In the past month or so, I’ve been asked this question a few times in regards to authoring or business owning: How does Twitter help?
They asked me because I’m a big Twitter nerd. HUGE, even. The only time I missed a day on Twitter was when I was camping with my family and literally had no signal. But rest assured, I was thinking about all I could tweet while I was in technological Siberia.
As I debated how to answer that question today via email, I asked myself how I could explain the benefits of Twitter and how to use it in a concise-enough-for-email way. I ended up telling the intended recipient I would write a post and send him the link, because Twitter has too much going for it for a concise email. Since those who asked are either brand new to Twitter or have yet to sign up, I’m starting at the very beginning.
So why is Twitter awesome for authors and business owners?
It’s all about visibility and interaction. Don’t miss that second point. Too many authors/business owners just slap links on Twitter and call it a day. Twitter is not a catalog. Think of it more like a huge online conference targeted to your specific area of expertise (which is easy to do with hashtags. More on that here and later in this post.) You wouldn’t go to a writing conference, stand on a table, and yell shit about your book. People would ignore you and eventually throw you out. Yet spamming links is basically doing exactly that. Don’t be a table standing shit yeller.
At a real conference, you meet people. You interact. Yes, you talk about your projects, but as part of a conversation. You join specialized workshops and share ideas. You talk about strategies and successes. You make professional connections. And sometimes, you engage in meaningless banter and grow friendships.
And all of that happens on Twitter.
First, the basics: How to set up a Twitter account for success. If you’re already signed up you can skip this part, but if you’ve only done that maybe give this section a quick scan. If you want to gain real life human followers, they’ll need to see right away who you are and what you’re about. There are lots of bots (fake accounts) on Twitter, and they’re easy to spot because of what’s on their profiles. If you accidentally include something they use, potential followers may think you’re a bot and skip over your profile.
Step one: Pics
When you first sign up, you’ll see an egg (where your profile pic will go) and a colorful yet blank banner (your header photo’s future home). That’s where you’ll put your face and something that represents what you’re doing. Refrain from using your book cover as your profile pic. People want to follow people, not inanimate objects. You are you, not your book. Book covers belong in the header photo.
I’m using my own profile for illustration purposes. Pretend there’s an egg where my face is and a blank nothing where my books are. Start by clicking “Edit profile” on the right side of the screen.
Click on those cameras, and you can upload photos of your face for your profile and whatever you want for your header. I recommend something that will communicate what you do with a half-second glance, because that’s about all you’ll get from a potential follower. Pretty mountain scenes or leaving it a big blank nothing won’t help you.
Don’t use pics that make you look like a bot: animals, obvious stock photos, food (unless you’re a restaurant owner, but again, you are you, not your food), or the default Twitter egg.
Step two: The Bio
Back to the edit screen, under your profile pic and your name is a place to write your bio.
You get as much space as I’ve used there, so you’ll have to be on point. Say who you are and what you do (say more than “author” though). Add a shortened link to your web site, if you have one, or to your Amazon or Goodreads page. Use hashtags to connect yourself to those followings (remember the conference idea?). But don’t get carried away with the hashtags, because:
Bios that make you look like a bot: all hashtags, only a quote, no bio.
Many tweeps underestimate the importance of a good bio. This is your chance to tell people what you’re about in a short space. Making them guess is irritating and most will pass you by rather than try to figure you out.
Click “Save changes”, and you’re ready to tweet! From your profile it looks like this:
The Tweet button opens a box, where you can type your genius words.
See those hashtags? Those separate the different “conferences” on Twitter. Writers hang out at #amwriting or #writetip. Parents are easy to find at #parenting. If you’re looking for a specific genre, head to #mystery or #yalit or whatever hashtag matches your flavor. Use hashtags to reach tweeps who don’t follow you, and they may follow you when they see your interesting, non-spammy tweets. You may also find tweeps who you think are interesting and follow them.
Those are the basics of Twitter. I leave you with a few cautionary tips:
- 99.9% of direct messages (DMs) are automated. Don’t feel compelled to answer because the computer that sent them won’t care and won’t answer. They usually are from someone you just followed instructing you on how to like their facebook page. DMs are a waste of time.
- You’ll get followers offering a deal to buy followers. These are bots peddling more bots. Save your money. You want real followers, not fake accounts. Remember, Twitter is about interaction. Bots can’t do that.
- Occasional promos are okay. Some say to follow the 80-20 rule – 80% non promo to 20% promo. I don’t even do that much. But I do have a promo tweet pinned to the top of my profile, as you may have noticed. Those are great for an evergreen promo that thankful followers will retweet.
Ready for more? Check out Part 2 to learn about pinned tweets, list creation, and increasing engagement.
I know that was a lot, so feel free to ask questions in the comments!