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Twitter 101

The Basics

MySpace was all the rage a couple of years ago. Now you hardly go there anymore. Then came Facebook. You’ve befriended your high school crush and about 3,000 other writers. Have you sold many books? Who knows? You have, however, spent countless hours befriending people and reading about other writers and their lives when you should have been writing. The last thing in the world that you need is to waste time on yet another social site.

Happily, Twitter is a little bit different. It can be used as a Facebook-like entity, but it has much bigger marketing capabilities. They call it viral, because tweets (the messages that are posted) spread in amazing ways. The other big bonus is that messages can only be 140 characters long. So while you could spend hours reading tweets, you really can’t spend too much time writing them.

It took me quite awhile to understand why Twitter is such a great marketing tool. If you have already joined and become disillusioned, I understand completely. I went through the same process. When you join, all sorts of strangers begin to follow you. Before you know it, your Twitter page seems to be full of disjointed and unimportant messages from a bunch of people you don’t know. Do you really need to know that Jane Doe is going to bed now? Or that John Doe is waiting for a flight?

Ah, but reaching people who don’t know you is key to marketing. So that’s a good thing. I like to think of Twitter as a big billboard. If you paid a small fortune for a billboard in Times Square, a lot of people would walk by it. Some would notice, others would be too busy flirting or drinking coffee or tweeting. When you send a tweet out into the world, some people will notice it and others won’t. There are a few key things, though, that increase your chances.

Joining Twitter is fairly simple. Go to and click on JOIN. However, do not protect your tweets! You are there to see and be seen.

The Basics

# is called a hashtag. It denotes a subject. So, for instance, if you want people who read books to read your tweet, you would put #books in the body of your tweet.

@ designates a person or company. I am @KristaDavis. If you put #KristaDavis in your tweet, it won’t do you much good. Only people searching tweets containing KristaDavis would see it. Your Twitter address will be @YourName.

Remember all those tweets that started coming in fast and thick? Imagine what will happen when you’re being followed by 1,000 people. (And you will be if you work at it!) You need a mechanism to keep track of the subjects that interest you.

Personally, I like TweetDeck. ( It allows me to break subjects into columns. For instance, since I write the Domestic Diva Mysteries, I can follow people tweeting about baking, Foodbuzz, books, reading, and recipes. It also lets me know if I’ve been mentioned in a tweet, which I want to know because it might require a return tweet. When I use TweetDeck, I’m not seeing the thousands of tweets that come in, just the ones that interest me. Keywords for writers are #book, #books, #writing, #author, #writers, #write, #litchat, #amwriting, and #tweet4lit. There are more for young adult writing, for NaNoWriMo, romance, paranormal, and countless other things. This is where you need to understand your own brand and post to the #subjects that pertain to your writing. All writers can use the broad subjects like #write, but you need to consider who your readers are and what interests them.

If you’re at a total loss, think about the things you like -- your favorite sports teams, books, movies, or hobbies. That will get you started, but you’ll maximize the advertising value if you can target subjects that appeal to readers of your books.

How do you get people to follow you? Easy. Days of the week have special designations to spread the word. Greetings are sent on #MM which stands for Meow Monday as well as Mystery Monday and Music Monday. #TT which means Tuna Tuesday. (It also means Trending Topic.) #WW for Writer Wednesday and Woof Wednesday. #FF is the most general -- Follow Friday.

It all began with #FF for Follow Friday. People started using that as a method of recommending other people. It’s sort of like you’re saying -- this is my friend who offers great tweets, you could follow him/her, too. Except you don’t have to write all that. You can simply tweet #FF @SinCNational @NYSinC @SinCNE @KristaDavis

Note that I haven’t wasted characters by using commas. To compose a message to tweet, you simply write something like:

#writers #books Super blog on pitching to agents!

That means people following the subjects #writers and #books will see your tweet. You can also bring your tweet to the attention of others by naming someone:

#writers #books Great blog by @JessicaAgent on pitching to agents!

