There’s a lot of confusion about Twitter.
When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was absolutely idiotic. Who would want to sign up for public text messaging? Did the world really want to hear about my mundane existence? Did I really want to sign up to receive pedestrian updates from celebrities?
So I did what anyone else would do. I signed up. There had to be some method to the madness and I was going to discover it.
Fast-forward a few years, and I’ve been able to leverage Twitter to get interviews, meet industry experts, and make friends with other writers. I’ve even been on a documentary because of the microsite! It’s been a fantastic way to connect with people from all sectors of life.
As a social media specialist that works primarily with authors (FYI – you need to be on Twitter.), I’ve fielded a few questions about Twitter. Here are some of the most common ones that I get:
1. How do I choose a username?
The best idea is to use your name (ex. @ThomasUmstattd) or the name of your website (ex. @AuthorMedia). You might get lucky and find that your first name is available (ex. @Jack). By the time I got on the site, most of the combinations of my name were already taken. So I chose something memorable (@ScribblingHappy).
2. Who do I follow?
Twitter will give you prompts on who to follow. They have some built-in suggestions of musicians, politicians, sports figures, celebrities, and people from other walks of life. If you are a writer, I recommend following the Author Media twitter list of literary agents. If you want to follow trends in the Christian writing market, I recommend following these 29 literary agents that represent Christian works.
Twitter gives you the opportunity to import your email contacts to find the Twitter accounts linked to them. This is a good way to find your friends and associates quickly but it can also be overwhelming.
You don’t have to start following hundreds of people right away, nor should you.
Find a few people and then add a few more every day. You’ll naturally find people to follow when you see who the people you admire are retweeting and following.
Bonus: here’s how to create your own Twitter list. Learn how to do this early and you’ll save yourself a major headache later one.
3. How do I get people to follow me?
Pay someone to get you followers.
Actually, don’t. It’s a terrible idea that many politicians, celebrities, and public figures have done. No one likes it when they discover a public figure has inflated their popularity with fake friends. In 2012, it came out that President Obama had more than 9 million fake followers. That wasn’t his fault personally but it certainly didn’t look good for the administration’s social media team.
If you want to get followers, there are a few proven strategies. Start including your Twitter name on your email signatures. Link to it naturally on emails. Add a link on your website. Include it in your author bio when you are writing for publications.
The best way is to start tweeting. Send out concise, witty, and relevant tweets and people will find you. Engage with leaders in your sphere of influence and they’ll start retweeting you and sharing your messages with their followers. People will get curious and start following you.
4. How can I get Twitter on my Facebook? Should I link them to save time?
You can get Twitter to sync with Facebook.
But for the love of all that is good and wonderful in this world, don’t.
When you write for a specific publication, you tailor the message for that audience. The same goes for social media. Your Twitter followers will have different tastes and preferences than you Facebook fans. The two mediums are built to engage people in different ways.
Facebook is about building relationships with people you already know. For the most part, Facebook will be full of people you’ve met in real life or have some sort of connection with (think school chums, writing buddies, and a bevy of friends and family).
Twitter is about connecting with the people you wish you knew (industry leaders, thought leaders, celebrities, etc.). You have instant access to people; gatekeepers are gone.
I may send out 10-20 tweets per day. Some of these tweets are public and some of them are responding to people personally. That’s completely normal for Twitter. If I were to connect my Twitter feed to Facebook, people would start unfriending me right and left.
5. When is the right time to tweet?
When you are just starting out, you won’t know. It’s a good rule of thumb to tweet when you think your audience will be online. If you are tweeting to people in the workplace, try to time your tweets when you think they will have breaks. Noon and 1 PM are very popular times on Twitter. So is 3 PM, when the afternoon lull hits.
After you start tweeting for awhile, use metrics to tweet smart. Here’s an article I wrote on 3 tools to help you find the best time to tweet.
6. Can I block people?
There will come a time when you will run across unsavory people on Twitter. Their avatars are usually egg-shaped, scantily clad women, or someone wearing aviator sunglasses. You may get someone who retweets everything you tweet, favorites your photos, and has all the uncomfortable signs of liking you just a little too much. Or maybe you find the opposite – someone who cares so much about what you have to say that they argue over every word you publish.
All three are annoying. Block ‘em.
To block a Twitter user:
- Log in to your Twitter account.
