Twitter can be like a packed football stadium for authors. All of the people on Twitter are trying to get the attention of the people on the other side of the stadium. They want subscribers or followers or friends or likes. Everyone in the stadium wants the attention of everyone else in the stadium. This isn’t a great way to communicate. It’s chaotic, disorganized and discouraging.
Yet, authors often hear stories of how books are sold, tribes have increased, and deals are made. Somehow Twitter works for those who know how to work it.
But if all you do on Twitter is shout into the crowd with no plan, no target and no order, you’ll probably come away disappointed.
Perhaps we should think of Twitter as a cocktail party instead.
If you go to a cocktail party, your purpose is not ever to shout. Instead, you extend your hand, make small talk, find common interests, and exchange information with the guests there. At a party, you can be yourself, take your time, and actually hold conversations.
These eight tips can help you make Twitter less of a shouting match and more of a party. Perhaps you’ll start conversations, build relationships and eventually build your tribe.
1. Target specific types of people, not just other writers. Other writers should not be your first market for selling your book. Instead, you should be looking for readers that meet your specific criteria. You know who you are looking for based on your genre, your setting, your themes, and characters. Take the time to think about your book and seek out readers who identify with certain aspects of it.
2. Ask questions of people you meet, don’t just say, “buy my book! It’s $.99!” If you are using Twitter as an advertising medium, you are going to be disappointed. Questions, however, engage people who potentially could learn to love you.
3. Think long term. No social media platform guarantees instant success. To maximize the benefits of Twitter, you need to have a long term vision. Set a goal of following 50+ people a day. Schedule your blog post or “look at me” tweets but use the rest of your day to engage your followers and ask questions. You will see results if you commit to this daily, engage others and save the hard sell for something else.
4. Ask questions constantly but don’t overthink it. As you read people’s bios, ask them about their pets, their hometowns or who won last night’s game. Twitter moves so fast, that even if you do sound stupid, you can always tweet something else. Lighten up, ask questions and take chances.
5. Search out relevant chats. There are dozens of chats on Twitter weekly. Engage in one of them! You are likely to meet people in your target market who can encourage you. We all need a community. We need encouragement, professional opinions, and connections. I have met dozens, if not hundreds of writers (my target market). Even if these writers never buy my books, I’m learning from them. My writing life is all the richer for it.
6. Use hashtags appropriately. Hashtags are shortcuts to conversations. I’m the first person to volunteer to use one as a punchline, (#likethis #duh) but the purpose is to find common threads or topics quickly. The best one I’ve found lately is #writerscommunity.
7. Don’t treat Twitter like Facebook. It’s a waste of time to scroll through your Twitter feed to “catch up”. Instead, create a list of your favorites or closest friends and check on them a couple of times a day. Use Hootsuite to track the threads of important hashtags. Find what’s trending and jump in the conversation, if you can’t catch up, don’t worry about it. Just go forward.
8. Make lists. Twitter allows you to make lists to organize your followers. Use them. This will save time. Take advantage of this: new connections are ripe for the taking.
9. Don’t get in a rush! Relationships take time. If you are antsy to make a sale, gain a reader or get a follower, it will show. And rushing relationships is a big turn off. Cocktail parties are meant to be relaxing — hence the cocktails. So pour yourself another glass, raise it high and toast to the beauty of good conversations through Twitter.
I love that writers everywhere are learning how to use Twitter well. I love that most of my online connections have come through Twitter. But Twitter won’t work for you if you don’t know how to understand it’s strengths and weaknesses. So put away the football jersey and megaphone and slip into the little black dress.
Join the Twitter cocktail party, engage with others and have fun!