Writer, Brand Thyself: Tackling Twitter Part 1

First – Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you’re wearing green…

So now you’ve got a blog (I hope),and you’re updating it at least once a week. Perfect. You’re ready to branch out into other areas of social media. The next place I’d suggest you go is Twitter. It’s not only a good way to get your blog seen by a *bunch* of people, it’s also a great place to hook up with other writers, readers, reviewers, agents, and editors.Yes, *all* of those people are represented on Twitter – it’s one of the best and easiest ways to connect and stay up to date in the writing industry. Twitter updates are limited to 140 characters at a time, so not only is it good practice at being concise, it’s also easy to update several times a day in the span of about five seconds(depending on your typing speed).

Twitter is all about volume – if you aren’t actively following and interacting with people, you won’t“get it”, and you’ll probably be bored with it. You will*never* be able to keep up with the posts on your main page, referred to as your “twitter stream” or “tweet stream”. Don’t try.You’ll drive yourself crazy. At the same time, don’t limit yourself to following only as many people as you think you can keep up with. You want to connect with as many people as possible in order to get your name out there, and to ensure that there are a lot of people who see your tweets on a daily basis. A good way to get followers is to follow and talk to people yourself. Just like connecting with bloggers through comments – people will respond to genuine interest in what they have to say. Don’t wait for people to approach you – jump in and talk to people.

When you first sign up, go into the “Settings” link (top right of your twitter page), and then click on “Profile”. You can skip the location if you want, but add your blog address where it says “web site”. This is the first level of promo you’re doing – and many people who consider following you*will* click on that link to check out your blog first (I do most of the time).

The last box on the profile page is the“Bio”. You really need to fill this out. People who consider following you will use this to make a quick determination as to whether they might be interested in what you have to say – or not.We’re writers here, so make sure that somewhere in there it says“writer”. I will automatically follow just about anyone with“writer” in their profile, unless it has “technical” in front of it. I dare say many other writers do the same. If you’ve chosen a genre (or two), add that as well. All of this makes it easier for other people with your interests to find and connect with you. Many people (myself included) are less likely to follow you if you don’t have a bio filled out. I do make exceptions, but normally only if I know the person from somewhere else, or if they have a web site link to visit instead.

If you can, upload a photo as well –it doesn’t have to be of you, but twitterers are just as likely to identify you in their tweet stream by photo as they are by your name.

Now that your account is ready to go –here are the two main twitter symbols you’ll need to know to interact with others.

“@” – Use the “at” sign in front of any twitter name to direct your tweet to that person. Your message will show up both in the other person’s tweet stream and on their “mentions” page. To see who’s directed a message to you (or is talking about you), click on “@yourname” in the right sidebar on your twitter home page. If you were going to direct a message tome, you would type “@JamieDeBree” before (or anywhere in) your message. If you put it in front, it will only show up for me and anyone who follows you and I both. If you put it somewhere else, it will show up to everyone on your followers list, plus me.

“#” – Hash tags are used to categorize your tweets. If you look on the right sidebar of your homepage, you’ll see a search box. If you put a hash tag plus a topic in that box, it will show you any tweets that other people have put into that category. Use these to find other writers and publishing professionals – then follow anyone who looks fun/interesting/amusing/helpful.

Your assignment this week, should you accept it is to do a search for these hash tags: #amwriting, #writegoal, #amediting, #pubtips – and follow at least one new person from each.

Are you on Twitter? Love it or Hate it?And for those who are on twitter, post your twitter name in the comments (so we can follow you), plus a few people you think we should all be following from your tweet stream. Don’t be shy – we won’t bite (or I won’t, anyway).

Next week: Tackling Twitter, Pt. 2(conventions & etiquette)

12 comments on “Writer, Brand Thyself: Tackling Twitter Part 1

  1. Medeia Sharif

    I learned through observation. I looked at other Twitter pages and learned about the @ and #. And volume, like you say, is very important.

  2. Jamie DeBree

    I think a lot of people learn through observing, but I think a lot just get overwhelmed and give up before that happens too. Sad, since it’s such a great resource! 🙂

  3. Charmaine

    Good post for writers beginning out in social networking. Branding yourself is essential today. I look forward to seeing more on building your platform as a writer.

  4. Carol

    I think I’m going to have to make a concentrated effort to be a weekend Twit. I just don’t seem to have the time during the week!

    Yeah, I know. It’s a lame excuse, but it’s all I have. 😉

  5. Samantha Hunter

    I love Twitter — it has hands-down been so valuable to be creatively and from a business standpoint. I have met so many great people (including YOU), and found research contacts, new authors, reviewers, book ideas, connections, etc that I would never have found otherwise. I think my Kindle short found the success that it did largely because of Twitter and the kind folks who pushed it for me.

    The one thing I have found, though, is the need to keep up a more or less constant presence there. You really have to commit. 😉 If you are gone even for a week, the river moves on, and you have to reassert yourself back into the flow.

    As I often tell writers, one or two posts a week promoting your blog, etc won’t do it — you have to treat it like a social space first, and then promotion is a kind of side effect of that.

    I personally think anyone who signs on to Twitter and only posts their blog announcements or one or two tweets a week is wasting their time. They might be better served by Facebook, where the post stays on your wall, and people will come by and find it after a longer time period, perhaps…



  6. Jamie DeBree

    Thanks Charmaine – glad you found it interesting and “tweetable”. :-)I’m glad you joined us!

  7. Jamie DeBree

    Ahem…I hate to point out the obvious, but what *is* it you do with your time in the evenings? 😉

    Oh wait…but you said you’re bringing work home. So I suppose you’re sort of excused – unless you’re watching TV & playing games. ‘Cause you know you can do twittering at the same time, right? LOL

  8. Jamie DeBree

    I totally agree, Sam – “getting” your name out there isn’t enough, you have to keep it out there, and remind people that you’re still in the group. And you need to have genuine interactions with people before you can even start doing promo. That’s just how networking “works”.

    But it’s so easy to take five seconds to type out a tweet and hit “send” – it’s not like it has to take a huge chunk of time out of the day (unless you get addicted…ahem). 😉

  9. Meg

    I’m working on twitter. It’s just hard for me to post random tidbits throughout the day.


    I am thinking I need a more ‘professional’ twitter name. Sticking with this one for now. It works. 🙂

  10. Karen Strong

    I was on of those people who really didn’t think I would like Twitter. I thought it would be a waste of time.

    On a whim, I joined during the holidays and I really do like it. I’ve met some writers I don’t think I would have — like you Jamie! Plus, almost every one in the industry is represented and you can learn a lot. I especially love the chats and the #amwriting threads.

    And you’re right, I also usually always follow other writers.

    Plus it’s a great break/diversion while I’m at the day job.

    Twitter Name: @KarenMusings

  11. Jamie DeBree

    Followed you, Meg. Though I never would have thought to look for you under a completely different name and with a locked account at that. Is there a reason your account is locked? I’ll be discussing that next week too… 🙂

  12. Jamie DeBree

    I’ve met so many new people – new bloggers even, on twitter…it really is such an excellent networking tool! It is a great diversion…I have to be sneaky at work though (which is actually kind of fun, truth be told. I feel like a rebel…). 😉