A beginner’s guide to Twitter: 10 Tips
At parties, are you more the lean against the wall and hope nobody notices you type? Or maybe you’re the get uproariously drunk and sorely embarrass yourself type? We can’t be having that! No matter how shy you are in your flesh-and-blood-life, there’s no reason why you can’t be a charismatic butterfly in the eRealm.
Think of me as the popular girl that has decided to make you her little pet project. I’m going to give you a Twitter makeover. It starts now and will cover the course of many weeks (until I run out of Twitter topics to explore—which may take a very long while). If you listen to me, kid, you can’t go wrong. I’m gonna make you a star!
Here are ten Twitter tips you should consider:
1. Make yourself look presentable—You wouldn’t walk into a party naked or wearing the same dress as seven other girls, would you? If you don’t customize your Twitter profile, that’s kind of what you’re doing. People judge you on how you look, and that holds true in the Twitter realm. If you haven’t already, do the following to perk up your profile: (1) write a snappy, intriguing, relevant bio, (2) upload a pic of you or an avatar that appropriately represents you, (3) customize your page’s background and colors. You can do all of these things through the settings tool bar, located in the dropdown at the far upper-right of your screen.
2. Learn how to talk—Twitter is not Facebook, and those who condone it probably haven’t realized that yet. Think of Twitter more as a massive internet chat room combined with the functionality of Google search—that’s what Twitter’s about. Facebook connects you to your real-life, day-to-day (and days of past) network. Your Facebook friends might care about what you had for lunch, what your cat did, etc. Your Twitter friends are less likely to be impressed. Develop a niche. I’m not *just* a writer, but on Twitter, that’s what you’ll find me talking about. It’s part of my persona, and it helps me to connect with other writers.
3. Get connected—The basic Twitter site is all well and good, but you’ll get a lot more out of it if you use apps. There’s a world of apps out there—yours for the taking. Those like TweetDeck, HootSuite, and TweetCaster help you organize your Twitter experience on your desktop, from multiple computers, and on your Droid or iPhone. Those like TwitterFeed and SocialOomph will help you to schedule your tweets in advance (or will plug in your RSS feed). There are so many wonderful apps out there, that finding the right ones for you can be a little daunting. To help give you an overview, I’ve set up a toolkit of Twitter apps for writers on oneforty.com (you can check that out by clicking this link). I highly encourage you to set up an account on oneforty and explore their extensive list of apps.
4. Set-up your RSS feed—Twitter is an especially powerful marketing tool when combined with your blog. Get the word out by setting up an RSS feed. I use Twitterfeed, which you can find by visiting my toolkit cited above. You can set your feed to post as many as 5 RSS links and as frequently as every 30 minutes or as seldom as just 1 link per day. You can add a post prefix—mine is “What’s new?” and a post suffix—I highly recommend including hashtags here (I use #amwriting and #writing). I run my RSS about one post per hour. You’ll have to decide what’s right for you. Remember, you want to get the word out about your blog’s content, but you don’t want to link-spam people—that’s annoying.
5. Find people to follow—When you first start out on Twitter, there’s a strong temptation to begin following whoever looks interesting, doing so in rapid succession. Don’t do that—it’s going to make you look like a spam-bot. To build my following, I began performing searches of keywords like “writing, reading, book club, James Joyce.” Then I would respond to someone’s tweet in those categories either by asking a question, offering encouragement, or giving advice for tackling a problem. Many users would respond back to me, we’d start-up a conversation, and then I would begin to follow them. For my first two weeks on Twitter, I made it a point to tweet 10 new people per day (and 10 of my existing friends as well). Now that I’ve got a bit of a following built-up, I don’t really have to do this anymore—I still do sometimes though, because it’s fun.
6. Decide who to follow back—Once you’ve been on Twitter for a while, people will begin to follow you preemptively. You don’t have to follow someone back, just because they made the first move. What if that user is a spam-bot or someone whose interests have nothing to do with your own? When deciding whether or not to follow-back, I look at the user’s profile. If they don’t have a photo uploaded, I probably won’t follow them back. If they haven’t written a bio, same deal. If they only tweet once every couple of days or haven’t tweeted anything for weeks, I’m not going to follow back. If I notice their account is just a spammy RSS feed, I’m not going to follow. If their interests have nothing to do with mine, I still might follow if I see that they regularly interact with others and have nice things to say. It’s amazing what you can glean from a 15-second look at somebody’s profile.
7. Use hashtags, use them a lot—Hashtags are probably the best thing that ever happened to Twitter. Hashtags are the best way to get non-followers to see your tweets, which could earn you new connections. On my TweetDeck (the main app I use to manage my tweets), I leave a search column open at all times for the terms #writing, #amwriting, #WIP, and #writer. I also use these hashtags frequently when chatting with my writing buddies and even include them in my RSS blog feed. Experiment with hashtags, specify your interests no matter how obscure, invent your own hashtags (I did, #emlyn is all mine, and it’s how we conduct twitterviews), and you can even be cutesy by adding interjectory hashtags to your tweets, such as “I just sold my first novel to a publisher #catsoutofthebag #happydance #whoknewthisdaywouldevercome”
8. Make full use of #WW and #FF—Writer Wednesday and Forward Friday are fabulous. They use the genius of hashtags to help people find new Twitter friends. On these days, writers recommend people that they think their followers should be following and include the relevant hashtag (i.e. “@emlynchand, @WELine, @rachel_emily #WW). Some people will turn-out hundreds of recommendations. Others recommend only a few people, stating their reasons why the featured user should be followed. Take advantage of these days, follow the people your friends recommend and then retweet the recommendation to let the recommended know that you are now following him or her (that was a mouthful)—your new friend will probably return the favor. Apps like FridayFollowRanking (which is included in my oneforty toolkit mentioned above) help you to see who has recommended you, who you have recommended, who you interact with most on Twitter, and even what your overall referral rating is—last week I was ranked 249 in the US—that sure made me feel loved J
9. Take an interest—If you want a friend, be a friend. Ask your Twitter posse what they’re up to and how things are going with their writing and in their lives, listen to their answers, and have a conversation.
10. Be friendly—Altruism is alive and well within the twittersphere. Did you know that you can help yourself by helping others? Find innovative ways to reach out to people (like I have through my live twitterviews). Offer helpful suggestions, ask questions, refer them to resources they may like, promote them and their tweets within your own Twitter cluster.
Wow, that ended up being way more information than I anticipated. I hope you find my Twitter makeover advice helpful. I’m always here to answer any additional questions that you may have and would love to hear some of your best tips for effective Twitter use. If you would like to see any of these topics covered more in-depth, please let me know—I post about using social media to develop one’s writerly platform every Wedensday.
Emlyn Chand was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity's mascot is a Sun Conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company's founder and president. Although her first novel Farsighted won the prestigious Writer's Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category, she now writes most of her fiction under her “real” name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her (or her Sun Conure, Ducky!) on either of her author websites: www.emlynchand.com or www.melstorm.com. You can also friend her on Facebook, tweet with her @novelpublicity, or send her an email via [email protected].