Twitter for Authors, Part 2: How Does It Work?

This is a blog post series on Twitter for Authors. Check out the first and third posts for more information!

Twitter is awesome! It gives you access to so many resources, including Twitter events and other authors. But now the big question is: how do you use it?

How does it work?

Did I convince you in the last post that you should get a Twitter account? Sweet. Well, then it’d be pretty rude of me not to help you along the way.

Here are the technical tidbits of how it works: You find people/accounts you think are funny or entertaining or informative and follow them. Then, all of their posts show up in your newsfeed, along with everyone else you follow. To make posts easier for non-followers to find, people use hashtags, which act as a filing system. When someone searches for “#writing”, every post anyone has made that includes “#writing” will appear in the results.

And here are the tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • The character length is both a blessing and a curse. We’re writers. We love words, so getting our thoughts down to 140 characters seems impossible sometimes. But at the same time, the reason people come to Twitter is to get snippets. So for the browser, it’s good. For the writer, it’s bad. But through the character limit, you will (further) learn the economy of words. And ways to cheat (like taking out spaces, replacing “and” with “&”, using text-speak like “w” for “with”).
  • Pictures. Pictures. Pictures. (And now GIFs.) I heard a statistic that 15% of traffic on the internet is cat pictures. Why? Well, one because we love cats (and why not? they’re great!). And two, because pictures capture our attention. The different colors and graphics cause us to pause in that sea of white background and black text and enjoy watching cats jump at the sight of cucumbers.
  • Pro-tip: Your header, profile picture, and description field can work for you! Pick a good shot (with you in the picture!) for your profile pic. For your header, this can be anything. A friend of mine has Cthulhu as his header. Some people have their book covers. I have a picture of cats fighting with lightsabers and electricity like they were Jedi (which I’ve gotten quite a few tweets about). And your description fields should say something about you. Tell your readers/fans/followers who you are. Tell them you’re a chocoholic. Tell them you’re a dad of five. Tell them you have a library that looks like the one in Beauty and the Beast. Give them something to relate to and say “hey, me too!”.
  • Unless your expertise or book’s subject matter is controversial in nature, if you want the maximum number of followers, keep controversial topics off your feed. Those topics include religion and politics, and all they do is polarize people.
  • Be casual. Post about your daily life. Be a person. DON’T, for the love of all that is good, spam your followers with buy links for your book, and don’t you dare Direct Message (Twitter’s private messaging/chat) buy links of your book to new followers. Nothing will get you unfollowed faster. In real life, why on earth would I buy the book of someone I just met? I wouldn’t. I need to get to know them and/or their books better before I do. Same with Twitter. You know who I hear complain the most about getting spammed with book DMs? Other authors. And why? Because we know how annoying it is, and if we, authors who also need publicity and appreciate tactics that allow us to get it, won’t put up with it, then certainly the readers won’t either.
  • Do you stay away from Twitter because you have no time for it? Consider using a Tweet scheduler like Buffer (which I use), HootSuite, or TweetDeck. You can load up on your tweets for a few days in one sitting, and the program will send out the tweets on the schedule you set.
  • Don’t worry. If you don’t see your numbers skyrocket immediately, stick with it. You will find your stride and your followers will find you.

Followers vs Interactions

A lot of authors just want to see the number of followers go up, which is fine as long as it’s not the only reason you’re doing this. A number won’t sympathize with you while you’re struggling through rejections or buy your book. A number is just a number. You want quality over quantity–interactions over followers.

The best way to get your following going is to go follow a bunch of people. You have to give to receive. Find people who are talking about writing, reading, querying, editing, or about your genre or other interests you have. But follow A LOT of people. As you go, you’ll probably have some yo-yo-ing with your numbers as people follow and unfollow, but the numbers will grow. Also, follow everyone who follows you. That will help keep them around.

If you do just the above, you will build your number. But to get those interactions, the process may take a little longer. Participate in those Twitter events mentioned earlier. The most popular writing event is #1linewed, where @RWAKissofDeath puts out a theme each week, and every Wednesday, writers post 140 characters’ worth of their works in progress. By using that hashtag, everyone’s tweet ends up in the same place, and you can scroll through other lines as well and like and retweet ones you like. Annelisa Christensen created an entire blog post dedicated to other fun writing events throughout the week. And when those events end, go back through everyone who liked or retweeted your tweets, and tweet them a thank you! People like to be recognized, and they’re more likely to follow you if they see that you care.

If you find that, after following 400 new accounts, a good 200 of them you don’t really care about or want to see in your newsfeed or they’re super spammy with buy links, don’t unfollow them, because they’ll likely do the same (there are tools that let people see who unfollows you). Instead, go to their profile, click on settings, and either turn off retweets or mute them entirely. They won’t see that you’ve muted them, and you won’t see them in your timeline. And, if your timeline is still really cluttered, create lists and add your favorite people to them. Lists can either be private or public, so people don’t have to know they’re in a list at all. Also, try to keep your followers vs following numbers at a decent ratio. About 50% is probably okay, but 75% is better.

Now that you’ve got some tips and tricks, check out next week’s blog post for actual examples and experiences!

4 thoughts on “Twitter for Authors, Part 2: How Does It Work?

  • March 26, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Fantastic advice Nicole. I’ll be directing newbie Twitter authors here.

    This blog is 99% perfect but would you mind increasing the font size of this line to 72pt “don’t you dare Direct Message (Twitter’s private messaging/chat) buy links of your book to new followers”? 😀

    • March 26, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      Hahaha! That’s one of my favorite lines!! 😀

  • April 17, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Thats wonderful advice Nicole. I didn’t know about scheduling tweets. I thought you had to tweet ‘at the time you saw the cat jump into the tumble dryer’ point. IE, when the event happened.

    • April 17, 2016 at 9:48 am

      I did, too, until I found Buffer, and that has been *very* helpful for me! 🙂


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