Kirk Douglas And Barbara StanwyckIn 'The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers'Last week, dear readers, I promised actual Twitter tips, which I am now somewhat regretting, but such is life.  This is not because I begrudge sharing my less-than-vast knowledge with you, darlings; rather, it is because Twitter is a strange, organic animal that is difficult to pin down and even more difficult to predict.  Yet somehow it has come into existence, and so we must learn to wrestle with it.

As a writer, you have to build a platform, a presence in social media, and Twitter offers yet another way to try to connect with other writers and, hopefully, readers.  Another place for your “fans” to find more about you.  Perhaps in fifty years—okay, two—people will probably look back and laugh at our quaint belief that Twitter made the slightest bit of difference, but for now we’ll assume that it does.

Okay, enough rambling.  For the purpose of this Guide, I will assume you know little or nothing about Twitter.  If you already do, skim down to find any relevant tidbits, or skip this entry all together.  The rest of us will catch up with you in the next step!

First, some mechanics:

  1. Each post to Twitter can be its own entity, its own little 140 character message, like “Drinking champagne with Lauren Willig while she signs books!” (62 characters used) or it can be a tease (via a link) back to your blog or website or FB page, or wherever you’re hoping to direct someone.
  2. If you are creating a link, the link itself usually already exceeds 140 characters, so you have to shorten them by using a link-shortening site, such as: https://bitly.com. Simply copy your link there and it will chop it and copy it for you.  Presto!
  3. Don’t waste time with punctuation! Each comma, quotation mark, or period counts!  Even spaces count, so use them sparingly.
  4. Abbreviate words if you can.
  5. Always attach a picture if possible. It is worth the characters used, as it is more likely to get noticed and clicked/retweeted.
  6. Always end your tweet with at least two, maybe three, hashtags. Think of your tweet as an advertisement and hashtags as the billboards you are putting your advertisement on.  Without a hashtag, your cleverly designed tweet has nowhere to be displayed.  No traffic will see it.  Here are some great hashtags (billboards) for writers:

#amreading
#amwriting
#TuesdayBookBlog
#1linewed
#Mondayblogs
#Greatreads
#Bookworm
#writerslife

There are tons more to be found at: http://bit.ly/1RhvLve

  1. If you want your tweet to go straight to a specific person, however, use the @ symbol in front of their twitter name (handle). This is different than sending them a direct message, which is private.  Using the @ symbol posts your tweet on their page (or feed) so their followers also see it.  Usually one does this if you specifically want a certain person to see your tweet or if you’re hoping they will retweet you.

Now for strategy:

  1. If you are just beginning and in need of followers, one idea is to go find your favorite authors and not only follow them, but follow some of their followers.
  2. That being said, don’t go too crazy and follow too many people, otherwise you will be following more people than are following you. This is normal in the beginning, but Twitter will block you if your numbers become too disproportionate.
  3. A good rule of thumb to avoid this problem is to give people a certain amount of time to follow you back before you cut them from the list. This seems cruel, but, believe me, it is necessary.  I try to give people a week, but you can decide what works best for you.
  4. Put effort into liking and retweeting others. Twitter is supposed to be about building a community, which seems at first to be a contradiction in terms, but it can be done.  But like any good community, it’s all about relationships.  Try to scratch someone’s back once in a while.
  5. As for subject matter, your tweets should be broken up into thirds. One-third should be about your book/project, one-third should be personal, and one-third should be other content that you’ve either retweeted from someone else or, better yet, that you’ve created yourself.
  6. Speaking of, Twitter seems to be made up of a lot of people who just retweet other people, so content, as it is everywhere, is king. If you can produce a decent, original tweet, such as a blog post, a book review, an article, a quote, or even a cartoon, chances are people will retweet it.
  7. Experiment with your tweets to find out what your followers like. Just keep throwing the spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
  8. That being said, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what makes a tweet get retweeted. Besides the content, it could very well be down to the particular hashtags you’ve sent it to, or even the time of day.  The amount of variables attached to the success of any tweet seems too staggering to try to calculate and use for future predictions, so best not to waste too much of your valuable writing time with this.

The best advice I can give regarding Twitter is to not take it too seriously.  In a single moment of incredulity, my nineteen year old destroyed any notion I had as to Twitter’s relevance by laughing at my sweated labor over each and every tweet and glibly informing me that “tweeting is what people do while they’re waiting in line.”

So, darlings, don’t worry about posting something that could possibly be considered “wrong,” as the fickleness of Twitter means that no one remembers anything for more than a nanosecond, so mistakes are quickly evaporated.  And chances are, this is a fad that may soon pass (we can only hope), so don’t sweat it too much.  Just keep trying – you’ll get it.