In theory, Twitter isn’t intimidating. How could a social network that only asks for 140 characters per post be intimidating? It’s like an elephant being afraid of a mouse, which—as everyone knows, thanks to intrepid reporting by ABC and Mythbusters—isn’t true. So in theory, writers shouldn’t be afraid of Twitter…
Many a writer (and hopeful novelist promoting a book) has looked at Twitter and felt, shall we say, overwhelmed. Tweets fly by the millions per minute, but posting that first tweet on a Twitter stream can feel like shouting in the middle of a totally empty auditorium. Is there an echo in here?
Once you find your audience, Twitter is an unmatched free resource for marketing and promoting your writing, whether you’re writing books, poems, or stories.
These ten tips will help you, dear writer, crusade fearlessly into Twitterdom and make some friends along the way.
But first, some basic Twitter terminology:
Followers list: People who follow you….like lemmings, sheep, and stalkers.
Following list: People you follow, though you are clearly not a lemming, sheep, or stalker.
Following/follower ratio: Ideally, you want your friends and followers number to be equal. Or you want to have more people following you than people you are following. Why? It makes you look cool.
Got it? Great! You’ve just graduated from Twitter 101. Now it’s time for Twitter 201.
10 Tips That Will Help You Become A Master Of The Twitterverse
1. Find good Twitter apps. There are powerful programs out there to simplify your Twitter interface. These programs make it easier to keep track of who’s saying what to whom or who is tweeting what hashtag (Don’t worry: We’ll talk about hashtags below). Plus, Twitter apps can even track who is talking about you!
To find a good third-party Twitter client, just look at a list of tweets and check out the names of the applications that are posted in small letters under the tweet (this tells you where the tweet originated). For example, TweetDeck and Hootsuite might make it easier for you to manage your Twitter account without tearing out your hair.
2. Follow people. Twitter isn’t like Facebook, where—in theory—you need to know somebody to follow them. Twitter is an orgy of friend-making. And unless you’re following big tweeters like Alec Baldwin and FakeAPStyleBook, most people will be happy to follow you back. You don’t even have to ask them to. Be prepared to do the same when people start following you!
3. Find friends the easy way. Go to Twitter. Log in. Type a word in the search box that pertains to your interests: Literary, sci-fi, antiques, etc. Scan the results for tweets that interest you, then begin following! You’re already on your way.
4. Raid other people’s favorites lists. If you discover a Tweep you like, (Tweep being the short form of Tweeple), check out their lists of favorite people. Active users make lists of people they like, and those people make lists of people they like, and next thing you know, you’ve added a whole bunch of people to your following list—which means you may end up with people following you.
5. Join the discussions. In order to have a conversation on Twitter, writers use #hashtags. Making a hashtag is a very complicated process, but let’s give it a try.
Let’s say your topic is unusual cuisine.
1. Choose a word or words related to your topic.
2. Mush your words together, like so:
3. And then, stick a # in front of it, like so:
If you can do that, you can use a hashtag. By clicking on a hashtag that someone else used (to search it), or by using a hashtag yourself, you can tap into the conversations that surround that hashtag. Hashtags are like filters, helping writers create order—or at least a little order—out of the chaos of Twitter.
Here is a basic list of Twitter hashtags for creative writers:
- #amwriting (for random writing-related thoughts)
- #keepwriting (for inspiration)
- #writequote (for quotes about writing)
- #literaryagent (for dirt on agents)
- #NaNoWriMo (for National Novel Writing Month tweets)
- #pubtip (for publishing tips)
- #write #writer #writing (random writerly things)
- #WIPlines (for lines from your work in progress)
Go ahead and try one! We promise it won’t hurt…unless you break a fingernail while you’re typing.
Some hashtags are used at very specific times, when people who have organized free-for-all discussions get together to talk books and writing. For example, on certain days, a group of readers gets together and uses the hashtag #litchat so they can talk to one another.
6. Give shout-outs. On #WriterWednesdays (also #WW), writers tweet the names of friends they like. Make a list of the tweeps you like using their @names (you’ll need to use the @ symbol). Then, list them in a tweet with the #WW tag. Do the same for #FollowFriday (#FF for short). Why? Because you’ll show some love, make some friends (followers), and maybe even get your tweet retweeted by someone else (which is always a good thing).
7. Be clever. If Twitter had been around when Mark Twain was living, he would have been a perfect candidate for Twitter. Funny, insightful, terse, and pithy tweets tend to be retweeted. And when you’re RT’d, you’re popular and you get to sit at the table in the cafeteria with the cool kids.
8. Retweet. RTing other people’s tweets is a great way to make friends and connections. Don’t underestimate the power of RTing. Every time you RT something awesome, your awesome points go up—and you didn’t even have to think up the Tweet yourself.
9. Befriend the bigwigs. Set goals to carefully make friends with important tweeters. You don’t want to befriend people who are so big (they’re called whales) that they won’t notice you among the bazillion other people who follow them. But you might not want to single out people with only twenty followers for your special attention either. Just be sure not to commit our Deadly Sins Of Online Promotion.
10. Integrate Twitter. Sync Twitter with your blog so that every time you publish a new post, it gets auto-tweeted. You can also connect Twitter to your other social media sites via various applications.
11. Tweet often. Twitter happens at the speed of light. A tweet has a lifespan that makes a housefly look like Methuselah. So tweet often. And if you can’t be there, use one of the programs in tip #1 to tweet for you while you’re away.
Got a question about twitter? Tweet it to us! We’re @WebDesignRelief.
Question: Do you think Twitter is a goldmine or an albatross for writers?
Careful when you advise people to “tweet often” – there is such a thing as tweeting TOO often. I followed someone new last week, and in the course of only 2 or 3 hours, this person cluttered my feed with over 100 tweets and RTs. Even though some (very few) of them were interesting, that was way too much spam from one person for me. So I promptly unfollowed this person.
Good point, Katheryn! It’s hard to strike a balance between tweeting too much and too little. It definitely helps to space it out so you don’t bombard your followers in one big explosion of tweets!
Great information and very helpful. Agree about over tweeting as the same just happened to me..