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)