At its best, Twitter allows authors to make real-time connections with readers, other authors, and others working in the publishing space. Twitter has the power to elevate your author presence online–but with that power also comes the risk of boring (or, worse, alienating) your potential readers. If you find yourself spinning your wheels on Twitter and feel you have nothing to show for it, here are 11 tools to help you get more out of the platform–and do a better job of creating valuable content for your Twitter followers.
Twitter is a social platform. This means that it is important to manage your Twitter profile as the individual you are, and not necessarily as the brand you wish to build. This also means that proper management of a Twitter profile requires you to actually interact with your followers. It is not enough to simply curate lots of content and have scheduling software post it for you; you must have genuine conversations with your followers.
At the same time, it is important to curate content as well. While you should absolutely be posting your own thoughts, articles, and information from time to time, doing so can be incredibly exhausting; trying to constantly create engaging content for your Twitter followers can easily lead to burnout before too long.
MORE WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOKS ON TWITTER:
- 10 Ways for Authors to Get Better Engagement on Twitter
- The Big Picture: Creating Visual Content for Your Author Profiles
- #TwitterFail: 5 Reasons They Won’t Tweet About Your Book
- How to Promote Your Fantasy Novel on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more
- How to Promote Your Cooking Brand On YouTube, Pinterest, and more
- How to Promote Your Romance Novel on Pinterest, Goodreads, and more
The key to effectively using Twitter is to combine interaction, self-generated content, curated content, as well as to properly utilize the tools that make all of that efficient. As Guy Kawasaki has said, one useful way of thinking about your Twitter account is to consider NPR:
NPR provides great content 365 days a year. A few days a year it runs pledge drives. No one I know likes the pledge drives, but we tolerate them — and some of us even give money. Why? Because NPR has earned the right to promote its pledge drives by providing such great content. This is a good model for authors too: Provide such great content that you can promote your book when it’s done.
Source: Guy Kawasaki’s 10 Social Media Tips for Authors (PBS Media Shift)
NPR, otherwise known as National Public Radio, does in fact utilize self-promotion to raise funds from time to time. However, the vast majority of NPRs airtime is spent generating useful and interesting content for their listeners. Listeners of NPR tend not to particularly enjoy the requests for donations during NPRs fundraising drives. However, they are willing to put up with the disturbances because they appreciate and value the service that NPR provides. Some will even be driven to donate themselves simply due to the fact that they value NPR and want to see it succeed.
Much like NPR, you should think of your Twitter as a place to, first and foremost, interact with your audience and provide them with useful and engaging content. Only then can Twitter be properly utilized for effective self-promotion.
Due in large part to the rapid growth and engagement that Twitter now offers, a number of useful third-party tools have been created by developers. In addition, Twitter itself has evolved based on user interaction as well as the company’s own goals and objectives, which has led to Twitter-generated tools as well.
One of the problems that can often arise from using Twitter is the sheer quantity of tweets produced on a daily, and even on an hourly basis. Following even a few hundred handles can quickly devolve into an overwhelming feed which is simply impractical to use.
Twitter lists are designed to solve this problem. In addition to your list of Twitter handles that you are following, you can break those categories down further into “lists”. You can use as many or as few lists as you’d like, and you can have those lists be public (meaning anyone on your profile can see their names and which handles are in them) or private (meaning only you can see them). Lists can be used for a variety of purposes, however most people use them as a way to separate the Twitter handles that they truly want to see on a daily basis with the rest of the handles that they are simply following for the sake of following, or whose tweets they only want to see occasionally.
Hashtags were actually originally invented by Twitter users as a way to categorize tweets. They are an incredibly useful way of reaching a large audience as well as a way to link your followers to a larger conversation.
Hashtag functionality is actually quite simple. All you need to do is put the “#” symbol before the term you wish to hashtag. For example, you could use “#famousauthors” on a tweet about a famous author. Your followers can click on the hashtag to be linked to every other tweet that has utilized the same hashtag, whether they are following the person who tweeted or not. This also means that anyone else perusing the #famousauthors hashtag can come across your tweet as well. If your tweet is thoughtful and engaging enough, you might find yourself with a brand new follower! The fact that hashtags are global means that your potential target audience is enormous.
