there and make a name for yourself with a positive presence.
Do not: Use twitter to burn professional bridges because you’re bored! The antithesis to the above statement, it is never wise to burn any bridges in this industry. It’s not the sharpest mentality to have, but for professionals there is somewhat a “we’re all in this together” mentality that can be had when working in the industry; the nicer to others that you are, the more they’ll help recommend you for work or try to work with you. The opposite of that is equally true: when you go online and “talk smack” on other creators or editors, you’re simply showing to other creators and editors what a negative experience working with you might like. Nobody that’s not in the WWE or the UFC like getting into fights, and most will certainly avoid it.
Do: Use Twitter to interact with fans! It’s a slight re-iteration of statements above, but one of the nice things about social networking is the immediacy of response. Your fans can now get in touch with you directly with 140 characters or less, instead of hand written letters or telegrams. Maybe they just want to tell you that they liked your artwork on a certain book, and maybe they just have some questions — perhaps you should answer them! Use the advent of a connected world to your advantage by being nice and friendly, because that’s the best way to make friends. Besides, there is simply no reason whatsoever to be rude to people you’ve never met.
Do not: Feed the trolls! With the positive inherently comes the negative, and in the Age of the Internet the “negative” usually comes in the form of Trolls. Trolls, for those unaware, are people who enjoy disrupting and destroying social norms. Trolls are everywhere and will take any sort of form, including that of the appreciative fan or perhaps even the boisterous and angry creator who tries to “call you out.” It doesn’t matter who they are, their only goal is to make you look bad, so don’t respond and don’t feed them. The more you buy into their game, the worse it looks for you — not them. And again, in a public space like Twitter, your image is everything. (Hey, there’s even a bit of as storyline about it in HBO’s The Newsroom if you’re bored.)
Do: Use twitter to relate important information regarding your career to fans! I mentioned this a bit earlier when talking about projects, but Twitter is a good way to let your friends know if something happens, positive or negative. If it happens that you may not be working on a book anymore, for whatever reason, Twitter is a good way to let people know — but it is important to keep it professional. Even if you’re forcefully kicked off of a book due to editorial conflicts, use your 140 characters just to mention that you are not working on a title and apologize to any upset fans. Perhaps you can even point out to them a new book you have coming up to excite them, or pitch to them an older comic property they may not have seen. Whatever the case may be, just remember to keep it concise and pleasant and to keep your head held high. (At most, save all the dirty stuff for an interview or something and give a website a few hits here or there.)
Do not: Try and pull everyone down with you! So things didn’t go the way you planned. It happens. We’ve all been there and we can all relate in one way or the other. However, nobody gets anywhere by playing the blame game and saying “it’s everybody’s fault but mine!” Mistakes were made and something went wrong somewhere, but unless you keeping these things to yourself would hurt someone else, don’t use excuses to try and bring down others while trying to bolster yourself back up. This is the exact mentality of a grade school bully, and we’ve all seen how every high school-related movie/show/play has ended. Bow out gracefully.Continued below
Do: Make the entire comic/social networking experience a pleasant one for you and those following you! This, to me, is the most important part of all of this, and if you choose to skip EVERY piece of advice I’ve written here I would hope that this would be the one thing you take to heart and share with others.
There is no point in being a space of negative entry, because that negativity is suffocating and detrimental. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, but we all share the quintessential human experience and anyone can tell you: being happy is better than being sad. Sure, sometimes it can be fun or even funny to be sassy or rude, or to bring somebody else down, but at the end of the day it’s only really entertaining to watch a fictional asshole on television like Walter White. Nobody wants to actually spend time with him or even be like him (outside of being rich, I guess), and if your behavior remains vehemently negative all the time you’ll only drive others from you.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the online element of our life has become quintessential, both for how we go about our daily lives but specifically in how we’re seen by others. People are going to connect, follow, reblog, retweet, subscribe and more every second of every day, so the best thing you can do to deal with this onslaught of connectivity and the destruction of the private life is simply to embrace it as if you were Gene Kelly and this is Singin’ in the Rain. Being positive is as easy as flicking on a light switch, and by avoiding being negative all the time you will only behoove your own well-being.
You may not want to be a White Ball of Healing Light all the time, but as long as you’re online try and remember one simple phrase. Use it as a mantra: if you’re a professional, then just be professional.
But, like with most things in life, let’s wrap things up with a choice quote from one of the greatest people to have ever lived, Mr. Fred Rogers: “Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.”
Do not: Be an asshole! Come on. It’s 2012.