Twitter has hundreds of millions of daily users worldwide. It isboth a way to engage one to one with people and a way to broadcast information. Writers use it every day for both. Search for #amwriting on Twitter and you will see some of the activity writers are engaging in on Twitter. Some of it is broadcasting. Some of it is looking for engagement.
If you use it consistently you will get noticed.
Twitter sells books too. On this page you will see actual Tweets from real people who have bought books because of Tweets, and a table showing thousands of people going to book pages on Amazon as a result of book promotion Tweets, all tracked by an independent hit tracking service. You can also see other comments at the bottom of this post from people whose books sold more because they were Tweeted about.
There’s a lot of misinformation around about the value of Twitter for writers. Much of it is written by writers who struggle with how to use Twitter effectively. Often it’s assumed that one or two Tweets to your followers is enough and that if that approach fails, it’s because Twitter isn’t effective at selling books. That adage about workmen blaming their tools comes to mind.
One challenge we all face is to work out how to craft compelling Tweets, which inspire people to buy a book. Another is how to be consistent. Twitter themselves promote to their corporate clients the role of “everyday” Tweets, repeated Tweets, and “live” Tweets, those created in response to events. I took this idea from a presentation by a senior Twitter manager, which I attended. To ignore Twitter’s own recommendations, because we are writers, seems a waste of a useful resource to me.
If you want to build your own Twitter account below are some suggestions. If you just want to see the proof that Twitter sells books, simply look at each of the Tweets, screen-grabbed from my Tweetdeck account below.
Before we start, keep in mind that about half of your Twitter followers will be occasional users, perhaps logging in only every few days or even every few weeks. Your chance of reaching them is limited, unless they follow very few people.
The Notifications area of Twitter, accessed through the Notifications button at the top of the Twitter screen, is the most important way to connect with people. This is where people will mainly try to contact you personally. It’s where you will connect and have conversations with people. It’s where you will see all Twitter posts where your Twitter name (@yourname) is contained in the Tweet. You can send a Tweet to anyone with a Twitter name by mentioning their @name in the Tweet you send.
If you are on Twitter and you don’t respond to the people engaging with you through your Notifications tab, it’s like a writer being in a bookshop and failing to respond to questions people are putting to them. Do you respond to everyone who tries to engage with you?
Twitter can build readers one by one, and the Notifications tab is where this will happen.
Lists are a great, unmissable, way to keep track of important Twitter users who you want to follow. Your Home Twitter messages feed will get overloaded with Tweets as you follow more people. Twitter will be totally overwhelming if you try to read all these Tweets people send out.
If you create a list of people (whoever you want – fans – other authors – your professional contacts) and make it private only you will be able to see who is on the list.Click your profile picture icon on the top right of the Twitter screen to access the lists options and add people to a list.
I use Tweetdeck to see the Tweets from the people in the list I have created, because it presents the Tweets from the people on each list in a column on screen, rather than me having to bring the list up each time in Twitter through the profile and settings button, top right on the Twitter screen. On the far left in Tweetdeck use the + symbol to add another column. Choose a list you have created in Twitter for that new column. Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter so it’s an approved way to us Twitter.
I have separate lists for writers I want to follow, journalists, literary business people and a few others. I love lists. You can put people on a list by clicking their Twitter name, at the top of their Tweet in blue, them clicking the gear wheel icon beside when the popup appears about them. You can simply click Create List, if you haven’t got a list already.
To build a Twitter following, simply follow people. Somewhere between 10% and 50% of the people you follow will follow you back. If you develop a useful Twitter presence your follow rate will increase. Even if it doesn’t, you can build slowly by following people.
Follow people that interest you every day or two. Even just a few who might be interested in your work. If they don’t follow you back within 2 or 3 days then you are within your rights to unfollow them. If they don’t think you’re worth listening to, and won’t follow you back, why should you keep following them?
Twitter etiquette states that you should thank people who ReTweet your Tweet (copy your Tweet to their followers) and that you should answer people who send you a personal Tweet, asking you a question or telling you they like your Tweet or blog. A high level of personal interaction or “engagement” is considered to be the Holy Grail on Twitter.
I find it difficult to write more than about twenty personal responses a day on Twitter without Twitter cutting too much into my writing or working time. Twitter etiquette also states that you should not directly advertise/link to your own book on Amazon in more than 10% of your Tweets. The rest should give value to your followers. You can do that by Tweeting about your blog posts or interesting things you are reading about online.
If you want to reply to any Tweet, click the left arrow below the Tweet. This is how you build up relationships on Twitter, by replying to other people’s Tweets.
TWITTER SWOT ANALYSIS
Strengths – Twitter is great for building connections with real people and staying up to date on what people are doing. Its focus is on the latest news and finding things you never knew existed.
Weaknesses – Twitter is limited in post size to 140 characters. Your posts will be seen mostly by your followers who are online at the time you post.
Opportunity – Use Twitter to encourage people to go to your Facebook page and/or blog/Flickr/Goodreads author page and you will drive up hits on those sites. Take the trouble to reply to all Notification mentions and you will build a personal support network. I love Twitter for all of this. You can also embed videos and images in your Tweets to make them stand out. Tweets with images or video attract more attention.
Threats – All your contacts are on view to everyone, unless you have a private account. Private accounts discourage followers however. You will have to play to an evolving set of Twitter rules too. One of those is: don’t persistently mass follow (more than 50 a day, up to 2000 followers, is mass following) or your account will be suspended. It can take about a week, and a commitment not to break the rules again, to get unsuspended. Your account could get suspended permanently if you keep breaking those rules.
If you want to sign up for our service, which promotes books on Twitter, and on other social media services, click here. Our aim is to help authors who don’t want to spend hours every week doing the above, they may want to write instead. We have hundreds of thousands of followers, spend time every day growing these followers and we stay up to date on what’s going on in the world of Twitter, so you don’t have to.
Here are some comments from authors whose books sold because we Tweeted their books. Each has given permission for these comments to be used: