How to Tweet so People Will Listen

Last month we discussed two strategies that work for writers on Twitter. #1. Be a person. #2. Connect with other people.

Of course those two goals are easier said than done. You’ll see so many writers tweeting links to their Facebook pages, their Amazon links, and every single review that mentions a positive word about their work that it will be tempting to follow suit.

Listen, it’s absolutely expected that writers will tweet about their books, blog posts, reviews, and so on, but those tweets will go unread if they’re not mixed in with other information. The people of Twitter will simply tune you out.

Resist the urge to treat Twitter like a bulletin board. While there is absolutely more than one way to manage the Twitter angle of your career, I can guarantee one way that fails, and that’s the hard-sell marketing tweets. Nobody logs onto Twitter hoping to get bombarded by advertisements. Nobody. So, if you’re not supposed to go on and on about your book, your blog, and your free chapter on Smashwords, then what on Earth are you supposed to say in those 140 characters?

GOOD IDEAS FOR TWEETS 

Tweet somebody else’s good article with a description of the content.

Retweet somebody’s entire tweet. It still helps to add a comment before or after to further advocate its repetition in the Twitter stream.

Ask questions.

Pass on helpful information to other writers.

Daily life can provide good fodder for tweets if stated in a witty or creative way. It’s the “me too” factor of making connections. Still, sometimes being yourself isn’t enough and you have to turn up the personality a notch to make something interesting on Twitter. Think of those 140 characters as a miniature writing challenge. How can you turn a mundane topic into a few lines worth a reader’s time?

https://twitter.com/jenniferweiner/status/265511885959479296

Have some fun like novelist Eleanor Brown did on election night.

https://twitter.com/eleanorwrites/status/265997739534458881

Yes, you will tweet about your book. There are more graceful ways to discuss your work than “Buy My Book.”

https://twitter.com/propjen/status/227462066640916480

It’s also a good idea to respond to other people’s tweets. (Like all those tweets with questions.) This is a great way to get to know someone on Twitter.

BAD IDEAS FOR TWEETS 

-Constant links to your Amazon and Facebook pages.

-Tweets about Klout. If you gave +K, or received +K, I promise you that nobody cares except (maybe) the one person that tweet concerns. You have more than one follower. Keep that in mind.

-Tweets from Foursquare. You’re at the gym. You’re at Starbucks. You’re at Whole Foods. You know where your followers are? At their computers with their fingers hovering over the unfollow button.

-I would urge against retweeting from news sources repeatedly throughout the day. If your followers want to follow MSNBC, they will.

-Facebook updates that stop mid-sentence on Twitter and lead to your Facebook page are okay once in a while. But every tweet? No. People on Twitter do not want to click a link to read the end of a tweet. Twitter and Facebook are different animals. Keep them separate.

For a funny and helpful post about the different ways to retweet, I recommend Annie Neugebauer’s post, “What the Way you Retweet Says About You.”

Writer Unboxed readers and tweeters: What are your thoughts on the good, bad, and ugly on Twitter? What works? What irks?

Photo by Slava Baranskyi via Flickr

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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.

Comments

  1. says

    Truthfully, I’ve gotten really discouraged about Twitter because of the writers. Someone out there has told them that they have to keep up with a certain number of tweets. As a result, many of the writers are sending out ten or more tweets a day — links to writing, RTs to writing links, buy my book links, and more links and RTs to writing. There are only so many times I can read, “Deep POV is the way to solve your problems” or “10 Mistakes Indie Authors Make” before I start feeling like the writer is advertising to me, because all those links say the same thing, “Look at me! I’m a writer. Buy my book.”

    Please find other topics besides writing to tweet on. And if you’re going to retweet, add your spin a comment and please, please, please change the hashtag. That’s the fastest way to spam a list is for everyone to mindnessly RT without changing anything. I have gone on hashtags and seen an entire page of RTs.

    And keep anything link-related a small percentage of your tweets. Have conversations. That’s what draws people in.
    Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller´s last blog post ..Veteran’s Day: A Thousand Voices, and One Connection

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    • says

      Linda,

      That is SUCH good advice. Not tweeting about writing all the time is something I touched on last month, but it’s worth restating. I did use examples of writing stuff in here and that probably could have been curated better. Because you’re correct: only tweeting about writing (even others’ books and posts) can get old too. Also, I agree that people do not to be tweeting all day long. It’s okay to disappear for days, etc. People think you have to be on Twitter all the time and you just don’t.

