Twitter Basics for Authors

It’s common wisdom that making a connection to your fans and building a fan base is an essential part of self-promotion for every author. Easy, right? Just jump over to Twitter, sign up, and magic happens.

Something life has taught me is that outside of the book world, magic only happens with constant work and effort. Since none of us lives the charmed life of a heroine who just blinks and things fall in place, here are a few things to help you reach those magical results of your own.

 

 Sign up for a Twitter account.

This is pretty obvious. Still, I often get asked for a tutorial on how to sign up. Twitter has their own simple tutorial and tips for that.

 

Educate yourself on some Basics

Twitter has its own vocabulary and functions that are different from other social media experiences. They aren’t hard to learn and most of them are intuitive, but here’s a few links newbies might find helpful in getting acquainted with the terms. If you already know and use twitter regularly, there are also a few things you might not have known about included in these pages.

Set up your Profile

Your face versus the book cover.

As an author, you have the pressure of selling your book and want to put it front and center everywhere. Or you might be shy and rather have your book be your face and not put yourself out there. Take a moment to remember that you are not your book and your book is not all you are or what your talent encompasses. If you use your book as your profile picture complications arise.

  • A profile picture is tiny in most instances (see feed above) and your book won’t show to advantage
  • Is it your book talking or is it you?
  • What happens when you have multiple books to your name? How do you choose which one to highlight to the detriment of others?
  • What happens when you share info about any of your many other interests that make you who you are, but don’t fit with what your book represents?
  • What does it say about your interest in connecting to potential fans? It says I’m here to sell you this book.

It’s preferable to follow another bit of common wisdom about building a fan base which says it’s about creating connections with your fans, person to many persons. You need to put yourself out there in that tiny profile picture. Consider it like making eye contact in a face to face conversation. If the person is not making eye contact with you, you don’t feel they are invested in the conversation and you quickly end it. If they do, you feel that you’re being listened to and the conversation grows.

Also, your book as your face makes it seem as your whole purpose in being on Twitter (or any social media you might do this) is to get people to buy your book. That may be true, but it’s off-putting. Good marketing will sell you a feeling or a lifestyle and then tell you where you can get the product. Less effective marketing shoves a product in your face and tells you to buy it. Some people will buy from the latter strategy, but many people don’t like being told what to do. Likewise, a better strategy for selling your books is to present yourself as a real, living person versus a cold inanimate object, no matter how heartwarming the story it holds might be.

Besides, there is a place you can put your books right there on the same profile: the Header.

 

Product or Lifestyle Header

The header would be a more appropriate spot to place what defines your interests. In that wide horizontal space at the top of your profile, you can put in an image that visually describes who you are or what you represent. Yes, your books can be depicted here, but you can also put in something that describes your vocation, like an image of paper and ink wells, or a typewriter. You could also use it to show a facet of your interests. You can change it every so often according to season, events, new publications, shift of interests, etc. In the example above, Neil Gaiman used it to show his current book. Below is the example from Amazon Kindle. It shows the product in a lifestyle setting with no words or sales pitch. The lifestyle one just calls to your sense of adventure and desire to travel. Can you picture yourself with that Kindle on top of a mountain exploring a foreign land?

Whatever you decide for this space, make sure you use it. Otherwise it’s a lost opportunity.


Bio

When writing your bio, make it an example of who you are. Are you funny? Are you a blue stocking? Are you about proper grammar? Whatever your writing style, use it. Just remember you have to fit what you can in 160 characters or less. This blogger has 7 Twitter Bio Ideas That Entice Followers (And Make You Unforgettable) which include using keywords, embracing the space, and telling who you are. The reason I went with Neil Gaiman’s twitter profile was that he had all the elements right, including a good bio.

 

Write a few tweets

Before you go out and make connections, write a few tweets that define your personality. If you are funny, share a funny anecdote about your day. If you love literature, share a quote from a favorite book. If you are all about being a mom, mention something sweet, frustrating, or funny your kid did recently. If you like hot guys or hot girls, share a picture ‘for inspiration.’

