10 Steps for Authors Who Want to Get Started on Twitter

by | Jul 12, 2010


Do you have a fear of Twitter engagement? Do you have an account on the service but don’t know quite what to do with it? Are you getting ready to publish a book and realize you have to “get up to speed” with your social media marketing?

A lot of authors I talk to want to learn social media and how it’s going to help them sell thousands of books by “going viral.” But they hesitate, baffled by how the whole thing works. They know they need to be building their author platforms, but don’t know how Twitter fits in.

I don’t think you need to buy a book like “Secrets to Twitter Success” because it’s really a pretty simple platform. There are only a few things you can actually do on Twitter. Everything else that flows from your involvement with it comes from the network of people you connect with.

And in order to connect with the people you want to tell about your work, you have to forget the whole idea of “how Twitter will sell thousands of books” entirely. Because it won’t. Not directly, anyway.

Twitter is powerful, but its power is in connecting to other people, in growing a community around the value of the content and ideas you share. I’m confident you can use it to your benefit if you can only get started.

These are simple things you can do to get going with Twitter, and to learn about what goes on there and how it works.

10 Steps to Getting Started on Twitter

  1. Get a twitter account. Make sure your username name isn’t too long, 10 or 12 characters should do. Remember that your username on Twitter, if you’re going to use it for promoting your book, is part of your branding strategy.
  2. Get some software. There’s great free software that makes Twitter a lot more fun and efficient to use than the official website. I like Hoot Suite on my Mac, Twitterific on the iPad and the iPhone, although there are many others. Get one that appeals to you and fool around with it to see how it works. Being able to schedule Tweets in advance is a big advantage.
  3. Seek out your people. Do some searches to find the thought leaders and people with the biggest followings in your niche. By finding just one you can start looking through the list of who they are following to find more people to follow.
  4. Find friendly lists. Twitter lists allow you to create categories of people to follow all at once. For instance, I have a list called “Self-Publishing” with 55 Twitter users self publishers could follow for great information on the field. Try to find lists created by someone in your field. These are a great place to find people to follow too.
  5. Follow the tweets. You should now be following many important people in your niche, and you’re likely adding followers too. Keep your focus pretty tight at first so you don’t overwhelm yourself with input. Read the tweets from these thought leaders and the people with lots of followers. Click through anything that looks interesting to see what they are linking to. Watch especially for links that get re-tweeted—or passed along—by more than one of the people you’re following. Make sure you check out those links.
  6. Keep reading until you get it. There’s no rush. I read tweets for two or three months before I sent out any tweets of my own. Be patient and keep watching and soon you’ll see why some people are popular and lots of people want to follow them—because they consistently provide links and ideas that are valuable. Or because they make an effort to connect with people individually. You want to be one of those people, so keep reading until you understand what makes them popular to their followers.
  7. Tweet some value. By this time you’ve seen what’s considered valuable in the niche you’re following. It’s time to become a participant. Do a little web surfing and see if you can find resources that haven’t been mentioned recently. Create a short tweet alerting people to this resource and put in a shortened link and tweet it.
  8. Follow the golden ratio. Tweet something of value, or re-Tweet someone else’s content or message once or twice for every Tweet you do that promotes your own book or website or other content. This is all about sharing discoveries, sharing content, not about selling. You are building trust and a community of followers at the same time you are receiving value from the people you are following.
  9. Be trustworthy. I think this is done most simply by giving value, and by not tweeting anything you have not personally verified for yourself. Trust is the most important element in the community you are building.
  10. Be generous. Give as much value as you can. Pass along things of interest from others. Create content that has something of value to other people, something that makes their life better in some way. This will be content you’re happy to share with your growing Twitter tribe.

Twitter is an amazing phenomenon, considering that it only consists of 140 characters of basic text. The creativity, the energy and vitality on Twitter are astonishing. It can be a great place to connect to people who are interested in your work, and who in turn will send your message out into their own networks of followers.

Make sure you have something for visitors to look at, to download, to sign up for on your website or blog when they get there. And keep an eye on your analytics. You’ll find Twitter is a growing source of traffic and potential book buyers for your if you follow these simple rules.

I think this quote from Zig Ziglar really illustrates how to use Twitter to best advantage: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Happy Tweeting, and let me know how it works.

Here’s a question: What’s worked well for you on Twitter?

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by K Jarrett, https://www.flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/

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33 Comments

  1. Tech Geeks World

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    Reply
  2. Logros Rogue Warrior x360

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    creo que la comunicacion quue has blogueado es cierta.
    De todas formas debidamente narrado.

