Confused about how to utilize Twitter strategically? Here’s a definitive guide!
Today we’re going to discuss a few of my top tips to help you utilize Twitter correctly, so you learn how to make the most of this interactive platform. Why me? Well, I do this for a living, I’ve released 6 books (two help writers with book marketing), and Twitter is my personal favorite social media channel since I started way back in 2009.
I’m still kind of amazed when writers tell me they won’t ‘do’ Twitter. They say it’s too new (wait, what?), it’s not worth the effort, or it’s confusing. With these tips, you’ll see none of that’s true. If you're not a writer, that's okay. While this article is geared toward writers, the concepts work for bloggers and small businesses. Adjust accordingly.
Let’s do this thingy.
Tip #1: Setting up your account properly
Regardless of genre, if you don’t have a Twitter account, you need one.
Why? You might not like Twitter much (though I personally think it’s great), but guess what? Your readers are looking for awesome book recs there. They talk to each other, participate in Twitter chats (more later), and love to interact with their favorite authors. Plus (and it’s a big plus), Google indexes tweets now — that’s good news for your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). (Source: Moz)
Go to Twitter.com and see if the handle (aka, name) you want is available. You have fifteen spaces total for your handle. Preferably, use your name and add author or writer to the front or back. I don’t recommend your book’s title, because in all likelihood you’ll be writing more than one book, and then what? Start smart: use your name or some iteration thereof; if you're a business, use that.
Unsure how to use Twitter at all? Start with their Help Section. It’s quite robust.
Twitter is a great channel for networking and visibility, for connecting with readers, book bloggers, reviewers, and other publications who can help publicize your book; it also can send a huge amount of traffic to your website and blog. It’s not, however, all that great for sales. If you’re counting on any one social channel to ‘sell’ your book, you will be disappointed.
Tip: Don’t be that person who auto-DMs (sends an automated direct message) people with a ‘Hey, thanks for the follow! Go buy my book! And review it! And tell all your friends!’ because that’s not only annoying, you will lose followers before you even have them.
(If you have an auto-thank you in place, go disable it right now, especially if you’re using TrueTwit — a bot to confirm whether your followers are bots? Just no.) To disable, go into Settings > Apps > and Disable any apps that you’ve given permission to that might be auto-tweeting on your behalf. And, done. Besides, having these automated direct messages now violates Twitter’s spam guidelines.
If you don’t have an account, sign up now. If you do, let’s optimize your bio! Click on your little face (now on the left side). It says: Edit Profile >> Click. This is where you type in any changes to your bio. When done, remember to save.
You only have 160 characters total for the bio including spaces, so make them count. You need your bio to achieve three main goals:
- Have a shortened, customized link (I recommend GeniusLinks) to your book (I suggest linking to Amazon, as they are the largest online retailer), or blog or business if you’re not an author. A shortened, customized link is more professional as well as trackable. You’ll know exactly where your clicks are originating.
- Describe who you are and what you do in an interesting way, with a verb.
- Be found more easily in Search by using hashtags (which create a hyperlink).
Take a look at my author bio here: https://twitter.com/RachelintheOC and use it as a template for your own if you like. Go ahead, steal my ideas.
Here are a few additional insider tips:
- You only have 160 characters for your bio, right? Leave enough room to add an additional website (shorten using a link shortener as mentioned above). See how there are two websites in my bio? One goes to Amazon to purchase my book, and one goes to my author website. Got room? Add a third.
- If you have more than one Twitter stream (as I do, since I’m also @BadRedheadMedia), be sure to add the @ symbol, which creates a hyperlink. If you write for a site or are affiliated in some way with a publication or a business, do the same thing.
- If you don’t want to list your location, don’t. I don’t. Use that space to discuss something else or add more about yourself (in mine, I refer to the weekly chat I created for survivors, #SexAbuseChat). Location is only important if you’re a local business looking for local customers.
- Use a high-resolution picture for your avatar and graphics header. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual (Source: T-Sciences). If your visuals are blurry, potential followers will pass.
Twitter is an important book marketing tool because it’s where many of your readers are. Remember, book marketing isn’t about your comfort, it’s about book discovery.
If you can write a book, you can write a tweet. If you can text, you can tweet.
Keep in mind also, being on Twitter and claiming your ‘handle’ is about intellectual property. Even if you’re not present often, it’s good to stake your claim.
