By Iola Goulton
This week was going to be a post on using Facebook . . . but that's now going to be a two-part post next Monday and Tuesday. For today, here are nine tips on how to use Twitter as an author.
Twitter is for twits. That was my first impression, and my second wasn’t much better: that Twitter is like a gaggle of teenage girls with everyone talking and no one listening.
But I’ve persevered, and Twitter is now my second most influential social media network, after Facebook. And I’ve got to the point where it requires very little effort to add my content and maintain both my profile (@iolagoulton) and the Australasian Christian Writers account (@acwriters).
Despite the noise, the seemingly endless spam from authors who don’t know how to use Twitter, and the rumours it’s dying, Twitter has two huge advantages over Facebook:
- There are no limits as to the number of followers you can have.
- Tweets are indexed by Google, which impacts on search engine optimisation.
No, Twitter shouldn’t replace your own website and email list. But it’s an additional way of getting yourself out there and connecting with potential readers. And once you know a few Twitter tricks, it’s easy to use and doesn’t take long.
So what are my must-do #TwitterTips?
1. Set up a Twitter accountSet up a Twitter account using your author name, not your book name (you are going to write more than one book, aren’t you?). Even if you don’t plan to actively use Twitter, this enables other people to tag you in their posts (using what’s called the at-mention, e.g. @iolagoulton). Note that your Twitter name can be no longer than 15 characters.
If your name is taken, use your website name, or try JohnSmith-Writer, JohnSmith-Author, WriterJohnSmith or similar.
Add your author photo, and a header image (use Canva to create a 1500 x 500 pixel Twitter header.
Write your bio. You have 160 characters, and can include hashtags (see below). You can also include website addresses: use a link shortener such as bit.ly if the website addresses push you over your 160-character limit. Check out the bios of authors in your genre for ideas.
2. Manage Your FollowsThe Twitterverse considers it good manners to follow anyone who follows you (unless you’re a major league celebrity). I follow back most people who follow me, excluding:
- People who don’t Tweet in English (I don’t want Tweets I can’t read)
- Spam accounts (e.g. buy followers)
3. Tweet and RetweetA tweet is you sending an original message while a retweet is you forwarding someone else’s message. Many people use RT to signal a retweet.
Figure out what you’re going to tweet, and make sure it’s not all about you—no read my blog, buy my book, follow me on every social media platform in existence including MySpace (I ignore most tweets in my feed, because that’s exactly who it is all about, and I recently unfollowed one author because not only was it all about her, but she tweets every ten minutes. 24/7).
Twitter is a social network, and the key word is “social”. Think about what your target reader might be interested in: if you write science fiction, try Dr Who memes and pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch. Mystery authors could tweet Sherlock Holmes quotes and pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch. If you write Christian romance, Bible verses, poetry quotes and funny book memes might be more appropriate. Perhaps no pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch. A shame.
Advice used to be to include images and links in your tweets to maximise engagement. That may be true, but my personal experience is that I get the most interaction from snarky "Dear Author" oneliners and #badwritingtips.
4. Use HashtagsThe # (hashtag) is used to identify topics by making tweets easily searchable by Google, which helps SEO (search engine optimisation). Popular writer hashtags include:
- Genre tags (#romance, #chrisfic)
- Book tags (#amreading, #books, #greatreads, #bookblogger)
- Writing tags (#amwriting, #amediting, #1K1H—writing 1000 words in an hour)
- Publishing tags (#amazon, #kindle, #publishingtips)
- Marketing tags (#bookmarketing, #marketingtips).
Research shows Tweets with one or two hashtags get the most retweets.
Hashtags are also used for Twitter chats and events. However, these are usually in the evenings in US time, which makes them a little inconvenient for those of us in Australia and New Zealand.
5. Use Appropriate Tools@ACWriters uses a free tool called Roundteam to retweet tweets from members of Australasian Christian Writers. This is managed using the ACW list: if you’d like to be added to the list, please follow @ACWriters and @iolagoulton, and tweet @iolagoulton to ask to be added. @acwriters also tweets the posts on Australasian Christian Writers.
@iolagoulton tweets book reviews, and tips on writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and social media. I curate and schedule all my social media updates using Buffer. I have sprung for Buffer’s Awesome plan (USD 10 per month), which is truly awesome as it means I’m posting regularly without actually being on social media 24/7.
Many Twitter experts recommend Hootsuite to manage Twitter and other social media accounts. Others rave about Edgar, but that costs around USD 50 per month. (which is probably worth it, because it combines the features of several other services). ManageFlitter is another option: you can schedule posts if you are on their paid Pro plan.
I find the Buffer interface cleaner and easier to use, and the paid plan allows me to schedule tweets for both @iolagoulton and @acwriters (as I’m the person with the password). As @iolagoulton, I’ve also started using TweetJukebox, which cycles through a preset list of tweets, and thanks people who’ve retweeted me. Out of interest: is this annoying, or do you like being thanked?
Most of these tools will both schedule posts and recommend optimum posting times based on when your followers are online (yes, Big Brother is watching you). The trick with these tools is to ensure your retweets are consistent with your author brand: as a Christian, you don’t want to find yourself retweeting Christian Grey quotes because the keyword matches.
Four Twitter Don’ts
6. Don’t follow everybodyTwitter limits each account to following 5,000 people until you have 5,000 followers. Then you can follow no more than 10% more than the number of people following you. So if you have 10,000 followers, you can follow 11,000 people. (Better to be the other way around, and follow fewer people than follow you).
7. Don’t make it all about youFollow the 80:20 rule, and ensure no more than 20% of your Tweets are about you. Some commentators recommend 20:1. Unfortunately, most authors seem to think it's all about them, and my Twitter stream is often full of "buy my book!" spam, which I ignore.
8. Don’t send automatic messagesIt might feel rude, but don’t thank people for following you, asking them to follow you on Facebook, or subscribe to your blog, or anywhere else. And don’t ask them to buy your book.
9. Don’t automatically screen followersSpecifically, don’t use TrueTwit or any other computer program to determine whether or not your followers are real. The only people I’ve seen recommend TrueTwit are TrueTwit employees.
For more informationI spend maybe five minutes a day specifically on activities related to Twitter (i.e. following and unfollowing, and interacting with other Twitter users). The rest of my activity is automated, although I have to set up and feed that automation, which is part of my more general social media time.
If you’d like to learn more about using Twitter as an author, here are two suggestions:
- Read Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall
- Read Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors by Ian Sutherland
Of course, it’s not enough to read. You also need to apply what you’ve learned.
Finally, remember Twitter is not about selling books. That’s a nice-to-have. The main purpose of social networking is to be social, and to aid discoverability. It's social. Not sell-me.