James Breakwell writes about everyday life and it’s one of the most entertaining feeds on twitter. It makes you want to know this guy and swap parenthood stories. He feels like a friend because of these relatable experiences and if he decided to do stand-up about it in the big city near you, you’d likely want to buy a ticket.

 

Ingredients of a tweet

  • You are limited to 140 characters. It’s a challenge, but a fun one that makes you hone your skills to write in a concise and effective way.
  • Include hashtags (#). Putting a hashtag in front of a keyword makes it searchable in twitter (#Bookworm). You can hashtag a phrase, as long as you remove the spaces (#LivingTheAuthorLife).  You can include these listed at the end of your post, but when you are counting each character, it’s better to use them within the context if possible.
  • Use media. Although simple text tweets are good, when you are scrolling down a twitter feed, your eyes are automatically drawn to images first, text second. Attach a pretty photo or a quote image. Just remember that doing so takes space that reduces your messages characters.
  • Add a link, if appropriate, to send people to your blog or Amazon listing. A link will also take character space (tops off at 22 characters) so keep that in mind as well.
  • Retweet content. If you see a tweet you like or would like to share with people who follow you, you can retweet it. You can also choose to add a comment with it.

 

Follow People and Brands

With your profile set up, you are ready to face the world. It’s time to go out there and make some connections. Before you follow strangers, check their feeds and see if they are a good fit for you.

  • Use your contacts. You have some ready-made connections in your contact list. See if they have accounts on Twitter. Twitter will help you find them if you give it permission to, or use the search box.
  • Twitter suggests Who To Follow on your home feed. Look at the suggestions and see if you’d like to follow them.
  • Look up people and brands you admire and follow them.
  • Search your interests, both personal and professional and find others who share them.

As a suggestion, don’t just blindly follow everyone. You don’t want to overcrowd your home feed with tweets you find uninteresting or even offensive. You also don’t want to have to scroll through a bunch of tweets before you find an interesting one. It should be fun for you to go to twitter and scroll down through the content other people put out. It can also double as a source for you to retweet or find information useful to you if you used some discernment in following.

 

Share the news

If you already have an established personality on another social media outlet or a blog, let your fan base know you are now on Twitter. Although your goal isn’t to reach the same people three different ways, those of your fans who are on twitter can help jump-start your follower base. They may also have connections on twitter to help you reach new people. It’s a form of networking.

Twitter is by nature a different crowd than Facebook. You may find some of the same people, but while Facebook connects people primarily by real life connections, Twitter connects people by interests.

 

Content

Be active

A big part of social media is to be active. Out of sight, out of mind has never been so true as on social media. You don’t have to be sucked into it 24/7. You simply need to be consistent about being present with regular posts, be it once a week, once a day, or multiple times a day.

 

Be diverse

There’s nothing worse than someone with only one message to share, even though they try to say it different ways. It’s recommended that you should spend 80% of your time talking about anything but yourself and your product (your book) and 80% of the time talking about other topics of interest.

In other words, it’s ok to talk about yourself and your books 1 out of every 5 times. The rest of the time, develop your online persona talking about your interests. This is what will cement your relationship with your fans. They get to know you and connect with your shared interests.

Say there’s an actor you like. If he talks just about himself and his current project or that time he was in that movie, your interest may fizzle or stay the same, but it won’t grow. You might also lose respect for him. If the same actor revealed that he loved puppies, you like him more. And if he’s an English Lit buff, then you respect him more. And the more he shares, the more you like him. Then when he tells you as an aside that he’s working on another film, you are already sold on it without realizing it.

That’s the same idea for you as an author. Share what you love. Others who love the same thing will connect with you. When you  happen to mention your book, then they will be more open to it.

Whatever you do, don’t twist everything to come back to you or your books. Don’t be a One-Song-Sally.

 

Join in global conversations

On your home page, Twitter will show trending hashtags. Some are fun. Some are serious. If one of them fits what you have to say or looks like fun to play along with, go for it. Just be tasteful about it and don’t force a trending tag to work for your content or interests. It will backfire if you do.

In the example below, I wouldn’t touch #KushnerAtWar, but #IsBetterThanTheGym might be a fun one to play along with. “Running around behind two toddlers #IsBetterThanTheGym” or “Anything on this green earth #IsBetterThanTheGym.”

