Twitter Storms: When Dorothy became the Wicked Witch of the West

On our first episode of Get it Write, a podcast for authors interested in the world of publishing, we talk with marketing and social media expert, Sara Hood, about Twitter storms, why they occur and what makes social media a hotbed for them.  

Image: Leisl Leighton author photo.
Used with permission. Matthew Romanis (brother).

You will find links mentioned in the podcast in the transcript below.

Share with us your thoughts on why Twitter storms occur. Or if you’ve been caught up in one, how you dealt with it. You can share your stories either in the comments below, or on Twitter @LeislLeighton #TwitterStorms


(Music Intro)

Leisl: Hi, and welcome to the first episode of Get it Write, a podcast for authors interested in the world of publishing. Today’s topic on Get it Write, is Twitter Storms: When Dorothy became the Wicked Witch of the West, and we have special guest, Sara Hood to chat with us about the whys and wherefores of these potentially damaging social media occurrences.

Sara is a director of the Morton Group, where she works with clients as a specialist in web-based marketing and communications. She also runs a marketing group for authors called Marketing4Writers. She recently spoke at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in August this year about Twitter storms and how to survive one. Welcome Sara.

Sara: Hello.

Leisl: Now, first question off the bat – Why do you think Twitter Storms occur?

Sara: Why do they occur? I think that the keyboard warriors can sit there behind their keyboard and say something without having to think about the consequences.

Leisl: You quoted Nora Roberts in one of your articles online and she was very much a proponent of the, … when she got caught up in a Twitter Storm issue, that she thought it was very much about the ‘say first think later mentality that a lot of people have.

Sara: I do, I do think that. People think something and it comes out of their fingers and you think, ‘did you not stop to think about that?’ and the answer is: well, no they didn’t.

Leisl: Which is really astonishing when you consider that so many of the people that that I’m noticing online are people who are writers so you think that they would be used to thinking about what they say first. But it just seems incredible that the things you read online is …

Sara: People can be incredibly vicious.

Leisl: Hmmm.

Sara: People can be incredibly vicious and there’s no come back on it.

Leisl: Well that leads me to … I recently read an article in the Financial Times about Twitter Storms and the author of that article said that he thought that Twitter Storms were generally orchestrated.

Sara: They can be.

Leisl: They can be?

Sara: Yeah. So, one of the things that we talk about is what they call ‘wolf packs’. So, where it used to be a teenage boy in the basement as they say in America you know on his own going out attacking somebody, those teenager boys now are teens through to quite a bit older. Yes they’re sitting in a bedroom all on their own but they’re actually part of a group and they give themselves names and they have a hierarchy which is described as the same sort of hierarchy as a bikie gang which I  thought was kind of funny, cause they said president and vice president and treasurer and everybody takes direction from them and then it’s sort of orchestrated Twitter attacks. They go out and look for somebody to attack, somebody they think is vulnerable, has something they can attack and then goes for it. And I think that’s something really important to remember is if a Twitter storm hits or a Facebook storm or whatever, you’re not dealing with people who with a bit of discussion will change their mind and say, ‘oh, oh right so you meant this, did you? You didn’t mean that.’ That’s not this construct. They’re either looking for their dopamine hit or their looking for their, building their reputation with their tribe or they’re a wolf pack.

Leisl: Just in regards to authors, we’re always told to be ourselves when building our online presence, but do people get in trouble by ‘being themselves’.

Sara: I usually tell people: be authentic, but you don’t have to be all of you. So, to coin a cliché, you curate yourself.  So, yes everything you talk about is genuinely you but it’s only a part of you. So ‘be yourself’ doesn’t mean just talk about anything and just let it all flow out like a stream of consciousness. It’s about thinking through what it is you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and not just doing it as something that’s flitted across your mind and you flicked it in. You don’t have to do the battle for you.

Leisl: That’s great advice, Sara, thank you. And thanks for agreeing to weather my Twitter Storm questions. You can find links for Sara Hood and her Marketing4Writers community in the transcripts under the podcast on my blog.

Thanks for listening to Get it Write, and our podcast – Twitter Storms: When Dorothy became the Wicked Witch of the West, where we discussed Twitter storms, why they occur and why writers need to be carefully authentic online. We also heard some tips on what to do if you are unlucky enough to be picked up by the mad winds of a Twitter Storm.

(Music fading up)

Leisl: The Get it Right jingle was written and performed by me, Leisl Leighton.

To finish up, I leave you with my wish for all writers – may your creative well be full and may your Muse be forever with you.  

[Top image: Lightning_2972924. Used with permission. Satori13]