A Little Bird Told Me: An Author’s Guide to Using Twitter
By: David Powers King
Maybe you’ve heard about this little place called Twitter, a micro-blogging site that allows its users to post small messages on the interest for any and all to see in 140 characters or less? It’s been around for a while, and continues to gain momentum and new accounts every day. Whether you’ve heard of it or not, I wouldn’t put it past most authors to ask at some point, “What can Twitter do for me?” The short answer is nothing—unless you do something for Twitter!
Like other social media sites, Twitter is a useful tool for people to communicate with each other. If you’re an author, game designer, actor, network chef, etc, Twitter can provide a platform for promoting yourself and your work. Those who follow you will have the advantage of staying in touch by reading a short message that won’t suck their time, be it on their desktops or phones.
Also, like other social media sites, there are advantages that you can tap into and many pitfalls that one would find beneficial to avoid. Whether you already have an account or are now setting one up, here are some insider tips and tricks to help you make the best out of the Twitterverse:
1 – Make It Easy for Others to Find You: If you’re an author, whatever name you plan to use for your book covers should match your twitter handle (ex: @davidpowersking). The little @ at the beginning generates the handle. When you tweet about other people, or if you want them to see what you’re tweeting about them, add the handle. You might just start up a cool conversation. If the handle is already in use, you may have to add additional words (ex: @susybrownauthor).
2 – Look Up and Follow Fellow Authors: You can go about this in lots of ways, but I would start with the authors that you know and have read. Read what they tweet. You can learn a lot about what to post (and what not to post) by following the examples of existing users. You can also follow agents, editors, and other publishing world peeps to gain an insight into their world.
3 – Promote Yourself and Others: If you run a blog, you can use Twitter to alert followers of a new post. It’s also a great way to inform others about your next signing, a teaser update on your writing, and occasional factoids that are interesting to you and useful to others. While you’re at it, always, and I mean always, look for opportunities to promote fellow authors. Good Karma.
4 – Engage with Readers and Book Bloggers: These are the peeps that are going to push your work and talk about it with everyone they know. Reply to new follows and their tweets at every opportunity. Retweets are nice, but a personalized retweet will carry the message even further.
5 – Use Hashtags (#): What’s a hashtag? It’s like a group within Twitter. For example, if you like zombies, you can look up “#zombies” and you will see tweets from those who used the hashtag. This is useful for writing conferences (#authorwrites2013), for what you’re doing (#amwriting), and for letting people know if you’re hosting a giveaway (#giveaway). Using a hashtag for your books when you talk about them also adds to the experience and helps to build up a following.
6 – Avoid Rants and Constant Self Promotion: As a rule of thumb, do not post anything on the internet that you may regret later. Unless you have an established fan base who will buy your work no matter what you say, don’t use Twitter as a soapbox. Your goal should be connecting with people. Alienating yourself from potential buyers doesn’t help anyone. And while there’s no harm is a little self promotion, people will get turned off if that’s all you do. People don’t like following robots, and one-track-minded users who post about only one topic can get tedious and annoying. Make your tweets unique and genuine, and avoid auto tweeting like the plague (you will see what I mean if you follow someone who can miraculously tweet every five minutes)!
7 – Don’t Be a Creeper: Nothing will get you blocked and banned faster than behavior that will creep out the people you follow. Say I follow someone, and then they simultaneously “Like” or “Favorite” all the posts I’ve done in the last month. Similarly, what if I replied to every-single-tweet that @awesomeagent posts? Another online rule of thumb, moderation is a valued ally.
8 – Don’t Do It for the Numbers: Don’t stress if you don’t have lots of followers right away. This isn’t a popularity race. Just be yourself. If you build it, users will come. When someone follows you, thank them with a personal tweet. If you do tweet back, or send a personal message, don’t be surprised if they unfollow you because you wrote, “Thanks for following! Check out my book on Amazon!” For me, this translates into, “I don’t care who you are! Just buy my book already!”
9 – Consistency is Key: Find a routine and stick with it. How many tweets are you willing to post in a day? When will you tweet them? This can help others know when to look for you. Also, it’s a lot easier to defend yourself in the event of a hacked account. Who tweets at 3 am, anyway?
10 – Explore and Have Fun: There are countless tutorials and how-to guides on the internet that can further help you in your quest for the Twitterverse, but the best learning is hands on. Log in and give it a spin! You’ll be amazed by the insight you can gain about others with so little info.
This isn’t the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. What works for one user may not work for others. All I can say is how I’ve learned to use this tool, but like most tools, they can have more than one application. See if these tips and tricks work for you. If not, the possibilities are endless.
See you in the Twitterverse!