What Is This Weird "Twitter" Thing, Anyway?

I just had a fellow writer ask me how in the world to do this Twitter thing so I thought I'd give my thoughts about it.  I've written about it before in other social networking related posts, but this is a bit more detailed.

"So, what is this weird Twitter thing, anyway?  What do I do with it?"

As someone who used to be very new at it, I totally get why it seems overwhelming.  I even know people who avoid it because they think it's silly.  But, it's not silly; it can be very useful for a writer or anyone who wants to get out there in the social networking hemisphere.

Ah, Twitter.  The wonderful Twitter where you can “tweet” like crazy.  You can create your author account here.  Yes, it is an advertising tool for the most part.  Or it seems like that.  It doesn’t have to be.  If you are a new member, you will need to “follow” your interests.  Most likely, Twitter will offer a tutorial.  Once you have established what interests you, Twitter will make suggestions based on that.  You can also search for what you want to follow.  If you like healthcare, follow the CDC, NIH or companies like Beckton Dickinson (BD) or Covidien.  If you like a band or artist, follow them.  If you like writing, follow other authors and their books.  In most cases, people will “follow” you back.  

You want to get as many followers as possible. This may seem hard.  It will look as if you follow more than you’re followed.  Keep pushing forward.  You will also receive notifications about Tweets the people you’ve followed have posted.  Yes, it does make your inbox crazy.  I believe you can change the notification settings here too.  Another tip.  With Twitter, you can customize your profile with your book cover, author pic or other background to make it look nice.  Other people will see this when they follow you.

Twitter is a pretty neat tool to use.  You can tweet about pretty much anything from your book to interviews to where you went to eat last night to how you took your dog for a walk.  I’m not kidding about the last two.  People actually do that.  Nowadays, it’s becoming the standard to talk about things besides what you really want to post.  That is why you see the celebrities you follow tell everyone they just ate a bag of Doritos or painted their toe nails.  Really?  That’s nice.  I know.  Not very exciting.  And not very hopeful for the burgeoning writer.   

So, there are a few things you can do to ramp up your presence on Twitter.  Sure, you can post news about your writing.  I recommend it.  But, do more.  Try to gain a following by following other authors or your own interests (i.e. companies or brands you like, people you admire).  Chances are they’ll follow you back.  And on the left side of the page, Twitter gives you recommendations, kind of like the age old, "if you like this, you'll like this" notion.  And always try to follow those who have followed you on Twitter.  If someone direct messages you, asking a random question like, “What is your favorite food?” or maybe they want to talk about how they just finished a needlepoint project, go ahead and reply back.  This puts out the idea that your efforts are not self-serving and you actually do want to talk to people, which is most likely the case.  The downside of Twitter is this:  some of the people you follow are not exactly professional, and you may get some pretty nasty comments or propositions.  The best way to handle this is to go through your list of followers and unfollow those rude people.  They may still follow you, but by unfollowing them, you have just saved yourself a big headache and a ton of embarrassment.  

Oh, Twitter.  It’s beautiful if you spend 24 hours a day in front of your PC.  Retweet, post, retweet, post, get a little creative, post, reply to a witty remark, reply to a lovely quote, reply to someone’s suggestion on what movie to see, retweet, post.   

Okay, I think I’m getting dizzy.  Follow a ton of people.  I have.  So you say, “Well, I have a lot of followers now.  But, are they all following me?” No?  Then you have to ask yourself, “Should I unfollow someone, and will that have a major impact?”  Possibly.  See, the problem is that Twitter likes to freeze you.   They block you from following anyone else at around 2000.  From there, you have to boost your followers until you can follow more.  So, you think, “I’ll just stay where I am.  I’ve followed who I’ve followed.  I’ll do what I can to have them follow me.  But, if they don’t, what can I do?  If my numbers change and I’m able to follow more, great!  If not, I guess I’ll just keep doing the Twitter thing.  Hopefully that helps.” 

Eventually, you want to get to the point where most of the people that you follow on Twitter follow you back.  Well, how do you do that?  There is a nifty tool at http://unfollowers.me/  Yes, you will have to sign in with your Twitter account, but it is SO helpful.  And I mean that.  Currently, I am following back 100% of my followers because of this tool and people like that.  It did take a while to get to that point though.  The nice thing about it is that it does tell you by email when people unfollow or follow you.  So, whenever you want, you can go into the tool and check the latest activity.  Twitter always has limits on how many people you can follow, of course, so you have to do what you can.   There is a section for ‘recent unfollowers’.  Click on that.  Here, you have a choice of unfollowing them or you can try to do a shout out on Twitter (i.e.  something like, “Follow and RT @---- @----- @----“).  That may not always get them to follow you back.  You also have to really take stock of who you are following.  Prioritize it a little.  Are you following random businesses like VISA or Microsoft or Verizon (whoever your provider is)?  Well, that’s great.  But, it’s not going to win you any points.  And unless you want to see their tweets coming up all the time when you click ‘home’, it’s pointless because they most likely will not follow you back.  You can look at who is not following you back by clicking on ‘Not following back’.  Take stock and decide if these companies or individuals are the kind that would follow you back.  I have a few that I follow because I like them, but I don’t imagine any big names would actually follow me back because they’re too busy.  For the rest, I prioritize.

