Twitter might not have a billion users like Facebook does, but the bird app is still a powerful social media platform for many businesses, especially in the publishing industry. In fact, as the most word-based of all the major social media platforms, Twitter has naturally evolved into the place to forge connections with writers and other publishing professionals. In this collection of Twitter tips for authors, I’ll share what I’ve learned in almost 10 years of using Twitter as a serious part of my author platform.
Let’s dive into it!
Twitter tips for authors
1. Optimize your profile
You can customize three major areas of your Twitter profile:
- Bio. You can use up to 160 characters in your Twitter bio. Note that you can include links in your bio as well as in the designated link area. You can also include hashtags and the usernames of professional organizations you’re connected to.
- Profile picture. In most cases, I recommend using a professional headshot (you can take a pretty decent one yourself with most smartphones). If you’re concerned about safety, you can commission an artist to create a cartoon avatar for you.
- Banner. You can use your Twitter banner to give your profile a unique feel and share more information with visitors. For example, if you’ve published a trilogy, you can use your banner to display the covers of all three books, and maybe include a tagline for the series. Browser-based graphic design tools like Canva offer Twitter banner templates to help you get started.
As you create each element, consider how they can work together to maximize the amount visitors can learn when they visit your profile.
2. Use your pinned tweet wisely
Generally, your pinned tweet should be used to expand on what visitors learn from your bio and banner. For example, you might add some information about side projects that didn’t fit in your bio. You can also use this space to give users a rundown of the types of tweets they can expect on your page.
One thing I like to do is have a “standard pinned tweet” that I use between releases. When I’ve got a book or product to release, I replace this tweet with a series of promotions: one before the release date, one on the release date, and one after the release date. Each of those tweets stays up for a week, then is replaced by the standard pinned tweet when the promotion is over.
3. Limit your hashtags
Hashtags might have first become a thing on Twitter, but the modern platform isn’t very forgiving to users who include a lot of hashtags in their posts. According to most sources, 1-2 hashtags per post is the ideal number. I personally find that my posts with zero hashtags perform better than posts with even one.
This makes it important to choose the hashtags you do use even more wisely. You can do this by using a tool like RiteTag.com to search for popular hashtags relevant to your niche or genre.
4. Be cautious about who you follow
There are two reasons to carefully curate who you follow on Twitter: to keep your timeline as positive and supportive as possible, and to make sure you’re not accidentally supporting scammers, bigots, or other people who are actively causing harm,
Before you follow someone, you should at least read their bio to confirm that they have similar interests to you. You may also want to read their pinned tweet and some of the recent content they’ve posted to get a feel for whether or not you’ll actually like seeing their posts on your timeline.
This also means you should stay away from writer’s lifts. These are tweets where you’re supposed to follow everyone who responds to the tweet, and if someone in one of these chains follows you, you’re expected to follow them back. These tweets can get you hundreds of followers quickly, but those followers will often be people you don’t actually want to follow back. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to block someone I discovered through a writer’s lift.
5. Organize the people you do follow into Lists
Twitter Lists are a great way to sort the people you follow into categories based on their content. For example, a science fiction author might have three lists: other science fiction writers, science fiction publishers, and science fiction bloggers. They might also create a list of professional scientists if they use Twitter to keep up with scientific news. You can add a person to a list at any time by going to their profile, clicking the “…” icon, and choosing “Add/remove (username) from Lists”.
Once created, Lists can be used in a couple of different ways. First, you can go to your Lists at any time, choose one, and see what people on that list are posting. This makes it easy to find specific types of content when you need them.
The other way to use Lists is as a public resource. Continuing with the above example of the science fiction author, that person might choose to share the “Science fiction bloggers” with other authors who need promo opportunities.
Of course, you can also look at other people’s Lists to find people worth following. For SFF authors, I recommend checking out Dan Fitzgerald’s list of SFF book bloggers.
6. Be strategic about how and when you post links
Twitter’s algorithm, like all social media algorithms, promotes content that encourages you to stay on the site. To accomplish this, the platform prioritizes content without external links. In other words, if your tweets do contain links, Twitter is much less likely to show them to people. And, at least in the anecdotal experience of myself and several friends, this challen has become more significant in the past year.
