Twitter is a unique social media platform built on brevity, requiring users to limit posts to only 280 characters at a time. But a writer can pack plenty into these tiny tweets. For many authors, Twitter has become the cornerstone of their author platform, their way of getting the word out for a book launch or to promote a new journal publication.
Although it is not always the best place to develop readers, Twitter can be an excellent source for networking with fellow authors, editors, and small presses. And even with the advent of the platform’s new management in late October 2022, engagement in the Twitter writing community is still strong. For many authors, Twitter is still a viable asset to their platform. These ten tips should guide you if you decide the site is right for you.
1. Create an Easy-to-Read Profile
A profile needs to tell a potential reader who you are at a glance. Make sure you have a clean headshot in your profile. Otherwise you’ll come across as an “egg”—the default profile image for new users on the platform—and people might mistake you for a bot or a scammer.
Twitter bios can only be 160 characters, so space is at a premium. A good author tagline combined with hashtags describing your work is an effective way to approach the space. Also consider using hashtags for any writing organizations you belong to.
A banner for your Twitter account needs to be 1,600 × 500 pixels. Use this to showcase your book covers and connect the visual branding of your website to your Twitter account.
2. Pin a Tweet to the Top of Your Timeline
One of the first tasks you should do when starting a Twitter account is to create a pinned tweet at the top of your feed. If you did not put your tagline in your bio, this would be a good alternate spot for it. You might also use this as a space to list your social media links to allow interested people to find you on the internet. Some authors put links to their latest book here.
If you like a user’s feed, it is a common practice on Twitter to retweet their pinned tweet. Make sure you tap into this convention.
3. Use Automation to Manage Your Promotional Tweets
As an author, you want to keep your promotions consistent. Instead of retyping everything and being present to tweet them day and night, use an automated system to post the tweets for you. Create listings of your promotional tweets in a text document or in a spreadsheet. Make them easy to cut and paste directly to Twitter or into the automated server of your choice. These tweets should support your published articles, stories, poetry, and novels. Post regularly, at least a few times each day. However, never allow the automated promotions to be over 25 percent of your total tweeting. Pick a time each day to manually retweet topics of interest to your readers.
Pro Tip: Set up a social media scheduler to post promotional tweets to your account at regular intervals. I use SocialOomph (https://socialoomph.com) to manage my Twitter account. It is a paid service. Users can create “buckets” of dozens of pre-written tweets that rotate into their feed on a regular basis. They can also create limited time promotions on the fly. Other options include Buffer or Hootsuite. Both have a limited use free service to allow you to test the program and see if it is right for you. For me, it has been worth the cost to save time and know my promotions are going out every day, even if I’m sick or on vacation.
4. Create Private Lists
Twitter has a feature that allows you to create lists of users, which you can set to be private or public. Each list allows you to follow that user in a special feed. Use the lists to monitor what is going on with people who interest you or could be useful in your writing career. If you belong to writing organizations, set up a private list of all the members of the group on Twitter. Each group can have its own list. If you want to meet editors or agents, set up a private list of ones you meet on Twitter, and use the list to monitor their public comments and get to know them. This can become a powerful communication tool and cut through the noise on Twitter.
Pro Tip: Subscribe to public lists of other writers. Often, they will have extensive lists of their own, and it is easy to use these public lists in your retweeting plan. Just remember that you do not own these lists. If the other user leaves Twitter, they may take their list with them.
5. Retweet Others
In marketing, there is the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle: Spend 80 percent of the time promoting others, and use the other 20 percent of the time to promote yourself. Set aside ten to fifteen minutes once or twice a day to go through your lists on Twitter and find topics to retweet. Most of the time, a simple retweet is enough. Comments on the retweets help to drive more engagement, but they can take a great deal of time. Only comment if you feel you are adding to the conversation.
Pro Tip: As a writer and poet, I’ve found that focusing retweets on open calls to magazines, podcast programs about writing, or famous magazines articles can be popular choices. My fellow wordsmiths are always looking for fresh places to publish, and it costs me nothing but a few seconds to point out sources or articles of interest.
6. Develop Lists of Useful Hashtags
Twitter uses hashtags in user’s tweets as searchable terms on the platform, cutting across the noise and giving your tweets tremendous reach with people who are not following you. Most communities have their own hashtags, and learning what these are is vital to you as an author. Hashtags such as #BookTwt, #WritingCommunity, or #PoetryCommunity are great places to start, but search the internet or look at tweets by other authors to find more specific hashtags for your writing as well. Group any hashtags you gather in a text file—this makes using them in your posts as easy as a simple cut and paste.
7. Like Your Mentions and Retweets
Twitter is such a vast sea of people, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Therefore, whenever you receive a notification that someone has mentioned you or retweeted one of your posts on their own feed, be sure to like it. When another person sees you took the time to respond to them, it helps to create a better bond and makes you more memorable. It’s also considered good Twitter etiquette.
8. All Tweets are Forever
Always remember that while Twitter is easy to use and seems fleeting, it is a permanent record. What you say in a tweet can come back years later and harm you. Never tweet in anger. Use your words responsibly.
9. Use Images to Convey More Information
Use graphic software to create images to go with your tweets. Images can create emotions, showcase poetry or book excerpts, and show off your latest cover. Images draw the eye and can give your tweet more impact in your reader’s feed.
Pro Tip: Use a graphic design program like Canva to create branded images for your author platform. Create images to support published poems or short stories. You can highlight an award nomination or showcase a book launch. Don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel; it’s easy to repurpose your images for all parts of your platform, be it website, Facebook, or Twitter.
10. Engage in Communities
There are many writing communities on Twitter: pitch days to agents, writers sharing tips, editors looking for submissions, podcasters asking for guests. It pays to read your tweet lists for relevant information and interact with others to cement connections. Twitter can be a wonderful tool for finding new writing jobs, promoting projects, and keeping up with what is going on in the writing industry. Its character limits and short-form content might make it a rare bird among other sites, but find the tricks to make it work for you, and it can become a powerful addition in your social media roster.