Writers are often introverted creatures. We tend to prefer the company of books over people. But if you want to be a writer in the current market, you must use social media. There’s no getting around it. Today I’m going to talk about Twitter for authors because it’s a crucial tool that every author needs.
The good news is that because Twitter is so limited in its function, it’s extremely easy to use. Yay for easy!
The first thing is to sign up for your account. It’s a simple process, and a free one. Try to come up with a username that is professional, but if you have a common name, you might have to get a little creative.
Next, put up a profile image. People ignore accounts with an egg avatar. Ideally, you already have a professional author photo. A pro photo shows that you’re serious about what you’re doing and should be taken seriously. (If you don’t have one, this doesn’t have to cost a lot. Go to your local place that runs photo package deals and get the most basic package that will include a digital image. Since you’re a writer, you have flexibility in your clothing and styling, but you do want a quality posed photo with good lighting.) If you prefer not to use your actual face or can’t afford a professional photo, an avatar is an option. You can check out www.Fiverr.com for an economical custom avatar.
After you have your profile image, add a bio. You don’t get much space, so you’ll have to work at this. Include your genre(s) of writing and try to be upbeat and interesting. Your bio is important marketing, so take it seriously. Having the words “author” and your genre will help people find you in searches.
Your banner is another opportunity to show that you’re a legit, professional writer, as well as demonstrate what you’re about. One option is to have your graphic artist use your book covers to create banners for your Facebook and Twitter. The cost is fairly nominal. You can also check out the free application www.canva.com. They have options for creating your own banners and it’s very easy to use. A little stock art and some well-placed text can go a long way.
If you’re interested in a wider variety of stock art than what Canva has, check out sites like www.depositphotos.com, www.shutterstock.com, and www.istock.com. You can buy licenses to individual photos for a reasonable price. Once you’ve created your banner, give it a critical eye and ask yourself if it looks like something your favorite author might put his/her name to. Images are powerful things, so use them wisely.
Now you’re ready to get followers. Post your Twitter account on your other social media, be it Facebook, your website, or whatever. Be sure to list it when you do guest posts for blogs. Ask your friends to follow you. The more followers you have, the bigger your voice on Twitter.
That said, DO NOT buy followers. Seriously, just don’t. It’s a blatant, transparent ploy and all for nothing because those fake follower accounts get yanked by the thousands every day via Twitter quality control. You want real people seeing your posts, retweeting you, and basically just knowing that you exist. Buying fake followers is a complete waste of your money.
Another way to get followers is to follow others. Again, do this in a genuine way. Look for people you have things in common with. Friends of friends. Fellow fans of this author or that fandom. Twitter is all about networking. I’ve met people, discovered new books, and even received appearance invitations due to Twitter. If you’re genuine and post quality content, Twitter can be rewarding in many ways.
Here’s an example. One day I saw a Tweet of a beautiful book cover. I bought that book because of that Tweet. I read the book and loved it. I asked the author for an interview. After the interview, we just kept talking, and now that author is one of my best friends. We meet up in person whenever we’re able.
So let’s get posting! Your post frequency depends on you. I’ve experimented, posting a few times a day, once a day, and less than once a day. I’ve found no particular uptick in followers whether I post several times a day or just once. My overall following and engagement fall if I post less than once. Your results may vary. The important thing is to post things that interest people. You want to be entertaining and informative. Figure out your target market and post things that they’ll enjoy. You can keep track of your posts’ performance via likes and retweets. That helps you better understand what people like to see.
You might be tempted to link your Facebook feed to your Twitter feed so that every time you post to Facebook it automatically posts to your Twitter. It can be hard to keep up with multiple forms of social media, and it cuts into our actual writing time. But Tweeters are not fond of the linked feed because it indicates an automated, unattended account. Nobody wants to talk to a robot and I don’t recommend this approach. Yes, it’s easier, and I might get flack for saying this, but we’re talking about maximizing the usefulness of Twitter. If you’d never post to Twitter otherwise, then linking your accounts might be better than nothing.
Engage with people. Retweet people who make interesting posts. Play hashtag games. (You’ll see trending topics on the left-hand side of your screen. I recently played a “make an action movie tedious” hashtag game. I turned “Commando” into a movie about Schwarzenegger not wanting to wear underwear, and people found it funny. It got a few new people looking at me. Plus I got a giggle over talking about underwear to thousands of people.
That’s it! Be patient. This is a long-haul sort of thing. Your following will grow. Look for people to follow every day. Follow back the people who follow you. Unfollow people who are uninteresting or never engage with you. Twitter has limits on how many accounts you can follow per day. If you do too many you get put in “Twitter jail” and will be unable to follow more people. You don’t want that because someone interesting might follow you and you’ll be unable to follow back. Stay well within the limits (which differ depending on how many followers you have).
Handling all of your Twitter activity within Twitter won’t cost you a cent. But if you want to take it to the next level, a Twitter management service will help you out bigtime. I use Managefllitter because the monthly cost was less than other services, but they are all about the same thing.
So why pay money every month to manage a free service? Many reasons. Because you can schedule your tweets ahead of time. Because you can analyze your number of followers over time and relate it back to your posting content. Because it makes it easy to search for and follow people, as well as unfollow people who didn’t pan out. It saves time, which means less time spent managing your social media and more time writing. And writing’s what it’s all about. That’s why you’re doing all this to begin with.
Another caveat: Don’t be tempted to set up auto-reply. It’s a spammy move and will get you unfollowed. Twitter is all about real, personal engagement with people. Using a bot to talk for you is like old people trying to be hip and cool. It’s a try-too-hard behavior. In that same vein, don’t be all, “buy my book, buy my book!” in your tweets. Post mostly about other stuff. When you have a new release or a cover to reveal, or a sale going on, yes, post that and pin it to the top of your page. But then shut up about it and talk about other people’s books, or Darth Vader (a personal favorite), or gardening tactics, or whatever your target market likes.
Remember, you’re there to entertain and inform others, while discovering new things for yourself. Tweeters will pick out a shill or a fake right away. Be real. Don’t sell yourself—be yourself. All of this is easy stuff, and you’ll have the hang of it in no time. You might even find some new best friends and get to talk about underwear in a massively public way.