Can Twitter Really Help An Author? A Beginner’s Guide

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?

confused twitterThey 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.

twitter profile editIt will then look like this:

twitter profile edit1Click 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.

twitter profile 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:

twitter profile edit2

The Tweet button opens a box, where you can type your genius words.

first tweet

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

44 thoughts on “Can Twitter Really Help An Author? A Beginner’s Guide

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    • It’s hard to put time into something you don’t enjoy. I’m signed up on Google+ and Pinterest too, but I do little with them bc they aren’t as fun for me.

      I’ll be addressing how to increase engagement on Twitter in next week’s post. If you’re like me, your interest in it will grow when others start interacting with you more.

      btw – I love the name of your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nice Handle!

      I understand exactly what you mean.

      I find it difficult to concentrate on the relevant conversations with so much “noise”.

      Twitter is like learning a new language.

      I had to retire to find time for it all!

      Liked by 2 people

        • I hope not too!

          I’ve tried different things while working full time and found it impossible.

          I decided to retire for many reasons, some on them based on family needs.

          It got to the point that after using up almost all my sick leave and vacation time while on family medical leave, it became impossible to rebuild the time due to doctor appoints continually eating away the time.

          By this time next year, I would be taking time out “off the books” which is discouraged and has been abused by the younger employees.

          Finally, I just couldn’t shack the thought that:

          I may not be able to afford retirement now, but if I keep working, I’ll never be able to afford it anyway.

          I have met the 30 year employment and age requirements, have some benefits, and am following my dream of working from home. Hopefully, my retirement project will pan out. If not this one, perhaps another, or both.

          I found this post through one of the assignments in my Blogging 101 course at Blogging University.

          The assignment is to “follow 5 tags and follow 5 blogs in the Reader”.

          If you have a WordPress blog it is easy to join and free, even if you blog isn’t on WordPress.

          This post got me motivated to open a new Twitter account.

          I’m sure that at some point we will learn more about social media as well (note related posts).

          Perhaps Allison can help us discover ways of dealing with other social media platforms as well.

          Maybe if we ask nice?

          Just kidding…She is already doing a wonderful job.

          Perhaps I should try the tag “social media help” in the reader to see if a connection develops?

          If I find something helpful, you will give a follow-up.

          I’m not sure how Allison would feel about me dropping a link or two.

          Perhaps she will respond to this to clarify.

          Have to go now, supper is on!

          Liked by 2 people

          • A link or two is fine, but I wouldn’t do more than that. I don’t want WP to think you’re a spammer and stop posting your comments.

            Or, since you’re starting your own blog, save the links for a post about what you learned. 😉


          • I too shall take a look at Blogging 101 so thank you for that.
            I am sure Allison will be more than happy to help as she seems like a very nice lady indeed.
            Also, if I can help you answer any problems you may be experiencing then please just ask.
            Good luck with your plans as well!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Good Day to You Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet,

              WordPress University offers their courses on a schedule.

              The way I get notices in the Reader when new classes are starting, is to follow the tag:

              “The Daily Post”

              The current class started this week. It runs for 26 working days, 5 of them have now passed.

              I imagine that they will start a new Blogging 101 class shortly after this one ends.

              You will be able to follow a link to their blog in the reader, after you subscribe to the tag.


              The second text field down in the left column under “TAGS” is where you can type in the tag you want to follow, in the Reader. The tags you are following will show up under this field. If you decide not to continue to follow a tag, just click the “X” to the right of the tag’s name in the list.

              Thank you for offering me help if I need it.

              I agree, Allison is indeed a very nice lady!

              Likewise, if you should want more support from me, feel free to ask.

              You can always use the Contact Form on my site, I’m sure to remember your wonderful handle!

              I will be happy to email you in return, and we can keep any future conversations in a more private setting, if you like.

              My Best to You and Allison

              Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the “heads up” on the links and WordPress!

          I didn’t realize WP would do something like thinking I’m a spammer for just sharing links in comments on a post, when the owner has given prior approval.

          In fact, I thought it would be totally your call to inform them that I was spamming.

          I appreciate the education!

          This may be a good question to ask in the Commons.

          “When a blog owner has given you permission to share “reference” links to on topic with helpful information, is there reason to be concerned about WordPress considering me a “spammer” and stops posting my comments? Isn’t that up to the blog owner?”

          By the way, I’m up to 3 of the 5 follows in the reader. I’m determined to get to 5 relevant to my niche.

          I’m really looking forward to your next post!

          By “list creation” you must be talking about email marketing?

          I will have to start it without the benefit of an auto responder for now until my project can pay for one.

          Managing a small list at first, shouldn’t be too difficult.

          Your recommendations will be worth looking into, I’m sure.

          The attention you pay to comments is appreciated as well.

          My Best to You


          • Oh my!

            While following the “social media help” tag I saw references to the Twitter List.

            You must be referring to Twitter, not email marketing.

            Thanks again for the education!

            I have also posted the Links/spammer question on the Commons.

            My apologizes for side tracking off topic.

            I wonder where my Avatar has gone?

            Back to the Tags!

            Liked by 1 person

          • List creation is another twitter thing. It’s a way to weed out the constant book and product tweets. Twitter lists are my favorite. 🙂

            WP identifying spammers has more to do with an algorithm than with permissions. Bots target blog comments to post spammy links. I doubt you’d hit whatever the number of links is or whatever for the algorithm to flag you, which is why I recommend keeping the number of links on the low side.


