Last week, I explained the basics of setting up Twitter and understanding the general flow. Twitter isn’t much fun if you aren’t seeing activity on your feed. To see that activity, you have to follow people. Today, as promised, we will talk about a writer-centric approach (that can be tweaked for non-writers) to who to follow on Twitter and how to cope with all those tweeps. (I prefer the quality over quantity approach, but even so, without a way to manage your feed, it can get overwhelming.) Most of this won’t come as a surprise, probably, but there is one great opportunity (“one weird old tip” haha) that I think a lot of writers—maybe even you—are missing, so definitely keep reading.
Before I get started, I’ll admit right now that this is, in some small measure, a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do affair. But that’s not because I don’t believe in what I’m saying; it’s because of two not-totally-lame reasons and one totally lame one. One: my book isn’t even done yet. Two: I really only started using Twitter a few months ago. Three: I’ve got a substantial lazy streak that has prevented me from focusing as much attention on this as I could. But don’t be unpublished and lazy like me! Be better!
Who to follow on Twitter
Other writers (or other _____, for non-writers)
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably a reader as well. (If you’re not, you should be, because I might not know much, but I know for sure that Stephen King was right-on when he said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”) Your favorite authors are probably on Twitter.¹ Follow them. As writers, they often tweet some pretty great stuff, and occasionally they engage with followers. When a writer you admire engages with you, it’s the awesomest feeling in Awesomeville.
Your faves are probably the big names, of course, but don’t forget about the writers who are in the minors, so to speak. You can search for them, or, as you follow writers, tweet about writing, etc., they will find and follow you, and all you have to do then is follow back.
If you are not a writer, you can still take the same approach to finding people to connect with. Simply search users for whatever you do or are interested in, follow the tweeps who look interesting, and bobsyeruncle.
Marketing and social media gurus
With the exception of writers who already have a built-in audience, I think a social media presence is nearly a requirement, unless you don’t care if anyone reads your stuff. (Most of us do, right? It’s the reading that makes our writing come to life.) But social media and marketing and whatnot can be difficult. No worries, though: there’s an app for that.
Okay, not an app. (Probably there is, though.) But there are Twitter accounts manned by marketing and social media gurus (and blogging gurus, if that’s your thing) that are well worth following. BIG CAVEAT: Right now there is a big ol’ kerfuffle in the writing world about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. You will find advice leaning both ways. This is a decision you are going to have to make for yourself², and many experts in this field lean one way or the other. Regardless, even if they aren’t completely on board with your way of thinking, they can offer good advice. It never hurts to keep an open mind.
Once you follow a few of these types of accounts, you will see that they retweet each other frequently, making it easy to find as many to follow as you’d like. A few I follow are Darren Rowse (@problogger) and @JonMorrow for blogging, Samantha Gluck (@Texascopywriter) and @ChuckSambuchino for writing tips, and @MikeLowndes and @TweetSmarter for marketing/social media tips. (There is a lot of overlap between tweet categories—@MikeLowndes and @Texascopywriter provide both social media and writing tips, for example—but they’re all writing-focused.) Or, of course, you can simply search for the terms that interest you and find tweeps that way.
Whatever floats your boat
All work and no play makes Twitter a dull medium. Though if you’re using Twitter to further your writing (or other) career, you’ll want to retain a certain level of focus, it’s fine to branch out a bit. No one likes a robot, so don’t be one. Feel free to follow others who share some of the same non-writing interests you do. I’m not going to give you any specific advice, because your list might look nothing like mine. ‘Nuff said.
People who follow you
Many people on Twitter seem to think it’s a requirement to follow people who follow you. Well, okay, whatever. I don’t think that. This isn’t middle school, and since literally anyone can follow you unless you make your account protected (seriously, don’t do that), I think it’s silly to deem it rude to not follow back.
That being said, Twitter encourages people (via limits) to have followers and followees in similar amounts, so my approach is that if someone follows me AND I think their tweets are relevant to my interests/do not detract from the quality of my feed (quality over quantity, remember), I do follow back. Though I do follow most people who follow me (and many who don’t), I’ve had to unfollow a few people just because their tweets drove me a little nuts, like one guy who pretty much only tweeted one-liners from Seinfeld. All. Day. Long. Nothing personal, wish him luck and all that, it just drove me insane. Life is too short to be more insane than you have to be.
Finally, the BIG THING writers are missing
And now I’ve gotten to this big gap I think a lot of writers are missing. It is this: their readers. Many writers tweet about their books A LOT (which we WILL be discussing later on, because seriously, writers, STAHP), but they’re not necessarily tweeting to the right people. This is an area where I haven’t done a lot of work, but that’s because of where I am in the writing process. Once I get a bit closer to publication, I’ll begin following my own advice, which is this: FIND YOUR READERS. I don’t know who they are, but if you write middle grade novels (which is what my current work in progress is), it wouldn’t hurt to do a search on that term, or titles similar to yours, etc., and follow those people, who will then most likely follow you back. (NOTE: Again, that does not give you license to blare about your books all day long. We’ll talk about what to tweet in a later post.)
Reach out to the people who want to buy your stuff is what I’m saying. This is a big gap that I see with a lot of my writer tweeps. Not so much the already-sets; they get it. But with the ones who are still struggling, I see this a lot. So I’m saying again: FIND YOUR READERS.
How to manage all this
I’ll go into this in depth more later, when we talk about Twitter management and tools, but for now, I will leave you with at least enough information so that you’ll know that the onslaught is manageable. Until I write more about it, of course, you have the Google. It can help you out. In the meantime, here’s how it’s done:
- Lists. Lists. Lists.
- Muting. (I’ve never done this, but I can see why it might come in handy.)
- Multiple accounts. (Same as above: I’ve considered it but not implemented it, at least not yet.)
- Alternate interfaces. I like Tweetdeck for the browser and TweetList! and Tweetbot for the iPhone. They help manage lists.
- Lists. Did I say lists? Lists.
One final word
I almost forgot to mention: you absolutely should follow me, @TheCheekyGinger. And I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
¹Stephen King isn’t personally on Twitter, but his two sons, Joe Hill (@joe_hill) and Owen King (@OwenKingwriter) are. If you haven’t read their stuff, you owe it to yourself. Plus, follow them. They’re great. Other writers I follow: John Scalzi (@scalzi), Kelly Braffet (@KellyBraffet), John Green (@realjohngreen), Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), and many more.
²For the record, I’ve decided that when I’m done with my book, I’ll be pursuing traditional publishing. I’ll probably blog about it in the future, but the short version, for the curious, is that yes, I’ll be looking for an agent and publisher.