When I first joined Twitter two years ago, I knew nothing about using it. Learning to post my thoughts in 140 characters or less was excruciating; talking to myself (because I had no followers to speak of at first) brought back unpleasant memories of my high school wallflower days; and I committed just about every faux pas possible. I like to think I’ve grown beyond most of the mistakes, but sadly, I see too many other authors committing the same ones…over and over and over again.
While many others before me have shared their tips for using Twitter, it seems the message hasn’t entirely gotten through — and that’s unfortunate, because the mistakes being made are costing writers: in followers, in sales, and in just plain goodwill. So I thought I’d add my voice to the pleas for proper Twitter etiquette in the hopes that a few more will take heed. And if you’re one of those writers scratching your head about your lack of followers or complaining that Twitter hasn’t done anything for your sales…? Then you’re one of those who may need to take heed.
- Your profile: It’s fine to include something about your work, but your profile shouldn’t be just about that. Followers want to know something about the person behind the work. My own profile reads like this: Author of The Grigori Legacy, where police procedural meets angel mythology. Wife, mother, gardener, coffee snob. Twisted sense of humor. Prone to random tweets. As you can see, I identify my work, but then I tell people about who I am…and I guarantee I get just as many followers (if not more) because of my twisted sense of humor, coffee addiction, and random tweets asI do because of my career path. Have fun with your profile and make it unique. Then, before you post it, put yourself in a potential follower’s shoes and answer this question honestly: would you be someone you wanted to follow?
- Include your photo: or your dog’s photo, or your cat’s photo, or your book cover, or anything other than the egg that’s the default. The lack of photo suggests a spam account and potential followers will pass you by on that alone.
- Autoresponders: If you’re using (or thinking of using) one of the many auto-response apps in order to thank new followers, don’t. Just don’t. No matter how you format these things (and yes, I know because I tried), the receiving party knows that it’s an auto response. I would rather receive no response — and just assume you’re grateful — than be told in no uncertain terms that you can’t be bothered to take the time to do so yourself.
- Autoresponders part 2: If you absolutely must use an autoresponder (and again, I beg you not to do so!), under no circumstances should you include a buy link to your book. Not even if it’s free. There’s a place in your profile to include a link to your website or blog (which is the proper place to include buy links for your books). If I’m interested in seeing your work, I will click on that link. If you direct message me with an auto response that includes a buy link? I will unfollow you. This brings me to the topic of…
- Self-promotion: As many Twitter users do, when someone follows me, I usually check them out before deciding whether to follow back. If your tweet stream is nothing but self-promotion, I’m not interested. Yes, we understand you’re excited because you have a book out — but take a look around you and you’ll see that half of Twitter has a book out. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but trust me: on Twitter, publishing a book is really not that special. Instead of bombarding your followers with constant “buy my book” messages, talk to them. Engage with them. Have real conversations with them. Tweet links you think others will find interesting (but don’t just re-tweet other people’s stuff…a little RT love goes a long, long way). People are far more likely to buy your books — heck, they’re more likely to look at them — if they’ve gotten to know you a little. Behave like the proverbial used car salesman, however, and not so much. That’s not to say you can’t ever promote your books, because of course you can. New release? Tell us about it. Stellar review? We want to hear. Special event? Knock yourself out. Just don’t do it in every single tweet, and remember to intersperse other things in there, too. (The rule of thumb is no more than one promo tweet for every nine “other” tweets.)
One of the most comprehensive guides to Twitter that I’ve found on the Internet is from writer and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows). She covers every possible question you might have about Twitter — and some you probably haven’t even thought of. Spend some time going through her collection of posts at her Writer’s Guide to Twitter and start putting her tips to work. If you begin treating Twitter as the social media that it’s supposed to be, the marketing will follow…
…and you may even make some new friends along the way. 😉
P.S. Have a question? I’ll do my best to answer. Have a comment? I’d love to hear. Did I miss a faux pas you think needs to be here? Tell me! 🙂
P.P.S. Oh, yes, and you can follow me on Twitter at @lindapoitevin. 😉