There’s no denying how social media, Twitter particularly, has changed how authors promote themselves in the media. It’s made promotion easier with its instantaneous activity, while at the same time has cluttered the author’s already packed triptik with even more promotional avenues to pursue.
Twitter, however, is a quick and easy way for authors to connect with readers. In as little as five minutes, an author can review a Twitter feed, respond to followers, curate content on his/her page, and send information to followers. Of course, that five minutes depends on how much of the above mentioned activity a person includes in his/her Twitter session. You may find you enjoy reading posts and responding to followers, and from there you’ll need to establish how Twitter fits into your schedule so that it doesn’t suck time away from other pursuits, such as writing books.
The following article provides authors with a basic how-to for setting up and getting started with Twitter.
Create Twitter User Account
Go to www.twitter.com and create a user account. Click the SIGN-UP FOR TWITTER button on the Twitter home page. You’ll need to provide your full name and email address, then assign a password and a username.
What’s In a Name?
The best practice for authors and Twitter is to use writing real name when creating a twitter account. Not only is it wise branding of your best asset (your name) but it also protects you from squatters who may want to pose as you. (It has happened. Someone posed as Oprah for a long time and fooled many people.)
Unless you expect to publish only one book in your lifetime, creating an account in the name of your book is only as good as that one book. You can change usernames later, but it might prove confusing to your followers.
If your name is not available, search for something as close to your name as possible so that when people google your name, the variation of your Twitter name will appear in the results.
Create Your Profile
We’ve found that people don’t enjoy interacting with the generic Twitter icon that appears when people don’t upload a photo. You were promoted to upload a photo, header and bio when you setup your account. In case you skipped these steps, here is how to complete your profile.
Look for the gear icon at the left in the top menu and click it. A dropdown menu will appear. From this dropdown menu, select SETTINGS.
From the SETTINGS menu, click on the PROFILE option at the left of the screen. This will bring up all of the EDIT PROFILE options we’ll use in this tutorial.
To select a photo to upload as your avatar, click the CHANGE PHOTO arrow, then navigate to the photo on your hard drive that you want to use and follow the directions to upload it.
Twitter profiles also have an option to show an additional photo in a narrow, landscape format at the top of your profile. This is called the HEADER. Right below the profile photo option, you’ll see the HEADER option. Click the arrow in the window that says CHANGE HEADER and then navigate to a photo that would look good in a narrow, landscape format.
Take another look at your bio. Does it contain the name of your book? Does it feature all of the relevant or contact information you want your readers/followers to see?
On the EDIT PROFILE page, you’ll also have options to change your username, website URL, etc, items which you likely setup during the account opening steps. Skip these options if you are happy with what you have already entered.
On the EDIT PROFILE page, you’ll also have an option to sync your Twitter account with your Facebook account or your Facebook fan. This is completely optional, but can be useful if you want to duplicate the info on both pages. To do this, click and then follow the FACEBOOK button at the bottom of the EDIT PROFILE page. If you want your tweets to go only to your Facebook fan page, click the link that brings up your Facebook fan page and select the option box.
Be sure to SAVE CHANGES before leaving the EDIT PROFILE page.
Navigating Around Twitter
Once your profile is set-up, look at the top left menu and select HOME. This is referred to as your Twitter Feed. Here is where you’ll see the tweets from people whom you follow. Twitter may have given you suggestions of people which you followed when setting up the account, so you may see some tweets here. (Of course, if you’re not yet following anyone, the feed will be empty.) Just remember, the only tweets you see in your feed are from those you follow.
If someone directs a tweet specifically to you with your @twittername, it will appear in your HOME feed. (It will also appear in your NOTIFICATIONS at top right of menu bar). NOTIFICATIONS will also show other items such as when people follow you or respond to any of your tweets.
The DISCOVER page is curated by Twitter based on your tweets and followers. It will post tweets it thinks you might be interested in. This is a good place to find followers who may be interested in you or the books you offer.
Next, click the ME link on top menu and you’ll see what is commonly known as your Profile Feed–these are the tweets that you send or retweet to your followers. No one sees these tweets unless they are following you, or if they are RT (re-tweeted).
Go ahead and send a welcome tweet to the world.
Build Your Following
You begin building your following by following interesting people. To find people of similar interests, go to the SEARCH window at top right of screen and type in words of things that you are interested in. When I started LitChat, I searched for terms such as BOOKS, AUTHORS, LIBRARIANS, PUBLISHING, READING, etc.
Follow those people who seem interesting to you. Look for thought leaders within your field of expertise. Once you’ve followed several people of interest, go back to your Twitter Feed (HOME) and you’ll see the tweets from those people. Twitter is only as interesting as the people you follow.
Some authors are gregarious tweeters, posting many times a day. Others don’t post much at all. It’s up to you to fit Twitter into your day, but my recommendation is at least one tweet a day. If you don’t have something interesting to post, tweet a short excerpt from your book. Interesting things to tweet are book signing dates, book review URLs, books you are reading, progress on WIP, lessons from the writing life. However, try to avoid the “it’s all about me” syndrome many authors and celebrities fall into. For every “me” centered tweet you produce, post something “other”-centered, such as a quote from another author, or a few responses to one of your followers.
Engage Your Followers
If you see an interesting a post from someone, reply back to them. Your readers enjoy hearing from you and will become allies in recommending your books to others.
Using Twitter shouldn’t be a burden or another item in the list of things you need to do for promotion. If you find it doesn’t work for your lifestyle, don’t use it. Twitter is here today, but in the rapidly changing digital world, it may not be around tomorrow.
How Do You Use Twitter?
We’d love to learn how you use Twitter to promote yourself, market your books and engage with readers. Just leave a comment to begin the conversation.
CAROLYN BURNS BASS is founder and moderator of LitChat. Read her complete bio here.