For the record, I’m one of those weird people who doesn’t really like technology. Don’t get me wrong, I put it to use–I’m typing this blog post on a laptop. Often I stream music from my phone to a wireless Bose speaker using Spotify. I send emails, watch Netflix, do Google searches, let my kids program Scratch, and use social media.
But I do all of it with a certain dig-in-my-heels reluctance. Technology feels too virtual, and I happen to love the real world–especially the outside. You know, that vast open area of blue sky where stuff can happen to you. Bugs, grass, dirt, water, animals, weather. It’s not as clean or safe as a virtual world, but that’s part of the charm.
Not only do I think screens too often keep us from being outside, they can lure us into substituting our real relationships with virtual ones. Text messaging and social media offer us the promise of connection, but they come with a sort of inherent barrier that isn’t there when we interact face-to-face. In real life, people see us in all sorts of situations, and while we can put on a fake front, it’s a lot harder to do in person than it is on social media. It’s pretty easy to whitewash your life on social media.
So it was with great loathing that I learned a few years ago about the importance of investing some effort into building an author platform on social media. At the time, not only did I detest social media, I couldn’t even remember my password for my Facebook page. You’d think, as an introvert, that I’d leap at the chance to avoid talking to people in person, but it didn’t long for me to see that Facebook offered too many easy outs into superficial relationships, and I’m one of those people who’d rather have a handful of tight friendships than a hundred acquaintances.
Facebook was an obvious bust. Not only did I despise it, I didn’t see how gathering tons of “friends” for the sake of building an author platform could be anything but disingenuous. There’s not much more annoying than somebody reconnecting with you (Hey, I’ve missed you! How’s it going?) and following up directly with a sales pitch (I started a new business! Check out my products!).
That’s when my wise husband suggested Twitter. I dutifully signed up for a new account using my author pen name, followed a couple of people I knew in real life (who followed me back–yay, two followers!) and didn’t send a single tweet. It felt so…useless. Like a million people standing in a room all shouting at the same time. Who would listen to anything I had to say?
Who, indeed? Since then I’ve learned quite a few tips and tricks, and I’m excited to share them with you today.
How to Make Twitter Work for You
Like any tool, Twitter works best if you know how and why to use it.
- Understand how Twitter works. On Twitter, users interact via short 280-character messages called tweets. Others can “favorite” a tweet, retweet it, or reply with a comment. Posting a tweet can feel like throwing a message out into a bottomless hole if nobody responds, which is pretty common in the beginning when you don’t have many followers. But as you gain traction, followers tend to grow exponentially. Be patient, stick with your plan, and you’ll get there.
- Know your endgame. Twitter has some distinct advantages and disadvantages. You’ll find amazing communities of writers and readers, as well as people interested in all sorts of things. You’ll meet people from all over the world and from all different backgrounds. But how you put this tool to use really depends on what you want out of it. If you’re looking for lengthy, meaningful posts and deep discussions, you might be better off finding a writers’ Facebook group. Twitter is the right place for sharing short snippets–links to blog posts you’ve found helpful, funny gifs, lines from your WIP, a picture of some muffins you baked. It’s a great place to meet other writers and engage with them about writing, as well as participate in chats, writing sprints, and games.
- Make the most of hashtags. How do you avoid throwing your snippets out into a black hole? How do you find those amazing communities? The key is to use hashtags. Hashtags allow users interested in a single topic to find each other and share their tweets. For example. one of the popular writing hashtags is #amwriting. If you post a tweet and include this hashtag, everyone searching for #amwriting tweets will see it. Your tweet will be more likely to be noticed by people who care about what you’ve said. I’ll list some popular hashtags for your reference later on.
- Don’t be lured in by the irrelevant, toxic, or counterproductive. Millions of people speaking their minds at once can be a benefit and a curse. Twitter is filled to the brim with people venting ill-thought-out opinions, posting trashy links, and discussing things that bear no relevance to what you’re interested in. Using hashtags and choosing wisely whom to follow will help filter out some of the garbage, but you’ll inevitably have to put up with a lot of trash in your feed. No matter how tempting it is to engage with someone when they’ve said something stupid or ill-informed or just plain mean, DON’T DO IT. You’ll only get more upset, and probably scare off people who are following for your writer/ author tweets. Block them and move on.
- Dive into community and interact, don’t just advertise. This point is key. I’ve seen (and unfollowed) too many writers who fill my feed up with spam. Nobody wants to see endless buy links for other people’s books, or endless retweets with no original content. Instead, use Twitter to engage with other writers and readers. Favorite and retweet other people’s posts. Write comments and replies. Build community by participating in it.
- Keep your message consistent. Another killer to your growth on Twitter can be inconsistency in your message. As much as we want to think we can just “be ourselves” and everything will work out, there’s no avoiding the fact that we choose how we present ourselves to the world. It’s kind of like going out in public. You could show up in your disheveled pajamas with unbrushed hair, but that’s probably not the image you want to convey. Spend a little time in the beginning thinking about who you will be on Twitter–yourself, but usually only one or two sides of the full you. Your messaging, imagery, and bio should consistently reflect this brand. If you want to present a professional writer persona and still tweet endlessly about politics or sports or celebrities, it might be worth having two Twitter accounts to separate these sides of yourself. If you’re a published author or heading that direction, it’s worth considering how your readers and other professionals will view you based on your message.
- Be genuine, but private. This point ties in to the previous one. Don’t lie. Be yourself. It’s okay to let other writers know when you’re struggling with something or when you’ve achieved some big accomplishment. Once you’ve found your niche, your community, they’ll want to support you. However, do keep in mind that tweets are completely public. Literary professionals can see your tweets, as can your readers, other writers, and anyone else. If you need to vent about a situation or person, it’s probably best to do it in private via a closed Facebook group or through personal messages.
Can’t-Miss Hashtags for Writers
General writing: #amwriting, #writerslife, #turtlewriters, #writetip, #amediting, #amwritingromance, #amwritingfantasy, #indieauthors
Querying: #amquerying, #tenqueries, #askagent
Pitch parties: #pitchwars, #pitmad, #pitchmas, #faithpitch, #SFFpit, #DVpit
Publishing: #askeditor, #selfpub, #indiepub, #pubtip
Chats: #storysocial, #authorconfessionchat, #storycrafter, #writerslifechat
Writing games: #slapdashsat, #1linewed, #talesnoir, #lovelines, #adultficwri, #authorconfession, #WIPJoy — I’m missing plenty of them, so be sure to follow @writeevent for daily listings.
And Now I LOVE Social Media
Okay, that might be taking things a bit too far, but after my Twitter experience I’ve concluded that maybe social media isn’t a vast barren wasteland after all. Maybe we can gain something from using it. Maybe–gasp–we can even create new relationships using virtual means. I’ve met some pretty great writers who have become an important part of my writing tribe, and who I hope to meet in person some day.
When you think about it, it’s rather remarkable. How many of us know that many writers in our real life circles? Now, thanks to social media, we can fill in that gap and find a support network that stretches around the globe.
I admit, it was slow going at first–learning what and how to tweet, how to interact, and how to manage life in the Twitterverse. But now I actually ENJOY IT. Finding other people who love to live in their imaginations and spill words onto blank pages has been so motivating for my own work.
In fact, I’ve enjoyed Twitter so much that I dredged up my Facebook password and accessed my account a few months ago. I only check in a couple of times a week, but compared to my previous loathing, we’re talking serious progress.
What social media mountain shall I conquer next? Instagram, perhaps? 😉
How about you? What’s your take on social media, and how have you found it to be helpful? Leave me a comment and share!
Image credit: Pexels.com, CC0 license.