Remember, you only have 140 characters to convey your message. Consequently, you have to be smart about it. If you write:

#writers #books #Great blog on #pitching to agents! YourName

The #s in front of “great” and “pitching” are wasted because there probably aren’t people reading tweets on the subject of great or pitching.

Another way to get people to follow you is to RT or retweet. Let’s say one of your followers reads greatblog and thinks it’s good advice. He hits retweet (usually located on the tweet itself) and he’s done. He has just sent your message to his followers. It will look like this:

RT @YourName: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! FollowersName

And then one of his followers re-tweets it to her followers:

RT@FollowersName: RT @YourName: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! FollowerOfFollowersName

And that’s how it becomes viral. It all started with a tweet that you sent out into the world. It was re-tweeted by one of your followers and re-tweeted again to another group of followers. Who knows how often it will be re-tweeted and whom it might reach. That’s the billboard on Times Square.

Twitter 102


What do I Tweet?

Me, me, me becomes as tiring on Twitter as it does in person. Write your tweet in terms that make it beneficial or interesting to others.

#writing #writers #author @MosbyWriter uses 5 easy steps to develop characters. http://TinyUrlToMyBlog

Toot someone else’s horn.

#author of Dead Wrong @MosbyWriter made the Independent Mystery Bookstore Bestseller list!

Plug someone else’s blog.

I’m over the moon about review of Dead On by @SmartPerson http://SmartPerson’sUrl

Still nervous? Start by retweeting other people’s tweets! Everyone loves to be retweeted because that’s how word spreads.

Ack! All these people want to follow me. Should I ignore them?

No! That’s how we grow our followers. We want to reach new people. We want to reach people we don’t know. Follow them back.

Someone followed me and then unfollowed me. What’s that about?

Some people want to build their follower list, but they don’t want to follow you. They follow you, then soon after, they unfollow you. I’m sorry to say that some of them are writers.

Here’s another little fact you need to know about Twitter. There are limits on how many new people you can follow. If you are following too many more people than are following you, you can’t follow anyone else until your ratio evens out. Of course, that means you want to get rid of the deadbeats who pretended to follow you. I’ve tried several methods and, in my opinion, TwitterKarma is still the best. You can see who is following you and dump the others.

This should suggest to you that it’s polite Twitter etiquette to follow back. Chances are that Oprah, who, at the time this was written, had 3,274,882 followers and was following a mere 19 people, will not follow you. Most people, dogs, cats, and squirrels will follow you, though.

What if it’s a porn follower?

You can block anyone from following you. You can also report spam. All with a simple click.

I don’t have time for all this. Why am I doing this again?

To reach readers. To promote your brand. I read recently that one ought not spend more than ten minutes a day reading social media, or more than another ten minutes a day responding to and sending social media messages. That’s where Twitter is fabulous. You only have 140 characters. There’s only so much you can say. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to send out your message. The whole point is to bring people to your website and your blog, thereby acquainting them with your books and you as an author.

Plus, you can link your tweets to Facebook, so your message shows up there at the same time.

I’m not published yet. What’s in it for me?

Agents and publishers tweet constantly. Check out #agentsday. Look up your favorite agents. Some of them announce query contests. Some say what they’re looking for. Some post pet peeves. They even announce it when they’re attacking the query pile!

If you post useful messages, you’re also getting your name out there. You’ll be collecting followers and when the day comes to announce your book, you’ll be that much ahead of the game.

What are lists about?

You can make up your own lists to sort your followers. They can be public or private. Other people’s lists are a great way to find new followers. I was surprised recently when someone asked to be added to one of my lists. Believe it or not, there are sites that rate lists. So you can even promote yourself by having the best list of something.

I find the lists useful for remembering who to mention on #WW and #MM. In addition, if someone has ditched me, I can tell at a glance and unfollow with a quick click.

~ Krista  Davis


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