Authors, Gather Your Tribe on Twitter

by | Oct 24, 2012

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 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.

Photo credit: linh.ngan via photopin cc Originally published on CreateSpace in a slightly different form as Build Your Tribe on Twitter

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Phil Steer

    Thanks for this, Tracy. I agree with what you say.

    I set up my Twitter account to tie in with my book and, as such, initially decided that I would limit the topics of my tweets to those that related in some way to the book’s subject. After all, if someone had followed me as the author of the book, why would they be interested in my tweets on other matters? Following a certain amount of dithering I then set up a personal account for all other twittering.

    (Aside: perhaps someone could start a service called Dither for those who find themselves wavering and hesitating when trying to use Twitter?)

    However, I have come to realise that I actually need just the one Twitter account. Not only is it easier to manage but, perhaps more importantly, these tweets on other subjects personalise me and my “relationship” with other Twitter users (what you describe as “building a consolidated … persona”).

    Fortunately my barely-used personal account has hardly any followers (yes, far fewer even than my ‘author’ account), so can be quietly deleted without anyone missing it.

  2. Stephen Godden

    “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.”

    Yeah, if you do that and you are doing a lot of work on your blog, then it’s best to switch it off, because edits can be treated as new posts (particularly if you are moving poages around) and you’ll swamp your twitter feed with all your little adjustments.

    Yes, I learned this the hard way.

    • Joel Friedlander


      If you anticipate re-working a blog post you’ve already published, you might want to first switch the post back to “Draft” and only re-publish it when you’re finished with revisions. Repeatedly saving a Draft-mode post won’t generate any Tweets.

      • Stephen Godden

        Yeah that does make sense, doesn’t it?

        Thanks, Joel. I really should have figured that out for myself. :)

  3. Tracy R. Atkins

    My initial lack of “understanding Twitter”, especially when it came out, has cost me. I made a few mistakes that I would like to share here so others can avoid it.

    By biggest mistake was not understanding the social side of Twitter and building a consolidated brand or persona. When I started blogging and going out into the world, I created different Twitter accounts for each endeavor. I didn’t understand that you cannot consolidate accounts (as far as I know). So, I am now left with two Twitter main accounts, one with 50 followers and one with 500. I have to update both, and getting people to move over to another account just isn’t going to happen.

    At first glance, I thought of twitter as nothing more than a fancy version of RSS. In some ways it is, but that misunderstanding of its nature meant that I was only posting my blog post titles to twitter without giving the real social connection much thought. Twitter is an information dissemination mechanism where real people decide what propagates. Simply spamming it with your blog post title cheapens that and doesn’t really work. If you want a compelling tweet, you need to say something compelling and worthy of spreading.

    A tweet has a lifespan of about 15 minutes. It’s not a blog post. It’s not even as long-standing as a discussion board comment. If you want to use twitter for what it is, you have to be on it and really use it. Just being a passive party will leave you with little reward for your efforts. I still struggle with this concept and I don’t use it to its full potential. It feels like a day of silence on twitter is a week’s worth of being irrelevant.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thansk for sharing your experience, Tracy, I think we can all learn from that. One of the most important things to learn about syndicating your blog feed to your Twitter account is the critical importance of your headlines.

      It’s no mistake that savvy bloggers and internet marketers can spend as much time on their headlines as they do on the body of an article.

      Why? If the headline—which becomes a Tweet with a link when the post is syndicated to Twitter—doesn’t compel a click, the article will never be read.

      Properly constructed headlines will do well on Twitter. Of course, as you say the social side of Twitter requires direct engagement. It just shows that this seemingly simple service has so many ways it can be used.

      • Tracy R. Atkins

        That’s the best advice in the world for twitter bloggers Mr. Friedlander. Those post titles have far more importance that i ever realized. By just spamming out what ever “lame” headline i had on my blog (which was always an afterthought), i was doing every reader a disservice. Taking the time craft a headline, even in the form of a question, makes it a conversation piece.

        Twitter is your online coffee table. Your headlines are like the covers for your coffee table books. Which ones will create conversation? That’s a crucial point. Twittering a syndication of your blog means you need to up your game on your blog content and titles.

  4. Phil Steer

    Thanks, Joel. You certainly “practice what you preach”. I think I’m beginning to get the hang of Twitter, but one thing that does puzzle me is just how people actually get to read these tweets! At the moment I follow just 45 people (with about half as many following me) yet even with this small number it takes some effort to keep up with what’s being tweeted. Given that many people follow hundreds or even thousands of others, surely most tweets must just “disappear into the ether”, unseen by anyone? Isn’t it lots of people talking, but no one listening (or, at least, only catching just a fraction of what’s being said)? How can I follow more people without getting swamped by tweets, and how can I “ensure” that my tweets might actually be seen by my (few) followers? I’d be interested to hear what you, or any other Twitter user, might have to say about this. Many thanks.

    • Ryan Casey

      Firstly, cheers to Joel for another great post. Twitter is a fantastic tool, when used correctly. In fact, I don’t really like even calling it a ‘tool’, because that undervalues it somewhat. It’s a social platform, a way of reaching out: everything.

      Phil – I totally hear you with regards to your Twitter feed becoming swamped. I follow around 800 now, so most of it is unintelligible. However, Twitter has a quirky little tool called ‘lists’. Basically, if you click on your settings, you’ll be able to create lists for friends, writers, bloggers, etc. These can be private or public.

      It takes some time to set up, but I tend to just add as I go along.

      Hope this helps!


      • Ryan Casey

        PS: Regarding being spotted by others – this is something that takes time. Just keep on sharing useful content with your followers, interact with them, and you’ll likely make their ‘list’ of ‘Awesome People’, too. :)

        • Phil Steer

          Many thanks, Ryan. I’d really not considered using lists to help manage tweets from those that I follow. Given that I follow so few people at the moment, this should be quick and easy for me to set up. I’ll then be able to start following many more people without feeling that I’m going to get swamped with tweets. And of course, as you point out, it can work the other way too – if people start to appreciate my tweets enough, they’ll add me to their lists. This is going to be a great help. Many thanks again.

    • Joel Friedlander


      As Ryan has indicated, one of the best ways to handle a Twitter feed is with the list function that’s built into Twitter.

      You’ve inspired me to write a post about this, so watch for it in the next week or so.

      Beyond that, it seems that most of the problems people have with Twitter arise from not quite “getting” how to use the service. I’ll address that too.

      Thanks for raising this issue, an important one for anyone trying to get started on social media.

      • Phil Steer

        Many thanks, Joel. I’m glad my question wasn’t a dumb one! I look forward to reading your post on the subject.

      • Phil Steer


        Perhaps, if it’s relevant, you might also mention your views on tweeting multiple times on the same subject?

        To date I have rarely (if ever) sent the same tweet twice, on the assumption that my (few) followers are unlikely to want me to keep repeating myself.

        However, I am coming to realise that it is possible (likely, even) that in many cases my tweets are never even seen in the first place.

        I don’t want to appear to be banging on about something that no one is interested in, but equally I wouldn’t want my followers to miss something that might be of interest.

        I see that many people (including yourself) do send multiple tweets on the same subject. Do you have any guidelines regarding how frequently, and for how long, you would do this?

        Many thanks.



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