Here’s the first thing you need to know about Twitter: no one “gets it” in the beginning.
If you’re new to Twitter, it’s unlikely that you will intuitively grasp how to properly and effectively use this social media tool right off the bat.
But every week, over a billion tweets flow through Twitter exploring every imaginable subject and a wide variety of writers are using Twitter to make their presence known.
There’s some work involved, but it’s doable.
The second thing you need to know about Twitter– your readers, your clients, your audience is already on Twitter.
Are you willing to miss the opportunity to be part of the conversation?
Let’s start with the basics. But before diving in, take a breath, and remember that everyone starts at zero.
The Anatomy of a Tweet
Tweets are composed of 140 characters or less, and are the method you use to communicate on Twitter. It may take a little time to get used to, but there is little that’s not achievable, even within these limits.
Lets take a look and define some components of a Tweet.
- Hashtag – A Hashtag is any word beginning with the # sign (an example might be #writer). It is a way to categorize messages to help them show more easily in Twitter search. You can use Hashtags to organize conversations around a particular topic, to group people, target people, meet people with a similar interest, get info on a topic or to follow current trends. When you click on a Hashtag you are taken to the search results for that term.
- Retweet – A Retweet is someone else’s Tweet that you choose to share with your followers. Just hit the Retweet button to send the original message to all of your followers. However, if you wish to add your own commentary to the original Tweet, then you must manually Retweet the content by copying and pasting it into a new Tweet of your own. You must add the letters RT and the Tweet author’s @username to show that it’s a Retweet and isn’t your own content. An added bonus, is that the Retweet done manually shows up in the original Tweet author’s mentions section (see below); this brings you to their attention and might even encourage them to follow you.
- Links – Twitter’s link shortening feature lets you paste a link of any length into the Tweet box and it will automagically be shortened to 19 characters! This makes it easy to fit long URLs into the 140 character limit.
- Mention – If you want to bring a Tweet to someone’s attention, and still allow all your followers to see the message, use a mention. Include the @username of whomever you want to mention in your tweet, and it will appear in the mentions section. All @username mentions are clickable and link back to the profile of the person or business mentioned.
- Reply – You can respond to a Tweet by hitting the reply button. When you reply, your response is public, and will show up in your home timeline and the timeline of the person to whom you are responding. (A DM–or direct message–is a private message, and can only be sent to someone you follow who also follows you back.)
Making Twitter Work for You
So now that you have the basics of what makes up a Tweet, lets take a look at how best to utilize this social media tool to build relationships and grow your writer platform. But remember, ‘marketing’ isn’t shorthand for shameless self-promotion. By following this guide, you can use Twitter as a way to gain connections all over the world. Used effectively, it will help you stand out and get noticed.
If you have not yet set up your Twitter account, read through the tips below and then visit Twitter.com to set up your new account. (If you are still baffled or want more help on setting up your account, check out Rafe Needleman’s Newbie’s Guide to Twitter).
Tweak your profile; be remarkable.
Since your goal is to get people to follow you, you must make it appealing for them to do so. Your profile picture, your bio and your Twitter background are prime marketing real estate, so use these areas wisely.
Naming Your Account
- The username is what people use to locate, follow and communicate with you. It’s your Twitter “handle” and looks like this https://twitter.com/JaneDoe. Be careful to choose a name that you can use for life (no numbers or gimmicks). Locate your username by clicking the gear in the top right of your screen, and going to Settings–>Account
- The account name is where you enter your real name so people can recognize you. This is accessed by Settings–>Profile
- If your name is taken, try adding ‘writes, books, or author’ to your name if space allows. Eg., JaneDoeWrites.
Update your profile picture.
- Make sure that it’s professional, high resolution and looks good even as a thumbnail.
- Keep your author or business brand in mind and use the same picture across all your social media profiles.
- Don’t use a book cover, no matter how proud you are of it. It’s social media; people want to connect with you, not your book.
- This holds true for freelance writers too. There are better places to utilize your logo and other branding, which we’ll talk about shortly.
Change your header photo or image.
