A Twitter Primer for Writers 8


by Joanne McAlpine

I have been a social media consultant for the past few years, and the most common reaction I get to Twitter is the statement I don’t get Twitter.

Twitter_logo_blueYeah, I didn’t get it either at first. I thought it was populated with groupies who put celebrities on pedestals by following them. “What will you have me do, master? Tell us what it is like to be you so we may bask in your glory.”

I have since learned that Twitter is a great tool for back-and-forth conversations, without anyone dominating. I’ve connected with people whom I first met on Twitter. I cheer the Doctor with Whovians (“Doctor Who” fans) as he defeats aliens across the universe. I get a sense of what the world is thinking with Twitter trends, and I do follow my own celebrities (the National Parks and Smithsonian).

How is Twitter different from Facebook? Because Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters, no one can give a monologue of information. “Is that important?” you ask. Sometimes — for instance, when you want to avoid an opinionated rant in your comments — yes, it’s important.

Also, unlike Facebook “friends,” Twitter followers are open to multiple tweets. If you post the same link more than once on the same day, that’s OK in the Twittersphere (but not on Facebook). Plus, you will probably reach a different audience by tweeting similar information at different times.

Here are some pointers to help you make the most of Twitter.

General Rules of Social Media:

  • Step away when you are angry. In the beginning, I did not do that and I suffered the consequences, which is mostly me feeling like a dope. It’s not a good feeling. Occasionally, my sister unfriends me. (Yes, she reconnected, then she unfriended me, then reconnected — it’s a turbulent relationship.)
  • Don’t feel the need to respond to everything immediately. Treat a tweet like email — you’ll get to it when you have scheduled time for it. With that said, I do check my Twitter feed most weekday mornings.
  • Pictures always do well. (And yet drive me nuts.)

General Tips for Twitter:

  • Tweets can only be 140 characters long. Twitter will shorten links for you — not to nothing but to something shorter than what you copied and pasted.
  • Consider keeping tweets to 120 characters to allow for retweeting.
  • A Twitter handle is your username with the @ symbol in front of it.
  • Tweets are primarily a link and a short description of the link, in reverse order. For example: The Art of Revision http://www.possibilitiespublishingcompany.com/the-art-of-revision.
  • Don’t just tweet your stuff, engage with other tweeters.
  • The best way to start getting followers is to follow. However, keep in mind that if you follow celebrities, they will most likely not follow you back.
  • I suggest using a third-party application with Twitter, such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck. I always feel like I’m looking at the matrix when I’m using those applications.

Tweet Ideas for Writers:

  • Post a quote from your book with a link to the first chapter of the book.
  • Announce a new blog post and include the link.
  • Say “happy birthday” to a character from your book and then link to the book.
  • Share a quote from your favorite author. Although this would probably not have a link with it, many tweeters like to retweet quotes. Your Twitter handle will be attached to it, and you can get new followers that way.
  • Engage with another author in the same genre because readers who love historical fiction, for instance, are always looking for other writers of historical fiction.

Remember: Don’t sweat it, and have fun!

If you need a follower, follow me @BroadcastSunny or @PossPubCo then tweet a “HI” with my handle and say that you followed me.

For more Twitter info, check out my Twitter tutorials on YouTube.

Joanne McAlpine is director of social media marketing at Possibilities Publishing Company. She has a master’s degree in instructional systems design from the University of Central Florida and has been a social media consultant for more than four years.


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8 thoughts on “A Twitter Primer for Writers

  • Ken Dowell

    From my experience all of your suggestions make sense. It is sometimes hard to see any value in Twitter because of the volume of Tweets and how easily they get lost in what for most of us is a voluminous feed. Personally I use Twitter more as a news aggregator so I can get headlines from multiple media sources and organizations I’m interested in.

  • Jeri

    Fairly early on when I was at less than 1k followers, I started keeping Twitter lists to keep track of everyone. If I follow someone, I can put them into the right category so even though I may not know them well out of the 6k follows I now have, I will have them on useful lists like editors, book promoters, etc. The justunfollow app is also a lifesaver when it comes to keeping a handle on the lovely madness that is Twiiter.

  • Juli Monroe

    Great tips all. I’m curious. Do you check your analytics for tweets where you link to your book? If so, are you getting a good click-through rate? I never do, so I’ve basically stopped tweeting my book links.

    • Joanne

      I do check, this is where I find attending one or two twitter chats regularly. I’ve build I kind a virtual friendship with them, I guess you can say, so I get retweets, mainly and a couple of click- thrus. Also, I did not plan this but find when I pin something to the top, many times a new follower will retweet that. I don’t know if this is a new trend or what but it’s giving exposure. It’s also reminding people I’m out there.