Using Twitter as a writer to be able to promote yourself is probably the easiest of the social media’s to learn, but at the same time it’s the easiest to make mistakes on. There is an entire language you need to learn, and how you craft your promotion to fit in the 140 character limit can sometimes make your inner editor scream in outrage. But with some practice and watching how other professionals do it, you’ll be able to get the hang of it quickly.
The first thing you need to remember with Twitter is the language. Here are some of the very basic phrases that you’ll hear:
Tweet = this is what your message on twitter is called.
Retweet = this is you reposting a tweet that someone else already posted.
Handle = your username on twitter. Everyone’s name is a handle.
Follower = someone who has added your Twitter feed to their watch list, so they are “following” you.
Hashtag = this symbol # . In Twitter, you can put the symbol in front of a phrase (with no spaces) and create a link.
Mention = using this symbol @ in front of someone’s handle makes it a link to their account. It also lets the person you mention know that they were mentioned in your tweet.
After the basic language, you need to learn how to formulate your ideas into 140 characters. Think of this as the hardest editing job you’re every going to do in your life, but you will really learn how to make hooks for your projects once you master this. Remember that you’re a writer, so you do want to try and portray that in your tweet.
Small sacrifices that can be made include using abbreviations, substituting “&” for “and”, “2” for “too”, etc. Make sure you don’t double space after your punctuation as spaces count as characters. But don’t sacrifice your spelling or grammar if you can help it.
I don’t know a single writer who will substitute “your” for “you’re” on twitter without feeling that some editor is rapping their hands with a ruler. However, many will drop the ‘ in “its” even if they mean “it’s” if they only need one character back to make their point.
If you’re putting a URL into your tweet, there are a few sites that you can use to automatically shorten the URL for you so you can gain some characters back. I personally use Tiny URL since their URL links will never expire, but there are a lot of sites now that work and may fit you better.
And now, for hashtags. There are a few ways you can use hashtags to pull people into your sites, as well as communicate with your followers. There are plenty of ones that people use regularly on twitter that you will notice other writers using. The most popular one, though, is #amwriting. This is an accountability tag in which writers will use when they are working on their stories and want to let twitter know about it. You can add it to your posts to share what you’re working on with the twitter world, or go and find other writers to follow in your early days.
The other use for the hashtag is from inspirational sites and professional sites to give advice, quotes, and links to articles to help others who are writing along this crazy path. Writer’s Digest, Writer.ly, and many of the big publishing house twitter sites often put things of interest up under this hashtag that you may find yourself interested in reading.
Other common hashtags are:
#FF = Follow Friday. This is a way that people will link their followers to new Twitter handles that they have found and think others should take a look at.
#amediting = similar to the am writing, but this is accountability for editing.
#writetip = tips for writers
You’ll notice that there are hashtags that will appear on the side of your page when looking at twitter online. Those are the “trending topics”. It’s what a lot of people are talking about. Sometimes, people will also use a specific hashtag to start a “twitter chat”. You can click on the hashtag and only posts that have it in it will show in your feed. Authors will sometimes have their fans use a hashtag for a set amount of time to take questions and then answer them like a private Q&A session.
So that’s all good, but how do you use it to actually promote your writing? A lot of it will be base work long before you are even published. Set up a twitter that will be specifically for you as a writer (separate from you as a real person) You need to make friends. Find people with similar interests and follow them. Follow your favorite authors, publishing houses, and actors. Talk about your work. Anyone who follows you, follow them. Thank them for following you. Talk about what you’re working on. Join in on hashtag chats. Make witty remarks at the popular trending topic hashtags if you write comedy. Link them to your website so they can learn more about you.
When you’re ready to start looking for a publisher or agent, look to see if the editors or agents have a twitter (they will list them on their company’s website) and follow them. They may talk about what they are really looking for that day. Some may take questions or every tweet pitches! Consider it part of the research you do while trying to pass the “intelligence test” that is the submission process for each agent.
And the most important rule about twitter – in the words of Wil Wheaton: “Don’t be a dick.” Treat people on twitter with respect that you would want to be treated with, because when the editors and agents go to your website and see you have a twitter account, they are going to come and look at it and see how well you play in the real world. You want to show them that you aren’t crazy, that you are respectful and someone that knows what they are doing (or faking it really good) and would be an asset to them.
Good Luck and hit me up if you have questions on this.