The clock is ticking. You are already getting up at 5am to write a chapter of your next book before a busy day at work healing the sick/designing widgets/arbitrating border disputes in small African nations. Your spouse/kids/friends/dog barely know you as it is. Why on earth would you spend any of the precious time you have left on a trivial time-waster like Twitter?
This is why:
- Build your author platform – reach more people with the ideas and expertise you want to share (which makes you happy) + make more sales (which makes your publisher happy).
- Professional development and networking – make synergistic connections with people in your field and also have your thinking stimulated by their ideas.
- Learn more about the craft of writing – you’re already delivering good expert content, but learn to shape it more cogently and persuasively, learn to communicate better in the written word.
Follow these 6 easy steps to get started on Twitter and set up a system you can maintain in as little as an hour a week. (I suggest you read the whole thing, then come back and work through it step by step.)
1. Go to Twitter.com and sign up for an account.
- I suggest using a personal email address that will always be yours even if you change workplaces (saves time later)
- Use the author name that appears on your books – it’s your brand
- Use the author photo that appears in your books if you have copyright access to it (your publisher will be sympathetic to this if they have any sense)
- Write a pithy description of who you are and what you write about
- In the www space put your author blog. If you don’t have one yet, put your author page from your publisher’s website. Otherwise, your business website will do if it’s related to what you write about.
2. Follow three fellow experts in your field.
- In the search field at the top of the page, enter a keyword or keywords related to your field of expertise, then press Enter.
- When it’s finished searching, click on the PEOPLE tab.
- Scroll down the list, and click on the handles or usernames of ones that interest you – it will take you to their profile in the panel on the right.
- If you like what they’re tweeting about, click FOLLOW. Look especially for useful links that they tweet.
- Repeat until you are following three experts.
3. Follow three interesting writers.
- In the search field at the top of the page, enter these letters exactly: #amwriting (This is one of the most popular hashtags for writers. Don’t worry if you don’t know what a hashtag is yet, it will become clear over time as you use Twitter.)
- Click on the PEOPLE tab.
- Scroll down the list and click on the handles of any that interest you. (Don’t bother about whether they’re famous, look at their description.)
- If you like what they’re tweeting about, click FOLLOW. Once again, look especially for useful links.
- Repeat until you are following three writers.
4. Sign up for a HootSuite account so you can schedule tweets in advance.
- In a separate browser window, go to hootsuite.com and sign up for an account. You just use the same email address and handle you’ve already nominated over at Twitter.
- HootSuite is a twitter client that you can use for quite a few things, including analyzing who’s clicking on your links and other useful stuff, but initially you can just use it to schedule tweets in advance. There are other programs available, and they all have strengths and weaknesses, but for simplicity just do HootSuite for now.
5. Schedule three tweets in HootSuite over the next week.
- When you click in the COMPOSE MESSAGE field up the top, it becomes larger and you see more options. Write your tweet, then click on the little calendar icon, and it will allow you to schedule your tweet for another day and time.
- Choose a time that suits whichever timezone you are targeting. In your own timezone, if you’re writing at 5am you might want to schedule the tweet for later in the day when more people are up. Or you might want to schedule for a completely different timezone. Over time you’ll get a feel for when Twitter is busy with your kind of traffic; don’t fret too much about it now, just choose a time and go for it.
- If you are tweeting a link to a website or blog post that you found useful (a very good thing to tweet), copy the URL from that webpage and paste it into the SHRINK field – it will make the link shorter so it doesn’t take up too many of your 140 characters.
- Tweet your own blog posts, if you have them, or an article you’ve written that’s been published online.
- Set up three tweets that will be posted over the coming week.
6. Repeat Steps 2, 3 and 5 every week for six weeks, until you get the hang of it.
- They say it takes six weeks to develop a new habit. Persevere with it, and as you become more familiar with it, you’ll start to understand what it can do for you. You might end up deciding it’s worth spending more of your time on it, because of the help you’re receiving.
- Look for opportunities to help other people. What information can you offer that will help someone else who doesn’t know as much as you?
- Don’t sell sell sell or tell everyone how fabulous you are, it’s annoying.
- If someone follows you, follow them back, if they’re not a spammer. (Just look at their tweets to see if they’re for real.)
This level of activity won’t make you a Twitter superstar overnight. But you’ll be surprised how it does actually start to build into something useful and encouraging for your writing career, connecting you to real people you otherwise never may have met. As you get the hang of how it works, you’ll be able to achieve more in your ‘one hour’, and also make an intelligent decision as to whether it’s worth investing a little more of your time.
If you’re already getting up at 5am every day to write for an hour, could you devote just one of those hours to Twitter maintenance instead? Consider it an investment in your future as a writer. Go on, give it a try.