Twitter is, arguably, the most far-reaching social platform in the world. But the overwhelming majority of users don’t know how to use it effectively. Worse, they abuse it and risk getting shackled with a poor reputation that can be difficult to change.
With the right tools and techniques, Twitter can help you build a stable writer’s platform that allows you to reach tens of thousands of people with a single click. Awesome power. But, as the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Even if you’re not a writer, I believe you’ll find most of these techniques invaluable.
In this 10-part series, spread out over the next ten days, I’ll cover the following Twitter basics:
This series was originally written over a 10-day period in 2013. I’ve included relevant updates throughout the series as Twitter changed policies and procedures. Please be aware that I may not have caught all of the changes. If you find such a change that isn’t captured in this series, please leave a comment with the new Twitter policy, and I’ll update the series accordingly. Cheers!
First…What Twitter Is And Is Not
Twitter is about now, not five minutes ago, and not (heavens forbid!) an hour ago. It took me a long time to figure this out, and when I did everything just sort of *clicked* into place. Twitter is, by design, a fire hose of current events that you’ll never consume completely.
Twitter is not designed for you to keep up with your entire timeline. If this is how you’re trying to use it, then you’re doing exactly what I was doing: getting frustrated, failing to see “the point”, and not understanding how or why someone would want to follow thousands of people.
Like me, your first significant use of modern Social Media was probably Facebook. (OK…mine was MySpace, but we won’t go there…). Facebook is a great tool, but it has a different purpose than Twitter. I have about 200 friends on Facebook, all of whom I know (or have known) personally. Traffic on my Facebook news feed is kept to a minimum., and I can easily keep up with everything my friends are doing (if I spend a few minutes at least once per day).
Not so with Twitter. Not so at all
. If you’re going to make the most of Twitter, start by not treating it like Facebook, and know that everything will soon become clear.
Let’s shed some light on the mystery.
What To Do
As with most things in life, there are certain Dos and Don’ts we should all abide by. I’m going to spend the first half of this series addressing the Dos. Over the next five days I’m going to share the techniques I’ve used that have brought value to my Twitter experience, and with a meager investment of time and effort I believe they’ll bring value to yours as well.
Let’s start with some Twitter basics…
Fill Out Your Bio!
Twitter gives you 160 characters to tell the world about yourself so use them! It’s likely the first impression you’ll make on a potential follower. The bio gets posted right on your profile page for the world to see. On your settings page you’ll see a text box where you can type your bio. Mine looks like this (as of 12/7/2013):
The importance of your bio cannot be overstated. When I’m deciding whether or not to interact with someone I always look at their bio. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who does this.
When someone visits my profile page this is what they see:
Twitter automatically centers and justifies the text, which is why the last line is dead center. You see those words with that start with the funny “#” character? Those are called “hashtags”, and we’ll get to those later in the series. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered!
[UPDATE 5/09/2014] In the ever-evolving world of social media, Twitter now has a new profile page it is rolling out to some members. I was recently tapped on the shoulder to try this new profile. Everything can be done from a single location now, which is pretty cool. My new profile looks like this (with updated text included):
Upload a Profile Picture
If your profile picture is the default Twitter egg, no one will take you seriously. If you don’t have a profile picture, you really need one…now
. Find or take a decent-resolution picture of your face
. Now is not the time to be shy or self-conscious. People want to interact with other people
, not cartoons…not your latest book cover. And remember, when people click on the thumbnail provided by Twitter, it’s going to attempt to load a larger version, so upload something that looks good when blown up about 3-4 times the original size.
Are there exceptions to this? Let me answer that by saying I’m not trying to give the impression these are rules. Take them as nothing more than recommendations from someone who has walked the path before you. There are many writers who create a new Twitter account every time they release a book, and attempt to build a following for the book through period quotes or news. Others create accounts for their main characters and tweet in character. But keep in mind that people are more likely to get interested in your work if they are interested in you first.
The publishing world has changed dramatically since I was a kid. There was a time authors would build a fan base by getting published. Then they’d publish some more and gain more fans, and the whole thing had a sort of snowball effect. Now, with the rise of social media, authors often have a fan base before they’ve officially published a single line of text…and they’re finding this approach successful. Why? Because people who take an interest in them personally are often highly motivated to take an interest in them professionally. And the mainstream publishing world is starting to recognize this.
The way you approach your profile picture should differ very little from the way you approach everything else on Twitter (or other public forums). As a writer, unless you’re writing under a pseudonym, you are your brand
. Always ask yourself, is the image I’m presenting representative of my brand…representative of me
Notice I never said anything about censoring yourself. This is about being true to your brand. So I’ll repeat: As a writer, you are your brand.
Performing these basic tasks will get you off on the right foot. In no time you’ll be on the path to building a new community of people who value and respect one another
In the next post I’ll share the techniques I used to build a meaningful following on Twitter.
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Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening and Necromancer Falling.
Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun.
Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do.
He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenager, mischievous beagle, and goofy boxador.