Twitter for Authors

Every indie author needs a Twitter account. It’s a vital tool for promoting your books. When you first use it though it seems a little pointless. Many people start an account and then drift away because they just don’t know what’s going on. I wrote this author’s guide to Twitter as part of my book ‘A Guide to Getting Published’.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is like mini-blogging. In a blog you are not limited in length. On Twitter you are allowed just 140 characters – including spaces and punctuation. You need to build a Twitter following. When you start using Twitter it will invite you to add those people who have Twitter accounts on your email contact list and those on your friend list at other social media sites. It will also invite you to follow the accounts of celebrities. You don’t have to know the ‘Tweep’ as they are called. Just start with your email and other ‘friends’ and see what they are posting on Twitter.

The image above shows a typical tweet. The original tweet has been re-tweeted twice. As far as authors are concerned this is the power of Twitter. A post can be tweeted and quickly go viral if it strikes the right chord.
You can get Twitter account at http://twitter.com. It’s possible to sign up for more than one account but you will need a unique email address for each. There’s also an app available for smartphones, Android tablets (including the Kindle Fire HD) and iPads. These apps are free.
So how does one start? The answer is first to build up a following. There’s a useful application which will help you do this – Crowdfire (formerly JustUnfollow). Find it at https://www.crowdfireapp.com/. Although its old name suggests it is a tool for getting rid of followers, it’s far more useful for finding new people to follow. Crowdfire has a web page that you can use with a desktop computer but also has a mobile app which can be put on a smartphone or Android tablet from the Google Play Store. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available at the Amazon App Store. 
Don’t get suckered into buying followers! A word of warning – there are many webpages which claim you can buy followers by the thousand. Doing this is against Twitter’s user policy and most of these ‘followers’ will be useless to you.

Who not to follow

I suggest you don’t follow:
·         People who have not tweeted for more than two months.
·         People who only tweet quotes.
·         People who never re-tweet others.
·         People who only tweet links to things to buy.
·         People who post only pictures.
·         People who never respond to others – look for tweets starting @….
·         People who don’t have a profile picture.
·         People whose tweets always start with “I….”
·         People who don’t appear to speak your language.
·         People who follow very few people compared with their number of followers. Follow these only if they interest you. There is a sneaky trick you can use here though.
Note – for every one of these guidelines there is an exception that says ‘…unless they are really interesting.’

Who to follow

Look for people who are active on Twitter. Try to gather followers interested in what your book is about. Find people who read and especially people who review the books they have read.
By all means follow me – @JChapmanAuthor but I suggest you don’t until you follow at least 200-400 other people. I tweet an awful lot and don’t want to monopolise your Twitter feed
If you follow John Locke’s promotion system beware of acquiring a following which consists purely of authors. Try to get a varied audience. Authors do buy books though and they will help you by re-tweeting your posts and coming up with good ideas. Help them back! It pays.
A process I’ve found useful in finding Tweeps (The name of Twitter users) is to look at the ‘follower’ list of others. You can do that using an application such as JustUnfollow or do it directly by selecting the followers of someone from their profile page. To get to someone’s profile page just click their Twitter handle – the bit starting @…. At the top left you’ll find a link ‘Followers’. Click that to get a list of them. In the image below I show doing that with one of the people I follow – Karin Cox (@Authorandeditor). Karin’s tweets show she thinks in the same way as I do and I’m pretty sure that people who follow her will be worth investigating.

You can also check the list of people a Twitter friend follows. That’s not possible in JustUnfollow though.

Whichever system you use I suggest you don’t try to follow more than 125 people in one go. Even then it’s wise to spread that over several hours. Twitter may think you are spamming and freeze your account for a while.
Click the Twitter name of each and check the posts in their profile. Don’t follow blindly! Use that list of who not to follow above as a guide for weeding out people who won’t be of use to you. Aim to add 25 people to your ‘Following’ list each day Spend a few minutes scanning through posts each day and check out the tweets of those who follow you. Keep this up until you are following 2,000 Tweeps. At this point a Twitter limit will kick in and you’ll find you can’t add more to your ‘following’ list. To add more you’ll need to have a 90% followers to following ratio. If you want to have that 2,001stperson you must be followed by 1,801 people. To follow 3,000 people you must be followed by 2,700 people. At this point Crowdfire will really become your friend.