 

Plan it

Keep yourself sane by organizing a schedule for yourself. Plan a funny post for Tuesdays, a writer’s tip for Thursdays, share a quote from the book you are reading on Fridays, a struggle or success with your current project on Sundays, etc. Planning it not only helps you keep diverse, but also gives you the opportunity to take an hour one day and figure out what you are going to write or say for the next week. Your life may be chaos on Tuesdays, but it should only take a minute to copy and paste a tweet you prepared when you had a quiet hour several days before.

 

Use Etiquette

If you ask two different people what etiquette to follow on Twitter you get two different answers. Following some polite everyday rules will help you, but stringently following every nice suggestion might be unnecessary and make you a slave to twitter. Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Be nice.
  • If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Reply to comments, if appropriate. Not every comment needs an answer, but you could acknowledge it with a like
  • You might show appreciation for a retweet, like, or follow by reciprocation, if it fits your twitter personality.
  • Don’t post your tweets all at once in a row, unless you are participating in a group watch sort of event*
  • Use appropriate hashtags. If you are unsure of what they stand for, click on them and they will show how they’re used in context.
  • Use tags when mentioning people or brands so they can also see the tweet and perhaps retweet or join the conversation.
  • Be natural. Don’t force tags, hashtags, or popular subjects to work for you.
  • Be you. Everyone else is already taken (Wilde).

 

*Event live tweeting is when people watch an event on tv, like a movie or the Oscars and share their impressions live as it unfolds.

 

Consider a social media management app

A social media management tool like Buffer lets you set up and schedule your posts and retweets across social media in simple steps and ahead of time. Not only can you sit down at a quiet hour and schedule out several posts, shares, and retweets nicely spaced out, but you can also use it to share from any blog or site with just one share versus one for each social media outlet. It also has handy analytical tools, but for me, it’s the time-saving efficiency that I appreciate. Work during a quiet hour and then it shares for you over the course of a day or a few days depending on the way you set it up.

 

Do you have other questions about twitter basics or suggestions to share? Share them below.

Z

Meryton Press Tech

6 Responses

  1. KarenMC
    |

    Thank you, Z! Some of these I have done, but there is always room for improvement. I have a bad habit of disappearing off Twitter when life gets crazy. Scheduling is probably the key. And I never know what to say about my interests, so good suggestions to look at trends and pick one or two that fit me.

    • Meryton Press
      |

      Another follow up post could be about content ideas. I’ll add that to the list. For now, here’s an easy tip: follow people who put out content you agree with. Use their tweets as a resource for sharing and finding content that aligns with your interests and add a little comment of your own.

  2. Suzan Lauder
    |

    To help Austenesque new authors, here are the hashtags I use the most: #Regency #romance #JaneAusten #history #amwriting (when your tweet is about writing–there’s #amreading and #amediting too) #newrelease #bookcover #giveaway #writingtips #JAFF. Some are automatically picked up and retweeted. Watch what others use, then find web sites that tell which tags get the most retweets. Get to know promotional ones that work and their rules and use them. The suggestion I’ve read is 2-5 hashtags per tweet. Then use hashtags to find interesting things to retweet or people to follow.

    • Meryton Press
      |

      Great tips, Suzan!

  3. Ceri
    |

    This is an interesting post, thank you 🙂 One thing I’d like to add is to be cautious about overusing hashtags. I recently unfollowed somebody because not only do they post things which are basically just hashtags and so you feel bombarded by the advertising, but they put each one on a new line so it takes longer to scroll past their annoying tweets! Less is more.

    A feature that I find useful on twitter, though as a reader rather than for promotion, is the use of lists. So I have a list for my book buddies so I can quickly find their tweets, another for Austen Fans, another for authors. This is really useful if you want to follow a diverse range of people, as you can quickly find the accounts that are tweeting about the subject you might be interested in.

    • Meryton Press
      |

      Great tips, Ceri! A good “What not to do” measure is seeing what annoys you as the recipient. Only once have I seen multiple hashtags work well (http://imgur.com/gallery/2JVltOz).

      What a great way to make life easier with lists. I love efficiency!