Twitter: A Beginner’s Guide
I don’t know if this is useful or not, but it seems to me that there are quite a lot of people (especially authors) who feel like they should be on twitter, or even want to be on twitter, but don’t quite know how to make it work for them. When I first joined twitter, I left after a couple of days because I didn’t get it at all. A year later, I tried again and loved it. It can seem weird and daunting at first, and I would have liked some hints on how to start. So I thought I’d write some.
1. Understand what Twitter does really well
It’s all about the instantaneous connections. You can talk to anyone any time. You can find people talking about the things you’re interested in and talk to them.
2. Understand what it doesn’t do well
Complicated debates – 140 characters is just too short for nuance.
Advertising – people will tune out and turn off.
3. Where to start
Choose an easy username to remember. Your own name/pen name is a good place to start. Upload a userpic. You can’t go wrong with a picture of yourself.
Find people to follow. Start with your existing internet connections. Check email signatures for twitter names – and follow them. Check the websites you like to visit for twitter accounts – and follow them.
Think about what you’re interested in – you can follow breaking news, film critics, craft collectives, whatever. These sort of accounts often won’t interact with you, but will provide great content for you to talk about.
4. Where next
Have the twitter account for the job you’re aiming for. If you’re an aspiring author, follow editors, publishers, and the authors you love. If you’re a debut author, follow book reviewers, readers, local media outlets. If you’re already a bestseller, follow whoever you want!
5. Don’t autofollow
You do not have to follow everyone who follows you.
You DO NOT have to follow everyone who follows you.
6. Do check your @ replies
It’s polite to reply to people who tweet @ you specifically. You do not have to follow them unless you want to.
7. Do use lists to keep your twitter stream manageable
You can separate out personal friends, news feeds, industry contacts, etc. Then decide which lists only need occasional glances, which need a regular skim, which you want to follow everything. Using a twitter client such as TweetDeck or HootSuite can really help to keep this under control.
8. Do unfollow
If you are overwhelmed by your twitter stream, it’s totally okay to unfollow people.
If you followed someone and then realise they only tweet about their cats, it’s totally okay to unfollow them.
If your interests change, it’s totally okay to unfollow twitter accounts.
9. Use hashtags
Hashtags are effectively labels for tweets. If you click on a hashtag, you’ll see a stream of all the tweets using that label. This can be a great way to find people you want to follow. It’s also a great way for other people to find you. See what hashtags are common among your followers and use them.
10. Do not schedule tweets
I once followed an author who had a promo tweet scheduled for the same time every day. Once every 24 hours. You’d think that wouldn’t be too much, right? Except there was a typo in the tweet. Every single day. Which made it absolutely clear that she wasn’t tweeting live. I unfollowed.
Remember twitter is about connections and conversations. Scheduled tweets don’t enable either.
And while we’re at it, Triberr is the work of the devil.
11. Do talk about your books
Especially when they first come out. That’s part of who you are and what people want to know about you.
12. Don’t advertise your books
That’s not a conversation. That’s not squeeing about a glorious review.
People are not stupid. They can tell when they are being advertised at.
Most of all, have fun, make friends, be yourself. If you’re not being sociable on social media, you’re doing it wrong.
Oh, and obviously, follow @ros_clarke. That goes without saying. ;)
ETA: Two slightly more advanced things
1. Be cautious about RTs
Retweeting (RT) allows you to send someone else’s tweet to your followers. Be cautious about this. If they want to follow that other person, they will. You should not be RTing from the same account more than once or twice a week. Obviously there are exceptions at specific times but err on the side of caution. I have unfollowed people who regularly RT someone else I’m not interested in.
2. Know who you are replying to
If you are in a conversation, your tweet can begin with the other person’s @ name. This tweet won’t be seen by all your followers, only the ones who are following both of you. Sometimes, you’ll want that tweet to be seen by everyone. Put a . before the @name to make this happen.
DO NOT use the . when you don’t need it. Your followers will see half a conversation. It’s like listening to someone on the train using their phone. Meaningless and irritating.