Twitter for Authors, Part 3: Experiences

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

You’ve been convinced you need Twitter, you have the tools to get started with Twitter, and now you want real people’s experiences with Twitter? I have included below both my and a handful of friends’ experiences on how Twitter works best.

My experience with Twitter

I love Twitter. I used to hate it for the same reason most people hate it: I didn’t know how to use it, so it scared me. But as soon as I got the hang of it, I actually prefer it to Facebook. I started actively participating on Twitter specifically for #pitmad (a Twitter-only pitching event where authors pitch their novels in 140 chars and agents sift through and like ones they want more info on). I think I had something like 20 followers when I first got going and I tweeted once every couple months–usually when I remembered I had a Twitter account. Then I began using Buffer to schedule posts to go to all of my social media accounts, but even that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I participated in #1linewed and other writing hashtags that I found this crazy awesome community of other writers. Now I’m at over 2,000 followers in less than a year, and I’m taking new steps to build the number faster.

Other Twitter peeps’ experiences

Like I said, I’ve made a lot of friendships on Twitter and have found that some have been (far) more successful at building their follower numbers than I have been (so far). I sent a few of them a quick questionnaire to help me understand how they got there. So a big thank you to Jason (@JasonAByrne), Francis (@WritingSparks), Eliza (@ElizaNolanPants), and Briana (@BrianaWrites)!

– How fast did it take you to get to the number you’re at?

Jason: I got my first thousand followers in about one week. I’m coming up on 3000 now, which I’ve gotten in maybe two weeks of following 20 or 30 people a day.

Francis: I got on twitter in summer 2015 to do some pitch parties like #Pitchwars and #Pit2Pub. So it’s been about eight months give or take to reach 13k.

Eliza: I’ve been on Twitter for a year (Happy Twitter birthday to me!), and started looking for followers right away.

Briana: I’ve had my Twitter account since 2010, but I used to only use it as a personal account. I think it’s been three or four years since I started using it as an author platform, but I’ve seen the most growth in the past year and a half. I’m not sure that’s helpful ahaha but there it is! Let’s go with a year and a half.

– How did you build your following?

Jason: I Clicked “follow” to every single suggestion that appeared on the right side.  When I followed one of them, Twitter replaced the suggestion with three more in its place, and I would go to some of their pages and on their feed would follow people they had recently also followed, as well.  As people followed me back, I would type each of them a thank-you private message, or Tweet them one if their security settings did not allow it, like “Steve, thank you following me!  Jason.”  If they responded, I would carry on every conversation possible, as long as each person engaged. As my followers started to snowball this became too cumbersome, and I did batch thank you Tweets, like:

Thank you to Wednesday new follows: Steve; Deathstalker; KittenCuddles; Jim; BigMama71

Twitter’s spam restrictions capped me at 1001 until more than 1000 people were following me, and once this was achieved I did nothing for the next 1000 and let them trickle in a few per day over, about eight months.

Francis: The simplest part of building a following is following people with similar interests. My first book is a crime/suspense novel so I started out by searching twitter for authors and readers that used hashtags like #mystery or #suspense and followed them. Then I got a little more sophisticated and started noticing the power of lists. If I found an author or literary type that I particularly liked and they had lists of like-minded people I would use those to find other great twitter people.

The more difficult part of the equation is engaging your followers. What I do is post articles I find that have writing tips or interesting news in the publishing world. Also, I like to participate in #1linewed and things like that. Or like today, complain about my umpteenth rejection from a lit journal 🙂 and start a conversation with fellow authors going through the same thing.

Eliza: It all started with following people in the hopes that they would follow me back…

Here is my unpatented 4-phases of twittering:
  1. Follow Writers: I searched #YA, #Paranormal, and #Writer in different combinations and followed lots of writers. I engaged with anyone I could.
  2. Follow Human Writers: After the first few months I realized that I was following a lot of great writers, but also TONS of robots and spammers. Thus I became more deliberate when following people. (Still engaging with people.)
  3. Follow-Back Human Writers: About four months in I stopped looking for new people actively and worked on just following back the writers who followed me. I still had to screen these people for spammers, which meant I visited the actual page of anyone I intended to follow. If their tweets were full of ads, I passed. Otherwise I would follow back and try to engage with them.
  4. Follow people I engage with: At some point I reached a critical mass where I could no longer go through and check each one on a regular basis. Now I try to make sure that I’m following back all the fun people who interact with me.

Briana: I’m not sure, but I strive for authenticity and encouragement, which I think makes a huge difference. I want to make connections, so I focus on building relationships with people, rather than on selling a product. When authors do nothing but tweet about their work, it turns people off. You can’t build a devoted following unless you make an effort to get to know people.

– What has been the most beneficial/detrimental to being an author on Twitter?

