I hear authors say it all the time.
I have no idea what to do with Twitter.
But still, they’re there, because everyone else is. And as a result, they share mostly promo posts.
This is not how to Twitter.
Would you operate heavy machinery without reading the instructions? No. I hear you—Kristen, stop being dramatic. Twitter is not heavy machinery. I disagree. If it’s so important to your author platform that you simply must be there, that sounds pretty heavy to me.
In order to make Twitter an effective tool in your platform, treat it as the social network it’s meant to be.
Think about Twitter like the cocktail party that your friend invited you to. She’s the only one there that you know. Since she’s the host, she’s busy. You’re left standing by your onesies at the hors d’ oeuvres table shoveling cheese in your mouth like it’s the last supper. And you’re probably drinking way too much wine. I see you. *clinks your glass*
Awkward as, right? You have two choices—you can sneak out and hope no one notices, and salvage the night once you get home binge watching Outlander with your cat, or you can make the most of it and talk to people.
You already put the effort into showing up. Make the most of it.
First, you need to talk to people you don’t know. At the twitter cocktail party, the easiest way to do this is by following people that not only look interesting, but will probably answer and follow you back. For me, that meant other authors. You can find people by using hashtags. #amwriting is the biggie. You can narrow that down even further, to #amwritingromance or whatever your genre is. #amediting will also lead you to writer folk. Pay attention to what they have to say. If you have something to add, tweet at them. If you want your whole twitter universe to see your reply, put a “.” Before their name.
As you start to gain followers, you want them to get to know you. We’re back to the party. If you were making small talk with someone who migrated over to the snack table, would you spend the whole conversation hitting them over the head with a sales pitch? Hell no. They’d excuse themselves and get as far away from you as they humanly could. No amount of snacks is worth listening to that all night. Instead, you’d make small talk—about the party, what you have in common, you know the drill. I don’t have to teach you how to make friends.
I think of Twitter as the Seinfeld of social media. Small, in the moment observations are gold. After all, you only have 140 characters to express yourself. Want to make friends on Twitter? Talk about coffee. Seriously, coffee is the lifeblood of Twitter. Talk about the little things that happen in your everyday life.
Don’t overload these with hashtags. I used a couple, but it was more for humor than anything else. Hashtag abusers look like that guy who has to give this business card to everyone in the room. They’re best used tastefully.
Now, look around the room at my imaginary party. Say the friend who invited you to this soiree is a writer. Who else is there? Probably a lot of other writers. Maybe a few industry people. In my experience, that’s who hangs out on Twitter. Not a lot of readers. I hear you again—Kristen, if there aren’t any readers at this big Twitter party you’re making me go to, why the hell am I bothering with this?
Simple. The same reason you go to any work event. You’re networking. I’ve met some of my best writing friends on Twitter. Twitter is a great place to talk about craft and the writing process, find people to sprint with you, read blogs about writing and the business of writing, and keep up with trends in the industry. There’s #writeclub, which is writing sprints all day Friday, facilitated by people all over the world. #1linewed, hosted by @rwakissofdeath, where they give a word and you post a line from your work in progress that includes that word. Looking for an agent or a publisher? Follow @brendadrake. She runs query contests and builds some pretty great writer communities.
Twitter is awesome for current events. If I need to know what’s going on with a news story RFN, I go to Twitter before I’d ever check CNN. The Oscars? The Superbowl? Sharknado? The live tweeting of these events is nothing short of epic. Follow the hashtag, join in the conversation, and laugh your ass off all night long.
And like a cocktail party, it’s okay to get tipsy on Twitter. A little drunk tweeting never hurt anyone.
Okay—so now this Twitter party is fun. You know everyone here, and you’re beyond making small talk. It’s easy to add people to your conversation and network, because they’re friends of friends. You’re sharing funny, interesting stuff. It’s not so painful anymore. You might not make excuses about why you can’t go next time. You might even start liking it.
Now you can do some promo.
Why now? Because now people will care. You won’t just be one of those guys who stands out in front of the apartment complex with the sign—buy now! Deals here! Blah Blah! Or even worse, one of those sales people who puts you into a near-hostage situation when you’re walking through the mall, minding your own business…that’s if you actually still go to the mall. Now you’re someone cool, smart, and funny—dare I say—a friend who has this really amazing book coming out. Now people will click on the links to check it out and share it, and maybe, maybe even buy it.
They’re not buying just a book. They’re buying you. As corny as it sounds, it’s true. Twitter isn’t as static as Facebook or some other platforms, and things move and disappear fast. It’s easy to be forgettable there unless you make people remember you.
People who hang out on Twitter are very particular about what they want to see in their timeline. You can’t treat it like Facebook. Hardcore Twitterazzi throw holy water at Facebook. They make proclamations like those X amount of days since a workplace accident signs about how long they’ve avoided Facebook. And they loathe drive-by promo posts. They will mute the fuck out of you. Or worse, unfollow you. Then you’re just talking to yourself. Which is worse than not being there at all.
So go forth and tweet. But like at any good party, tweet responsibly.