            • Hello Allison,

              I will put a small “heads up” reply in Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet’s comment. It looks like the conversation was somehow broken. I want to make sure he notices this update to the conversation.

              I have not only found 2 references, but my fourth tag and blog to follow in the Reader.

              Below are links to the two blogs I found using the tag “social media help” (I’m following the second one):

              High Key Impact – Marketing Consulting

              Here is an Example of Why I Love My Social Marketing Job – SocialSteve’s Blog

              In regards to the above post and blog:

              I recommend clicking on “Three Social Marketing Fundamentals” in the main menu.

              Under “Content Marketing with Social Marketing”. in the article, Steve has an image of a target listing Brand; Content; Sharing; Advocates.

              Under the target he goes into great detail describing the importance of each.

              He also talks about “Holistic Social Marketing” and “Meaningful Social Metrics”.

              Something that I think is very profound in his approach:

              Under “Meaningful Social Metrics, Steve says “notice “conversion” is not part of the social media activities”.

              Steve talks about our brand being more “shared” than “promoted” by the people with whom you build helpful relationships. Over time, trust builds and your brand’s helpful content is shared by your followers, who become your Advocates. What I get out of this is that we are better off being an advocate ourselves, positively sharing valuable content, along with our own. It is through our “good works” that our brand becomes recognized and trusted. To me this is the best example of “natural link building” I have ever read.

              I’m far from mastering the sharing tools, here on WordPress and in social media. The farther along I progress in the Blogging 101 course, the need to better understand how to properly use these tools, becomes more evident.

              The above two (2) paragraph will be included in my next post.

              It is going on 1 am here, so I’ll close and give that “heads up”, before hitting the sack.

              Have a Wonderful Weekend!


    • Hey Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet,

      This conversation looks like it may have be broken up a little.

      I want to give you a “heads up” that some resources are listed, and linked, in relation to social media help.

      You will need to scroll down the page a bit to find the comment reply.

      Have a Great Weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a great post Alison, and a really good introduction to Twitter.

    I wrote a post about Twitter hashtag games the other day, but that was (much) less informative than this – and was essentially an excuse to make some bad jokes rather than educate anybody about Twitter to be honest…

    By the way, I use my books as a Twitter header too, and I haven’t come across anything about not being allowed to do this. I just had a quick look at the Twitter Help Centre but couldn’t find anything there either. So hopefully it’s fine.

    Oh, and I HATE automated DMs. I’m willing to bet that not only do they not help in terms of promotion, but that they’re actually pretty damaging. It’s a sure-fire way of annoying people as soon as they follow you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A post was a great idea Allison. You’ve got some good advice there for beginners and reminders for more experienced. I think it’s fine to have your book covers in your header. I think it is a smart move. How else would you expect followers to find your books?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good Day to You Allison,

    I’m on day 3 of the Blogging 101 course at Blogging University. Today’s assignment was to follow 5 tags and follow 5 blogs in the Reader.

    To me it is like trying to do SEO, and looking for “long tail keywords”. I’m sort of creating my own niche, so finding relevant blogs to my niche (also the name of my blog), “Professional Licensing Helper” isn’t easy. Any web search, or keyword research results in mostly government agencies in the listings.

    I’m newly retired form being a customer service representative in state government and know my way around finding resources and information on government sites. I will have to be more innovative in narrowing down what will work in this niche.

    As an only child, I find social media a challenge, mostly trying to get past the “what’s next” when I get there.

    This explanation of the basics of Twitter will be very helpful when I establish my own account there.

    Your blog is the first one I am going to “follow”. After looking at some of your other posts, I’m impressed with your willingness to provide supportive and informative articles. I hope to do the same with my site.

    I’m also preparing a post, sharing this experience. I plan to link to this post in the article. I will add another comment, to give you a “heads up”, when it is posted. I hope you will give it a read and approve of the context in which the link to this post is used.

    This process is taking me longer than just one day, but then quality is more important than speed anyway. At least I believe in quality first. You seem to feel the same, based on your content.

    My Best to You

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I so need this. Very helpful post. I’ve been on Twitter around a month and can’t say I love it. It feels like a really artificial way to communicate and kind of insincere. I joined because I’ve been told I need a social media presence, but I’ve no idea what I’m doing. The book spamming drives me nuts — also the fact it feels like you’re talking to yourself most of the time (I’m irritating myself with my moaning here…).

    I love to look at the artwork and some of the poetry. Have also bought a few books (but not from the spammers). I’m a writer but don’t mention my books much — I’m not that shy, but it somehow feels embarrassing. Books in the header? I read that was a no-go. Might try it, as you seem to know what you’re talking about. Also the hashtag thing — will keep that in mind. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. I’ve never heard not to use book covers in the header. To me, it makes the most sense to put them there. They’re not in everyone’s faces that way, and anyone who’s interested enough to click on your profile likely won’t be annoyed because they’re already interested. I did it because I saw a few other authors do it and thought it was a smart idea. But I’ll look more into that. I certainly don’t want to be offering bad advice.

      Have you discovered list creation? That’s a great way to sort the spammers from the non-spammers.

      Liked by 1 person

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