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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Twitter Tips for Author Tweeters.

I’ve been using Twitter, as a writer, for a few years now. Recently, I’ve been conducting some experiments and doing a spot of exploration. I thought I’d share my findings, for what they’re worth, with the writing community.

I don’t have a huge following: 8,537 followers, as I compose this post, with me following 8,534 and having made 21,299 tweets. But it’s a lot more than I started with at the beginning of the year: 5,110 followers, following 5,012, and 11,823 tweets. Much of that increase has taken place in the past couple of months, with the bulk of it occurring over the month of December. This is the result of the experiments.

I belong to a group on Facebook, called ASMSG (Authors Social MediaSupport Group), just one of a number of such groups. The basic premise is that we re-tweet and post each other’s links in the hope of increasing our exposure. The group has around 780 members at present and we’re all linked with each other. There’s a good deal of activity on Facebook as well as on Twitter.

One of the things I’ve started to do is increase my re-tweeting of other members’ tweets, and that has had an impact, increasing my following. However, I believe the major contributor to the increase has been my collection of twitter handles that I then tweet; promoting these re-tweeters in groups to my followers. By advertising the fact that a tweeter retweets regularly, you encourage others to follow that tweeter. So, what’s in it for me? Well, naturally, other tweeters see what I’m doing and want to get in on the act. They follow me, retweet my tweets and I then add them to my collection. I use a Word document along with the ‘find’ function to keep track of this activity. Since it takes me about an hour each day to do this, I won’t be able to continue it for long. But the experiment has been very instructive.

It’s clear that re-tweeting the tweets of others is an excellent way of spreading not only their messages but also my own name.

So: Tip 1:
If someone retweets something you’ve done, something that matters to you, have the good manners to follow them (if you don’t already) and to RT one of their tweets. You’ll build goodwill along with new followers. And thank them for the RT: your own tweet handle along with theirs will go out to the community and be seen again.

Secondly, I’ve taken to following all those who follow me, regardless of whether I’m fascinated by their activity. This may seem odd thing, but it’s connected me with others in whose tweets and activities I am interested. And it’s resulted in sales of my books. The spread is viral, you see. You’ll notice that my numbers of ‘followers’ and ‘following’ are quite close. This synchronicity seems to encourage people to follow: they see that they won’t be following without being followed back and that’s important to many tweeters.

Tip 2:
Follow back those who follow you.

Are you aware that a tweet that starts with a handle; @stuartaken, for example, will go only to your followers and those who follow the named person, and not to the whole community. By starting a tweet this way, you’re effectively reducing your reach. We’re writers: exposure is vital; the more people who see your name/message, the better. So, you need to start your tweets with something other than the @ symbol. Anything will do. You’re a writer: I’m sure you can come up with alternative wording to overcome this limitation.

Tip 3:
Never start a tweet with @ unless you specifically want it to be limited in its reach.

Many tweeters use automated direct messages. These are generally ignored by the bulk of tweeters. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to unfollow such tweeters, treating the DM as spam. So beware. If you must send a DM, and I’d advise against unless circumstances dictate it, make sure it’s personal, not general.

Tip 4:
Avoid automatic DMs.

Programs, such as justunfollow, allow you to keep track of your followers. There are companies and individuals out there who will follow you until you follow back and then they’ll unfollow you, safe in the knowledge that most people won’t notice this sneaky way of increasing their followers. Using something like justunfollow allows you to keep an eye on those who’ve ceased to follow you and this, in turn, helps keep your followers and those you’re following in some sort of balance. Try it. It’s free, and fairly quick and easy to use.

Tip 5:
Use a program to keep your followers in balance with those you’re following.

Hashtags, #, identify areas of mutual interest for tweeters. On your Twitter page you’ll see a heading,  #Discover. I bet most of you have never ventured into this land, however. Hashtags can be attached to any number of subjects. There’s one for Doncaster, one for Kindle, for Mandela, for SciFi, Fantasy, Horror, and, of course, WRITING. In fact, you name it and there’s probably a hashtag for it. So, what does this mean? It allows you to join a community with the same interests as you, it allows you to interact with them and encourages those who retweet to retweet your tweets to like-minded folk, thereby spreading your name and messages to those most likely to be interested in the topic.

Tip 6:
Use hashtags (the search facility will enable you to identify the exact format you need to use for each specific tag).

One last thing that I suspect a lot of you don’t know (it’s amazing how reluctant users can be to explore websites) is that the headings on the ‘Home’ page have functions. If you click on the tab that says ‘Followers’ you’ll see it lists your followers in date order, with the most recent at the top of that list. You can quickly follow back all new followers from this one spot. Easy.

Tip 7:
Explore and use the various tools Twitter supplies for use. They make life easier and save time.

Some general advice, based on my own experience:
If you’re using Twitter as writer, you want the maximum audience; don’t make your tweets private or use programs like Truetwit to verify twitters. Whilst such barriers may be useful for private users, they get in the way of easy interaction with potentially useful contacts for those of us trying to spread the word. Keep an eye on spammers: the more followers you have, the more likely you are to be targeted by spammers. (I get about 1 or 2 per week). They attach a URL to your handle and you’ll discover you’re being associated with some unsavoury or money-grabbing organisation against your intentions. It’s not a real problem. Just click on the handle of the spammer and then use the drop-down menu to block them. The tweet will die immediately and the spammer will be brought to the notice of Twitter, who will stop them in their tracks, more or less at once.

A few final words of advice, if you can bear them: beware; Twitter can be addictive. Use it sparingly but effectively. And, if you like the idea of being able to schedule tweets for future dates, try out such programs as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. And make sure your social networks and blog/website are all linked: it’ll save you a great deal of time in the long run.


Oh, and by all means, please feel free to follow me at @stuartaken. I’ll follow you back as soon as I can, I promise!
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