    Reply
  3. free gift card online

    What’s up to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from this site,
    and your views are good for new people.

    Reply
  4. RRStubbs

    Looking for a consultant to take a draft of our book and set it up for publishing on Createspace and Smashwords. How long will it take and how much will it cost.

    Reply
  5. Misha Herwin

    Thanks for this. I was wondering how to make my tweeting and twittering more effective and here you are. :-)

    Reply
  6. Kaykay Obi

    I find your article very useful. Please, I want to know how a yet-to-be-published writer can grow his audience through the social networking sites. Thanks.

    Reply
  7. Leslie

    I found your article through twitter–and it is an example of why I follow people in book publishing. Twittering can link you to good information you might miss otherwise–there is so much out there it is helpful to pair it down. My next adventure in social networking is figuring out how to use tweet deck.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Leslie. I can’t imagine that Tweet Deck will present much of a challenge, but I personally prefer and use Hoot Suite. Good luck with it!

      Reply
  8. Ruth Seeley

    The single biggest mistake I see writers make on Twitter – and it isn’t addressed in your post or in any of the comments to date – is failing to check @messages and engage with people – the same mistake many mainstream media outlets still make on Twitter, although individual journalists have caught on. Authors need to remember that Twitter is a two-way medium, and that Twitter is like a mini-event. In the same way you’d look every customer in the eye at a book signing and have a Q&A session after a reading, mingling with the masses on Twitter is what it’s all about. There’s a prominent Canadian author whose book I’ve insisted my local library buy (it was a four-month campaign on my part). Not once has she ever checked her @messages, thanked me for my efforts on her behalf, or even acknowledged them. Nor has she checked her followers stream, read my profile and followed me back (although we follow many of the same people and – well – I’m well worth following if I do say so myself).

    So – let me suggest a few authors other writers might want to follow who DO get Twitter: @robin_black, @drstuclark, and especially @RebeccaSkloot. You’ll learn a lot about how to engage graciously with tweeps by following any one of those three.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for your thoughtful contribution, Ruth. Social media is exactly that—social. A one-way conversation doesn’t accomplish much online or offline.

      Reply
  9. Carla King

    What’s worked for me on twitter? To be completely myself. A motorcycle adventure travel writer, a self-publisher and publishing expert, a vegetarian, a hiker and biker and gardener and… When I broke loose from trying to fit into one or another persona I found that followers appreciate – or at least can deal with – the whole package, kind of like your friends do :-)

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hey Carla, you got caught in my spam filter, sorry about that. I love your advice, too. So often it seems the answer to things that produce anxiety and dread is to just relax and enjoy yourself, because then other people can appreciate you for who you really are. Thanks!

      Reply
  10. Ann Collins

    Yours is the first helpful post I’ve found on how to use Twitter. I’m just getting started and have spent a couple of days just being bewildered. I plan to get a website set up soon and start blogging. Your tips have really helped.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      That’s great, Ann, glad to be of help. Of course this is pretty brief, but it’s essentially how I got started. Having a website or blog to link back to will help also. Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
  11. PJ Kaiser

    One comment to Michael’s concern above, don’t feel like you have to be tweeting your head off in order to add value to your network. In fact over-tweeting can be a problem (i’ve been accused of that ;-) Just do it as your comfortable. Plenty of people only check out twitter once a day and they do just fine.

    More advice for newbies: There is a lot of spam on twitter. If you set up an account and don’t put up a profile picture, a description and have some tweets, you will be viewed as spam and people will not follow you and, in some cases, you will be blocked. I block spammers because i don’t want my follower numbers to be artificially inflated with spammer followers. So, do take Joel’s advice and start gradually at first, but make sure people know that you’re a real person and that you’re just getting your feet wet with twitter. Provide a link to your website or blog and that will provide further evidence that you’re a real person.

    Happy tweeting!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Great advice, PJ, thanks.

      I actually go and visit each person who follows me to look at their Twitter page and, in many cases, their linked blog or website, and for the same reason. Once you get on Twitter you will be bombarded with followers of the “internet marketing” type. It seems like their entire concern is getting their numbers as high as possible to justify their consulting or other business. I never follow those people, because I’ve tried to build a more-or-less tightly focused network of writers, designers, ebook producers, and publishers.

      Really appreciate your input here, PJ thanks again.

