Twitter for authors: a newbie’s guide


You guys are stuck with me again. The second time in less than a week. I KNOW, RIGHT? What terrrible thing must you have done to deserve such punishment? I’m not sure — that’s between you and your conscience.

But while I’m here I’ll try to be useful! Today I’m going to talk about Twitter. You may have heard of it (lol): a social media application that allows micro-posts, or tweets, of 140 characters or less. A lot of authors use it as part of their platform, as another way to reach their readership, and to try and increase it.

"Tweet..."

“Tweet…”

But when used badly it can go horribly, horribly wrong. Here are my top five tips for authors new to Twitter (although they apply to anyone that wants to use it to promote a product).

1. Don’t spam. The occasional humblebrag or promotional tweet with a link to your book or blog is okay, but it shouldn’t be everything you tweet. Aim for at least five other tweets to every one with a link in it. (I’ve seen some people suggest a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio, which wouldn’t hurt but I’d personally find it hard to maintain.) People who are deciding whether to follow you will probably skim your recent tweets. If they all say “BUY MAI BOOK, LOLZ”, odds are you won’t get the tick. And if they do follow you and that’s all they get, they’re likely to click unfollow.

So what do I talk about then, you’re asking? Be social. Chat to people. Retweet other tweets that take your fancy — although, again, try and limit your retweets vs original content, and remember a retweet with a link is using up one of your “link” tweet slots. Whether it’s your spam or someone else’s, it’s still spam!

2. Consider scheduling. To maintain regular content on Twitter when you’re at work, at school or sleeping, there are several options. TweetDeck, a free web application designed by the folks at Twitter, lets you schedule tweets. Another option is Hootsuite, which allows you to manage not only Twitter but also Facebook and Google+. (For day-to-day use I find TweetDeck is generally easier to read your tweets on, but YMMV.)

One thing about scheduling is that, while it’s a great tool in moderation, you don’t want to schedule 100% of your tweets. Remember that thing about being social? It does require a certain amount of live interaction. (Curses…!)

3. Don’t use True Twit. Yes, there is a Twitter web application called True Twit. I’m sure it’s a great little application for people who are on Twitter to talk to their mates and stalk their celebrity crush, but for those who are there to raise their social media platform, it’s a bad idea. The way it works is that everyone who follows you must enter a code — one of those word verification things — before they’re permitted to follow you. (I really struggle with those verification codes. Maybe I am a bot!)

The thing is, why would you want to put a hurdle between yourself and potential followers? Even if some of them are bots, who cares? So long as you don’t follow the bot back, it will have zero impact on your life.

4. Never send auto DMs. Some social media management applications let you send auto DMs (or direct messages) to people when they follow you. NEVER EVER DO THIS! If someone follows you and you want to chat to them, tweet them and start a real conversation. An auto DM is the social media equivalent of ringing someone’s doorbell. Probably at dinner time, or while they are on the toilet. Anything with a link (“buy my book” or “follow me on Facebook”) is particularly bad, but even an auto DM “thank you for the follow” can annoy some folks. Better to just not.

5. Play nice. This bit of advice goes for all social media, review websites, and, you know, life. I’m not saying don’t be yourself on social media. But show the most flattering side of yourself. Put your best foot forward, wearing your nice shoes, not those blown out thongs that have stepped in something unsavoury.

Some people take playing nice to the extent that they never tweet about controversial topics, like politics or religion. Others, like me, just try to keep those things to a bare minimum. Either way, don’t be rude to people. Don’t buy in to other people’s crazy, because sometimes it rubs off.

So, there you have it — my five tips for those writers who are new to, or contemplating signing up for, Twitter. If you’ve been using Twitter for ages, what are your pet peeves? I’d love to see what I missed.

Cassandra Page is a young adult and new adult urban fantasy author who spends a little bit too much time on Twitter.

Okay, way too much time.

Cassandra Page

2 Comments

  1. Great points! One to mention is that if people are following you for book/writing news/stuff, it’s probably best to keep the ‘I saw a cute cat whilst driving to work today!!! :D’ (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean) posts on the low.

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