- Go to the profile page of the person you wish to block.
- Click the person icon on their profile page. This brings up a drop-down actions menu.
- Select Block from the options listed.
Twitter has a great little article with further instructions on blocking users. I recommend reading it.
7. Do people get notified when I stop following them?
The only thing that will happen is that their follower count will decrease by one. They will not get an email telling them that you have stopped following them. I would never take it personally if a friend unfollowed me. This isn’t junior high school.
Finally, the Twitter answers I’ve been looking for! - click to Tweet.
Twitter isn’t Jr. High so stop acting like it is. – click to Tweet.
I just learned 15 secrets to Twitter success. You can too. - click to Tweet.
Watch out! Now I know how to spot spambots. – click to Tweet.
It’s not you…actually, it is. How to block people on Twitter (and other secret tips). – click to Tweet.
8. Do I have to follow someone if they follow me?
Twitter is an optional service. You have no obligation to follow anyone you don’t want to follow. Be wary of the “I’ll follow you if you follow me” mentality. You want interactions, not just follows.
9. How can I tell if my followers are robots?
Robots appear suddenly and don’t respond like a person would. They will latch on to your keywords and start sending you links based on them. Don’t click on the links. Ever.
The chances are you have a robot following you already. Don’t panic. You may never hear from them. You don’t need to go through your list of followers to cull out the robots. That will happen naturally. Work on building interaction and quality relationships and the robots will leave.
10. What’s the difference between a retweet, an @ reply, and a direct message?
Twitter provides you three different ways to connect with users.
Retweets (RT) are when you find a status update from someone else and you share it with your friends.
@ reply’s are when you respond directly to another person on Twitter. The message will not be shared with all of your followers but if you and the other user have mutual friends, the messages will show up on their stream. If you don’t mind the conversation being semi-public (and other people joining in), keep tweeting! If you are having a long conversation, move it to direct messages, text messages, email, or a phone conversation.
Direct Messages (DM) are private between you and the other user. You can send a DM to any of your followers, and anyone you are following can send a DM to you. If you send a DM to someone you are not following back, they will not be able to reply. So no worries about getting spam DMs from other users. Only those users you choose to connect to can send you a DM.
Bonus: DO NOT CLICK on links in your direct messages unless you know you can trust them. If you get a message saying something like “Someone is saying bad things about you online”, don’t click the link. These are spam robots who are hungry for your personal information.
11. What are hashtags?
Think of hashtags as Twitter’s filing system. The hashtag is also known as the pound symbol.
Hashtags are used for:
- Indexing emotions (#Vague #OhNoHeDidnt)
- Identifying a Brand (#Ferrari)
- Recommending a Product (#BestRead)
- Connecting with like-minded people (#MemoirChat)
- Finding Experts (#AskAgent)
Not every tweet needs a hashtag but they will help people find your tweets. Here’s a list of essential hashtags for writers. It has helped hundreds of authors and it might help you as well.
12. How do I follow hashtags?
If you have an application like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you can create a column dedicated to a specific hashtag. Otherwise, you can click on a hashtag or enter it in the search bar of your account and scroll through what pops up.
I recommend using an application.
13. What’s a Twitter chat?
A Twitter chat is a conversation on a certain topic, often at a certain time. There are genre-specific chats and chats that writers host to connect with their readers.
Inkygirl has a great list of Twitter chats for writers. We’ll be compiling our own list soon.
14. What do I put in my Twitter profile?
Your Twitter bio is the place to let people know who you are and what you are about…in just a few characters.
Mine runs like this -
I help authors tell their stories online with @AuthorMedia. I tell a few of my own as well. Flawed Jesus follower. Portland expat. Adventure addict. Cheeky.
In a few short words, people know that I’ll be tweeting about authors, stories, and religion. They also get a taste of my personality so they know what kind of tweets to expect from me.
You don’t have to link to your work account. Most people don’t need to. In my instance, it works. If you have books out you could say something like:
YA Romance Writer for @ThomasNelson. I tell stories that sparkle…without vampires.
You get the idea. Have fun!
15. How important is my user avatar?
Your avatar is how people will recognize you online. Make sure it matches the image that you are trying to project to the world. You will be judged by your pixels. Make sure you don’t have an ugly author photo.
Still feeling confused by Twitter? Send us your questions. They may just end up in a future post!