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4 Ways Authors Can Rock on Twitter

by | Aug 27, 2014

It took a while for me to understand Twitter. When I signed up, I made my first mistake in deciding my handle, @CaballoFrances.

A Spanish soccer player had already taken @FrancesCaballo so I reversed the order of my first and last names. Now I regret using my entire name because my handle has 14 characters – too many for this microblogging platform – when it should have no more than 12. Even fewer characters would have been better.

The next mistake I made was using a company name as my profile name instead of simply using Frances Caballo. People don’t interact with companies – unless you’re a huge brand like Toyota – they interact with people.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to improve metrics on this platform, and I’m going to share with you four key steps to rocking on Twitter.

  1. Your Avatar

    I’m not going to spend too much time on this tip other than to say you need to use a decent picture of yourself. Keep the social in social media by uploading a professional-appearing image of yourself.

    Don’t use a book cover, a logo, an image of your cat or dog, or the default egghead. Use your best profile picture as your avatar. Period.

  2. The Perfect Twitter Bio

    You get 160 characters to describe yourself. That’s not much.

    Your goal is to entice people to follow you. A poet on Twitter uses two words to describe himself: “Poetry Copyright.” All I know about him is that he’s worried about plagiarism, but we all are.

    Another person uses these two words: “Oui. Non.” All that tells me is that sometimes he uses the word yes, and other times he knows how to say no. He gives me no reason to follow him.

    Then there are those users who litter their bio with useless hashtags: “#Writer #Reader #Chocoholic #MetsFan #Wino #FrappuccinoAddict #Mom #Foodie.” This bio doesn’t tell me anything about the person’s books or authority in his or her niche.

    Now let’s look at Jane Friedman’s bio:

    Jane Friedman bio

    Her bio succinctly communicates her industry experience. Her image is warm and professional. I like it.

    Here’s Nina Amir’s bio:

    Nina Amir bio

    Nina’s bio is perfect. She mentions her two newest books and conveys the benefit you’ll derive from following her and reading her posts.

    Here’s Helen Sedwick’s bio:

    Helen Sedwick bio

    Helen immediately substantiates her authority, communicates her mission to help authors, and pitches her newest book.

    Guy Kawasaki has a bio that rocks.

    Guy Kawasaki bio

    Right away, he communicates his mission, then briefly mentions his work, and then shares the fact that he’s the author of twelve books. Nice.

    So the perfect Twitter bio is error-free, communicates the benefit of following you, avoids clichés such as #CoffeeAddict, and is unique to you.

  3. Tweet Images to Boost Engagement

    Social media is increasingly a visual platform, and that’s as true for Twitter as it is for Pinterest or Instagram. Images pique interest and attract the eye more than blocks of text.

    This past month, I’ve focused on tweeting at least one image daily. Look at what it has done for engagement on my account. Retweets are up by 24.4%, and Favorites are up by 43.1%.

    Retweets and Favourites

    Engagement on Twitter is defined as interactions anywhere in the tweet including clicks on the avatar, hashtags, and link as well as the number of retweets, replies, follows, and favorites generated.

    Impressions are the number of time someone sees a tweet on Twitter. I tweet images just once, so that makes the metrics more impressive.

    The day that I generated the most engagement on Twitter was on August 8. The image below triggered a whopping 1,460 impressions and 14 retweets as well as three profile clicks. If you want to expand readership of your books, you’ll want to include the #amreading hashtag as I did here, with images related to reading.

    Reading Tree image

    I recommend that you not over-saturate your tweets about your books with the #amwriting hashtag. Doing so dilutes the true meaning of the hashtag, which is to communicate what you are reading and not what you are trying to sell.

    The next image that performed well was this image with a quote from Carl Sagan.

    Carl Sagan Quote Image

    When I reviewed my analytics and scrolled to see what triggered 1,100 impressions and 13 retweets, I discovered that it was this quote by Sylvia Plath. Yes, it’s still text but it’s also an image.

    Sylvia Platt Quote

    If you want to increase engagement on Twitter, take the time to tweet at least one image daily.

  4. Capitalize on Trending Issues

    On the left-hand column of your Twitter account, you’ll see a white box labeled Trends. What you’ll find there is a running account of hashtags that are trending on Twitter.

    You can adjust the trends that Twitter tracks for you based on your location and who you follow. If you’re unhappy with the trends being tracked, click Change to adjust your geographic region.

    It’s important to watch what’s trending. When issues trend that relate to your book, genre, or even personal interests, you can use the hashtag to expand your following and perhaps even your influence, as well as reach potential readers who might not have discovered you otherwise.

