Yesterday guest Nina Badzin walked us through the science of Twitter–basics and tricks that can help you make the most of Twitter from a technical standpoint. (Missed the post? Click HERE.) Today she’s back with us to discuss some of the finer points of being a Twitter-user. How to use it wisely, and have fun with it at the same time. Enjoy!
The Art of Cultivating an Authentic Following on Twitter
Writers love using Twitter to market their work because Twitter is free. Using Twitter as an easy, one-way marketing tool, however, is an enormous mistake. And if you’re not going to get it right on Twitter, then why put your energy there at all? The truth is, Twitter is not free. You’ll pay for Twitter with a precious commodity: your time.
So why are writers willing to spend precious time on Twitter? Because Twitter is word-of-mouth-maximus for people who understand the art of cultivating an authentic following. Without leaving your house, you can connect with book bloggers, librarians, fellow writers, and people who even share your non-literary interests.
The trick to connecting with others on Twitter (beyond the “I follow you, you follow me” game) is to keep the marketing (hateful word) to a minimum and focus on engaging. In other words, you want authentic followers, not just numbers.
What is an “authentic following?” Simply stated, your authentic following consists of the people who read your tweets. The actual number you see next to “followers” on your profile means nothing. A significant percentage of those people rarely see your tweets and perhaps never will. If you’re already a Twitter user who follows over 300 people, then you know what I’m talking about. There’s no way you pay attention to all of those tweets. If you do, I suspect you’re behind on your writing goals.
Think about the tweets you do read, or the tweets you want to read if you’re new to Twitter. I’m guessing your answer is not, “I want to see constant updates about author X’s upcoming release on Kindle.”
An “authentic following” comes down to this: Twitter doesn’t work without followers who actually read your tweets. The good news? The steps below will help you avoid talking to yourself on Twitter and wasting your time. Let’s get to work.
FIVE STEPS TO AN AUTHENTIC FOLLOWING:
1. Follow People: This is not as obvious as it sounds. I don’t mean you should merely press the “follow” button, although that’s the place to start. I mean, read the tweets other people write. Like I said in “The Science of Twitter,” you should create lists to make the influx of tweets more manageable, but you shouldn’t forget to look at those lists. Twitter doesn’t exist solely for you and your tweets. The key to engagement over marketing is to notice what other people have to say and interact with those people. How? Go on to step 2.
2. Retweet and Reply: Make your presence known by retweeting others’ posts, or replying to their tweets. This is probably the best way to ensure you’re engaging and not marketing. But please note: only retweeting what people say about you, or only replying to tweets with your name in it (those are called @mentions) does not count as engaging. But DO respond to your @mentions if possible. It’s considered rude to ignore people who talk to you on Twitter.
TIP: When you scroll through your Twitter lists, you can use the “favorite” function (click the little star under a tweet) to bookmark tweets that look interesting. You might not get the opportunity to check out your “favorites” page and click those links for over a week or more, but if you find the article worthy of sharing, you can retweet it at that time. No matter how long after a tweet originally appeared, the writer of the tweet will appreciate the retweet.
3. Provide Good Content and Value: Yes, you get to tweet about yourself. It’s all about balance. If you’re actively retweeting others’ links and replying to tweets, then tweeting about you will fit nicely into your timeline. But don’t limit your original (non-retweeted) tweets to posts about your work. When you find an article you liked, read a great book, or simply have an observation worth noting, go ahead and share it with your followers.
TIP: The sites Hootsuite and Social Oomph are excellent for scheduling tweets, which allows you to vary the hours and days your tweets appear in the Twitter feed. Scheduling also helps you avoid overwhelming your followers with too many tweets in a row and gives you a way to stay present on Twitter without killing your writing sessions.
4. Don’t be a Numbers Snob: Unless you’re a celebrity-level author (think Neil Gaiman or Margaret Atwood) you’ll have to follow many people back. Otherwise you appear uninterested in engaging with others and perhaps you’ll genuinely miss out on the opportunity to connect with someone new. Over time you’ll get a sense of who has the potential to become an authentic follower and who treats Twitter like an email blast. You should avoid following anyone who falls into the latter category. (A quick glance at someone’s timeline will give you a sense.) Remember, others will unfollow you for the same reason so always keep steps 2 and 3 in mind.
5. But You Don’t Have to Follow Everyone: You’re not obligated to return every follow. We all need to maintain some kind of standard for Twitter sanity. Personally, I unfollow people, or do not return the follow of those who engage in the following Twitter disturbances: overtweeting; filling the Twitter feed with endless and meaningless #WW/#FF lists; filling the Twitter feed with constant public “thank yous” that could easily be written as @replies; and over-promoting a book release, blog, or anything.
Your ability to engage with others on Twitter makes an impression. A good impression will translate into authentic followers who look forward to reading your tweets, retweet you often, and hopefully seek out your books, short stories, blog posts, or whatever else you’re hoping to promote.
Good luck, writers!
Thanks for this great set up posts, Nina!
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Rosaura Ochoa