Thursday, 3 October 2019

A Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Writers

I first wrote my beginner’s guide to Twitter in January 2015, amending it in 2016 and re-writing in 2017. Since then, I’ve added changes when Twitter made them, but it’s time to re-write this post completely again, so here goes:

Why be on Twitter as a writer?

If you’re reading this, you’ll probably know that Twitter is useful for authors for many reasons. Twitter is great for building relationships with other authors, readers, book bloggers, librarians, book shops etc and a good way to stay up-to-date with the publishing industry. By being on Twitter, you’ll get to know who everyone is in the book world. Who are the agents and editors, and which agencies and publishers do they work for? And who are their authors? If you’re submitting your manuscript to agents/ editors directly, or about to self-publish, now is the time to set up a Twitter account, if you haven’t done so already and equip yourself with useful information found there, plus start to build your network as this can take some time.

In my beginner’s guide to Twitter for writers, @username means the handle (e.g., I’m @neetsmarketing) of who I'm talking about in an example and RT means retweet.

Please note, I’ve written this guide from a UK user’s perspective, which tends to have a hint of the personal touch. Other markets may be more open about self-promotion than the UK one. The assumption in this post is that you already have a Twitter account set up. To set up a Twitter account click here, and to set up Tweetdeck, which allows you to use columns for lists and searches, click here. You may prefer Hootsuite, but I find Tweetdeck works better for me. Examples use Twitter.com, but phone and tablet apps work in a similar way.





Set up using Twitter.com:

Choose a @username matching your author name (in image above is @neetsmarketing):

Sometimes your author name will be taken already, but you can add author to your name or: writer/writes, books, UK, or by including a middle initial etc. Underscores can be used, but I’d use them as a last resort, mainly because they're more difficult to remember (and you want your network to get to know your @username). And if @egusername is taken and you use @eguser_name, someone may use @egusername by mistake when mentioning you, meaning tweets meant to be seen by you appear in someone else’s notifications. I also find that unless someone is already well-known, usernames with underscores don’t always come up in Twitter searches. 

Name:
This should be your author name. You can add ‘Author’ after your author name. Some authors add emojis afterwards as well to match their brand. e.g., hearts for an author who writes romantic fiction etc.

Profile photo:
When setting up a Twitter account, add a profile photo that looks like you currently, if possible. Ideally, use a profile photo which makes you recognisable when meeting someone in real life, at a writer’s event or book launch etc, as then you’ll find someone you know online is more likely to approach you. Sometimes authors change their profile photo to their latest book cover (if the book is about to be or has just been released), which can be worthwhile. Use the same profile photo on Facebook, Instagram etc too-this way everyone will always know it’s you and follows/friending will probably be automatic whenever they see you.

Thanks to Anna Belfrage @abelfrageauthor for this beautiful Twitter header example














Header Photo:
A header photo should fit your brand, and could be a Twitter banner created by you, your publisher or a graphic designer you hire to include one or more of your book covers. Or it could be a photo of a location in your latest/upcoming novel.

Canva is useful for creating social media graphics, and you can use the template, Twitter Header.

Bio:
Put enough in your bio to make someone want to follow you as they’ll make their decision in a split second. If you’re a member of organisations such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) or Crime Writers' Association (CWA) include this and other RNA or CWA members are likely to follow you back. Include as much about your brand as possible: Which genre are your books, who are they published by, who's your agent (if applicable) and when (if historical)/where are they set? If your books are set in Italy, include this and Italy fans are likely to follow back. If you write 18thc novels, include this so those writers and historians follow you back. Add one or two interests if you can, and if there's space, include a link to your Instagram account, or at least the username.


Thanks to Sue Moorcroft  @SueMoorcroft for this Twitter profile example



























Pin a tweet to your profile:
Potential new followers are likely to see this when viewing your profile, along with your bio and it saves time for those in your network who wish to reciprocate when you’ve retweeted one of their tweets. Choose a tweet that makes you look good, obvs, with lots of likes and retweets. A pinned tweet usually would be what you’re trying to sell at the moment, or a tweet that defines you/your brand.


Check Twitter Settings:

Find Settings and privacy under ‘More’ below Profile. Go through each option and check you’re happy with everything. I wouldn't protect your tweets if you're looking to raise your online presence.