Jason: The original purpose was just to have a Twitter to participate in #PitMad, which never really brought me any results, and then I focused on having 2000+ followers because you’re “supposed to.”  I tend to throw myself into whatever I’m doing a little too far, and I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference in gaining 1000 followers in the space of 1 week, 3 weeks, or 8 months.  A lot of the people I interact with the most were among the first insane surge, so it’s not necessarily that you can engage more with a more steady influx.  The only difference is it is a huge expenditure of time.  I scoffed at people who called themselves full-time social media gurus, but it is very feasible to be such.

Twitter has put it in chilling perspective just how many people are swimming in the same water I am, and the kind of competition I have for publishing contracts.  But it has also made me feel very much a part of what I consider a uniquely-supportive communal group, where tens or hundreds of thousands of people are at once competing and supporting each other, with almost no greed or envy whatsoever.

Francis: The most beneficial thing that I’ve found is the community. The sheer number of literary folks on Twitter is amazing. Getting involved in #Pitchwars was great, for the first time felt like I was part of a larger literary community and that is great because writing can be a lonely pursuit. Also, I found the publisher for my first book through another Twitter event called #Pit2Pub so Twitter has been great. The negatives have been minimal. I think if you stay out of political discussions you are way ahead of the game.

Eliza: The most beneficial part is great support from other writers on twitter. Getting to know the community and interacting is also a bonus/my favorite part.

The most detrimental part is that it can be a time suck. Twitter can take away from writing time, but then again, so does real life.
Briana: All of the support, encouragement, and advice I get from other people—and not always just about writing. I love the sense of community on Twitter and would not be where I am today without my online friends and followers. If you’re debating joining Twitter, you should totally take the plunge. It’s made a huge difference in my life overall.

– How active are you on Twitter?

Jason: I tend to have Twitter open all day, and will go refresh my feed at intermittent intervals, and check any time I get a notification of any sort.  At least once every couple days, I will open up all of my lists, and retweet a few that I find interesting.  I follow every author that shows up in my suggestions, follow-back every author that follows me, and all others I add to various lists, like “Useful Information,” “Agents and Editors,” “Publishing Companies,” “Fitness,” “Speculative Fiction,” etc.  This allows me to keep my follows below my followers appearing more respectable, but still keep an ear to all the other information that doesn’t show up in my feed.  I also tweet anyone to thank them any time they add me to one of their lists, in the hope this advertises to other people that I’m worthwhile to add to their own as well.

Francis: I’m really active on Twitter. I tweet multiple times a day and participate in things like #1linewed almost every week.

Eliza: I feel like I average about five tweets a day. Most Wednesdays it is more. #1lineWed is one of my favorite hashtags, and I try to participate when I can. I spend anywhere from five minutes to an hour on twitter per day.

Briana: I tweet a lot. I wish I could give you an exact number, but it varies each day. I try to balance original content with replies and retweets—you have to be careful not to spam—but I’m sure some people think it’s still obsessive. Staying active every day works for me, so I’m sticking to it for now.

– How much interaction do you get on your normal day-to-day tweets?

Jason: I tend to have a dedicated following of maybe 20-30 that I talk to often, and whom frequently re-tweet or advertise me, and every day generally get maybe two or three dozens likes, re-tweets, or tweets to me, to respond to.  I have thousands of private messages that I don’t read, because 99% of them are spam “Hello please buy my book for $0.99 via Crowdfire.”  That’s also why I stopped thanking people via PM after the first 1000 — though I struck up a lot of conversations that way, probably half of them weren’t even looking.

Francis: Interaction varies. Some tweets really resonate with people and lead to bigger conversations. The other day I tweeted an article I found on how to finish your book that got retweeted twenty times. That is big for me, but I know there are some people that get retweeted fifty times fairly regularly.

Eliza: I maybe average five faves or likes on a general tweet. Sometimes I get no interaction, but I’ve hit 70 plus before (blew my flipping mind!). Sometimes a tweet will devolve into an extended, silly conversation among a handful of peeps. I love when that happens.

Briana: It’s funny—when I first started out, I didn’t realize how easy it was to get interaction. All you have to do is ask people about themselves—what they want, how they feel, what they’re doing, etc. Don’t make it about yourself. There’s a reason it’s called social media. And I get so much more engagement now that I’m asking questions. I don’t even pay much attention to the numbers because I don’t care about the numbers. I care about the people.

Feel better about Twitter?

I hope this series of posts has made Twitter less scary, and hopefully, I’ve convinced you that Twitter is not a monster lurking under the bed. It just takes a little learning, but the benefits are incredible. If you have any tips or tricks to add, please leave them in the comments! 🙂

One thought on “Twitter for Authors, Part 3: Experiences

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.