    You can also forget about the marketing aspects and simply use trending hashtags to join conversations that carry special meaning for you or that are simply fun to participate in.

    For example, one day #PictureBooks was trending, so I used that hashtag in the tweets of a client who writes and illustrates picture books. Another day, #Seattle was trending, so I wrote a tweet about my client’s book that is based in Seattle and included a link to Amazon where followers could purchase it.

    Guy Kawasaki says that writers and anyone using social media shouldn’t refrain from stirring controversy on social media. I’ve never been a proponent of that philosophy, but I was feeling strongly about the shooting in Ferguson so I retweeted several messages.

    Tweeting Controversial Issues that Are Trending

    In my community, there was an officer-involved killing of a youth, Andy Lopez, who was walking near his home one afternoon while holding an Airsoft shotgun – a toy – that resembled an AK-47 assault rifle. To the officer, it looked like a real gun, and when the youth turned toward the officer, the sheriff’s deputy felt threatened and shot the boy eight times, killing him.

    It was tragic for the boy’s family and the officer.

    Andy was killed about half a mile from where I live so the shooting had an effect on me. As I read about what happened in Ferguson, including the protests that followed, I decided to take a chance on Twitter and twice retweeted information authored by Antonio French.

    French is an alderman and founder of North Campus. The North Campus website describes the nonprofit as a “community centered around education.” French, who has 1,026 followers (as of August 15), was arrested on August 13 during a protest and released the next morning.

    My intent wasn’t to grow my following or expand my influence, but to express sorrow and join the community of Twitter users who were also concerned about what happened to Michael Brown and the protests that ensued in the shooting’s aftermath.

    With social media, it’s important to remain true to yourself. Using Twitter or any other social media network for the sole purpose of marketing your book is never advisable. The social nature of these platforms requires users to share more than just a link to Amazon or iTunes.

    I retweeted a message originally authored by French of a pastor who – while trying to calm the crowd – sustained an injury from a rubber bullet. When I first saw that particular tweet, it had generated 23 retweets. Within six hours, the tweet garnered 8.8 thousand retweets and 3.1 thousand impressions. Those retweets didn’t benefit me; they benefited the original author of the tweet.

    French focused his tweets on the protests, documenting the crowds and the police using images and video. Perhaps because of his presence on Twitter, and the number of times his tweets were seen around the world, he was invited to appear on MSNBC on August 15.

    Imagine what his appearance on national television will do for his nonprofit.

    I’m not suggesting that writers chase controversy. However, if you wrote a historical novel that takes place during the civil rights struggle, you might want to join conversations like this one on Twitter. Or if you wrote a nonfiction book about racial struggles around the world, this might be a conversation for you to join.

    In my case, I joined the conversation because what took place in Ferguson was similar to what occurred in my community. I didn’t tweet outrageous remarks, and I didn’t use derogatory terms to describe the police or the crowds. I merely retweeted information that documented what occurred in Ferguson in the aftermath of the shooting without using any vitriolic descriptions.

    Tweeting Memes and Sharing Expressions of Sorrow

    I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Williams. The day after his death, I tweeted quotes by him, and those messages attracted up to ten retweets each. His death was tragic, and I wanted to join the virtual community of fans who also felt a profound sense of loss.

    In addition, Williams lived in the North Bay Area where I live. He owned a home in my county and supported local nonprofits so to join the conversation made sense for me.

    Trending issues can also be memes and phrases. During the Word Cup, #BecauseofFutbol was a trending phrase. Using this hashtag, a writer could send this message: “#BecauseofFútbol I didn’t finish my short story today.” Or, “#BecauseofFútbol I missed my editor’s deadline.”

    Another trending issue at one time was #sometimesyouhaveto. A writer might tweet: “#sometimesyouhaveto turn off the Wi-Fi to get your writing done.” Or you might tweet: ““#sometimesyouhaveto kill a character to make the novel work.”

    You can also use the holidays to your advantage. You might send this tweet: “The perfect #Christmas gift for your #bibliophile is (then add the name of your book and a link to where it can be purchased).” Or you could say, “What’s scarier than a goblin on #Halloween? My new thriller.”

    The hashtag #ireadeverywhere, promoted by the New York Library, was launched August 5. The library asked authors, readers and librarians to share pictures of their favorite reading venues. As a writer, you could take pictures of yourself reading at a café, on the couch, on the beach, or in the middle of a redwood forest and share it on Twitter.

    Be creative with how you market your books. Join discussions, watch trending issues, tweet hashtags that offer new avenues to reach potential readers, and share your grief, if you feel comfortable doing so, with a virtual community of mourners.

    Above all, focus on what works on social media: being authentic as an author and as a human being who cares about what happens in your community.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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