Twitters, Tweeters, Twits and Twitterers – whatever you choose to call them, the internet is abuzz with people using Twitter – the latest in social networking tools. Twitter functions like a micro-blog. You have 140 characters to write a post, or “tweet” and publish it on your twitter feed. You can follow other tweeter’s feeds, and they can follow you.
It doesn’t sound like anything more than a Facebook update without the silly quizzes, but Twitter has the social networking universe by storm. Celebrities, bloggers, artists, designers, teachers, taxi drivers and mechanics tweet about their lives. Everyone who’s anyone has a Twitter feed, and if you’re a writer marketing a book online, you should have one, too.
Writers are already leveraging Twitter to gain more readers and interact with other authors and publishing contacts. Twitter works like a blog, but on a tiny scale – you write your posts, comment on other people’s posts, and link to articles and pictures of interest, all in fewer than 140 characters. Getting started on Twitter takes 5 minutes, and writers may be surprised by the results.
How do I use Twitter?
Head over to twitter.com and sign up. Choose a name for your feed that reflects your author brand – your name or penname, or the title of your recent book. Use different combinations if your desired name has already been taken – just like you would for an email address or web domain. Whatever your feed name, make sure it’s something easy to remember.
Next, go to your homepage and type your first tweet. Type any message you like, as long as it’s less than 140 characters. Publish your tweet for your followers to read.
No followers yet? Not a problem, click on the “find people” icon and start typing in names of your favorite authors, websites, agents, magazines, editors, publishers, bloggers and friends. Chances are most of them will have a Twitter page, too. Follow them, follow their followers, and follow anyone who follows you (who isn’t an adult dancer). Follow as many people as you can to start with. Sooner or later, you’ll have them following back.
You can update your Twitter as often as you’d like, but I find once a day or so to be sufficient. Click on other people’s names to go to their Twitter feeds. If someone says something you want to comment on, write a post in your feed using their name and the @ symbol – for example @steffmetal. This lets me know that you’ve commented on my tweet.
If you like someone’s message and you want to post it on your own feed, you add RT to the original message (stands for re-tweet) and the @username. This way, people can click through and see the original post.
How do I use Twitter to promote my book?
Different writers tackle Twitter promotion in various ways. Some authors, like YA novelist Melissa Marr, use Twitter like an extension of their blog – posting little snippets about their life and interacting with other authors.
This method works extremely well if you already have a large following – say from a blog or discussion forum. Using your Twitter as an extension of your personality allows readers to bond with you on a deeper level – and this translates to more sales.
Be careful with blog-style tweets however, as people tire of endless tweets about your dog’s intestinal difficulties or the fight you had with your mother-in-law. If you’re not providing readers with something they can take away, you’ll soon find yourself with no followers
Other authors use Twitter as an ingenious formula for other self-promotion materials. Hope Clark has created a series of tweetebooks: ebooks in Twitter format detailing market listings for writers. Children’s author Louise Curtis created “twittertales” – serialized stories she tells 140 characters at a time.
Another great promotional tool is Twitter competitions – authors can offer a drawing of free books to readers who re-tweet their details – thus gaining even more exposure.
Sign up to the Twitter feeds of magazines and publications within your niche. Read and respond to their tweets and you may find yourself with a new writing assignment. Many writers find new contacts and create future work via discussions on Twitter.
Success on Twitter means creating succinct, bite-sized nuggets of information readers find worthy of attention. It takes talent to boil your thoughts into 140 characters, but that’s what makes Twitter such a great platform for writers. We know how to shape words to our whim. Whether you use humor, advice, competitions or micro-blogging to hook your readers, a Twitter account might be your ticket to a whole new audience.
Steff Green is a freelance writer from New Zealand with over 70 publications to her name. She writes a blog at www.steffmetal.com and tweets at www.twitter.com/steffmetal