Thursday, April 14

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, April 14, 2016 6 comments
I was a somewhat late adopter of Twitter, in part because the fast and short nature of posting intimidated me. I'm more of a slow and deep thinker, and at first I thought adding a Twitter feed to my life would make my head explode.

But as I shifted gears to indie publishing, I realized I needed this site to reach a wider audience. Blog reading was on the wane, and I'd heard so many positive things about Twitter, I knew I had to get a grip on my fear and jump in.

My early attempts were half-hearted I admit, but in the past year I've gradually experimented and reached out and basically doubled my follower base. If you are still trying to get your footing on Twitter, this post is for you. If you're feeling meh about using Twitter, this post is for you. If you're a mega guru, maybe you have some wisdom to share in the comments, so please stick around!

Develop a vision 

What do you want your Twitter presence to be? This precedes all other considerations. How vulnerable will you be about your personal life in this forum? Will your persona be mostly serious, mostly silly, mostly enthusiastic, mostly wise, mostly curious, mostly pious, mostly arty, mostly visual? Which parts of yourself will help you reach and connect with your "tribe"? Your tribe is the group where your passions and enthusiasms are shared and supported and cheered on.

Consider the kinds of projects have you written and ones you plan to write. Now imagine your ideal reader. What are his or her interests? Which parts of  yourself do you think this reader will most want to know?

Communicate your vision

Choose your photo, banner image and color scheme to undergird the communication of vision. The visual look might mirror your blog or website, it might echo your book covers. But you don't want a lot of dark and heavy if you write romantic comedy, any more than you want light and fluffy images if you write thrillers. Look at Twitter profiles of others in your genre and emulate those who communicate well a message you also want to communicate.

Side note: If you're especially stumped about picking a color scheme, you might find it helpful to read up a bit on the psychology of color. It's how I landed on plum and tan as part of my branding; the first related to wisdom, creativity and spirituality, the other with warmth and being down-to-earth. Here are a couple of useful articles on the topic:
The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding
Color Psychology

Build your description from your vision: that sense of yourself and your work. Think keywords and allusions. Here's my description: "Urban Christ follower, incurable Anglophile, Ravenclaw. Pro grammar wrangler for hire. My writing explores how faith grows in dark places #CR4U"  Describing your thematic approach is more inviting than listing book titles, I've found--readers and writers are more drawn to a vision than a product name.

As you might guess, I am frequently found and followed by others in my faith tradition, by Harry Potter fans, by other writers, by other editors, by other city dwellers, by other lovers of British culture, and by members of Clean Indie Reads, a Facebook indie author collective, which uses the hashtag CR4U (clean reads for you).

Who you follow, what you tweet, and what you retweet and like--all these things should be guided by your vision. These actions also communicate your vision.

My published work so far has been in diverse genres--Christian fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writing resources. I hope to continue producing work like this and building a following for it. My Christian fiction is quite niche, so that takes the most concerted effort to seek a tribe. The writing resources are more broad. But as you might guess, writing religious work means I'd be unwise to follow just anyone on Twitter. There are are few kinds of accounts I avoid following back if they approach me first--erotica and gore-horror writers, pottymouths, inappropriate photo-posters, political all the time, cranky/agenda-driven zealots, bot accounts, click-farm sales pitch accounts,

You need to know your no-go areas and be thoughtful about it, or you'll find your garbage following takes all the joy out of the platform. For the most part, not following back followers who don't interest you is enough. In the case of inappropriate photo-posters, I tend to block accounts. The pottymoths and erotica and gore folks I tend to simply mute. (Click the sunshine icon next to the follow button in your followers list, and these options will appear in a drop-down menu).

Find your tribe

This is honestly fairly easy to do on Twitter. It is its most powerful feature in my mind. Start by following any writer friends, beta readers, critique partners, and fellow bloggers. Follow your favorite authors and organizations, especially local ones.

Cannibalize their friend lists. Okay, let me put that in a more positive way--check out their follower lists, likely to be full of people who share interests and will be similarly awesome, and follow them. I also find it helpful to RT their pinned tweets or like something they posted recently. It's a way of saying "Hi, you look fantastic, Let's be friends" in a less sycophantic way.

Do keyword searches for things that are part of your vision. Maybe it's your genre. Maybe it's a particular fandom (Star Wars or Sherlock; things like that). Maybe it's a geographic region you live in or write about. Follow away. Retweet and like.

Remember on the keyword searches to look not only at "top" tweets, but also click the next category, "live" where fresh content will be popping up. Folks with tiny followings who may be wonderful friends are likely hiding in there. The top stories are the ones that have had a lot of RTs and likes. They might be worth following if only for a time to find more of your tribe.

Hunt for hashtags popular in your tribe. #YA or #teenreads, for example, will help you find those who love young adult books--reading and writing them.