      Thanks for the great comment!
      Nina´s last blog post ..Birthday Gifts: Time-Honored Tradition or Exercise in Excess?

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  2. says

    I have stopped following incessant tweeters too -if I start seeing their picture a dozen or more times in a short space of time, they’re gone. Also endless article or blog referrals get old. Really, how many can one person read? Sometimes the frequency starts to feel like a forced exposure “I’m here! Look at me!” It is a tricky balance when a majority of followers are basically strangers. It can feel like a numbers game rather than anything truly effective. You offer good tips. I think the use, like blogs, will morph and refine over time.
    julie luek´s last blog post ..Healthy-Shmealthy Friday

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  3. Marcia says

    Splendid advice. I joined twitter to gain exposure but do limit my promotional tweets, because I too get fed up with the sometimes endless stream of promotions. Everynow and then though you do click on a gem. Thanks Nina – I think I’ll retweet this.

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  4. says

    In addition to your list of what NOT to post, I would add endless thanks for following and thanks for RT. Sometimes I read someone’s bio and they sound interesting, but then I look at their stream and it’s just a constant litany of individual “Thank you for following me!” tweets to a list of 1,000s. The best way to thank someone? Retweet something interesting of theirs. With your own comment on it too, of course.
    Traci Loudin´s last blog post ..Two Years’ Worth of Books!?!

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  5. says

    Hi Nina! Yours is such a sensible post and confirms what I’ve learned so far about Twitter including being helpful to others by contributing useful information, adding to a conversation, retweeting others’ insightful/amusing posts.

    With all the proper and prominently displayed credits, do you permit your posts to be used elsewhere? I have a blog originating on my Goodreads author page and appearing on my Amazon book page: I love to find really useful information such as yours and post it on the Goodreads/Amazon blog. Some visitors to my sites (not yet a stampeding herd) could benefit by knowing your name/blog site and about Writer Unboxed.

    Thanks for considering this request!
    http://elle.thornton@comcast.net
    Elle

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  6. says

    Another helpful, smart post, Nina. The K+ thing drives me absolutely INSANE. If we wanted to keep up with Klout notifications, we would do so through Klout, not on Twitter! I wish I could send this to every single person on Twitter, but I guess I’ll have to settle for a humble RT. ;) And thanks very much for linking to my post!
    Annie Neugebauer´s last blog post ..Sacred Animals

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  7. says

    Loved that you included examples of “bad” tweets.
    I HATE foursquare. If you were checking in an big event or conference, I could see the appeal. But why do people need to know where you are at every moment of the day? Aside from clogging up twitter feeds with annoying foursquare updates, it also sounds like a safety concern. It’s like inviting people to stalk you…don’t you think?

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  8. Ray Pace says

    Very well put. Makes you wonder when you see tweets that amount to little more than background static. Are these people writers? If so can we determine the quality of their writing from the quality of their tweets?

    raypacewrites.com

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  9. says

    For a while my Twitter feed was full of fun, interesting people. Now, I don’t know where they all went. It’s mostly links about writing. Even the non-writers I’ve followed don’t seem to be on as much. I’ve found it to be a curious occurence. I haven’t been unfollowed, the fun people just aren’t there anymore. Maybe they’ve gotten busy.
    Lara Schiffbauer´s last blog post ..Funny Friday Photos

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  10. says

    I don’t want people to just tell me where they are. I want to know what’s going on where they are? How many kinds of apples are on display at Whole Foods? What song is Madonna singing at the concert you’re attending? Give me a few details.
    Michelle Pond´s last blog post ..PAD-Week One Done

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  11. says

    This is such a great post! I try to keep my posts from being *all* about poetry, or writing, etc. The funny thing is, as soon as I tweet about something else (just a spare thought or a joke or something about zombies, my other passion), I get immediate follows from folks who apparently latched onto a word, phrase, or thought but never engage again! I’m always amused to watch the comings and goings of Twitter connections.

