Some recent excellent articles and blog posts about Twitter have inspired me to give my own plug for the social networking site. I’m going to tell you a little about why I think writers, specifically, should be on it, and then give you some easy, general pointers, mingled with a helping of my own personal biases.
WHAT IS TWITTER?
Twitter is a running status update in which you only have 140 characters to express yourself. It encourages brief, meaningful communication and an unbelievable opportunity to network with like-minded people and professionals. You follow people who interest you. Others follow you. Think of it as an after-work happy hour, twenty-four hours a day.
A CASE FOR TWITTER
How many times have you heard that writing is isolating? Well, guess what? It is.
Now, I live in a house with a husband, three boys under the age of eight, one dog, and six frogs. I have a large, local, extended family. My kids’ school, sports, and church community is warm, diverse, and nurturing. I am tremendously blessed and never lonely.
I don’t, however, interact with a lot of people in my day to day life with a passion for books and writing. There are rarely opportunities to have conversations about plot development, character inspiration, meaningful themes, and satisfying denouements. There are even fewer discussions about query letters, ebooks vs. paper books, and the perfect pitch. And I never get the opportunity to discuss that all important writer hang-up: favorite font.
I write all this not to illustrate what a HUGE nerd I am, but to tell you that I chat on Twitter about these very subjects every day with others who actually enjoy these topics. It’s a win-win situation because I don’t have to bore my “real life” friends, but I get the stimulation I need by addressing it online.
Whether you are a quilter, fisherman, poet, tattoo artist, therapist, personal trainer, or musician you will find people who share your passions and are eager to engage. And not only that, but you’ll be able to network and grow professionally if you wish.
It’s also worth mentioning some of the priceless professional opportunities I’ve had as a direct result of Twitter, including but not limited to: guest blogging at Writer Unboxed and Jane Friedman’s blog, There Are No Rules, an introduction to my editor, and a scholarship to Donald Maass’ Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop.
It’s easy to set up a profile at Twitter.com, though somewhat trickier to upload a picture that actually shows who you are. I personally feel you should use your first and last name, and a photograph of your face to identify yourself. Ambiguous names and non-human photos might put off followers and make it difficult to converse in that “happy hour” atmosphere. (Some of my Twitter BFFs have dog pictures or logos, however, and I still love them.)
In your profile and description, be sure to link up your website and/or blog if you have them, and provide a brief, catchy description of who you are. I rarely follow people without some sort of description or website because I assume (rightfully so or not) that they’re creepy.
Once you have a profile, start searching for people to follow. Many of your favorite blogs and websites will have Twitter links, so click those to find people, and search lists of those you follow to see who they follow. Once you’re comfortable start reading updates, following links, tweeting your own links, and joining the conversation.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Do NOT arrive on the Twitter scene by announcing your website, three self-published ebooks, and Facebook page. Do NOT post links to your book on Amazon every day with quotes from your favorite pages. All of that can come up later, infrequently, and when it feels natural.
WHAT TO EXPECT
You will work very hard for your first 50-75 followers (unless you’re Charlie Sheen.) It will seem like no one cares about you in the beginning. Push through. Once you get a couple of regular Twitter “friendships” and conversation circles you’ll pick up followers. Then, once you have a nice base, followers will start finding you first and frequently.
Be forewarned, however, that Twitter is addictive and can impede productivity.
Or, so I hear…
Once you become savvy, you’ll learn how to utilize lists, hashtags (#), and various social media browsers (Tweetdeck, HootSuite, etc.) There are ways of linking your blogs and Facebook status updates to Twitter if you wish. All of that can be overwhelming at first, however, so keep it simple to start.
Here are some articles and blog posts on how to use Twitter. Please include your own links and thoughts in the comments, and if you have any questions, feel free to post or email me directly.