Tip #2: Verbing your bio and pinning a tweet
In the previous tip, we optimized our Twitter bio. Let’s do a deeper dive into a few points I mentioned in more detail:
- “Verbing” your bio
- Pinning a tweet
Verbing your bio
What does it mean to ‘verb’ your bio? It’s a funny way to word it, but it works. When we write (or even verbalize) our typical bios, authors often say, “I’m an author. I write books — mysteries, non-fiction, sci-fi about blue bunnies who eat green cheese.” You get it.
Instead, try writing it this way: “I’m a memoirist whose books inspire childhood sexual abuse survivors.” Or, “I write travel books to embolden agoraphobics to leave their homes and see the world.” For Twitter, you need to shorten that up, of course, so edit, edit, edit. 160 spaces ain’t much (and that includes spaces and punctuation).
How can you verb your writing? Does it inspire, teach, scare? What does your writing do for people? In other words, how do you want your reader to feel after reading your book? Put that in your bio. Create action and a sense of movement.
*You can use this tip with any bio, by the way.
Pinning a tweet
Twitter offers you the option of pinning a tweet to the top of your timeline. I recommend pinning your most popular tweet or, if you have shared a somewhat non-annoying “Buy my book!” tweet, you can share it there — though remember, if you’ve added your book link to your bio (as I mentioned in Tip #1), you won’t need to do that spammy stuff.
Tip: It’s helpful to have a tweet at the top to make it easy for people to purchase your book(s) or follow your blog or find your business, particularly if you’re running some kind of short-term promo. People who’ve had a tweet go viral will often have that tweet pinned to the top. Whatever resonates and represents your branding is the way to go here.
To pin a tweet: You can pin a Tweet to your profile so that when others visit your profile, it is the first Tweet they will see.
- Go to your profile.
- Find your Tweet you’d like to pin.
- Click or tap the upside-down arrow located at the top right of the Tweet.
- Select Pin to your profile (second option)
- Click or tap Pin to confirm.
Note: you can only pin your own tweets, not a retweet or someone else’s tweet. Here’s a screenshot of what that pinning option menu looks like from my author timeline:
Also, you can change out your pinned tweet anytime — for example, your most popular blog post, most retweeted tweet, latest book promo, or link to your book. You can now even pin a tweet from Twitter’s mobile app (on iOS and Android).
- Head on over to your own Twitter stream and pin a tweet. Click on your own timeline, find a tweet you like, and pin it. Easy peasy. Don’t like what you pinned? Pin something else.
- When you’re done with that, go into your bio and verb it up. Save your changes. Remember, if you don’t like the verb you picked, you can always change it.
Tip #3: “Twitter doesn’t apply to me” — Wrong
I hear from some writers, and even top experts, who say that what I’m recommending with regard to Twitter utilization doesn’t apply to fiction authors, and I vehemently disagree. In fact, I tweeted about this and had some great Twitter conversations with writers such as Barbara Delinsky, Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Chris Bohjalian, and Celeste Ng who call bull on that.
These tips work regardless of what genre you write or your product or service. Readers and customers are on Twitter and they are looking for great reads/products/services, regardless of genre; so are book bloggers, book reviewers, and many other publishing insiders.
(Several of my business clients are top New York Times bestselling authors — fiction and nonfiction. The marketing, social media concepts, and author branding strategies are the same, regardless of genre. Remember, we brand the author, not (only) the book.)
Here’s the issue: most newbie writers join Twitter and start following primarily only other writers. Their stream then becomes filled with authors hawking books, so they become disillusioned with all the book spam, blaming Twitter for their own mistake. Um…
Twitter is a wonderful equalizer. Where else can we connect with our idols? In fact, in a DM interview, here’s what Chris Bohjalian (The Flight Attendant) had to say about fiction writers using Twitter:
“I discover books I want to read and TV shows, movies, and plays I want to see on Twitter. And that’s a gift. That’s when I love Twitter the most. A lot of my tweets are about books that I’ve loved and TV shows, movies, and plays I want other people to see. Others are about — and this word is used so much it has almost become “inauthentic” — authenticity. But I share the things that matter to me: Vermont and Armenia, biking, my cats. My daughter. My lovely bride.
Only a small percentage of my tweets are about my own books, movies, TV series, or plays. Certainly, the percentage increases when I am on tour or have a new book out or a play in production. But no one on Twitter wants writers to be tweeting relentlessly about their own work. Finally, I know lots of people use Twitter differently than they use Instagram and Facebook, but I tend to view them similarly — though Twitter, of course, can be much more of a mixed bag.”
As writers, bloggers, authors, and small business people, we need to be strategic with Twitter and follow our ideal readers. Are your ideal readers only other authors? No. Then why are you following so many?
Yes, we form and join communities to support each other and that’s great. Do that, but don’t exclusively do that. See the difference?