Who to follow:

Follow writers, potential readers, agents, editors and people who know about/are interested in subjects and themes from your book 
e.g.,: country houses, cooking, Italy, gardening, art. To search for accounts with words mentioned in the bio (or similar accounts), e.g., librarian, book blogger, reader; key words relating to your brand: go to #Explore (left under Home) or search box with magnifying glass, type in the search bar for example ‘book blogger’ and select People.

Search in Twitter using #Explore or magnifying glass in Search Twitter box

Aim to follow others like you, and look at who your peers and idols are following. Some writers say that having other writers as followers isn't going to help them, but writers can be incredibly supportive of each other. They're more likely to read your blog and share your posts. And writers read. They might buy your book, and write a review or tell friends and family (who are likely to be avid readers) about it or book clubs. Plus, if a writer in your genre is raving about your book to their followers, they are introducing you to their readers.

When you follow 5000+ people, the following can become tricky if your Follower/Following ratio isn't right. Find out more via Twitter help here.

It looks better if your following number is lower than your followers number. Check and control the number of users you follow with a website like Who Unfollowed Me? to see who isn't following you back (you may wish to stick with some of those though), and who has followed you and unfollowed as soon as you followed back. 
I wouldn’t advise tweeting the 'Who Unfollowed Me?' tweet set up for you when you login though (same applies to similar websites who encourage you to tweet unfollowing stats). With this kind of website, you're usually limited to a set number of unfollows per day without having to pay. 

Tweeting:

How do you compose a tweet?

-You have 280 characters, but don’t have to use them all.

-Avoid spelling mistakes/typos if you can. Tweets can’t be edited, but if you make a real mess of a tweet, you can delete it and start again. This can be a pain if you only notice after it’s been liked and retweeted a few times, so it depends on the situation and how important the tweet is.

-Make sure any links included work (they often don’t).

-Include @usernames for anyone mentioned, rather than actual names-unless they’re not on Twitter (make sure you have the correct @username-I often see the wrong ones used, by big organisations too). If the wrong @username is included, the right person won’t know you’ve mentioned them, meaning less engagement for the tweet and looking a bit silly.

-add images/video/gifs to get more engagement, but not to all tweets.


One of the Sanditon gifs


-Use relevant hashtags to expand your reach (ideally no more than two, three max). Make sure you’re using the correct hashtag in relation to events (often, I see two or three floating around for an event, meaning your tweet won’t be noticed if you’re not using the official one). Don’t over-hashtag as it looks spammy. And don’t include hashtags in all of your tweets if you want to add a personal touch (advisable for writers). More on hashtags below.

-You can tag users in photos (if they’ve given Twitter permission in settings). This is a space saver and can make a tweet look cleaner as their @username doesn’t come up in the text part of the tweet. It works well if you want to tag your publisher and agent in a photo of your book cover for example.

The 2019 RNA Conference














Polls:
These get a fair bit of attention and they can be fun or serious. You could ask users how they like their eggs or I’ve used Twitter polls to ask which blog post I should write next.


Thanks to Gina Kirkham @GinaGeeJay for this example


To create a new Twitter poll, click on the tweet compose box, then click the add poll icon which looks like a graph (between GIF and smiley face) to create your own poll. Voting is anonymous and you can create up to four choices, plus set how long you'd like the poll to last for.



Threads:
These are great if you want to take up more than one tweet with information about something. Joanne Harris @Joannechocolat tweets a lot of useful threads for writers. Often agents and editors use threads to explain what's happening in publishing or to give advice on submitting or editing. Below is an example of a fantastic thread by Literary Agent, Kate Nash using research on what's popular now and on trends, leading to 'what themes will be popular in fiction in 2020'? This thread is well worth a read if you're a writer, and you can click through to all the tweets in the thread below the image.

Thanks to Literary Agent, Kate Nash @katenashagent for this thread example. Click here to see rest of thread.






BUT, what do I tweet about?

I’ve been asked this question a lot when teaching.

For this, you need to be aware of what your brand is: subjects and themes from your books and a bit about you. Look at what your peers and idols are doing. You can learn a lot on social media by observing those who do it well.

Example of five tweets in one day (choosing one from each no):
1.Pre-order, new release, book blogger review, ebook 99p offer, cover reveal, info on an upcoming library talk etc (promo tweet).
2 Link to your latest blog post/guest post/article or to one that fits with your brand.
3. Chatty tweet about what you’re up to this week or a comment on everyday life (e.g., below).
4. Use a ‘What’s Trending?’ hashtag (more below).
5. Sharing info about someone in your network-perhaps an author with same publisher who has a book out (by creating your own tweet or quoting their tweet rather than retweeting theirs-see retweeting below).

