Imagine yourself in a packed football stadium — one of the big ones like Gillette or Lucas Oil. Now imagine that every one in attendance at that stadium is shouting at the same time.
They aren’t shouting to players on the field, they’re not even watching the game, instead, they are trying to get the attention of the people on the other side of the stadium. Everyone in the stadium, including you, wants attention from others. Everyone wants to be known as clever. 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.
Twitter can be like that for authors.
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. Everyone has the same purpose — to get attention — but a party is more relaxed. You can be yourself. You can take your time. A cocktail party is a manageable way to start relationships because it’s based in conversation, not shouting.
These nine tips can help you make Twitter less of a shouting match and more of a party.
If you follow these tips, you’ll start conversations, you’ll build relationships and eventually you’ll 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!” Only blast tweets about their books. If you are using Twitter as a an advertising medium, you are going to be disappointed. With the vast number of tweets every day, your message of “my Amish Zombie Princess romance is $.99” will get lost in the crowd. 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 and don’t overthink it. As you read people’s bios, ask them about their pets, their hometowns or who won last night’s game. You are going to have to get over yourself you are insecure or self conscious. Don’t waste this opportunity thinking “this sounds stupid” or “no one will respond”. 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. Write an interesting noun-filled bio. At a cocktail party, you’re introduced with nouns, “Chip is an agent!” or “She’s a new mother!” or “He’s a marathoner!” The best nouns connect us to our jobs, roles, interesting hobbies and big dreams. It’s these nouns that will identify you to others and start conversations. Your bio should be a warm, friendly, specific introduction, not a CV or resume.
6. Search out relevant chats. There are dozens of chats on Twitter weekly. (My favorite? #10MinNovelists, every Thursday 9 PM EDT) Engage in one of them! You are likely to meet people in your target market who can encourage you. We all need community. We need encouragement, professional opinions and connections. I have meet 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.
7. 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. Your target market has its own set of hashtags. Find them! The people who use them are the people who may buy your book. The effort research is worth it.
8. Don’t treat Twitter like Facebook. It’s a waste of time to scroll through your Twitter feed to “catch up”. Twitter is so fast, that there is no need to go to where your 1200 followers left off yesterday and see what everyone had to say. 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.
9. Make lists. Twitter allows for you to make lists to organize your followers. Use them. This will save time. Lists are also a great place to find more followers in your target market. And it’s perfectly fine to find followers from others’ lists — in fact if you may be able to find the lists created by others who share your target market (your competitors!) Take advantage of this: new connections are ripe for the taking.
I love Twitter. I love its speed and its flexibility. I love that if I have an off week and don’t keep up with my tweets, I can pick up where I left off.
I love that writers everywhere are learning how to use it 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!
Want more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.
Available for $.99!
Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.