I’ve blogged quite a bit about different aspects of Twitter lately, and these posts have been well received by indie and self-published authors. But what I haven’t done is given a beginner’s guide – I’ve assumed a certain amount of knowledge in the reader. So to help out those who haven’t yet tackled the blue bird and won, I invited Geneva-based Twitter specialist Lynn C Schreiber to write a guest post here, aimed at the particular needs of authors and writers. She has very kindly produced the perfect beginner’s guide for you below.
For future reference, I recommend you invest in her little blue book of Twitter for beginners: Learn Twitter in 10 Minutes. You really can read it in 10 minutes, and it’s a handy guide to keep on your desk. It’s very pretty too – I feel calmer just looking at the cover!
Lynn doesn’t just write about Twitter, by the way. She also pens the fabulous personal blog Salt and Caramel (strapline: Not Just the Sweet Side of Life) and is the editor of Jump!, a brilliant online magazine for pre-teen girls. This fills a gap in the market for children like my own nine-year-old daughter, too old for pictorial children’s comics but too young to be exposed to teenage mags. Lynn’s also currently working on her first novel.
Over to Lynn…
Authors are often told that they should use Twitter to publicise their work. This advice is given to both self-published authors, and those working with a publisher. Twitter is easily accessible, has no barriers or borders, and costs nothing but time.
I hear you shout, ‘But I don’t have the time, I need to WRITE!’
That is what this post is about – ensuring that you get the very best out of Twitter in the time you can afford to invest.
Take a day or two before you start tweeting to organise your set-up. Doing this ensures that every tweet you send reaches your target audience.
Pep up your profile
Your profile is your shop window. It consists of:
- Header – the rectangular box
- A profile photo – lose the egg. The generic profile picture is a sign of a Twitter newbie. Be brave and put a picture of yourself as your avatar as people tend to respond better to a face than a picture of a dust jacket.
- Your Twitter name and your user name (the @name). Make it easy for people to find you by sticking as close to your author name as possible.
- A short bio – You have 160 characters of space on your profile to provide a snapshot of your personality. Use them wisely, but don’t go overboard with self-promotion.
- Your location – make this as vague or exact as you like
- Link to website or blog
- Header photo – lots of people don’t bother doing anything with it, but it is a good way of visually linking to your website, using similar colours or patterns
Like the header photo, the background photo is often neglected. Here is your chance to use that space to add information about yourself. You can include pictures of your books, photos, further information. You can create a header image and background photo using Photoshop. It may be worth hiring someone to do this for you, if you are not able to do it yourself. Have a look at some other profiles to give you some ideas of how to highlight your talents, such as Sara Bran or Debbie Young.
Build a Network
Twitter is a great networking tool, and enables you to connect with readers and with other writers. A recommendation from a fellow writer to their followers can be very helpful.
The secret of using Twitter successfully is in the name – SOCIAL media. It is all about communication, being social. As Debbie noted in her first post on this subject, potential followers will have a peek at your profile and recent tweets. (Aren’t you glad you sorted out that profile?)
There is nothing more off-putting than a timeline consisting of ‘buy my book’, especially if there is an air of desperation about the tweets. Your timeline should be at most 20% ‘promotion’ tweets, the rest should be chatter, sharing of information, recommendation of other books and personal tweets. And cat pictures.
While it is good to share some personal information, in order to connect with your readers, think about much personal information you wish to share. If you tweet about your family or friends, be sure you have their permission to mention their names, or share their stories.
Using the Twitter search function, look for your favourite authors, journalists, literary agents, publishers, bookstores and blogs. If you like what a person is tweeting, check their follower list to find other fans.
Do you want to communicate with readers, or with other writers? This depends if you want to use Twitter to network, or to actually market and sell your books. Most likely, you will want to do a bit of both.
Don’t just follow ‘book people’, or your timeline will be very insular. You need variety, so that you reach others out with the literary scene.
Search for people who tweet about your hobbies or interests, or those from your hometown, or favourite holiday destination. Follow news channels or blogs, or the twitter feed of your favourite TV show.
Twitter does not limit how many followers you may have, but they do monitor follower patterns, in the hope of sniffing out spam accounts. If you follow and unfollow hundreds of users a day, in an attempt to gain new followers, your account may be suspended. Don’t use any kind of Team Followback schemes to get more followers. People who do this often don’t actually interact with others, they are just interested in having a large number of followers. Aim for quality, not quantity – interacting with 800 engaged followers is more fun and is more effective than being ignored by 8000 follower-hunters.
Once you follow 2000 people, you may find that you cannot follow any more. This is due to limitations set by Twitter, which vary from user to user, depending on how many followers you have. If this happens, use a programme such as ManageFlitter to find which accounts are inactive and who is not following you back, unfollow some of them. When you have more followers, you will find that you can gradually follow more people.
I have found that once I follow more than 1200 people, I lose track of them. It becomes difficult to follow conversations, and I notice that I miss the tweets of ‘old favourites’ because I my timeline is too full. This is where Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite come in. You can add columns with lists of tweeps you follow, eg. writers, literary scene, bloggers, social media…
Start a Conversation
Don’t lurk quietly and hope that someone notices you. Twitter is much too busy for that. When you see someone discussing a topic that interests you, jump in – politely! This works best with other ‘normal’ people, ie. not celebs who receive so many messages that they cannot answer them all.
