Okay, to be honest: I used to be extremely anti-Twitter.
It’s not like I’ve done a complete turnaround—far from it—but I’ve begun to use it more seriously, and …I have to grudgingly admit that it can be an effective social media tool.
While I am still fairly new to tweet-tweet-tweeting, I can’t but help notice a lot of authors making what I think are serious mistakes. Part of that, of course, is because twitter is counterintuitive to the way writers think. Unlike blogs and other forms of social media, twitter is ephemeral: tweets coming and going in the space of a few seconds…with few people taking the time to backtrack on what anyone is saying.
This means that quantity is key to tweeting; zapping out a tweet, say, every few days or weeks or only when you have a book or story coming out is pretty much pointless. Even if you have a huge audience of loyal followers, tweeting infrequently means that you will have an very small percentage of that audience who happen to be looking at their Twitter feed for your short pearls of wisdom, or important book announcements, the moment you send them—and that moment, O infrequent tweeter, is the only one you’ve given yourself. To make effective use of Twitter you not only need to tweet every day, you need to tweet several times a day.
And then there’s the question of what you’re tweeting. Yes, you need to talk about your writing; yes, you need to post book announcements; yes, you need to praise your publisher; yes, you need to scream about good reviews…but you also need to come across as a person. So, share interesting information about yourself, share pieces of your writing that you aren’t necessarily trying to sell, talk to your followers as if they were friends (though, not necessarily the kind of friends to whom you’d say anything), rather than potential customers…get my drift? Your followers are interested in your work, but they’re also interested in you.
One thing I’ve been doing—though probably not as much as I should—is a Fun Fact thread: sharing tidbits about little ol’ me that people might find interesting. Hopefully it makes my feed seem a lot less stridently I’M A WRITER READ MY WRITINGS and more human, intriguing, and engaging.
Fortunately, frequent tweeting with varied messages isn’t as hard as it sounds. You don’t have log in to your twitter account multiple times and send out each tweet manually. With the right tool you can post a half dozen tweets or more all at the same time, and have them sent out every few hours. One of the best tools I’ve found for this (and, no, this isn’t a commercial) is called Hootsuite; it’s a web-based twitter aggregator that allows me to post, schedule, track, and do other fun things, and from more than one Twitter account (which is handy, since I work for a publisher and send out tweets about myself as well about them). The scheduling feature is very handy: I can create multiple tweets and then copy and paste them into Hootsuite’s scheduler—and program them to pop up over the span of a few hours or even days.
Of course, you don’t want the tweets to be mind-numbingly similar and spammy. No one—ever—wants to listen to a commercial, let alone the same one several times a day. So flooding your poor followers with nothing but BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK is not going to sell a single copy, and will more than likely get you unfollowed. Give the repeated content some variety, switch the words around, say the same thing in different words, etc.
Here are four tweets I sent out for one of my books when Sizzler Editions was giving it away free one weekend:
He drank blood but wasn’t a vampire. Even he didn’t know what he was! Free 14-16thh Manlove novel @MChristianzobop http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM
#Free 14-16th #Manlove #Vampire classic complete in one ebook Running Dry by @MChristianzobop http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM
Like #Manlove #Paranormal #Romance? M. Christian blazes a new trail in Running Dry only @MChristianzobop http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM
#Free this weekend only Lambda Finalist M. Christian’s gay vampire classic Running Dry http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM
In addition to varying the wording of what is essentially the same information, you can parcel out different bits of information about the same event, in a way that’s easy for late-afternoon or evening tweet-readers to catch up on whatever you’d posted in the morning. Say you were going to a convention where you would be on a panel and also reading. Don’t write one tweet about it. Write a tweet about the fact that you will be there and the dates; another about being on the panel and when it is scheduled; a third about your reading, and when and where.
Another feature of Twitter (and other social media platforms) that a lot of people ignore when sending out info is autosharing. In short, this means that whatever you post to one place gets automatically shared to others. Let’s say I have a blog. Using RSS Graffiti, whatever I post there is picked up on Facebook. Let’s also say I have a Tumblr (I actually have seven). With Tumblr’s built-in system I can share (or not) what I post on it to Twitter and then to Facebook. There is also a setting in Twitter that passes your tweets along to Facebook as well. These settings let you decide what’s automatically reposted where, so your aunt Betty doesn’t end up hearing about your new erotic novel unless you want her to.
It can be a tad confusing—to put it mildly—but it saves a lot of time and effort to automate these things. That said, one word of warning: you want to be careful with a quantity-driven thing like Twitter that you don’t choke your slower-rate social media places like Facebook with too many autoshared reposts—that’ll start to get pretty spammy. Hootsuite, nicely, allows me to post to Facebook as well as Twitter, so I can vary the number of posts I send out to match the nature of the media venue. It may take a bit of trial and error to get this all balanced for rate and time and such but it’s really worth the investment.
Pay attention, as well, to hashtags…though the #trick with #these is #not to overuse #them as your post will look really #silly. You can check trending tags and use those—but all that means is that yours will compete with millions of others. Far better to use them only for what you are really writing about, and then only a few per post.
And retweet items you find important, amusing or interesting. Remember, Twitter is supposed to be social media: meaning that the goal isn’t to talk at people but to them. Tweeting a lot but not actually communicating useful or interesting information is going to get you zilch.
Relatedly, don’t, as too many people do, ignore retweets of your tweets or mentions of your name. It’s not a quid pro quo situation, but it’s nice to pause and acknowledge that someone cared enough to spread your tweets further out into the world. Being ignored, specially by a writer whose career, or books, you have retweeted or shared…well, it doesn’t take much of that for a “follow” to turn into an “unfollow.”
Sure, Twitter too often sounds like a parrot who’s been sitting next to the television for too long and is about as deep as a Justin Bieber song—but the fact remains that, if you approach it intelligently and efficiently, it can be a valuable source of marketing for writers.
Just, as with all social media, try not to get sucked into spending so much time playing with it that you don’t #get #any #writing #done…