One thing to keep in mind is to avoid “overhashtagging” or hashtagging inappropriately. You will sometimes see tweets that have more hashtags then they do actual words. These tweets are less-than-subtle attempts to gain followers by appearing on as many hashtag conversations as possible. While this strategy can occasionally have some success, the vast majority of the time it will result in little more than annoying your loyal followers, possibly even leading them to unfollow you if you do it too frequently. The strategy for properly using hashtags is simple: use them properly and you will be rewarded over time.
TweetDeck is the first third-party tool being discussed, and arguably one of the most useful ever created. TweetDeck is designed for power users of Twitter; those who are managing multiple Twitter accounts or those who want to follow multiple topics, hashtags, or profiles simultaneously. TweetDeck helps a user organize their tweets, as well as scheduling tweets and tracking user-engagement of those tweets. One notable feature that TweetDeck does not provide is the ability to schedule tweets that include images. However, for power users, TweetDeck is simply one of the best ways to stay organized.
Twuffer is similar to TweetDeck, but it is simpler and more streamlined. While Twuffer is not as effective for posting and tracking from multiple accounts, it is a great and simple way to schedule tweets in advance. Twuffer’s simple interface allows you to plan tweets ahead of time, so that your feed isn’t idle when you are away from Twitter (for example, while you sleep). While this might seem like overkill to a Twitter newbie, it is actually incredibly effective for users who wish to post on a regular basis without actually living on Twitter.
Buffer is for Twitter users who also want to be active across all of the major social media platforms. One of Buffer’s distinguishing features is the ability to schedule tweets that also are posted on other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Google+. Buffer also offers the ability to automatically shorten links, something that can be quite useful when limited by the characters of Twitter. Buffer also offers a premium paid version that is designed to be used with multiple users and a greater number of accounts.
Feedly is an RSS reader that is designed to incorporate well with tools like Buffer. In addition to providing the latest and most relevant articles from your chosen websites, Feedly helps guide users to other websites and hashtags that might also be useful when looking for additional content to post. If you are already familiar with RSS feeds and are not using Feedly, it is worth taking a look at, as it is a much more effective way to look for interesting content for Twitter than traditional RSS feeds.
SocialOomph is for Twitter users who want to build a massive audience by constantly tweeting and cross-tweeting across multiple accounts. While new Twitter users will find SocialOomph to be overkill, it is worth taking a look out for a time down the road where you want to have multiple accounts posting on a consistent basis. SocialOomph is fully-featured, meaning it can do everything from scheduling tweets and tracking keywords to providing analytics data on mentions and other statistics. Social Oomph also offers premium features (for a fee), which include the ability to also post on other social media platforms, advanced scheduling features, and blog integration.
Earlier we mentioned “link shortening,” which is a useful way to reduce the number of precious characters that links within a tweet takes up. One of the leading link shortening services is Bit.ly. One of the distinguishing features of Bit.ly is the fact that it allows you to track how many clicks your link has received, as well as the total number of clicks that same link received from other bit.ly links across the internet. Bit.ly is a great way to track the click rate of your tweets for free.
Paper.li is a way to create your own customizable newspaper with relevant articles from across the internet. It is a useful way to aggregate and create content for your followers, and works very well in tandem with Twitter. Paper.li is popular among authors in particular because it is an easy-to-use platform for them to display their writing talent to others who are interested in topics relevant to the author.
It is one thing to initially attract followers; it is something else altogether to retain their interest over time. JustUnfollow is a great tool to use when you are trying to determine how well you are retaining followers. If you are consistently losing followers, take a look at your Tweets and make sure they are engaging, informative, and not too “promotional” or “spammy”.
JustUnfollow also offers services similar to FollowBlast, which allow you to find other users you should be following. However, their main function is as a way to track who has unfollowed your Twitter account.
HootSuite is a more extreme version of services like TweetDeck and Twuffer. HootSuite is designed for large companies or organizations who are managing dozens if not hundreds of different Twitter and social media accounts. While HootSuite might be overkill for the average author, it might be more useful for a group of authors who are working together in an organization.
What about you?
Twitter is a great way for authors to build and interact with a following. The tools listed above are some (but not all) of the ways in which that process can be enhanced and made more manageable and efficient. However, at the end of the day, the most important part of any Twitter account is genuine and valuable thoughts and links that will inform a following and make them better off than if they had not found the content in the first place.
A social media expert and technology writer, Ian Eddison has worked as a consultant for small businesses and political organizations. Ian has also written for several gamer blogs, including a blog on zombie video games and a professional poker player website.