- Find your ideal readers on Twitter by strategically targeting them. I used to recommend ManageFlitter (which unfortunately is no longer a viable option because of Twitter’s change in policy). I hope they will still be able to find a solution because it was a fabulous tool!
There are other options out there and that’s fine — just be sure they don’t require any kind of ‘auto’ welcome messages because those are annoying, e.g., “Welcome to my Twitter! Please follow me on Facebook, buy my book!” Blech and as I mentioned above, can get you in hot water.
- Many people mistakenly believe they are stuck at following 5,000 people. Totally false. They simply are not managing their followers properly. Once you hit 5,000, Twitter imposes a 10% ratio limit, where you cannot follow 10% more than is following you (sorry, math). This is why you must manage your followers. Start dumping the non-avatar profiles, non-followbacks, and inactives, which are preventing you from growing.
- Growth is important because you want to reach your ideal readers, interact, and connect. It doesn’t matter from an ‘Oh, I have to have a HUGE following,’ perspective because that’s not true. It matters from the ‘I have an engaged, targeted following and we are connected,’ perspective.
- Can’t afford a paid tool? Use Twitter’s free Search. Twitter also has a fabulous and under-utilized Advanced Search option.
Tip #4: What to tweet about — curating content
Many people are unsure what to tweet about (or post on any social media channel in general) because it feels unnatural and forced — which is why authors end up hawking their books constantly, or small businesses only discuss selling their services. ME, ME, ME.
NO, NO, NO.
This is a mistake. If you were at a dinner party or say, in line at the movies, what would you discuss with the person next to you? Likely, not your book or service (one would hope). You’d discuss topics that interest you, a news story, something you have some kind of expertise in.
Twitter is no different. Pick 4–5 topics of interest, and find articles, quotes, pictures, and share blog posts (yours and others) to share around those topics — mix in occasional tweets about your own books, your own blog posts, or something promotional occasionally, and then it’s not as annoying, obnoxious, or uncomfortable.
Listen, self-promotion, even the selling situation itself, is unnatural. We all recognize it’s forced which causes our own discomfort. How can you make it less uncomfortable?
Make it less about ME, ME, ME, and more about common interests. Provide value. Be generous. Connection with others is about finding common ground, right? Listen as much, if not more, than you talk.
Here’s how to find those articles:
- Content: If you use Hootsuite (which I love), pay for the Pro version, and check out their various free apps for suggested content.
- Free option: set up Google Alerts. You can receive these as often as you wish (hourly, daily, weekly, etc.), on any number of topics, and is easily editable.
- Quotes: I find most of my quotes on either Pinterest or Goodreads as a jumping-off point, usually by entering keywords. So, for example, I’ll look for quotes about say, courage, and see what comes up. (I’m very careful to make sure the quote always has attribution — not a fan of unknown quotes, generic sayings, or B.S. ‘inspirational’ crap.)
- Buzzfeed, Upworthy, A+, Mashable, etc., are all great sites for popular, daily content.
- News aggregators like Flipboard and Scoop.it are both free, easy-to-use content curation options that will help you find great articles about topics that interest you and your readers — remember, it’s not all about you and your book — it’s about connecting.
- For more literary content, I adore Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. Lots of unique finds.
- Either create Google Alerts on at least three of your topics of interest OR
- Create a free Flipboard or Scoop.it account. Once you’ve done that, we’ll discuss sharing it tomorrow (or dive in and share it yourself right now).
- There are many new tools coming out daily. Here’s a great list from Buffer for finding great content and managing it all.
- Still stuck? Here are 70+ free places to find content from Buffer. I use Buffer for scheduling content (in addition to Hootsuite — I like both) and adore their blog. Subscribe already!
Change your paradigm if you think your content is only about you. Twitter (and any other social media platform) is about providing interesting content, interaction, and listening more than you speak. Engagement is key.
Our optimization from the last few tips should do our selling for us.
Tip #5: How often to tweet and how to schedule
Social media management tools — I’m a fan. Most people new to social media log in and out of Twitter, Facebook, and maybe Instagram or Pinterest on and off throughout the day, and guess what? That’s fun and all, but it’s a huge time waster. What if everything you needed to check was all in one place?
Well, it is! (er, mostly.)
I’ve been a fan of Hootsuite for many years now. I know, I know, there are many Tweetdeck fans out there and I tried it, I did. I just don’t like the format plus, I incorporate so many other social channels into my dashboard, like Instagram, Linked In, etc., and Tweetdeck doesn’t allow for that so…if you’re willing to find out about other social media management tools, let’s move on…
- Hootsuite: The $29/month plan allows you to have 10 profiles, which is plenty! Add in Twitter, Facebook page, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, plus your blog RSS feed, and whatever else you may have.