    That said, I also admittedly don’t pay a great deal of attention to the goings on of Twitter. I love catching the really fascinating tweets from folks I follow, writers I love, and so forth. But I spend the bulk of my day at work and the bulk of my evening grading or writing, and so following actual conversations on Twitter (or any social media) is really hard. It’s also hard to know when conversations are engaging and when they’re confusing/annoying to other followers (i.e. the other day I had a half-joking convo with another poet about a plan to ditch my possessions and move to work and find a husband in West Africa … and got a few DMs from followers wanting to figure out what was going on with me, ha-ha).

    I guess my Twitter-strategy is just to be real, and not be a social-media-dust-bunny! :)
    Khara House´s last blog post ..craft tip monday 11/12: getting to know your characters inside & out

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    • says

      Listen, you’re doing it right. The bulk of your day should NEVER be on Twitter. It’s great to float in and out. I see no reason to take it more seriously than that. I provide the tips I do to make that “floating” as productive as possible.

      As for the conversations . . . if those tweets begin with the person’s handle (@name) then only people who follow both you and the person can see those tweets. They will land in some people’s feeds, but not in the feed of everyone who follows you. If you’re doing those conversations in a way that all of your followers need to sift through every time, then you should just make sure to start the tweets with the @name. If you don’t know what I’m talking about make sure to read my first post here about Twitter with the basics.

      http://writerunboxed.com/2011/08/27/the-art-science-of-twitter-part-1-the-science/
      Nina´s last blog post ..Birthday Gifts: Time-Honored Tradition or Exercise in Excess?

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      • says

        That’s so true; and I love the idea of “floating” in and around social media, as compared to “lingering” or “hovering” within that realm. (As for the conversations … I think the “confusion” comes from folks seeing my @-reply but not the post[s] from the person I’m talking to–so what they see is a one-sided conversation. Of course, in that case I suppose folks could/should grant the “tweeter” the benefit of the doubt, ha-ha!)
        Khara House´s last blog post ..opportunities for writers 11/13

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  12. says

    Nina –

    You rock! This is all so true. The FourSquare part really hit a nerve, too. I definitely do not enjoy sifting through all those FourSquare tweets.

    And stopping mid-tweet with a link to Facebook? Ack! Never knew about that tactic, and so glad I have not encountered it yet.

    -Sharon
    Sharon Bially´s last blog post ..Coming soon!

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  13. says

    Twitter is an odd beast. On the one hand, I’ve connected with a terrific writing support network; on the other, yikes! Spam-o-rama at every turn. I’ve developed a pretty rigid intolerance for the relentless self-promoters, the tweeters who hemorrhage links, and the people who think I give a rat’s bum about their whereabouts.

    To be honest, I’ve probably been guilty of over-tweeting links to writing resources (not my own), so your post is a handy reminder to think before tweeting.

    Great post–I’ll go back and check out your other Twitter posts.
    Kern Windwraith´s last blog post ..Poem Walk 2012 – Walking the dog at night

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  14. says

    I love finding creative ways to retweet someone else’s tweets while trying to do it in 140 characters. Talk about a challenge! I hate to just hit the RT button and “run.”

    However, I’ve done this one a time or two,”I wrote 252 words today, yay me!” and then realized no one gives a crap but me. It is hard to resist sometimes because writers seem to love to discuss how many words we write in a day. Is this a sad attempt at validating our literary existence? A need to prove to our spouses (yet they aren’t on Twitter) that we don’t just sit around watching DVR’d shows or our noses buried in books all day? Who knows but I look forward to seeing this bad writer habit fade away.

    I love all of your tips, Nina! These are such valuable PR lessons for all writers, new and old. Great job!
    Hallie Sawyer´s last blog post ..Author Jeff Kinney and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel are coming to town!

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  15. says

    What a great post, once again, Nina. And the comments are just as helpful and interesting.

    I agree with several in the comments about the writing links filling up twitter feeds. I find myself tweeting / rt’ing with comment about other writers’ blogs, news, etc, because I like supporting and celebrating with others. But I need to remember that it’s so much of a balance. Twitter also needs to be conversation, and have a human element without links. Thanks for helping to remind us, Nina!
    Jennifer King´s last blog post ..Pitch Like a Rock Star Workshop: Water Lily

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  16. says

    Love the examples! For me, when I get on Twitter, I’m looking for a laugh, or an interesting article.

    And it’s true, I always remember the person who made me laugh or who posted the article–even if it’s not directly about them.
    Anne Greenwood Brown´s last blog post ..How *You* Readin’?

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