Ten Tips for Writers on Twitter - Don't Make a Hash of It
In our digital age, social media and writers go together like chips and curry sauce, jam and doughnuts, or in some cases, nails and blackboards. Is the explosion in social media distracting writers from the serious business of writing, or is it a vital and exciting way to talk directly to readers?
It’s hard to say for sure. Probably a little of both.
However you view it, with the publishing industry in a race to adapt to rampant digital disruption, I believe writers must take ownership of their digital presence.
Your readers are online and they’re looking for you. If you’re nervous about where to start, start with Twitter. There are almost 15 million Twitter users in the UK alone. Still nervous? Start with these tips.
1) Choose a username as close to your own name as you can find.
I’ve lost count of the times I wanted to tweet an author but had to wade through a stream of tweets and accounts to find them, looking for @AMcWriter only to find her by the nom de plume @dostoevskystoenail or somesuch. Witty is good but clear is better. Don’t make readers struggle to find you.
2) For the same reason, use a headshot or clear photograph of yourself for your profile photo.
It doesn’t help me find you if your profile picture is of a pug licking a cupcake. If you use multiple social accounts, keep your profile picture consistent across all channels. Again, it’s easier for people to identify you with the added benefit of making you instantly more human and relatable.
3) Stop using a horribly stretched and pixelated image as your Twitter header. It looks unprofessional.
Twitter headers should be 1500px by 500px. Use a free design tool like Canva if you need to create a personal one, or search online for free stock libraries of Twitter headers. You wouldn’t print a book cover with a distorted image, so apply the same integrity to your digital work.
4) When it comes to actually tweeting, the best Twitter accounts mix your personality with the business of writing.
The key here is balance. Tell us about the interesting things you’re doing and let us into your world, but realise using a social media channel involves a certain trade-off. Your Twitter account becomes a public representation of you. Keep deeply personal views and information to a minimum, unless you actively enjoy arguing with strangers on the internet.
5) Stop spamming us with tweets about your latest book.
Self-promotion requires a careful mix. Social media accounts aren’t personal broadcast channels, they are conversation channels. If you were at drinks with friends, how much time would you spend with someone who only talked about themselves? Even worse, do you want to be that person? Of course not. By all means tweet once or twice a day about your work but show some restraint.
6) Share the love.
Reading something great? Tell us in a tweet and include the author. Got a favourite blog? Share a link. Other writers and readers will be more inclined to support you and share your work if you do the same for them.
You’ll make more friends and get more support this way.
Similarly, if a reader tweets you to tell you how much they enjoy your work, take the time to respond, even if you’re doing something important, like drinking. Understand that someone is helping to build your brand and community by this simple act and treat it with the kindness and appreciation it deserves.
7) Think hashtags are annoying? Tough – they’re important tools to help you sift out like-minded people.
The writing community has some incredibly popular hashtags that will help you find your readers and build out your followers. Some of the most popular include: #amreading, #amwriting, #amediting #fridayreads, among others. You should also put relevant hashtags in your bio. We can search accounts by hashtags too, you know.
8) Have you considered Twitter lists?
Lists are a useful way to pull together accounts you like under categories. Even better, you don’t have to follow accounts to add them to lists, making them a handy way to keep tabs on interesting accounts without adding even more tweets to your timeline.
You can make lists public or private, so you could monitor your rivals in a private list without giving them the satisfaction of a new follower. Or you could be more strategic and create a public list of book bloggers you’d like to interact with. Tipping a nod to someone’s influence may make them more inclined to support your work.
9) Go a step further and use Twitter analytics to see which tweets work and which don’t.
It’s free and easy to access. Simply click on your profile image and select Analytics from the drop down menu. You’ll see a monthly breakdown of your tweets, with top tweets highlighted. This will give you an idea of whether you’re hitting the mark with your audience.
10) If you need inspiration, virtual chest bumps go to Irish writer Louise O’Neill, tweeting as @oneillo.
In my opinion, Louise has one of the most charming Twitter accounts going. She doesn’t shy away from promoting her work but tempers it with fun and warmth, telling us just enough about her world. Take note.
Whether you’re a new indie writer starting out or a grizzled old veteran with a marketing team, social media gives you the privilege to talk directly to the people who buy your books. In my opinion, that relationship is an important one that should remain between you and them, not to be outsourced.
(This article was originally published in the Irish Times.)