What to tweet

Tweet a variety of items. Read the tweets of those you follow, respond or re-tweet those which strike a chord with you, browse the web and tweet pages you find of interest. There’s a useful browser extension you can get – Buffer at http://bufferapp.comwhich will help you do that. (You can find more information on Buffer and its alternative, HootSuite online.) Read the news; post interesting items and make meaningful comments. If you find an interesting or funny quote then by all means post it – just not endless quotations. Use Twitter to point people to your blog and website.
Place advertisements for your book in posts but do so very sparingly. You should not make more than 15% of your posts links to your books. Never make ‘Buy my book’ posts. Instead post ‘I came across this while I was researching my book…’, ‘I wrote about this in…’ or links to blog articles with subtle book references. Ask questions – ‘Want a #free #technothriller? ….’

Twitter – a snapshot in time

Whenever you go to Twitter you’ll see a snapshot of recent tweets. As the number of people you follow grows that snapshot becomes a tiny window through which you look at a huge panorama. When you are following a thousand Tweeps there will be new posts every few seconds. You will not see the vast majority of the tweets people you follow post. Neither will your followers see most of your tweets unless you put their twitter username in the post. My friend Aaron Hatman – @aaronhatman probably won’t see a post like this:
‘New topless Rhianna picture! pic.twitter.com/bAZLbuKL (pic)’ (For those of you who are shocked – it’s not quite what you think).
Aaron would see it if it was posted as ‘@aaronhatman – New topless Rhianna picture! pic.twitter.com/bAZLbuKL(pic)’. Even if Aaron is not using Twitter when the post is made he will see it when he clicks ‘@ Connect’ on the Twitter toolbar
Not only will Aaron see the post but it will also appear on the Twitter feed of anyone who follows Aaron and that’s useful! (Dirty Twitter trick coming up) If you want all your followers to see the tweet start it with ‘.@’.

Twitter Spamming

Some Twitter users set out to build a huge Twitter following by following everyone they come across, waiting a few days and un-following all those who have not followed them back. If they run out of follow rights then they make space by un-following even those who have followed back. These people just want followers – they are not interested in taking part in conversations. Once they have built up thousands of followers they will usually start posting nothing but adverts – Twitter spamming. If you identify such a person is now following you. Don’t follow them back – respond to their following message with a message such as
‘Thanks for the follow @selfishtweep. Check out my pyramid #technothriller Stones,Stars & Solutions http://amzn.to/16osMxN
Not only will this appear on their feed but it will also appear on the feeds of all those who have been silly enough to follow @selfishtweep.

Making your tweets work for you

An average Tweep won’t spend long on Twitter each day so the chances of them seeing your post are small but there are several things you can do to increase the odds.
1.       Tweet more often. Professional marketers make posts up to six times an hour 24/7. Of course that’s quite impossible to do if you also want to write books, sleep, eat and enjoy life. The answer is to use an automatic tweeting service such as Buffer or HootSuite to tweet on your behalf.
2.       Use hashtags to make your tweets more discoverable. I used the hashtag #technothriller in my post above. Hashtags are keywords used by groups of Tweeps. They can be normal words or a collection of symbols. Try to use two hashtags. That gets you 21% more attention. Using more than three has the opposite effect. If you must use three then put two together and the third as far away from them as possible. Don’t start your tweet with a hashtag.
3.       Try to keep your tweets to less than 120 characters. Shorter tweets draw more attention
4.       Re-tweet the posts of other authors. They often respond by re-tweeting your posts. There are Twitter groups which you can join which do this. Find them on Facebook or at Goodreads. One such group is ASMSG – Author’s Social Media Support Group (http://on.fb.me/18KucG0)
5.       We are told Twitter works best at the weekend. I’ve found that to be true. You can check this for yourself after you’ve been on Twitter a while by getting a Tweriod report (http://www.tweriod.com/) which will tell you the best times to tweet.
Helpful websites for Twitter are:

Happy tweeting… and if you can think of anything I’ve left out which may be of use to authors… why not add it in the comments below?

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