Think of what you’re interested in (books?  Great!  Follow people who write books or people who like books).  People will naturally follow who their connections follow.  You will find more people to follow.  But, always follow someone back if they have followed you unless they directly offend you.  You can follow back your followers on that great tool I just mentioned by clicking on the ‘fans’ section.  Follow as many people listed as you can before Twitter gets insane and says, “ Hey!  No more today!”  LOL.

Also, keep track of who is retweeting you or doing mentions of you.  It’s a good practice to try to follow them back as well.  You can check your notifications for that.  Always tweet a thank you to them.  It is the nice thing to do.

For more tips on Twitter, I would recommend Anne Bayes’ article:  http://annabayes.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/twitter-what-not-to-do/

She also mentions another article that is useful:  http://www.molly-greene.com/10-tweets-you-should-never-send/

Twitter can be a crazy marketing tool, but it can also be rewarding.  For myself, I enjoy reading some of the posts when you click the home button.  For those not familiar with Twitter, that shows the tweets of the people you are following.  Some people post pics and I try to respond to those.  The number one thing is that because my time is pretty limited, I only do what moves me.  If something is really interesting, catchy or worth retweeting, I will always do it.  If a picture or saying makes me really think, I am going to reply to that person.  I can’t be on Twitter 24/7, but I can try to do my part.  And yes, I do promote my books, but I also help my followers by retweeting. 

And the other thing?  Find something interesting to say.  Whether you are sticking to a certain theme (something you do professionally) or you just want to mention how great the weather is (or whatever else that strikes you), just say it.  A long time ago, I got into the habit of putting my thoughts about romance on Twitter.  I created my own hashtag, #iloveromance.  I have created other hashtags as well (#WritModAge or #HeiressesinLove or #histrom). Learn more about how to create your own hashtags here:  http://socialmediatoday.com/victoria-ipri/1417901/creating-your-own-twitter-hashtag-7-steps).  If you’re just starting out, sometimes it’s best to use the ones that are already out there.  Based on your genre, there is probably a hashtag for it.  When you’re promoting a book, using #bookplugs is helpful because they always retweet you.  I have also included @wemarketbooks and @kindlepromoter in tweets because I know they do free retweets of book tweets.  Also, get in the habit of using URL shorteners because you are only allowed to use 140 characters on Twitter.  The best one I have found is https://bitly.com/  Enter the URL you want and click 'Shorten'.  Then use the shortened link in your tweet.  But, don’t advertise all of the time.

The point is that you have something to say besides advertising your book or service.  You want to be human too.   

If someone is having a bad day and they state that, don’t hesitate to respond.  Just like on Facebook or any other place, it is more about the “social” in social networking than anything.  Take a bit of time and read the tweets.  Click on the blog links to articles that appeal to you.  If you like their sites or articles, retweet their tweet or use the Twitter button on that blog post.  I have found a TON of useful information on there.  Do your part and help your followers by retweeting. 

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on Twitter.


  1. Extremely helpful! You must have a wonderful source of inspiration!

    1. Ha ha! Thanks for reading, Bill, and commenting! :)

  2. The most important thing an author can do for success is establish a following. Twitter is a tool to use of that purpose. Very goo information in this article related from personal experience in an interesting way.

  3. Marie et al: I'm not trying to sell books; I just blog. So I haven't really worried about how many followers I have. I worry more about my Klout score and my perceived level of influence/engagement. Following lots more people than the people who follow you can lower that, so I've tried to avoid it. Also I have this innate fear, left over from elementary school, of looking unpopular and needy. (Yeah. I know. It's just a bunch of tubes and wires. But still.)

    The Twitter follow limit is pretty simple. Twitter lets you follow the number of followers you have plus 10%. Here's a tip that has proved useful for me. I use lists to "follow" interesting people or organizations who will likely not follow me back. You can add Twitter accounts to lists without following them, and then check that list (or lists, if you organize them by interest area or type) regularly. Retweet people you find interesting; they'll make your feed more interesting too. And if you do that often enough, sometimes they follow you first. At any rate, it's worked well for me.

    I've also tried to outline my social media practice on my blog, so people know what to expect from me on social media. My practice keeps changing, however. I find myself on Facebook very little these days, for example. But I do notice a lot of people check out that page, so it might be worth something to share it here: http://paulareednancarrow.com/social-practice/

    Have a lovely weekend!

  4. The key with twitter is focusing the benefit down into a short, appealing capsule message. "Find something interesting to say" - yes. And make it snappy! :-)


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