There is a good chance that once you start chatting with them, they will follow you back. If they don’t, you can continue to follow them if you find them interesting, or unfollow a few days later. Don’t take it personally if they don’t follow back, and don’t ask them to follow you.
When you see someone looking for information, help by recommending any of your followers who might be able to help.
Search and Hashtags
If you write about a specific subject, or in a particular genre, set up a search column in your Twitter client. The aim of using a hashtag is to collate information about a subject, e.g. search for #chicklit or #economics – to find those writing in a particular genre, or tweeting about a specific subject.
When you tweet about your book, include at most two hashtags. Pick out the two main themes, or areas of interest. Doing this ensures that those looking for information on this subject find your tweets.
#FF and RT
On Fridays, use the #ff hashtag to recommend the work of other writers on your timeline. Consider these two recommendations. Which #ff would you follow?
#ff @debbieyoung for amusing chats, great advice on self-publishing, and extensive information on promoting your book
#ff @debbieyoung, @lynncschreiber, @anothertweeter, @yetanotherperson, @andyetanother
If you tell your followers WHY they should follow that person, they are more likely to do so than if you simply tweet a list of names.
Like #ff, a RT is a great networking tool. It lets the person you are RTing know what you think, while recommending them to your followers. A RT with a comment carries more weight than a straight RT. Which of these three tweets would you be most likely to follow?
RT @lynncschreiber My book Learn Twitter In Ten Minutes is available now
RT with opinion:
RT @lynncschreiber My book Learn Twitter In Ten Minutes is available now << an excellent read
Have you all seen that @lynncschreiber’s book Learn Twitter in Ten Minutes is out? It is excellent, can recommend
The person you #ff or RT might not return the compliment right away, but it opens up communication.
If someone recommends you to their followers, try to thank them. RTing a compliment occasionally is fine, but don’t overdo it. No one wants to read a timeline full of self-aggrandising RTs.
Seek Endorsements or Recommendations
It is tempting to tweet celebrities, famous authors or literary agents with a link to your book and ask them to RT or read it. It may seem like a ‘shortcut’ but it comes across as slightly desperate – the grown-up equivalent of wanting to sit at the cool kids’ table. It is also not very effective, and if you send too many near identical tweets, you run the risk of Twitter blocking your account for spamming.
If you want to make contact with an agent or another author, follow them and engage with them first. Occasionally tweet an interesting or funny reply to their comments – with the emphasis on “occasionally” or you will look like a stalker!
Tweet your Book
Don’t use the same format to tweet about your book every time:
Read my book on how to Learn Twitter in Ten Minutes [link]
Tweet a pithy sentence from your book and add a hashtag:
Add a bio to your profile – be funny, be serious, but be brief #twitterin10 [link]
Twitter is about dialogue, not monologue, so don’t be shy #twitterin10 [link]
Be brave – add your opinion when you RT #twitterin10 [link]
Tweet a review
‘clear and concise, well written and lucid’ #twitterin10 [link]
Timing of Promotional Tweets
Tweet about your book two to three times a day – around 9am, 4pm and 9pm are good to reach most readers – but experiment with the timing to see when your readers are online.
Thieves of Time
If you are using Twitter to promote your book, don’t get caught up in arguments that steal your time.
Trolls post inflammatory comments online in order to cause upset. While it is tempting to respond to a nasty comment or to RT it to your followers, it takes up too much of your time and energy – which is exactly what a troll wants. Block and report to Twitter.
Try not to spend too much of your time on Twitter getting irate about the current ‘scandal’ or ‘Twitterstorm’. Twitter has its own strange dynamic, and a throw-away comment can be blown totally out of proportion and then suddenly everyone is talking about it.
If you inadvertently offend someone, offer a sincere apology and move on.
Don’t let these storms steal your time. Tomorrow Twitter will be raging about something else.
One of the biggest thieves of time is Twitter itself. In my experience, writing and tweeting at the same time just doesn’t work. Shut down Tweetdeck, close your browser, or even disconnect from the wifi for a few hours.
I have heard it said that self-published authors should spend 20% of their time writing, and 80% of their time promoting. I’d say the opposite is more like it – if you spend so much time promoting your book, when do you find time to write the next one? Debbie wrote about scheduling tweets, and using free moments to tweet – this is a good way of fitting Twitter into your day without taking time away from your writing.
Don’t be fooled by anyone telling you that using Twitter will make you famous, or successful. Twitter is a marketing tool, not a magic wand. Be realistic in your expectations, and don’t believe the hype. If you are using Twitter in the hope that your work will ‘go viral’ or that you will be discovered, you are likely to be disappointed.
A well-managed Twitter account can however help you connect to your readers, and to other writers and editors. Take a day or two to set up Twitter, invest an hour a day for a couple of weeks to get it up and running, and then keep posting regularly.
Lynn, thank you so much – that was brilliant!
I hope Lynn’s helpful guide has renewed your enthusiasm for Twitter! Better pop off there now and follow @LynnCSchreiber. Oh, and do tweet me @DebbieYoungBN to let me know how you’re getting on!
For more about how Twitter fits into the social media mix for authors promoting their books, please see Chapter 6 The Truth Is Out There: Harnessing the Internet! in my book promotion handbook for authors, Sell Your Books!