UPDATE: Twitter has made some changes (again!), so for more on the recent updates, check out this post by Andrea Vahl.
- This is not a must, but changing the header image can reinforce your branding or add a little personality to your profile. The header image is more important on mobile devices, such as your phone, as your Twitter background isn’t displayed. Changing your header image is just as easy as adding your profile picture. Go to Settings–>Profile and Change Header.
Craft an intriguing bio.
- In the bio area, you have limited characters to explain who you are and capture attention, so be innovative!
- Include something personal about you–a trait, a passion, a vision, a talent–as well as work/industry related keywords.
“A keyword is a word or phrase (called a keyword phrase) that is used to help index content on Web pages so search engines such as Google can better categorize them and deliver those pages appropriately when people conduct searches… An important element in search engine optimization.” ~ Susan Gunelius, About.com Guide
- If you’ve fine tuned your website tagline, you could also add it to your bio.
- Joel Comm gives a great example of an intriguing bio in his book Twitter Power:
“Tree Surgeon, Garden Expert and Green-Fingered Designer who likes to Smell Freshly-Cut Grass.”
- Twitter provides the option to link directly to your site from their site. By entering your URL (http://www.yourdomain.com) in the option box, you will get a back link into your site that followers can see in your profile area and have one click access to your site. You can also include another link in your bio. In either case, make sure you start the URL with http:// which will make your link live.
Change your Twitter background design.
- Every Twitter account has the option to change the background image that comes standard with the account. Instead of using any of the backgrounds Twitter provides, create your own background and upload it by clicking the gear in the top right corner, Settings–>Design.
- Think of this as your own free billboard! (Check out Why You Need a Kickass Twitter Background.)
- Utilize this space. Some things you might want to include: a photo of your book(s), your logo and tag line, your website URL, email address, usernames to other social media sites or even a favorite quote. Get creative!
- Remember to keep your brand in mind and use your Twitter background to help reinforce your message.
- To access this go to Settings–>Design, scroll down to Customize Your Own and upload your design. Tip: change your link color to coordinate with your newly uploaded design.
You can check out the Twitter profile for Your Writer Platform (@writerplatform) for some ideas.
What, When and How Often to Post
So now your Twitter account is set and tweaked and you’re poised and ready to post your first Tweet. Umm… What do you Tweet about?
What to Post
It’s important to keep in mind that it is social media; you are just using Twitter as a vehicle to have a conversation you might have somewhere else. Don’t panic! Introverted writers do great on Twitter. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Share useful, helpful and interesting industry related content with your followers by linking to other blog posts and articles in your genre or area of expertise.
- Be you. Reflect who you are and be transparent and authentic. Start a dialogue, ask questions, interact with others. Be fun and engaging! Let people know there is a real person behind the book or freelance business that engages in meaningful conversations.
- Add photos and quotes. Post funny or informational videos that pertain to the industry or your particular niche/genre.
- Post breaking news or trending topics.
- Post a poll or survey. There’s no better way to find out what your readers want than to ask them. (Survey Monkey is a great tool for this.)
- Post the results from surveys and polls. People love to see how things turned out!
- Link to your blogposts
- Retweet appealing Tweets from other users.
- Use your Tweets to create buzz for a new “secret” book, a launch or appearance to be announced. Get them waiting and looking for information.
- Introduce your new book or freelance service.
- Let your followers know when you are offering a discount or promo.
- Announce appearances or achievements
- Post links to your interviews, including video/radio/podcast
- Link to a press release
- Use hash tags to attract like minded followers
- Get overly political, religious or strong minded (unless that fits with your brand)
- Over promote. Keep the 80/20 rule in mind. Only about 20% of your posts should be self-serving. The other 80% should be for your audience’s benefit.
- Post unrelated Tweets to trending topics in order to get attention
- Aggressively or indiscriminately follow hundreds of accounts
- Post lots of duplicate links
- Re-post someone’s good content without giving them credit.
When to Post
The best time to post will obviously be when the majority of your followers are online. To find this out you can use the third party Twitter tool Tweriod. Once you’ve discovered when your followers are online, you can use Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your Tweets to be sent at optimal times.
