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Twitter for Writers: Bootcamp

November 22, 2012 by Kiersi

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!


  1. kellyhashway says:

    I love Twitter. It’s so quick and easy. I’ve also met a lot of great writers and bloggers there. Great tips, Kiersi.

  2. Lynn says:

    This is a helpful post.

    Usually I find that people I had not interacted with yet do not respond when I send them a tweet. I don’t know why they follow me if they are going to ignore me anyway. Also, I can put a question out there, knowing some of the people I follow and who follow me likely have the answer I need, but I get no replies. I feel invisible and wonder what am I doing wrong?

    Another problem I have is the ones whose Twitter feed I most enjoy following get lost in the masses. Tweets can easily be missed, but perhaps there is something I am not understanding about it?

    Twitter can take up a lot of one’s time if permitted (refer to your rule no. 6), but it can be fun. 🙂

    Thanks for this.

    • Kiersi says:

      Oh, Lynn, there are definitely some solutions to your second problem. Twitter has something called “Lists,” which allow you to categorize different Twitter accounts that you like (for example, I get put on a lot of “author” lists, or “Portland people” lists), and when you select the list, you see ONLY Tweets from those users (basically, it creates a new, different feed for you by aggregating tweets from those users).

      As for your first problem, there are a couple things that happen. One is that the “popular” people of Twitter (users with 3,000-50,000 followers) don’t always reply to tweets. I don’t know why. Maybe they are too cool for school? Or they get so many replies they don’t have time to read and reply to them all. I don’t know. I definitely prefer interacting with other users who are similar to me in terms of following–I’m at 650-ish followers and I find the people who are most responsive are in the 100-1,000 follower range.

      • Thank you for this reply and tips, Kiersi. I have lists but I don’t ever think much about them, or have not yet developed the habit of checking them out. Obviously there is more to learn to make it well worth my time.

  3. Good basic advice, Keirsi. Lists make keeping track of conversations so much easier and you can reply at any time. I use twitter a lot and am very happy with the results achieved. I find if you retweet to someone and edit that with a question, the recipient usually responds because the RT’s are listed separately and easy to find. Tweetdeck and Hootesuite offer some easy to use options that make Twitter even more user-friendly. Tweet away!

    • Kiersi says:

      I second Hootsuite. Personally I use the Twitter app for Mac, but when I was managing business Twitter accounts Hootsuite was invaluable. Good tip on RTs, too. And it’s always good to attach your name visibly to a clever RT 🙂

  4. Thanks for the info, Kiersi. I’m definitley “tweet” shy, and worry that if I get started it will eat up too much writing time. Blogging has already grabbed a lot of the time I know I should be working on my novel, but I love it so do it anyway–at least I’m writing, I tell myself. Also (and here’s where I really expose my utter ignorance) do you have to have a smart phone to tweet, or is it something you do via the internet on a computer????

    • Kiersi says:

      I like to think of Tweeting as an ultra-sweet dessert: a little goes a long way. But, at the same time, Twitter has been immensely helpful to me in terms of keeping up on industry news, networking with authors, agents, and publishers, and seeing what trends are selling.

      As far as what medium I use to Tweet, a combination of mobile and computer. I mostly keep up with Tweets on my computer but I do have an app for my iPhone that I use regularly. Just depends on what you’re comfortable with or where you are.

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