You can’t have a conversation about social media without discussing the power of Twitter. Twitter is all about building a mutual, interactive network, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to cultivate a community on this awesome platform. But figuring out the basics – not to mention how to build and manage an account – can be mind-boggling. This will be a refresher course for many of you, as I’ve blogged about Twitter in the past – but if you’re a newbie and you haven’t already, it’s time to build a serious Twitter following NOW!
Ready, set, go! Set up an account and use your own name for your Twitter username (“handle”) if possible. Do not check the “Protect my Tweets” box under Twitter Settings. If you do, people will not follow you. And use a REALLY GOOD password, because Twitter accounts get hacked like clockwork, and you might find a spammer sending all your followers a weight loss or porn ad. Embarrassing!
Add a bio and a photo. You’re only allowed 160 characters max for a profile bio, so be creative. You can include a clickable book buy link or hashtag. BE SURE to upload a headshot or book cover for your profile image; people hesitate to follow accounts with the default “egghead.” Include your website/blog address or Amazon sale page in the separate space provided.
Tweet! Tweets are limited to a maximum of 140 characters. Your Twitter feed should focus on helping others and not be weighted toward repetitive self-promotion (“buy my book!” gets old quick). Share quotes, your blog posts, good content on other blogs, and links to info that will be interesting to your target followers.
@Mentions. Whenever you include someone’s Twitter handle in a tweet, it’s called an @mention, and it shows up in their timeline. NOTE: If you begin a tweet with a Twitter handle (@mention) it will only appear in in the timeline of people who follow both you and the person you’re tweeting. Example: @mollygreene – thank you! If you want your tweet to be seen by all your followers, you must start the tweet with another word, or even a single character. Example: Thank you @mollygreene! To read tweets sent to you by others, click on “@Connect” in Twitter’s upper menu bar. To learn more about @mentions, tweets, retweets (a.k.a. “RT”), favorites and streams, read Twitter basics.
Direct Messages (DMs) are private and can only be sent between people who follow one another. There are two basic ways to send a DM: 1) Click the black “head and shoulders” icon on the profile page of the person you want to DM or simply 2) compose a new tweet, but BEGIN it with a single letter “d” followed by their Twitter handle – it will become a direct message (how cool is that?). To read your own DMs, click on the cog/wheely gizmo in the top menu bar to the right of the search box.
How to find Twitter friends to follow. To find friends, search hashtags (see below), scroll through public lists, and pay attention to Twitter’s suggestions for “Who to Follow.” You can also use Twitter’s search function to locate readers, book bloggers, and book reviewers, OR jump on other authors’ profiles and cruise their followers lists. Do not fall into the trap of following authors exclusively. You want readers. Author friends are wonderful and they will educate and support you, but readers will become fans and buy your books. Find and follow readers. Readers, readers, readers.
Hashtags are searchable keywords or categories. Typing the # symbol before a word or word group (with no spaces) turns it into a clickable link. Examples: #amreading, #amwriting, #MondayBlogs. #FF (#FollowFriday) and #WW (#WriterWednesday) are traditional writerly hashtags used to recommend people to follow. Here’s a list of other common Twitter hashtags used by writers. Or, make up your own!
Build your followers. Follow new people daily, and DON’T STOP. Note: Do not limit followers so you can “know” them all, as it will not allow you to use Twitter to its full potential. You can keep track of new followers by turning on notifications to be emailed every time someone follows and follow back those who are regularly interacting; ignore businesses, porn stars, and search bots. Or, use a third-party vendor to automate this process – BUT! Don’t require followers to “validate” because it’s often viewed as offensive; people won’t take the time to do it and you’ll lose good followers. Bottom line, TrueTwit validation turns people off and shows you’re clearly not looking at profiles. If you’re really concerned about spambots, follow back manually.
Party with the best. It will not serve you to follow people who do not interact with others (no @mentions in their feed); those who ONLY tweet quotes, statements, or links; inactives who haven’t tweeted much recently; people who tweet about being “unfollowed” or dissed by someone; those who don’t tweet in English; or tweeps with a list of followers much higher than the number they’re following back. They either won’t follow you or they’ll follow for a day then unfollow, a plan used by those with the sole agenda to increase numbers (there are exceptions of course!).
Understand Twitter’s follow limits. Once you’ve followed 2,000 people, Twitter will cut you off and will not allow you to follow more people … IF you’re following way more than are following you back. It’s best to keep your numbers close right from the start. Understand how this works upfront!
Use an “unfollow” application. People interested in following back will most likely do so within 5-10 days, with few exceptions. Sign up for justunfollow.com (or a similar application) and unfollow people who have opted not to follow you. I repeat: allow a lead time for folks to follow. Unfollowing people who don’t follow you will keep your percentages in line and Twitter off your back, and no hard feelings! Reminder: BE AWARE that Twitter will randomly unfollow people FOR YOU without your knowledge. You can’t tell the difference between a Twitter error and a purposeful action by a follower. @mentioning unfollows is classless and demonstrates lack of character.
GIVE before you expect a payback. To grow a quality following, you must interact with a percentage of your followers, comment on their blogs, and help with retweets. A sincere, reliable way to gain true support is to retweet others’ good blog content and good news. Give to gain. Just as in life, on Twitter we benefit when we give our support without expecting payback. You need to be an active supporter to be a valuable part of your team, and this is simply logical: The more followers you have, the more valuable your RTs.
Practice impeccable manners! Do not RT someone once or twice, then tweet them with an @mention and a request to RT your blog post. Arghhhh!! Do not tweet snarky comments about others. DO NOT send a Direct Message (DM) or tweet an uninvited @mention that’s a pure self-promotion with a link to your book or blog. Do not welcome followers with a “thanks for following, now buy my book, Like me on Facebook, read my latest blog post!” Accccck! DO be patient, play nice, and put others first. That’s the true road to Twitter success.
Use Twitter lists. To keep close tabs on a group of people, create a Twitter list and add your faves. When you click on your list, you’ll see their feeds. You don’t have to be following people to keep them in a list, so you can do this with anyone you care to keep close. To set up a Twitter list, 1) Go to “Lists” on your profile page. 2) Choose “Create a New List.” 3) Choose “Private” or “Public” and name it. 4) Go to someone’s profile page, click on the black head-and-shoulders icon, and add them to the list. 5) Back on your own profile page, click on “Lists” and choose the list you want from the drop-down.
Automate a percentage of your tweets with the WordPress plugin Tweet Old Posts (auto RTs your blog posts) and Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Gremln, or Pluggio. Remember though! You need to be actively on the platform periodically to reply to @mentions and RT others.
Leave a comment if I’ve left anything out – do you have any Twitter Tips to share? Dish!
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