It would take five hands to count the number of times a writer has said to me, “I just don’t get Twitter.” What’s not to get? Twitter is, essentially, the internet curated for you. Imagine it’s like going to an internet museum, but all the artwork is geared towards your interests. On Twitter, you can choose to follow only those people who you find interesting; then their tweets are aggregated in your Twitter feed, and voilá! Musings, links, book recommendations, writing tips–all catered to you.
Even better, Twitter is a way for you to reach out to people in your target community, wherever they lurk, and connect with them. It’s a marketing tool as much as a learning tool. It’s a way not only to find those other users like you, but to engage with them, sometimes even befriend them. I’ve now met 5 Twitter friends in person, and it’s always a little thrilling.
When I give writers this speech, it’s usually followed by this sentence: “Well, I’ve joined Twitter, but I just don’t know what to do or where to start.”
Do I have the post for you! Welcome to Twitter Bootcamp. Here are six easy steps for writers and authors to become a part of the invaluable and growing community that is Twitter.
Rule no. 1: Join Twitter! It’s free and easy, and a great way to start building your author platform.
Rule no. 2: Don’t start your Twitter feed with your personal friends–pick up Twitter users who are similar to you in profession and/or interest:
– Fellow writers/authors, bloggers, and readers
– Don’t limit yourself to genre
– Twitter often makes Follow recommendations, and they aren’t bad
– When a Twitter account you like mentions or retweets another user, check them out. Also watch out for the #FollowFriday (sometimes #FF) hashtag to lead you to new people to follow.
Rule no. 3: Less than 5% of your tweets should be self-promotion. What does self-promotion mean?
– Advertisements for purchases (e.g. any books you have published or anthologies in which your work has appeared)
– Advertisements for your general website (not specific blog posts or information pages), speaking gigs, or appearances
– As a general rule, don’t talk about yourself in third-person! It just makes you look like a jackass.
Rule no. 4: Make good use of that other 95%! Try the following tacks to build audience participation:
– Engage other writers on topics that interest you. Talk about your WIPs, books you’re reading, writing tips–you get the idea.
– Provide value to your followers, such as retweeting links that are relevant or interesting, or helping promote books and authors you like. (A retweet is essentially forwarding someone else’s tweet to your followers.)
– Don’t be afraid of replying to tweets that interest you! Engaging your audience starts with incorporating them into the conversation.
– Use hashtags like #amwriting, #YALitChat, or #writetip to enter and engage in ongoing book chatter. You can search for other Tweeters using a hashtag simply by clicking it.
Rule no. 5: Take care with what you tweet:
– It’s OK to have a personality, but remember–you are posting to the public domain, and your tweets can be read by anyone.
– Be yourself. Your readers want to get to know the real you.
– It’s difficult to attract followers with silence, and it’s difficult to keep them if you flood their Twitter feeds. Strike a balance.
And last but not least:
Rule no. 6: Make sure you get off Twitter from time to time and keep on writing!