You’ve followed my simple instructions on Basic Twitter Tips for Authors and you’re thinking, “Now what?” Well, now we get to the stuff that makes you more effective than 90% of Twitter users who don’t do much with this important tool!
Here are a few general hints before we get into specific tips:
Don’t be blatantly self-promotional all the time. You know that time you went to a cocktail party and this boor was handing out business cards and telling you what a marvelous seller of widgets he was… and you don’t buy or sell widgets? Yeah, don’t be that guy. Many people have compared Twitter to a cocktail party. It’s not, but the same rules apply. Don’t just talk about yourself. Be interesting. Be engaging. Respond to other people’s Tweets. BE SOCIAL. Yes, you can still tell about your book, but instead of saying, “Buy my book!” Tweet, something like, “Wow! My book is available next week. I’m so excited! [put link to your website or Amazon page].” Be a person, not an ad.
So what am I supposed to Tweet? Be you. As with your profile, talk about your passions and your life (see the part below about politics). Mad about food (and even better, wrote a book on food)? Tweet about it! Love home renovation, wine, falconing? Tweet about it. Be authentically you. Your Follow base should want you to succeed when you put out that book. You’re a Twitter-pal, part of their on-line family. They’ll want to support you. Basic author platform positioning!
Now here are some quick tips:
Tweet Length: Yes, you get 140 characters. But if you have something pithy/funny/quotable to say, it needs to be 130 or 120 characters to Retweet ((RT) see below).
Many people have compared Twitter to a cocktail party. It’s not, but the same rules apply.”
Word shortening: Some people feel comfortable using word shortcuts like “R u goin 2 the game 2nite?” Others feel it makes them look like a 12-year-old girl, and strive for complete sentences. I use a blend—if I can’t get the message done in 140 characters, I resort to short-cuts. How you use your space is about your personality. But always remember that the only thing many of your Followers know about you is what and how you write.
Period Plus Reply: When you reply to someone you follow, only those following both of you can read the exchange. To make sure that all of your followers can see your conversation, place a period in front of the other person’s name. For instance:
.@brownbear3 I was wondering if you were ever going to get that honey!
RT: Re-Tweeting is a way of appreciating something someone said, passing along information, or reacting to something in a way that includes all your followers. In the web interface, simply hitting “RT” passes along the entire Tweet with the originator’s address—and nothing from you. To me, that’s a bad thing, since it erases your involvement. If you are only using the web interface, copy the Tweet into the “What’s Happening” bar and manually type “RT:” in front of what was said. If there’s room, you can add a response to this by following what was said using a carat (<) or bar (|) ie:
RT: @redrobin When words attack, thoughts go boom! <What an explosive idea!
MT: Some messages may need to be shortened or edited for your purposes. Be fair and show that you’ve Modified [the] Tweet by putting MT in front of the post.
#FF Follow Friday (and #WW Writer Wednesday) are ways for you to show appreciation to people you follow. And others may include you in their #FF’s. These are also great ways to follow new people. Check out the people on your Follower’s #FFs. You may find a future great pal!
HootSuite: A customizable interface
TwitterBerry: for your Blackberry
Tweetie: for your iPhone
SocialToo: lets you manage all your social accounts
Twhirl: works on both PC & Mac
Tweetdeck: I use this to track multiple accounts, discussions and clients
That’s enough for a start. You can look at Rachel Levy’s list of Twitter Aps for a larger list.
Hashtags (#): Some discussions need a way to track them over the whole of Twitter. The hashtag allows you to see the whole conversation. For instance, #Iranelections, #Christmas, etc (note that the hashtag won’t work with punctuation or spaces.) These are best viewed/followed on Twitter programs like HootSuite and Tweetdeck. Hashtags can also be used ironically instead of connected to a discussion. For instance: #nothelpful, #feelingstupid.
Discussion Groups: There are chats about writing, reading and publishing. You can follow these—again with Tweetdeck or HootSuite—and chime in!
#litchat Monday, Wednesday, Friday
You can also create a hashtag chat about your subject. These take a while to build, but are a great tool to build interest in your subject.
Too Political? As you’ll discover if you follow me on Twitter, I have strong political opinions, and I don’t hesitate to air them. Is that really a good idea? Consider: My first 6 months on Twitter, I stuck to my core selling points (books, editing, book promotion, book packaging). It went OK. I had a few hundred followers and participated in all the book discussions (see above) I could find. I was slowly gaining momentum, but it seemed hard going.
When the health care debate came up, I decided to get involved spreading links and debunking talking points against the bill. I was secretly afraid of losing all of my followers. And I did lose some. But I gained over 1000 in a 3 month period.
Still not convinced? When Judy Gruen, who wrote the hilarious award-winning book The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement (which my company did the book packaging on), wanted to get more into social media marketing, she and I talked about whether or not she should air her views (about 180 degrees from mine). I told her to be herself. At the time we had that chat, her book had been out just short of 2 years and sales were flagging. Once she started her commentaries about life as a Mom, a person of Jewish heritage and a Conservative, her sales zoomed. She started selling twice as much as she had when the book debuted! And it’s still selling strongly.
So, am I telling you to be an out-there Liberal or Tea Partier on Twitter? Um, no. Actually what I’m saying is, be authentically you. People know—even in 140 characters—when you are being fake. If you’re passionate about poodles, show it. If you want to travel the world, talk about that, too. Again, this is all about a SOCIAL connection. Be the sort of person others want to be friends with.
Go forth and Twitter! Follow me at @jcsimonds