Play around with layout, text, photos and timing:
You can keep all of the text together, or have lines in between. Try with and without emojis. Add and exclude photos, videos and gifs. Use graphics for blog posts and book promo. Create tweets with and without hashtags, and vary hashtags. Vary time of day for promo tweets. 

Event tweets:
If you’re going to an event such as a literary festival, writers’ conference, book launch, there will be loads of content for you to share. Take lots of photos and use the right hashtag, if one is being used (see more under Hashtags below).

What’s Trending:
It’s worth keeping an eye on what's trending on Twitter as often you’ll find there's a hashtag/topic relevant to you and your brand. Favourite TV programmes and those relevant to your brand usually appear here when they're being broadcast (e.g., Poldark or Sanditon if you write in that era or around then). There may be anniversaries relevant to your book such as Remembrance Sunday or Mother’s Day, in which case when the day approaches check to see which hashtag for the anniversary is appearing in What’s Trending (as usually there will be more than one hashtag used). Once you’ve got into the habit of looking at What’s Trending, you can predict what some of those hashtags will be e.g., #October1st and #TuesdayThoughts are trending as I write this post. See more under Hashtags below.


Example of What's Trending

Get out of the house:
If you’re struggling for content to use in tweets, get out of the house and take loads of photos. Go on a research trip or scenic walk etc. Or you could stay in the house and take photos there-of piles of books, bookcases, baking achievements, the garden etc.





What I'd call a chatty tweet (no hashtags, or photos/videos/gifs):


The downside of using Twitter:
Twitter can be negative and not very nice, but there are ways to avoid that side of it, by blocking and muting (words and hashtags as well as users-see below) and by staying away when it isn't uplifting. Do be aware that your tweets are visible to the public (unless you’re protecting your tweets which I wouldn’t do if you’re trying to raise your profile online), so think before you tweet.

Building a network by interacting and sharing content by others:

If you don't share content from others like you, how can you expect anyone to share yours? 

Retweeting:
This is a way for you to share content by others, especially those in your network and for others to share content by you. Don’t make retweeting the only thing you do on Twitter.

You can either directly retweet a tweet, or you can add your own comment (also known as Quote Tweet). In the below tweet, I've added a comment. I could have instead retweeted the original tweet by clicking on the two arrows with no 3 next to them. 


Example of a Quote Tweet (tweet with comment)-thanks to Elaine Everest

























Make the most of the Quote Tweet option when retweeting, by adding your comment when you have something to say. Usually the original user will retweet your Quote Tweet if it's helpful to them. And if someone quotes your tweet in a positive way, retweet their tweet. More on retweeting in my post, 3 Ways to Retweet on Twitter.

Don’t be a Spammer:
Don’t include ‘Please RT’ in any tweet as it looks desperate and will probably have the opposite effect. And don't mention someone with information about your book, blog etc, expecting them to RT this. See more on spamming under ‘When to Use Direct Message’ below.

Respond to notifications:
It’s really important that you're aware of any notifications you receive and that you action them accordingly. The way to build a network is to acknowledge when someone does something for you, and by trying to reciprocate in return where possible. These days, you can't possibly thank everyone for a simple RT, but perhaps RT in return, especially for those in your network. If your tweet receives a phenomenal number of RTs as part of a popular hashtag, a general thank you tweet including the hashtag works.

Support peers and idols by congratulating them on writing achievements, bestseller flags, winning of awards etc. 


Replies:  
If someone mentions you (i.e., includes your @username in a tweet):

Try to reply in some way (unless they’re spammers, are being inappropriate etc- see below on how to block/report spam). Liking a tweet (clicking on heart) is an acknowledgement and is the equivalent of liking or reacting on Facebook, but it's better to reply, if you have time (I also like tweets to monitor what I've actioned in my notifications). 

If someone goes to the trouble of constructing or quoting a tweet mentioning your book, blog post etc, try to say thanks. It can look unappreciative if you don’t acknowledge when someone makes an effort to help you out (and it's unlikely they'll do it again). Obvs this doesn't apply to tweets linking to negative book reviews.