Join one of the weekly work-in-progress sharing parties like #2bittues (two bit Tuesday) or #1linewed (one-line Wednesday). Look up the hashtag and you will find instructions to participate. This is a really fun way to share small snippets of your writing and find readers who like your style--and for you to find writers whose style you admire.

Post a variety of content

Getting followers and keeping them also requires you to keep putting out content yourself. If you have been blogging for any length of time, you likely have some ready-made content that is eminently tweet-able. For the most part, age doesn't matter either. Your good post about hiring a cover designer in 2013 is just as helpful today.

Pimp your books--but only occasionally. If possible, link not only to your sales page, but also to interviews you've given about it, old blog-tour posts, and really great reviews posted online. Your "buy my book" pleas are better received when they aren't pushy but rather inviting to target readers. Creating photo memes with quotes can be a nice change of pace for getting the word out. Have a variety. Pin a new one to your page (click the ellipsis icon at the bottom of a post and chose "pin to your profile page") every week or so. Keep it fresh!

Share parts of yourself that relate to your vision. Be sincere. I have posted about finishing drafts, about choir practices, about cool things going on in my city, about parenting. These posts might not get a lot of retweets, but they are an important part of building a genuine following.

Share inspiring quotes. You can find them on Goodreads, on BrainyQuote on Quote Garden. Be sure to properly attribute them!

Add useful hashtags in moderation. Some that will help your tweets be found by other writers include #writing #amwriting #writetip #writingtips #amediting #books #amreading. Limit yourself to one to three. More than that just looks spammy and desperate.

Engage with others

Aside from following and following back (with care--remember your vision!), it's essential that you interact with your followers. Twitter gives the impression that it is a 100% live stream, but that isn't the case. It is moderated like Facebook is. Those you don't interact with much stop showing up in your feed--and you in theirs! So make an effort to pop back through your followers list periodically and like or retweet content from folks you haven't seen in your feed recently.

If you love someone's blog post shared on Twitter, add a comment before retweeting, like "I so agree with this" or "fantastic!" or "wonderfully helpful!" Your follower will know you aren't simply automating your sharing, but that you actually engaged. Attention is the currency of Twitter, Share yours liberally.

Ask questions and follow up. This can be a powerful way to deepen the relationships you have, and for your followers' followers to discover you.

Express gratitude to those who share your content. I tend to take a batch approach so that my feed isn't too noisy. It also helps my followers find cool people to follow when I acknowledge them.

A note about automation

I have found it really useful to sit down weekly with Hootsuite and automate some of my Twitter activity. Hootsuite makes it really easy. And you may find it useful to experiment with which times of day your followers are most likely to engage with your content.

Variety is essential with automating. If you post only one kind of thing, it will seem spammy. Share your historic blog posts with news articles with inspiring quotes with memes for your books.

Don't go overboard, posting every five minutes, which you could feasibly do on Hootsuite. Use it to keep some fresh content appearing daily. Two to six automated posts, spread from your waking to sleeping hours, is plenty. Feel free to experiment with hours you aren't awake to engage with folks in other time zones.

Importantly, don't let automation be the only Twitter presence you have. Live retweet others. Live share items. Thank people. Ask questions.

Do you use Twitter much in your capacity as a writer or author? What tips would you add?


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  2. Wonderful insights, Laurel! I struggle with twitter, but I keep working at it, and I appreciate your tips. I know I'm planning to put a few of them to use.
    (Love your reasons for your color scheme, too!)

    1. I hadn't intended this to get quite so lengthy! But I'm glad you found some useful tips. I think you should definitely get involved in CIR. There are a number of enthusiastic folks who love fantasy. I can ask an admin about getting you in. Stay tuned!

    2. You're already in CIR! Okay, then you should lean in more. They are the most supportive group ever.

  3. It is encouraging to see that (some of) my organic approach aligns with your sage advice. I haven't ventured into automation yet; I'm trying to keep the personal touch, well, personal. I personally thank all of my new followers - at least the ones who are not offering me paid Twitter followers, offering me eye candy, or who appear otherwise dodgy.

    One thing that I have changed recently is rather than focusing on my "tribe" (i.e. other fantasy and sci-fi authors and their ilk), I've started following readers. They're not always easy to spot, but I believe a mix of community members, professionals, other authors, readers, etc. will more likely bear fruit in the future as my production increases.

    I'm also getting some nice engagement for my professional proofreading and editing services. All in all, after about a year or so of really digging into Twitter and doing the heavy lifting, I'm starting to see the needle move.

    Great article; thanks!


    1. It wasn't until I started automating a bit that my numbers really grew. Having Hootsuite able to post occasionally for me at times when I'm busy let me connect to people who are busy at different times. I know some folks using automation to also like & RT, and I agree that organic is better for that, because you want some control over what content you are delivering, to be sure it aligns with your vision.