This means you need to be strategic about when and how you post your links. Instead of a single tweet with a link to your book (or blog post, or any other type of content), you want to post a 2-3 tweet thread with a link nestled into the second or third tweet. I also recommend avoiding words like Amazon, Kobo, and Ko-fi, as these words are easily identified and may lead to a tweet being devalued.
Of course, you also want to make sure you’re posting your link at appropriate times to maximize engagement without spamming your audience. This means posting content with links two or three times a day during peak hours. If you have a small audience, I recommend sticking with one post in the morning and one in the evening. If you already have something of a following (2K+ followers), you can base this on when your existing audience is online. You can view this information at the Twitter Analytics portal.
7. Participate in Twitter chats
My next Twitter tip for authors is to make Twitter chats a regular part of your week. Twitter chats are hour-long discussions that revolve around a specific subject using predetermined hashtags. These conversations are a great way to develop deeper connections with others in your genre or niche. You can find them by asking colleagues or searching “genre (chat)” on Twitter or Google. I’ve also compiled a list of Twitter chats for authors right here on the BFA blog.
When you find a chat, put it on your calendar. Then, at the time when the chat is running, search for the hashtag on Twitter. You’ll see the host posting questions about the topic you’re discussing. To join the chat, simply respond to these questions, making sure to include the chat hashtag in your posts.
8. Ask questions to encourage engagement
One of the best ways to get people interacting with you on Twitter is to ask questions related to your business, customers, or industry. For example, if you make jewelry, you might ask people what type of jewelry they wear most often: earrings, necklaces, or bracelets.
To maximize engagement, you can turn your questions into polls. This lets users give their answers with a simple click, rather than having to type things out.
One thing I really like to do is to create a poll with yes or no answers, then ask people to respond telling me why they voted a certain way. This encourages users to both choose an answer from the poll and leave a response or even quote retweet your poll to explain their answer.
9. Share content by others
One of the best Twitter tips for authors is to share content created by other people in your industry. There are three ways to do this:
- Regular retweet. This shares a tweet as-is, with no additional commentary. You might not get new followers with these posts, but other creators will notice you retweeting them and, in many instances, will make a point of returning the favor.
- Quote retweet. This is a retweet with your own thoughts added to the post. I recommend only using this option if you have something significant to add to the conversation, since it does shift the attention to you, making people less likely to click on the original content.
- Posting links. The final thing you can do is post links to articles you’re reading, videos you’re watching, et cetera on your page. This is great because it counts as both original content for your page and a way to appreciate the content others have created. Just be sure to tag the creator in your post so they know you’re sharing their stuff!
There’s no hard and fast rule for how much you should focus on sharing others’ content, but I personally aim for 2-3 shares/retweets per day on brand accounts. On my personal author account, it’s more like 15-20 per day, but you probably shouldn’t spend as much time online as I do anyway.
10. Retweet your own content
Retweeting your own content might seem silly or even egotistical, but it’s one of the most powerful strategies I’ve employed on my own Twitter platform. Twitter doesn’t differentiate your own retweets from other retweets, so it counts as engagement, getting your post seen by more people. Sometimes it can even turn a dead tweet with 10 views into your most popular tweet of the week.
This strategy is also a great way to make sure people in different time zones (or with different schedules) are seeing your content. I like to retweet content 5-7 hours after it initially came out, and again 24 hours later.
Bonus: Be liberal with the block and mute buttons
This one isn’t included in most lists of Twitter tips for authors, but protecting your online space is incredibly important for both your safety and your sanity (as much as any of us still have sanity these days). If someone is sharing scams, block them. If they’re posting bigoted or harmful stuff, block them. Even if they’re just making content you don’t like, you can use the mute or block button.
You have no obligation to follow anyone, not even big names in your industry or niche, if their presence on your timeline is causing you harm.
Final thoughts on Twitter for authors
If you’re an author, there’s no better place to find your people than Twitter. To really make the most of it, however, you’ll need to create a strategy around how you present yourself and what you post. These Twitter tips for authors can serve as the foundation for that strategy.
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