For a great explanation of the benefits of Tweriod and Buffer, check out this post from Pat Flynn of the Smart Passive Income Blog.
I use Hootsuite (free for a basic membership) so I can schedule my Tweets in advance and avoid having to hang out on Twitter all day. Hootsuite also allows you to easily track mentions of your name and book title so you can always stay involved in the conversation.
Another bonus is that Hootsuite has a link share tool (Hootlet) that easily allows you to Tweet from any page you’re visiting and automatically grabs the title and URL, including it in your tweet. Easy peasy!
How Often to Post
By using some of the above third party applications, you can limit the amount of time that Twitter swipes from your day – and your writing schedule. Give yourself a time limit and 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day. That’s all you should need in order to use it effectively and efficiently.
Follow and Get Followed
When it comes to finding and increasing your followers, the first step is to find like minded individuals whom you find interesting and whose content you enjoy. The next, is to employ some strategies and basic Twitter etiquette to identify those people who you could and should be following.
- Follow people who follow you
- Follow people who RT you
- Follow people who mention you
- Follow people who give you a #followfriday recommendation (#followfriday is a way people recommend their followers in their tweets to other followers to follow on twitter.)
Who to Follow
There are many ways to find people or businesses of interest, that can potentially become important players in your writing career–as readers, clients, agents, or even influencers. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Search for influential people in your niche and follow them
- Search based on keywords, genres or locally/geographically and follow those that appeal to you
- Use hashtags to find topics of interest, or people who like what you like
- Review public ‘author lists’ and follow those whose bio’s you find interesting
- Find your “competitors”or other Tweeter’s in your niche–author’s in your genre, freelancers, bloggers or agents–and click on their followers list. Start following that list. If you are Tweeting about similar topics, logic dictates that their followers will likely be interested in following you too.
How Do I Get Followers?
You will gain followers in several ways:
- By following the highly targeted list of a popular Tweeter in your niche (about 30% will automatically follow you back)
- Organically, people will follow you based on the great content you are posting (eventually this will be the main way that you get followers).
- By directing people to your Twitter profile and inviting them to join you.
Please join me @writerplatform : )
- By having a Twitter icon on your author blog/website that says “Follow me”.
To avoid looking like a spammer, you should be careful to have approximately the same number of people following you as you follow. Even better is to have more followers than people you follow. Also keep in mind that once you are following around 2,000 people, your ability to follow more people will be restricted by the number of followers you have.
A good way to keep your following count under control is to use JustUnfollow.com. You can ‘unfollow’ up to 25 people per day (for free) who opt not to follow you back. Most people who will follow you back, will invariably do so within a week to ten days. So in order to make room for new people to follow, you can unfollow those who have not followed you after a week.
You may also want to remove those people who haven’t Tweeted for a period of time (dormant accounts) or those with no profile picture (less likely to be a real person).
Using hashtags wisely in your Tweets will get you more exposure with the right people by making your Tweets more visible. A hashtag is essentially a link that is searchable by other users and helps categorize the gazillion Tweets that are being pumped out every minute.
Here are some hashtag tips:
- Don’t overuse hashtags in a post. Keep it to 1 or 2 per post.
- Do use hashtags in your posts.
- When you copy over a title of an article to post on Twitter, pick a keyword that is already in the title and add a hashtag.
Example: “Twitter Marketing 101: For #Writers”
- Do not include any spaces or hyphens or it won’t work.
Laura Pepper Wu at 30 Day Books provides a great list of useful hashtags for authors and writers.
Overwhelm or Clarity?
This is a lot of information to digest, and it may be best to bookmark this post and refer back to it while you work on your Twitter strategy.
Try not to get overwhelmed! Break the process down into smaller parts, and tackle each section one at a time. The key is to understand that Twitter is just a tool that amplifies your local cafe chatter. Don’t be intimidated!
Any questions or concerns about using Twitter in your marketing strategy? Anything to add?
Let me know in the comments below.