If someone mentions you in a tweet without including your @username, you won’t see the tweet unless you search for it. Readers often do this. Search for your name in Twitter often to find these tweets, or add a column in Tweetdeck/Hootsuite to catch them.

Be aware that if you're mentioned in a tweet with other users and you reply, the tweet will automatically include their @usernames, giving them a notification. You don't always want to include everyone in replies, and can untick their names before sending the tweet. Click on the names and a box will appear giving you this option.


Tweet by my alter-ego @neetswriter






Hashtags:  

There is a bit of confusion around hashtags, but once you get the hang of them, they're easy to understand. Searching a hashtag is a way to find tweets on particular topics, trends, events etc. Most books have their own hashtag now.

Hashtags can be used to reach beyond your followers. If you compose a tweet without a hashtag, only your followers (and their followers if they RT) or those subscribed to a list with you included will see it, or someone searching through your tweets (as long as they’re not protected). The other way someone will see your tweet is due to the algorithm (more on this below under Are hashtags still effective then?).

Using a hashtag means your tweet is more likely to be seen by others following the hashtag e.g., #amwriting #WritingCommunity #amreading #histfic #romance #chicklit #crimefiction. Those using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite might have columns for hashtags they're especially interested in (I do). Only use two hashtags in a tweet at the most, three max otherwise your tweets look automated and spammy. 

Using the wrong hashtag can make you look as though you don’t know what you’re doing, so research one before using it (try Hashtagify). Use hashtags for popular TV or radio programmes etc which you enjoy, or which are part of your brand e.g., #poldark #sandition. Use hashtags for #coverreveal #preorder etc too. There are so many out there, with some being more effective than others (look at what your peers and idols are using), and it’s worth investigating what would be useful to you. If you attend a writing event, use the (right) hashtag to find other attendees or to report from the event e.g., London Book Fair #lbf19. 



Find readers through common interests by looking up hashtags for subjects you’re interested in, and find hashtags related to your book(s). If your book is set in Cornwall, find readers through #Poldark, for example (see Liz Fenwick's guest post for more on this).

Make the most of blog sharing hashtags such as #MondayBlogs to promote blog posts (not book promo though). You should only take part in these hashtags if you’re prepared to reciprocate by retweeting other tweets which include the hashtag. Find out more about #MondayBlogs here

Twitter chat hashtags: there are a lot of these, which take place at set times such as #askagent, #PitchCB, #HistFicChat and #UKRomChat. They can be fun to join in with, plus taking part in a Twitter chat can be a way to grow your network.

See my post on hashtags, 
What are Hashtags, Why Use Them, and How? for more info (also linked to at end of this post).

Are hashtags still that effective then?
Since I last re-wrote this post in 2017, Twitter has changed and so has the role of hashtags. I see a lot of tweets in my timeline because of the way the Twitter algorithm now works. Hashtags are still relevant, but I don’t find them as relevant on Twitter as they once were. For example, if someone writes an effective chatty tweet without any hashtags and it gets lots of likes, Twitter shows that tweet to more users and it gains more likes and retweets because of this. Often you’ll see tweets in your timeline by a user you’re not following because someone you are following has liked it. From this, you can see that if you like a tweet, you are helping that user and so ‘likes’ have become a lot more powerful since the algorithm changed. However, #amwriting and #WritingCommunity continue to get some attention (often a lot) when included in tweets.

Here’s some useful info on the Twitter algorithm so you can see what I mean:



When to use Direct Message (“DM” or “PM”):

For me, Direct Message is best used when you talk to someone online often and want to ask it they’d like to be a guest on your blog and if yes, what’s their email address.  Or if someone’s won a giveaway competition and you need to ask for their postal address. You can usually only DM someone if they’re following you, unless an account has enabled the option to receive DMs from anyone (more likely for a business, although this is likely to give you a lot of spam and unwanted messages). I prefer Facebook Messenger for these kinds of exchanges, although it’s easier if you’re Facebook Friends with who you’re talking to, otherwise your message could be filtered and they might not see it. Some people do ignore Twitter DMs too, which is worth bearing in mind.

Don’t DM new followers with spam, asking them to like your Facebook Page, visit your website, buy your book etc. This can lose you followers, or get you reported for posting spam. And it’s annoying.

How to block someone and/or report them for spam:

Go into the @username profile, click on the three horizontal dots and the option to block or report will appear as per the image below (am not suggesting you block me!-can't really use anyone else's profile as an example...).

