Monday, May 16, 2011

Twitter 101 For Writers

by Calista Taylor

As writers, one of the most important things we can do to ensure our success is to build a platform. And since these things take time, I recommend starting as soon as you're able, rather than the month before your publication date.

There are many ways to go about getting followers, but I have found the easiest way, hands down, is Twitter. Not only is it easy to get followers, but each of your tweets (if you've used your name/pen name) will add another hit for YOU when someone searches for your name on Google. Personally, I think that's HUGE, because if someone's trying to find me or my books, I want to give them the most avenues to me and my sites.

I cannot recommend Twitter enough, and when I do recommend it, I usually get the same response—"But I have nothing to tweet about, and I don't want to keep talking about what I had for lunch." Trust me when I tell you, we don't want to hear about it either. BUT that's not really what Twitter is about, and it's certainly not the way to use Twitter for effectively building a platform. Instead, why not tweet about a great blog post you just read, or tweet a snippet about what you're currently working on? Still too difficult? Then you can just retweet (RT) someone else's tweet. Best of all, it takes up very little time to build a following—15 minutes every few days is plenty—and at just 140 characters per tweet, it's quick.

Easy, right? Here's some information to make it even easier and to help you find your way around.

  • Though Twitter is fantastic, I find it far easier to use a program designed to maximize ease of use. Here's a quick rundown of all the available Twitter clients, so you can find something that will work best for you. I personally like TweetDeck not only for ease of use, but because it allows you to add as many columns (for searches) as you'd like. Recent rumors also have Twitter in talks to purchase TweetDeck.
  • In order to address someone in Twitter, just put an @ in front of their twitter name.
  • The way to maximize the amount of people your posts will reach is to include hashtags (#) with your tweets. Hashtags are similar to category tags, so if someone does a search that includes the hashtag you've included, they'll see your post. There are several hashtags for writers. Here's a list from Daily Writing Tips. Hashtags are also used to conduct live chats, and Debbie Ohi has a current schedule at her blog (not to mention all sorts of other great Twitter related posts). The hashtags I use most often are #writetip, #pubtip and #amwriting. You will also see a lot of #WW and #FF. These are short for Writer Wednesday and Follow Friday, which are shout-outs to let others know the people in the list are worth following.
  • I briefly mentioned RT's. Retweeting is a great way to pass on information you've found useful, and if you found it useful, then it's good to spread the love. It's ok to trim the tweet, as long as you don't alter the meaning of it. Just remember to keep the original poster's name in the tweet so they get credit. Also, if someone RT's something you tweeted, it's polite to thank them.
  • Unlike Facebook, where someone friends/follows you only if they know you, that's not the case with Twitter. People will follow you if they like your tweet, your bio, or because of a #WW or #FF. They'll also follow you to try and promote themselves. Do you need to follow back? Not always. Also, you may suddenly lose a follower or two. Don't let it bother you. It's nothing personal.
  • Make sure you complete your bio, and you add a link to your site or blog (if you have one). A picture or avatar is also a good idea, and remember, the picture that turns up is TINY, so make sure the picture you use can be easily identified and is a clear image. Also, I highly advise using your name or pen name, rather than something completely unrelated to your writing identity.
  • A great way to get followers is to follow other people who you find interesting. For the most part, if you follow someone, they'll likely follow you back. Also, participating in the live chats and using hashtags to join in discussions are great ways to get followers and find like people to follow. And by all means, comment on other people's tweets.

I hope this makes Twitter less intimidating. And an unexpected surprise to come about after tweeting a while? It makes you damn good at tightening up your writing. Who knew?

Have you recently ventured onto Twitter? Or are you a longtime fan? Has it helped you build your platform?

23 comments:

Richard said...

I've never used Twitter, but I hear about it all the time. I guess I've got to get started. Thanks for the post. It gives me a direction to go in.

Angie Sandro said...

Thanks, I needed this. I had no idea what #FF meant. It thought it was fun friday, lol. It helps to have it broken down so it's not so overwhelming.

greenwoman said...

Oh Twitter, how I love thee! Great primer on getting started!

Calista Taylor said...

Richard, glad to be of help! It's a great way to start building a platform.

Angie, fun friday works too! It can be overwhelming, but I think once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy.

Thanks, greenwoman!

Leslie Rose said...

I have traveled to some terrific writing links through Twitter than I would have otherwise missed. Well worth the time investment to get Twitterized.

Calista Taylor said...

Leslie, I completely agree. It really is such a great way to pass on information and also come across some great links.

Rick said...

Great Post. Thanks, Cali. I'm completely intimidated by Twitter, been on it and Facebook for a long time and NEVER tweet. "What do I have to say that anyone would care about?" is my self-flagellating reason never to visit Twitter. This post makes a lot useful sense, if I have the sense to use it. Thanks for the motivation and tips.

Calista Taylor said...

Rick, glad it's helped make sense of Twitter. It really is as simple as posting interesting things you come across. : )

Ruth said...

Ok, you've talked me into it. I'm going to tweet :)

Calista Taylor said...

YAY, Ruth!! One more brought over to the dark side. ; )

Jemi Fraser said...

Cali - you talked me into using TweetDeck about a year ago and it made all the difference for me. Twitter makes a LOT more sense when I'm using it!

Calista Taylor said...

Jemi, same with me. Twitter's A LOT more work without Tweetdeck. Glad it worked out for you!

Medeia Sharif said...

I've been on Twitter for almost two years. Does that make me a veteran Tweeter?

It's a wonderful platform builder. With people following, responding, and retweeting me I'm getting exposure as a writer.

Catherine Hill said...

Thanks for the info, very helpful.

I suspect the universe is telling me to start using Twitter. A while before reading this post I found another that offers 9 Twitter Tips for Beginners by Lucy Felthouse, which was also handy (for the interested its on a blogger site called Piece of Tales).

Calista Taylor said...

Medeia, you're most certainly a veteran Tweeter! : )

Catherine, it really is a great way to build a platform, and like Medeia said, it gets you exposure as a writer, so when you do have a book to promote, you're not in a mad scramble to build a platform overnight.

Dean Rich said...

I'm "tweeting" now, need to get better at it though.

Thanks for the post!

Calista Taylor said...

You will, Dean! Practice makes perfect. : )

Ruth said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate this post. It inspired me to start tweeting last week. A little over a week later I have 29 followers and I can see my download number increasing by about a third each day. I can't say for sure if it is related, but I think it is. I was down to about 40-50 downloads a day...now I'm up to about 70. When the free book first hit I was averaging 100+ a day...so I was bummed to see the slow decline in numbers. I'm thrilled to see the line headed up again on the graph. Thank you! Big hug.

Calista Taylor said...

YAY, Ruth!! I'm so glad this helped you out! Best of luck with the book. : )

Robyn Leatherman said...

I have been using twitter for a while now and have my "favorites" sent to my cell phone. Helps me stay focused with my writing.

What I would like to know is: does anyone out there happen to know of a current chart or link to a site - showing all the hash tags relevant to authors and writers?

Calista Taylor said...

Robyn, that's a great way to not get too distracted by twitter.

As for the hashtags, the links posted above to Debi Ohi and to Daily Writing Tips should give you most of the writing related hashtags. Hope this helps!

Paul Dillon said...

Hi Calista,

Really useful twitter info. Thanks for the tips - and see you on twitter

Calista Taylor said...

Paul, glad I could be of help!! See you there!