This is Nina Badzin’s first official post with us as a monthly contributor and WU’s own Twitter expert. Welcome, Nina!

Enter the search terms “Twitter tips” into Google and you’ll find approximately 918,000,000 results. So why would Writer Unboxed bother adding to the mix? One primary reason: To teach you how to use Twitter as a human being.

As opposed to what, you’re wondering?

As opposed to a brand.

In many other advice posts you’re going to read about how to “stay true to your brand” and other self-promotional tips with equally smarmy buzz words.

You, dear Writer Unboxed authors and authors-to-be, are not brands. Your book is not a brand. You are a person. The readers you want to reach on Twitter are also people, not brands. Therefore, you have to engage on Twitter as a person (not a book cover, or a commercial for your book). AND, you have to connect sincerely with other people.

Frankly, acting like a person on Twitter should be easy. You have been a person for most of your life. (I’m subtracting junior high.) But one look at a Twitter feed will show you that too many people struggle to relate online. Therefore, this new monthly Twitter series on Writer Unboxed is intended to give you focused advice on how to be an online person instead of a brand and how to connect with other people in a way that makes good use of your time, rather than wastes it.

Now, before I go on, there is one threshold issue that must be addressed. You without Twitter accounts have undoubtedly noticed and are already asking, Why bother being on Twitter in the first place?

Fair question.

We all know the answer: Nobody needs Twitter. The only thing a writer needs to do is write, right? In theory, that’s true, but we also know that those dreaded words “online presence” have planted themselves in our creative orbit, and they don’t seem to be going away. Twitter is a piece of that “online presence” puzzle, but it’s not the only one. There’s blogging, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and others. Choose all, one, or none.

I am not here to sell you on Twitter so I hope we can eliminate any debate of Twitter’s merit or lack thereof. I’m here to help those who are interested use the site to the best of their ability.

For newbies and beginners, you will want to start with “The Science of Twitter,” a post I wrote here last year about basics like the mechanics of a tweet. It helps to know, for example, that tweets starting with the @ symbol are not seen by most of your followers. For a more nuanced discussion, see “The Art of Twitter,” where I discussed why numbers mean less than you think and how to foster what I call an “authentic following.”

What we’ll do in this series is keep the two aforementioned narrow goals in mind: Be a person. And connect with other people.

Three ways to get started in the right direction:

1. DO have a picture of your face, not your book cover as your avatar.

2. DO write an inviting bio that makes you sound like a writer, but also a regular person, not a salesperson.

Writer Unboxed co-founder Therese Walsh has the perfect Twitter bio. After reading it you know she’s an author, but you know she has other interests, and you also know she’s not going to inundate you with “buy my book” tweets. Generally speaking the “buy my book” tweeters tend to have long, clunky Amazon or Facebook links in their bios as well as too many capital letters that say things like FIRST CHAPTER FREE. It comes off as desperate.

3. DO NOT send automatic direct messages to new followers thanking them for the follow or inviting them to learn more about you. You also should not feel the need to thank new followers in the general Twitter stream.

The auto-DM advice and thanking people for following you gets at an issue I’ll analyze more in future posts, but let me provide a quick summary here: Any attempt to act overly formal on Twitter usually backfires. If you think of Twitter like a dinner party (the typical comparison), then thanking each new follower is like saying to the people who looked at you during the party, “Thank you  for glancing at me for that one moment across the room.” That’s weird, right? It would never fly in real life. Same goes for Twitter.

I know some of you are Twitter regulars. In the comments let’s help the newer users avoid coming off like a brand. What tips can you share?

Other resources:

-The Twitter tips series on my blog covers etiquette such as why I think there’s too much thanking in the Twitter stream.

The Writer’s Guide to Twitter by Writer Unboxed contributor, Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Photo by cobalt123 via Flickr


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 You can find her on Facebook, too.