Muting:

If you know someone professionally or personally and they do a lot of promo and/or over-retweet, you can opt to mute them without causing offence. This means you'll no longer see their tweets, and they won't know. You can also mute words and hashtags which is really useful:

How to Use Advanced Muting Options, via Twitter Help Center.

Stats:

Use 
Twitter analytics to see which are your most popular tweets, and more.

As someone who used to spend hours on stats and management reporting in my previous career, I’m not a big believer in spending all day analysing them and think it’s better to spend precious time creating tweets rather than analysing them at length. Just check in every now and again and make sure that on the Home page, the arrows are green and pointing upwards, unless you’ve had a break recently. It’s fairly easy to see which tweets are working and which ones aren’t. You can play around with tweets to see what works (I do this a lot as research). Click on Tweets next to Home, and look at the engagement rate, which should be as high as possible. There is a lot more to see here if you have the time to browse.

Impressions are the number of times your tweet has been seen on Twitter. Profile clicks are likely to gain you new followers if you have got your bio set up properly, you have a good pinned tweet and your recent tweets are interesting.


Put a Twitter button and feed on your blog and/or website:

Why write a fabulous blog post, but not promote it on Twitter? (and elsewhere). Why not have links to your Twitter @username (and Facebook Page) on your blog? Sometimes I see a great post that I’d like to share on Twitter, but I can’t tell if the writer of the post is on Twitter (usually they are), and sometimes I can’t find their name on their own blog. This is a missed opportunity to have your work shared. Put a Twitter Button, and if you can a Twitter feed on your blog and website.




Taking Twitter to the next Level:

Using Twitter lists:
Set up Twitter lists for groups of people in your network such as members of RNA, HNS, CWA; other authors with same publisher and/or agent, writers, readers, book bloggers, librarians, bookshops; plus for subjects relating to your brand. Twitter lists are great for finding good content to share. If you want to stay on top of blog posts/writing news written by, for example RNA members, you can scan the tweets in your RNA list. You don’t have to follow someone to add them to your list. Set up private lists rather than public ones, otherwise everyone you add will receive a notification. Find out more about Twitter lists in my post, 'What Can Twitter Lists Do For You?'

Subscribe to public Twitter lists created by others in your network/relating to your brand as well, if those lists are useful to you. In this case, you'll see tweets from users on the list without having to follow them all. See this public list for the Book Connectors Facebook Page, by Anne Cater as an example.

Schedule promo tweets to get ahead with Tweetdeck/Hootsuite, and there are other Social Media Management Tools too, such as Buffer. I find Tweetdeck easy to use.

Scheduling takes off the pressure, leaving you able to drop in when you have a spare moment to share content from others, and to tweet live.

Do searches:
I add columns to Tweetdeck for important Twitter lists, hashtags and searches. Tweetdeck is useful if you use more than one Twitter account and want to follow someone from all accounts at the same time, or retweet from more than one account (be careful when scheduling, liking, and replying to tweets if using more than one account, by ensuring you’ve clicked on the correct account). 

Set up columns for hashtags, and relevant search words including your own name, book titles, links to your blog and website. 

Use temporary columns for events such as the London Book Fair: #lfb19

That's it! Hope the post is helpful. There is so much to know about Twitter, but you should have what you need to get up and running here. 

Twitter Help Center:

Loads of useful stuff here re ‘the how’ of Twitter.

About me (Anita Chapman):


I'm a freelance social media manager with clients mostly in the world of books. I run my own one day social media courses for writers in London and in 2020, Norwich (next course is 16 November 2019) and I've worked as a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College (Surrey, UK). I draft social media plans for author clients and do training over the phone and Skype. Find out more and ask about my New Client Package, with course booking info via my website: neetsmarketing.com. You can follow me on Twitter @neetsmarketing, Instagram @neetswriter, and my neetsmarketing Facebook page is here.

My upcoming Social Media Courses for Writers are:

16 November 2019, London.






One to one work with authors:
Find out more about my New Client Package via my website. This is the most popular of my packages and it includes a call and social media plan, usually in the run up to a book launch.

Sue Moorcroft said, ‘Asking Anita to write me a social media plan was a revelation…’
Sue Bentley said, ‘All writers need an Anita Chapman…’
Karen King said, ‘Anita was recommended to me by a fellow author, and I’m so pleased that I took their advice...’


Other neetsmarketing posts about Twitter: