I wrote this article a few months after joining Twitter in early 2011… and now I think it’s even more true!
“Who cares what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast. Twitter is a waste of time. I’ve got too much else to do.” If that sounds like you, you need to read this post. And I’m just the person to write it, because I was saying the exact same thing a couple of months ago. I know where you’re coming from so well that I’ve even got the GPS coordinates.
But if you are unpublished and you want to be a successful author, you can’t ignore Twitter any longer.
1. “Who cares what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast?”
I don’t know. Certainly not me. But that’s not what Twitter is about, not for you anyway. As an emerging author you are not joining Twitter to follow celebrities, or even to become a celebrity. Read that last sentence again; it’s important.
Stalking celebrities is only a very small part of what Twitter offers. I also don’t recommend you use it as a way to keep in touch with your existing friends – it’s a pretty clunky interface for organising a coffee date anyway. Keep Facebook or messaging for that and use Twitter to connect with people you don’t yet know.
As an emerging author, you are joining Twitter to:
- get some professional development as a writer
- create genuine synergistic relationships with people in your field, and in writing generally
- create a community of people who are not ‘fans’ but those with a genuine interest in what you have to say.
Here is how your Twitter adventure might unfold. Join Twitter using your own name, or the name you use as a writer, unless you have a very good reason not to. After all, it’s your brand.
Begin by following people in the writing field or in your specialty area. And no, you don’t have to know who they are already – Twitter has a directory you can search, and will also offer you suggestions.
These people you follow tweet interesting ideas, links to useful blogs either in your specialist field or in writing generally, links to newspaper and journal articles that stimulate your thinking either in your specialist field or in writing generally, links to useful websites and videos and webinars and courses.
Because of what they tweet, you will also start to notice who they are following, so you can follow those people as well. When you click on a link and discover a blog full of great ideas that are just right for you, you can click on that blogger’s “follow me on Twitter” button, so you get to see their tweets as well.
- Be generous with your own ideas, discoveries and useful links in your own tweets.
- Be open and transparent about your personality and character so that people have a chance to get to know you (no, I don’t mean to give them your home address and credit card number!).
- Follow those who follow you (within reason of course, there are a few oddballs out there, and the occasional spammer).
- Tweet your own blog posts if you have a blog (another good idea), and links to your articles as they are published.
- Demonstrate integrity by always acknowledging the source of any ideas that come via another Twitter account.
- Be generous in promoting other tweeters if their content is good.
Over time, people will start to follow you back, and they may even retweet your tweets, which means all their followers get to see the useful things you are saying. Some of their followers then follow you as well, you follow them back, and the upward spiral widens…
If you start doing all this well before your book is published, by the time the happy day arrives, you have a large and growing group of people around the world who are interested in what you have to say, and keen to support you as an author. Publishers call this a platform. In crassly commercial terms, it increases your chance of getting a traditional publisher, and it helps drive sales of your book whether traditionally-published or self-published. But it also gives you a chance to develop relationships with readers and potential readers, which is even more satisfying.
2. “Twitter is a waste of time.”
Well, yes, it can be. But it won’t be, the way you do it.
You will limit the time you spend on it daily, harvest the useful and ignore the dross, and ensure you contribute useful information to the conversation. It will be a valuable boost for your career and your skills as a writer.
It will give you a better picture of how your potential readers think, and what they are interested in, so that you can hone your manuscript accordingly.
How can that be time wasted?
3. “I’ve got too much else to do.”
Haven’t we all. But social media involvement is becoming increasingly essential to the success of emerging authors. The modern reader wants a two-way connection with the authors he or she reads. Much sooner than you imagine, a social media presence is going to become crucial to the success of any emerging author.
How much time do you spend each day watching television? Is it worth spending 15 minutes a day to ensure your future success as an author, and the opportunity to do more of the writing you love?
Thank you for an informative–and convincing–article. I am new to Twitter but find it increasingly useful.. I put off joining it for the exact reasons mentioned above. It was only when my ebook was published that I decided to take the leap. So far it has been an interesting and worthwhile experience.
Belinda Pollard says
Kendra, I’m glad you’re finding it useful. It’s definitely helped me make many helpful (and fun) connections with other writers.
Thanks for your insight on Twitter. I signed up last month so I’m still figuring it out. I was quite happy when I learned how to make tiny urls– a great help! I’ve found links to articles that I’ve been able to use as research/topics for my blog posts. I agree that Facebook is a good site to connect with current friends and Twitter is a great resource to see what the professionals are talking about in my fields of interest.
Belinda Pollard says
Tina, if you’ve already figured out tiny urls after only a month, you’re doing better than I did! And I hope you find it really useful and enjoyable. 🙂
Anne R. Allen says
Great overview of Twitter for new writers. I know so many writers who resist Twitter, but it’s probably the least time-sucky social medium, and after you get the basics, it’s pretty easy to use. It’s the best way to get news of your blogposts and book sales and launches out there.
Belinda Pollard says
Anne, Twitter is definitely my fave of the social platforms. I think the fact we can only write a small number of words is useful. Otherwise I’d probably end up spending a lot more time on it… 😉
Another set of great reasons to twit (is that a verb???).
Belinda Pollard says
I suspect “twit” is a noun describing those of us who spend too much time on Twitter! 😉
But yes, alas, writers and self-publishers ignore social media at their peril, these days. Thanks for your comment, Maranna.