Twitter started out as a bit of a mystery: in a world of video, images, sound effects, and other snazzy web effects, it was strictly text.
And in the world of blog posts, articles, and the ever-exploding universe of content creation online, it limited users to just 140 characters to express themselves.
Lots of people scratched their heads, trying to figure out exactly what this service would be good for. How could you use short, text-only messages to accomplish anything at all? But as we’ve discovered in the last few years, what first seemed like the limitations of Twitter were actually its biggest strengths.
Although it can be a bit difficult at first to figure out what all the action is about, if you stick with it you’ll soon come to value what Twitter provides: almost instantaneous, real-time communication with a world of other Twitter users.
Twitter gives you the ability to speak to many people at once in a collaborative conversation that spreads faster than any other medium.
In fact, Twitter has become such a central utility in the social media sphere that it is now the go-to source for breaking news, keeping up with trends, and connecting you to the networks of newsmakers using it as an independent means of unregulated communication around the world.
But all that just leads to the question you want to answer for your own world: How can you use Twitter to help you meet your publishing and marketing goals?
The Many Faces of Twitter
Because Twitter updates—tweets—are so simple, you might miss all the ways enterprising authors and others have come up with to use this service. I’ve often compared it to a utility like your electric service. The electric company just runs their service to your home or office; it’s up to you what you do with it.
It’s the same with Twitter. They provide the platform, but how you use it is up to you.
I’d like to focus on one aspect of Twitter, and that’s the way it can help you build a tribe of people interested in your work and, potentially, your books, too.
Over and over you’ll hear publishers, publicists, book marketers, agents, and other people involved in selling books ask the same question: What’s your platform?
They are looking for the community you’ve built or attracted, the engagement you have with your fans, and your ability to reach out to people who form the basis of an active and engaged reader community.
Twitter can help you build that platform, and can be instrumental in getting it up and running quickly. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you venture into the Twitter stream looking for the people who will become your tribe:
Tips to Help Build Your Tribe on Twitter
- Create a great profile. All too often, you see users on Twitter who don’t spell out why others might want to click the “Follow” button. Even most authors will use this incredibly valuable space—your profile statement—to say things like “I love peanut butter.” Make sure your profile statement says right away what you do and why you do it, and says it in a way that connects with other people who have the same interests.
- Dress up your page. The standard profile page Twitter gives you when you create an account is pretty plain, and you have the chance to dress it up with your own logo, a custom background, images that relate to what you do, and now even a primary header image. Although it’s not a make-or-break decision, a page that’s been customized shows people you take your presence there seriously and invites them to do so too.
- Find the right people to follow. The first place to look for people to follow and learn from is with the influencers in your niche, category or genre. Look for people with lots of followers and follow them. You can then look through all their followers for people to connect to who are likely to be interested in your content, too.
- Learn to RT. Now that you’re following people who are popular in your field, start re-posting their useful tweets. This is called “re-tweeting” in Twitter language, shortened to RT. You are now supplying your own followers with great information and resources that are specific to your field. They will like you for that. You can and should create updates about your own books, blog posts, events, and other things, and if you keep to about 1 of your own for every 3 or 4 from other people, you’ll have happy followers.
- Shorten your links. With only 140 characters to use, you’ll quickly find out that short links are better. Although Twitter will automatically shorten long links, use a service like bit.ly that can shorten your links and also provide you with information about who clicks them. My favorite is the link shortener built into HootSuite, a great program for managing your Twitter account that’s free and easy to use.
- Syndicate your blog. You’re an author, so you have a blog, don’t you? It’s pretty simple to set up your blog so that every time you add a post it will automatically generate a Tweet from your account. This gives your followers access to all your content as soon as it’s posted, another way to build your community.
- The art of Twitter conversation. Don’t forget that lots of people use Twitter to meet new people and to discuss topics of mutual interest. When you’re learning Twitter, set aside 15 or 20 minutes during your day to scan your feed for interesting comments, questions, or requests and reply to them in real time.
- Take it slow and easy. One of the biggest complaints I hear from authors new to Twitter is that they “can’t figure it out.” Maybe the way I got started will work for you, too.
After setting up my account and following a few leaders in my field, I spent time just following, reading, clicking through links in other people’s tweets, and learning about the service. I probably spent about 30 minutes a day on it, and after several weeks, it was natural to start to respond to what others were posting.
After that, I continued to do the exact steps I’ve outlined in this article almost every day. Over time, I’ve accumulated more than 16,000 followers who look forward to my tweets because they contain links to interesting, useful or entertaining articles and resources.
And that’s the beginning of a really great tribe that makes an author’s platform a reality. Give it a try; you can do it too.
Maybe just thinking about “social media marketing” makes your head hurt. It can be daunting at first.
If you’d like to know how I integrate Twitter with the rest of the world of social media book marketing, I think you’ll be interested in the webinar that was just released this week.
In it I walk you through the simple system that’s enabled me to grow a diverse and engaged community of tens of thousands of readers. It will help you make sense of the time you spend in social media, including Twitter. You can find out more here: The Hub and Outpost Method of Social Media Marketing.