PhotobucketTherese here. Today’s guest is Nina Badzin, who’s here today–and tomorrow–to talk with us about Twitter. (Basics today, technique savvy tomorrow.) Nina is not only an aspiring novelist and inspired Twitter Queen (@NinaBadzin), she was one of our quarter-finalists in our search for an unpublished writer to contribute to WU back in 2010. Since that time, she’s been busy gathering lit credits, including articles in The Drum Literary Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Monkeybicycle, The Pedestal Magazine, The Potomac, and others. One of her stories published in Sleet Magazine, “Son,” was also nominated for a prestigious Pushcart Prize.

If you know little about Twitter, don’t understand the buzz; or if you’ve signed up for Twitter and maintain a page with a post a month, read this. Twitter pros, tune in tomorrow for more. Enjoy!

THE ART & SCIENCE OF TWITTER

Part One: The Science

Twitter is invaluable for writers. I can’t provide statistics about how many books you’ll sell, or how many agents or publishers will discover your brilliance because of it, nor can I guarantee you’ll win the Amanda Hocking self-publishing jackpot when you promote your work on Twitter.

I can promise you this: Twitter connects you to others in ways that Facebook, email blasts, and Goodreads simply cannot. I can also promise that Twitter will devour your writing time if you don’t manage it properly. I’m here to make the time you spend on Twitter as effective and efficient as possible.

What is a tweet? A tweet is a message of 140 characters or less. We’ll get to what you should tweet about (the art) tomorrow. First things first.

WHEN YOU SIGN UP:

1. Pick a Handle: Your handle, your Twitter name, and the handle of anyone you mention in a tweet counts against the 140-character allotment. Keep your handle as close to your name as possible, but keep it short.

My handle is @NinaBadzin. Choosing a Twitter handle is not the time for cuteness or anonymity such as @HeLikestoWrite or @MysteryofFiction. If your name is taken, try something like @nbadzin or @Nina_Badzin. If your name is long, get creative. Allison Winn Scotch, NYT best-selling author and regular WU contributor, wisely chose the handle @aswinn.

2. Upload a Picture: No pictures of your cat or random graphics. I’m not a fan of book covers either because they’re hard to see on the computer, iPad, and especially on phone apps. Even if you’re trying to sell books, you don’t want to come off like a product. You’re human. Let us see your gorgeous face.

3. Fill in Your Bio: A good bio is succinct and reflects your main purpose on Twitter. Even if your purpose is to sell books, don’t let your bio read like an ad. I’ve noticed an uptick in bios like this: “Check out my thriller, Deadly Doorknobs, available now on Kindle http:// OnlyTweetsAboutHimself.” Total turn off. Remember, people tweet to connect with people, not products.

Furthermore, you want to sound professional, not obnoxious; interesting, but not over-eager. I’d also stay away from mentioning all of your hobbies. When I see: “Writer, reader, mother, chocoholic, preserver of the Earth, runner, White Sox fanatic, & burgeoning photographer,” I’m not likely to follow back if I see a timeline of tweets about every one of those topics. I don’t want to spend my precious Twitter time on endless tweets about reusable tote bags and marathons. Mention interests other than writing without getting carried away.

4. Fill in the URL Section: If you have a website or a blog, the link will appear under your bio. No need to waste precious characters in the bio section with a URL.

5. Turn Off the Notifications: One of the tabs in the settings section is “notifications.” To keep Twitter from taking over your life, I suggest turning off the notifications. You can easily see who has mentioned you, followed you, or sent you a private message during your dedicated Twitter time. There’s no good reason to receive these messages all day long.

6. Find People to Follow: Follow writers and people of interest in the publishing industry. While you can follow news organizations, celebrities, politicians, etc., I strongly discourage it. If you follow too many people at once, you’ll get overwhelmed.

7. Make Lists: From the day you start following people on Twitter, you should sort them into lists such as authors, book bloggers, people you know in real life, and so on. Lists are the number one key to managing Twitter. For more on how to make lists, see a post I dedicated to that topic.

8. Understand Hashtags: A hashtag organizes conversations on Twitter. If you saw the latest Harry Potter film, you could add #HarryPotter to the end of your tweet about the movie. Anyone else interested in what others said about the movie could type the hashtag #HarryPotter into the search box. Even if that person is not following you, your tweet about the movie would appear in the search results. Perhaps you’ll gain a new follower or find new people to follow. There are numerous hashtags writers use when discussing general writing topics. The most popular is #amwriting. Some others I see often are #amediting, #amrevising, #writer, #author, #writetip, and #pubtip.

You’ll also notice the hashtags #WW (Writer Wednesday) and #FF (Follow Friday). People use those hashtags to recommend favorite Twitter users to the rest of their followers. There are varying opinions as to the usefulness of this practice.

9. Understand the Six Types of Tweets:

  • The Regular Tweet: Wow, I’m still digesting the Twitter basics on Writer Unboxed today. (Often a link would be included. Always use a shortened link.)
  • The @Mention Tweet: Still digesting @NinaBadzin’s fantastic post on Writer Unboxed http://thelink.com. Because the person has typed at least one character before “@NinaBadzin,” all of that person’s followers would see that tweet on the Twitter main page. THAT is the power of Twitter, my friends.
  • The @Reply Tweet: @NinaBadzin, your guest post on Writer Unboxed has me begging for more. Both this tweet and the previous @mention tweet would appear on my @mention page. HOWEVER, unlike the @mention tweet, @replies only go out to people who follow both me and the person who sent the tweet. If certain people often tweet your posts for all to see, you’re not returning the favor if you always respond to their posts with @replies. Because @replies get more limited views than @mentions, they are best used when you’re having a conversation with one or two other people, or when you’re thanking someone, so you can avoid clogging up the main Twitter stream with inside jokes and information that pertains to few people.
  • The Retweet (RT): Me too. RT @JaneDoe: Still digesting @NinaBadzin’s fantastic post on Writer Unboxed http://thelink.com. To retweet someone else’s tweet, you can add your two cents before their original tweet like in the example, start the tweet with the letters ‘RT,’ or simply press the “retweet” button on Twitter. As long as you put a word, the letters ‘RT,’ or a period before the @ symbol, then the tweet will be seen by all of your followers.
  • The Modified Tweet: (MT) The MT is similar to the RT. It’s courteous to use the letters MT instead of RT if you’ve changed the original wording in any way.
  • The Direct Message: A direct message is a private message between you and someone who follows you. You cannot “DM” people who are not following you back.

10. Utilize Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Ubersocial, etc.: Once you’re comfortable navigating Twitter, you’ll probably want to download a program such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, which make retweeting and looking at your lists far simpler than the format on the actual Twitter site.

I hope you find this science lesson helpful. Come back tomorrow for the “art” of Twitter.

Thanks for a great post, Nina!

Readers, have Twitter questions? Ask. And be sure to come back tomorrow for part 2 of Nina’s Twitter series. Write on!

Photo courtesy Flickr’s respres

About Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin is a writer and blogger who lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, as well as the Huffington Post's books, parenting, religion, and technology pages. In a strange turn of events, Nina has become the go-to gal for Twitter advice. This confuses her parents and her husband to no end. She tweets at @NinaBadzin and blogs regularly at http://ninabadzin.com. You can find her on Facebook, too.