Week 4: Develop Your Online Presence – Twitter

Lecture

In this session, we’re going to focus on driving readers to your blog (or Facebook page, if you’re posting there) via Twitter. If the thought of Twitter makes you groan because it’s just one more thing to do, know this: there’s a gigantic group of people of all ages on Twitter. They’re as active on Twitter as they are on Facebook, it’s growing fast, and you do need (at the very least) to understand what it’s all about. If you’re a Twitter hold-out, i.e. you’re not tweeting and don’t want to, at this point, you should claim your ‘real estate’ by creating an account with the same name you have chosen for your blog and/or Facebook page. And if you’re open to the idea of tweeting, so much the better! Let’s dive in.

What exactly is Twitter? It’s an information network made up of 140-character messages called tweets. It’s a way to discover the latest news related to subjects you care about and, for writers, it’s a place to build a platform of readers and potential buyers of your work.

The estimated number of Twitter users varies wildly according to which report you read (since Twitter doesn’t often reveal its statistics, people make their own calculations), but one report from MediaBistro is 500 million users. It’s estimated that 40% of Twitter account holders do not tweet. If you choose not to tweet, or to tweet infrequently, you won’t be alone. The bottom line is, you can tweet as often or as little as it pleases you. But another Feb 4 2013 report from GigaOm estimates that, as of December 2012, there are 200 million active tweeters, up from 100 million in December 2011. That’s enormous growth! Many of these active people are literary folk – readers, book reviewers, agents and publishers. Authors send out excerpts, make friends, follow literary agents, find readers and sell books on Twitter.

The main thing is to have an account, to know what your tweets should be about, and (ideally) to send at least a handful of each week. As with all these new, digital-world choices, it’s up to you to decide how you want to spend your time. If you enjoy tweeting, do more. If it’s a chore, do the minimum. I recommend ten tweets a week as a minimum – two original tweets and eight retweets. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really not hard. Remember that you can increase the amount of tweets you send at any time so if, for example, you’re about to submit a book proposal to an agent or publisher (or to self-publish), then you can increase your number of tweets the week before. This way, the agent can see that you’re flexible in your marketing efforts, and able and willing to maintain a high level of interaction when necessary.

Writing them can actually be fun. Humorous writers can entertain themselves and poetic writers can transport themselves with carefully chosen words. The brevity of the form is an invitation to elegance, like writing a haiku. Whilst they can be elegant, the best tweets are also effective.

The Content of Your Tweets

What constitutes an effective tweet? One that engages the readers and stimulates a response (a click through to your website or blog, a retweet or a direct message from a reader). To some extent this is trial and error, but there are some ways to increase your tweets’ response rate from the start:

1. Know your endgame. If you are an author selling a memoir, then your tweets should be around the topic of memoir, your own writing, and other memoirists’ writing. You might alert readers to a blog post of a memoir excerpt (this is called content chunking – the same thing as releasing an individual song to generate album sales).

2. At the same time, it’s good to let readers in the twittosphere know a little bit more about you. Readers like to know about writers and, when they see the other tweets you send, the ones that are not about your own writing, they’ll be able to get a feel for who you are. That extra knowledge and familiarity can prompt someone to click on your link to see what else you have to say.

3. Understand the difference between features and benefits. The old marketing phrase ‘features tell, benefits sell’ holds good here. This means that whilst people may find features interesting, they buy (or click) for benefits.

Here’s an example of a tweet with a feature:

‘Congratulations to the winners of eChook’s ‘Tis the Season Competition cash prizes and Honored Writers. See the list here.’

And here’s one with a benefit:

‘Free tips on writing/publishing your memoir. Thanks to all who came, the teleseminar was a blast!’

4. Don’t just tweet about your own writing. Did you read something fascinating, helpful, funny or awesome about writing memoir? Write a short, thoughtful blog post about it, then tweet it, with a link to your blog.

5. Retweet other posts that are interesting to you.

How to Tweet – the Mechanics

1. Go to twitter.com. Open an account in (ideally) the same name as your author identity, your blog or Facebook page. Try to keep the name consistent across all platforms.

2. It’s best to begin by finding and following a few other interesting Twitter accounts. If you’re writing memoir, for example, follow other memoir writers and readers who interest you. You’ll be able to tell by the names people use what their interests are, as well as the brief bio that appears under their name.

2. Once you’ve done that, look on your Twitter page to see what’s there. Messages from others you follow will show up in a readable stream on your Twitter homepage. Once you’ve followed a few people, you’ll have a new page of information to read each time you log in. Click links in others’ Tweets to view images and videos they have posted, the profiles of users mentioned in their message, or tweets related to a hashtag (#) keyword they included.

3. Build a voice slowly but surely by retweeting, replying, reacting. Use existing information (other writers’ and readers’ tweets) on Twitter to find your own voice and show others what you care about. Retweet messages you love, or @reply with your reaction to a tweet you find engaging. If you’re a new user, others are more likely to find your messages if they are Retweets or @replies.

4. Once you’re ready to begin authoring your own messages, consider mentioning other users by their Twitter username (preceded by the @ sign) in your tweets. This can help you think of what to write, will draw more eyes to your message, and can even start a new conversation. Try posting a message mentioning a writer or person you admire – people often respond to tweets about themselves (they’re building their audience too!). You’ll see their response on your Mentions tab.

5. To find interesting accounts, click Discover at the top of your Twitter page. You can find and follow other accounts in these four ways: 1) browse accounts by category, 2) browse accounts that Twitter thinks might be of interest to you 3) import your address book contacts to find out which friends are already on Twitter, 4) search one-by-one for people or groups of interest (Hint: This is easiest if you have their Twitter name, usually available on their website).

6. I like to use Tweetdeck because you can schedule your tweets to post days, weeks (or even months or years) in advance at a specific time. Along with a basic tweet, you can include a hyperlink, or upload a picture or a video. The tweet will post to Twitter at the scheduled time. TweetDeck does not limit how many tweets you can save for future posting, but the program does require you to enter the tweets in and save them individually.

7. Open a Word document. If you compose all your tweets in a Word document first, you can keep a handy record of each one and you won’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.

And remember, you can remove any tweets you post that you don’t like, so don’t be shy!

Checklist:

1. Open a Twitter account.
2. Follow ten people
3. Open a Word document and write 5 tweets.
4. Send them!