If you find that twitter just doesn’t come naturally to you, the first thing you should know is that you are not the only one. Don’t worry – like many things on the web, a bit of watching, playing and trying things out should set you up nicely.
We’ve put together a quick guide so that you, as an author can get started using Twitter to help move your writing career forward.
It is good to start off by figuring out how Twitter can help you. What do you want to get out of using Twitter? If you don’t know why you are doing it, then it’s hard to know if it is working!
Here are our tips to getting started with Twitter.
What’s the point in Twitter?
As an author, a good aim is to try and broaden your network of contacts across the publishing industry – with writers, publishers, agents, bloggers and readers. It’s also very important to remember that you don’t need to have thousands of followers -it is better to aim for quality rather than quantity. Certainly don’t get intimidated by people who have loads of people following them and feel like you are ‘failing’ if you have a small number. Just concentrate on meeting interesting people and joining in on relevant conversations.
Setting up a Twitter Account as an author
- You will need to decide on your ‘Twitter Handle’ – this is the username that people will use to communicate with you. If you are an author, it’s a good idea to use the name that you write under if you can. Or, if it has already been taken, use a memorable variation (e.g. Caroline Smailes uses Caroline_S, and Neil Gaiman uses neilhimself,) so that people can immediately match your profile to your book or to you as an author.
- You should not leave your avatar blank (this is usually the sign of a spammer so people will be wary of ‘following’ you!)
- Make sure that you link to a page with more information about you in the space provided. If you don’t have a blog or website of your own, then you could link to your profile page on another network (such as CompletelyNovel or LinkedIn.
This is important for two reasons. The first is that you are more likely to be followed if you give people the option to find out more about you. The second is for promotional reasons – it’s a good way to subtly plug your book.
- Don’t set your profile to ‘private’ if you want other people to follow you. If you are worried about people finding out too much information about you from your tweets, then you need to be more selective in what you tweet! If you are looking to use twitter as a tool to help you advance your writing career, you need people to be able to see what you are tweeting.
Finding people to follow on Twitter
There are twitter directories such as Twellow, which you might find useful, but I find the easiest ways are as follows:
- Use the search box at the top of the Twitter home page to search for people you are interested in or friends that you know are on Twitter.
- Once you have found someone you are interested in, then you could take a minute to look at who they are following for some ideas. You can always stop following people if they don’t say anything of interest!
- Cruise some of the websites of your favourite publishers, authors, literary agents and publishing blogs. Hopefully quite a few of them will have a ‘Follow us on Twitter’ link to click on.
- Try and avoid following hundreds of people to begin with when no-one is following you. It looks a bit weird to other people (and immediately marks you out as a ‘newbie’) so build up gradually and that should help the numbers even out more quickly.
There are a few terms on Twitter that will come in handy.
- Reply – ‘@’
This is the symbol to use when you want to reply to someone’s tweet or direct a tweet at them. The tweet will appear in a separate column in the recipient’s twitter page.
- Retweet – ‘RT’
Use this when someone else says something that you are particularly interested in or think your followers would be interested in. If you can, it’s good to put it into context by adding a few words of your own too, explaining why you like it.
- # – ‘Hashtags’
When people want to link their tweets to other tweets on the same topic they use a hashtag which is basically a ‘#’ followed by the agreed word. You can search on twitter and every tweet that has the same hastag will be displayed.
What types of things should you tweet?
Of course there aren’t any rules but it’s good to follow a few guidelines to ensure that you don’t annoy people.
- The same rules for face to face networking apply – don’t bang on about yourself all of the time (unless you are a celebrity, people are not going to be interested) and don’t constantly try to plug your own activities and your book. Yes, it’s good to know if your experiences have given you a good insight into a process that you can share, but be mindful of sounding ‘spammy’.
- The people I pay the most attention to are the people who seem to be trying to help me out by sharing good links and starting or continuing an interesting conversation. Use twitter to share links to relevant things that you are doing elsewhere – if you have just written a review of a book somewhere, or a blog post, or found a great website, tweet a a link to that.
- Be yourself – it’s easy to spot the people who are trying to put on a fake persona or tweet like a business. It doesn’t work so just try and write like you would talk and it will come across better.
- Twitter gives you the chance of getting in touch with people that would otherwise be unreachable, so use the opportunity to strike up a conversation with those people if you have any burning questions that you want to ask. Keep it friendly (as you would if you were talking to them in person) and don’t worry if they don’t reply – the nice thing about Twitter is that you are asking in a no-pressure environment.
How often do you need to tweet?
You do need to tweet on a regular basis if you want to keep followers interested (there are programs that people use to weed out followers that haven’t tweeted in the last week so don’t be caught in the cull!) It’s only a sentence so at least once a day is preferable as well as manageable.
There are plenty of other tips that I could share but I think I’ll save them for another post – this should hopefully help you get started!
You can follow me on twitter here. (Please tweet @anna_cn to say hello!)
More tips on marketing and promotion for authors.