Social media is becoming an integral part of self-promotion as a writer. One of the most popular outlets for writers to speak to their readers is Twitter. If you’ve never used Twitter before, the terminology and efficient use of it can be a daunting task. This weeks’ Killer Nashville guest blogger, Margaret Mizushima, discusses her experiences with learning how to use Twitter effectively.
When my agent suggested that I develop an author platform on Twitter, my first reaction was to go running into the dark night screaming, “Noooooo!” Previously, the only exposure I’d had to Twitter had been tales about my friend’s ex who spent hours glued to his phone tweeting out updates involving the minutia in his life. Who has time for that?
I finally agreed, and my agent, Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management (@AKA_Terrie), helped me set up my new Twitter account and handle (@margmizu). She also gave me tips that set the foundation for my tweeting strategy, and soon I grew to love this form of social media. I’ve combined my agent’s advice with that of my publicist, Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity (@KayePublicity), and have added my own experience to develop four basic tips that I hope Twitter beginners will find useful.
Engage with others and be social. The writers’ network is very friendly; search out other writers and follow them. Run a hashtag search for #amwriting, #writing, or #author, and follow a few new writers each day, as well as libraries, booksellers, and others in the publishing industry. Chances are, they’ll follow you back. Be active and retweet for others.
Use #WW (Writer Wednesday) or #FF (Follow Friday) to mention a string of your followers and introduce them to each other. Others might start to include you in their own shout-outs, giving you a list of new people you can follow. Send good morning or good evening tweets to a friend or group of friends, or send someone a photo or link to an article that you think they might like.
One evening I posted a good evening tweet with a picture of a Colorado sunset—the sun disappearing behind a jagged mountain range in a vermillion blaze—to a group of followers from around the globe. Within minutes, they all joined in and we shared evening photos from Colorado, Boston, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, and Dublin. Such fun!
Develop tweet content that matches your brand. For example, I write the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series about a sheriff’s deputy, her dog, and a veterinarian who solve crimes in their rural community set in the Colorado high country. I look for photos and articles about dogs, police dogs, animals and their babies, country life, the vet’s life, hiking, Colorado, the writer’s life, writing tips, and inspirational quotes. Sometimes other topics sneak in, but for the most part, these are my focus.
Tweet using content that others find interesting, and your followers will retweet them, which expands the number of people who might notice your tweets. Balance your tweeting content with a ratio of about ten non-promotional tweets to one promotional.
Develop a Retweet Friends list. You can set this up using the Lists function on Twitter. Note those who retweet for you and add these people to your list. Reciprocate by retweeting for them.
You can monitor your Retweet Friends list by using TweetDeck, which offers a free version that includes a tweet scheduling function. Set the program to watch your list, making it easy to catch your friends’ new tweets. (You can set it to watch a hashtag, too.) As your network broadens and more people retweet for you, you have potential to reach hundreds of thousands of tweeters, not just the group who are following you. There is communication power in the retweet network, and reciprocal relationships are key.
Use hashtags effectively. When you first start, stick to the suggested hashtags that pop up while typing your tweet, because people search for these and your tweets will stand a better chance of being read. Since I write mysteries, I usually include this string of hashtags with my tweet: #amwriting #Colorado #mystery. Sometimes I add #outdoor if there’s room.
Hashtags are also used to designate chats and trending topics, but you can learn about that later. Since hashtags and other repetitive messages are often abbreviated—you only have 140 characters/tweet—you might want a resource to look up definitions, like TagDef. You might eventually want to create your own hashtag, and if you do, use it consistently and frequently to tag your tweets for others to recognize.
I’ve grown to rely on Twitter to keep abreast of my friends’ news, writing topics, and organizational news and events. Once I learned to set up various hashtag and list watches on TweetDeck, it’s been easy to keep updated by spending only about ten minutes twice per day. The one thing that slows me down is the discovery of so many interesting articles, blogs, and websites that I’m compelled to check out. I hope to see you in the Twitterverse. Follow me and I’ll most likely follow you back. Enjoy!
Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (Crooked Lane Books, 2015), named debut mystery of the monthby Library Journal, and Stalking Ground (Crooked Lane Books, 2016). She lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattleherd. She can be found on Facebook, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website at margaretmizushima.com.
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