There are different camps out there in terms of how a writer should interact with readers. I am convinced that using social media is a benefit to writers who choose to engage with readers.
I have been on Twitter for several years. (There used to be a place on Twitter where you could find the day you registered, but I can no longer find it.) While I have been on Twitter and engaged with people for many years, I am hardly one of the early adapters. In fact, I spent several years prior to registering wondering just what the point using Twitter could be.
Engaging an Audience
One of the most useful things about Twitter is the way you get instant feedback on ideas. As of the very second I type this line, I have 477 followers, and if you are reading this, chances are pretty good you are one of them. It’s not a large number, but it isn’t shabby either. My following on Twitter has grown organically and gradually. I ruthlessly cull bots (robot followers meant only for spamming and other nefarious purposes). I don’t necessarily follow people back, though I have considered following everyone and simply listing people who I actually want to read in a list. But then, John Scalzi hardly follows anyone and has acumulted nearly 30,000 followers.
By following a bunch of people with similar interests (other writers, other fishkeepers, etc), I become involved in a never-ending water-cooler discussion where ideas are exchanged, news is spread, and support for people who need support is always there.
Twitter is a place where a writer can emphasize a brand. There seem to be two camps in terms of how writers use Twitter to solidify a brand. The first uses Twitter to show one facet of their personality and expertise, magnified out of proportion to the rest of their lives. Examples of this type of Twitter authors would be Michael A. Stackpole, who uses the social media engine to proclaim the benefits of independent publishing, as well as gaming topics, and, of course, his own fiction. David Brin uses Twitter to call attention to different science articles, but rarely otherwise interacts with people. Mary Robinette Kowal uses Twitter to discuss her fiction, to educate people about puppetry (her day job), to have fun with her travel woes, and for some double-entendre wordplay (at which she excels).
I don’t think one camp is superior to another. They are just different ways of doing things. A person will tend to gravitate toward one or the other over time. I’m sure David Brin’s use was carefully thought out is strategic to gain followers of a specific type, while others like John Scalzi just uses it to interact with his readers and have a little fun.
I don’t think there is any correct answer. Each user will gravitate to what works for them. There is nothing wrong with publicly emphasizing one aspect of a personality, nor is there anything wrong with throwing it all out there for the world to see.
The only thing I would warn about using Twitter is to keep some things private. Keep in mind that the internet remembers everything, even if you delete it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. That means if you announce your pride in throwing a cat down a flight of stairs, the world will know about it, and it could come back to haunt you some day. (For the record, I have noever done this, but I did witness it and scolded the thrower.) This is like anything else online. Use common sense.
Is It For Everyone?
Of course not. Being on Twitter in the first place says something about the person. It means they want to interact with people, at least to some extent. People like George R. R. Martin maintain a Twitter account for the sole reason of preventing anyone else from using it. He has never sent a single tweet. (Not many writers could collect the same number of followers as John Scalzi by saying nothing at all!) Other authors have never even considered using Twitter. It isn’t for everyone, but it can be a boon for authors who choose to use it.
Where else can you let the world know that your blog just posted? Twitter just announced this post, and it’s likely you found this via that tweet. Twitter is fast, but it’s fleeting, but that’s a topic for another day.