The main reason I really like Hootsuite is because you can schedule in your tweets and shares as well as still interact with people, all in one place (yes, they have a mobile version which sadly, I don’t love). You also have access to many free content apps. Their blog is also the bomb 💣.
Yes, it’s a bit spendy, though remember, you are saving time, and what is that worth to you? Plus, it’s also a tax write-off (talk with your tax advisor, of course), as a legit business expense.
- Buffer: I adore the Buffer people, and their blog is amazing. Their free plan is limited (you can only schedule in 10 tweets at a time), but hey, it’s enough to give it a try and see if you like it. The Pro plan is only $15.00/month, so pretty affordable, and best of all, their free mobile app is terrific! I use it a lot on the go.
Sadly, you can’t interact with folks using Buffer — it’s strictly a scheduling tool only, and they no longer have a ‘suggested content’ component, which sucks. However, they have added a ‘content inbox’ which allows you to add RSS feeds of your favorite sites, so that’s a cool addition.
Now you can see why I have both tools. There are a few tools out there that do everything, like SocialBro, Klout, Sprout Social, and Post Planner — all are great. If you have the means and time, check them out.
- Another great option is CoSchedule (they have terrific free templates to organize your social media scheduling, blog calendar, etc., so if nothing else, go look at all their free resources.) I also really like PromoRepublic. Everything is in one place: content, graphics, and scheduling.
So, go. Pick one of those social media tools mentioned above, create a free or low-cost account, and start using it. Should take you all of ten minutes to set up and try it out. That’s your assignment.
How often to tweet?
People ask this a lot and that’s a personal choice, though I’ll share my schedule with you.
My advice is to spread out your tweets, rather than doing the ‘check in, tweet dump, check out,’ which is likely what most of you are doing now, especially if you only tweet from mobile.
I see you nodding.
Many people are opposed to automation, preferring instead pure organic tweeting. This is an old argument, that’s been circulating since I started on Twitter. With tools like Hootsuite, you can do both. If you schedule in a blog post, then discuss it organically when people kindly retweet (RT) it, or you RT theirs, it’s a nice, big, tasty soup.
For my author account, I schedule tweets on Hootsuite every four to five hours (depending on the day), leaving room for live-tweeting, RTs, etc., in between. Here’s a screenshot of my Hoot schedule for a typical day (I schedule about a week in advance):
Scheduling is also important because you can maintain a consistent presence without actually being there 24/7, you connect with people all over the world, and you can still work, write, and ya know, live your life. Interact and build relationships when you can.
Caution: don't only depend on automation. If you tweet it out, also respond to commenters. If you don't have commenters, reply and RT others. That's how you grow.
As for hashtag memes, scheduling is quite helpful (e.g., #WriterWednesday, #FridayFeeling, #ThursdayMotivation), it’s helpful to schedule blog posts or articles in advance. For example, I created the hashtag meme #MondayBlogs in 2012 — a weekly blog meme to share blog posts (Note: not book promotion). This is a wonderful way for us writers and businesses to share our blog posts, retweet others, increase Twitter followers, and get people to our websites - all win/win.
If you’re always on the go and don’t have that kind of ‘sitting downtime,’ I recommend using Buffer. Their analytics are easy to access which also is a great benefit — see which posts resonated the most and reschedule them in again at a later date.
This was mostly, but not solely, a post about Twitter — if you gave up, go back through and take it slow — there’s no rush. Some people get Twitter, some don’t. Don’t give up. Remember, it’s important to connect with readers (and not spam them constantly).
THE most important point to remember about Twitter and why you need it as part of your book marketing platform, blog, or business (besides connecting with readers and customers): Google indexes tweets, so from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective, Twitter carries more weight than Facebook, which is likely where you spend most of your time.
I wasn’t able to cover everything, and there’s a lot. Twitter chats are a great way to connect with readers and other writers — learn new stuff! New Twitter changes are always afoot (tried Twitter Spaces yet?). If there’s anything you can count on with social media, it’s that it changes…constantly. I'm currently writing a BadRedheadMedia 30-Day Twitter Challenge, so stay tuned for that!
Tip: visit Twitter’s blog occasionally to see what’s new.
- For now, I recommend you go into Twitter’s Help Section and type in any questions you may have. The best feature is Twitter Lists. Learn more here.
- Learn, read, research: List.ly top social media blogs
Thanks for reading!