      Reply
    • Kristina Stanley

      PJ. Got to say I agree. I only tweet once, maybe twice a day. I do think it’s important to say who you are. I like to know who is providing info. I follow, mostly, writers and people who write about writing and often go to their sites after I’ve found a good tweet. If it’s too anonymous, I’m not interested.
      Joel – great advice on the lists. This is how I keep authors organized.

      Reply
  12. Yvonne Johnston

    I wish I’d had this to read 3 months ago when I first set up a Twitter account. At the time I knew nothing about Twitter and only decided to try it out as I read an article in a newspaper recommending Twitter for aspiring writers. I learnt the hard way, but I’m glad I persevered. The only thing I would take issue with is point 6. I think if you wait 2 or 3 months before tweeting anything you’ll find yourself unfollowed quite frequently. No body wants to follow a bore who tweets incessantly but they do want to follow someone who has something to say.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Yvonne, thanks for that, and good advice it is. I did wait about 3 months but I didn’t care at the time whether people were following me or not, I was using the time to study the people I was following. Either way, it pays to put a bit of time in first. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  13. Amber Cleveland

    I would recommend participating in tweetchats to expand your network, it is a great way to connect to people that are interested in the same things you are.

    I would also recommend making your tweets “re-tweetable,” try to keep them 120 characters or less so people can retweet you and your original message remains intact.

    Last but not least, I really like tweetdeck for the Mac and the iPhone.

    Great tips for authors!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Great stuff, Amber, thanks for extending my list. It’s particularly useful to watch the length of your updates if you want them re-tweeted because otherwise they get truncated or you force others to do your editing for you. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  14. Michael N. Marcus

    I am addicted to media, both as a consumer and a “content provider.”

    I write books, I operate about 40 websites and blogs, and am active on Facebook and multiple forums and newsgroups. But Twitter, NO WAY.

    I can’t imagine how I could say anything interesting, entertaining or useful enough in about 15 words to develop a following.

    If people care about what I have to say, they can read my blogs, books, websites or Facebook announcements.

    Strangely, I get a few emails each week from spammers reacting to tweets that I never made.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Gee, Michael, I would have thought you’d enjoy Twitter precisely because of your familiarity with social media and your way of turning a phrase. At the minimum it would give people who like and use Twitter a way to connect with you to learn more about the other ways they can interact with your content. But “different strokes…” I guess. Thanks for the thought.

      Reply
      • Michael N. Marcus

        Gee, Joel, now you’ve provoked me to reconsider my policy. Darn!

        I may have forced myself to avoid Tweeting because I’m subconsciously afraid that it would consume my life by having to upload something every 15 minutes.

        At least I can limit a blog to 6-10 posts per week.

        Today I’m involved in a website re-do for my “day job.” It’s not nearly as much fun as books and blogs.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Well, I’ve seen that happen to people and it usually doesn’t have a happy ending. Although I use Twitter every day, it doesn’t take up that much time since you can schedule Tweets in advance.

          Sometimes, of course, you get involved in conversations that can go on, but it’s the best way to meet people in your niche I’ve ever seen. Tempting? Hmmm . . .

          Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hey Tom, thanks for that link, I’m going to get Sagolla’s book today. Looks like we’re writing about the same subjects again!

      Reply
      • Tom Evans

        With such double serendipity, we should have an exploratory chat one day – are you on Skype ?

        Reply
          • Tom Evans

            Brill – I’m evanst58 – just connected with you on Skype – how you fixed next week either Monday or Weds afternoon around 4pm GMT?

          • Joel Friedlander

            Let’s do it Monday 7/26, it will be 9 a.m. here in California, how does that sound?

    • Mohamed

      It’s not entirely true that polepe aren’t making money on Twitter. Some polepe with large profiles sell advertising on Ebay for as much as $30 a pop. It is true that Twitter users don’t convert well unless you are making products for marketers. I created some Twitter adder software,advertised on Twitter and took $200 overnight,so you can make money if you know your market. You can also get a lot of Traffic and use Twitter to drive polepe to your web page or blog. I’ve noticed my blogs go to PR2 in a couple of weeks and Alexa rankings for my sites reaching 200k and that’s all down to Twitter. Now this does result in sales and revenue from the Google Adsense program. I estimate that Indirectly Twitter is responsible for about 40% of my sales. My ebay auctions get a coulple of hundred views in less than a minute, which results in sales every time I list an auction.As you can see there are ways to make money using Twitter, but you have to do your research and get to know your market.Hope this helps

      Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        Nice tips, Mohamed, thanks for that. Most authors don’t use Twitter the way you do as an internet marketer, but they can learn from your example.

        Reply

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