Twitter is a tricky beast; out of all the social media platforms, it was the one I had the most difficulty with.
As you may have noticed I can talk for Britain, getting me to shut up is an art form in and of itself, so when confronted with such a limited amount of characters I struggled. I’m strict with myself in my fiction and nonfiction writing, reading and re-reading and re-reading again, eliminating every unnecessary word but social media is usually where I am less restrained. I see social media as a way to actually connect with people, and my first thoughts were that I couldn’t be my genuine self if I were limiting myself so much.
But then I changed the way I looked at Twitter. I looked at it as a writing exercise, to try to say something meaningful in just a couple of words or to try to tell a story in a sentence. It was a fun exercise, but it didn’t interest anyone other than myself.
Once I decided I wanted to grow my Twitter following and turn it into something I actively used to promote my writing I made an effort to learn as much as I could as fast as I could. Some of the things I tried worked, others didn’t There was an embarrassing amount of trial and error until I found a formula that I could manage and showed some success.
Some of the below might not work for you the way they did for me. But I sincerely hope they do.
Your Profile Picture Should Be a Picture of You.
When we look at businesses and people on Twitter or Facebook, and we see a random profile picture, it can sometimes be suspicious or off-putting. If I look at a company that fixes roofs and the profile picture they use is the owner’s cat I’m instantly turned off the business. Which is sad cause I love cats.
The point is, is that people like connecting with people if they can put a face to your name, then people are far more likely to want to engage with you. As a species, we are attracted to each other, for the majority, this is basic biology. A happy smiling picture of you is going to get more engagement, more trust and help build your brand better than a random picture of something, not you.
There may be a genuine reason why your profile picture is of your cat, or your house, or your favourite TV character but you should strongly consider changing it. I hate having my picture taken, and I hate sharing pictures of myself online. I hated it when my workplace needed pictures, and I had to sit at my desk with a smile plastered on my face. But it works, people like to see who they are talking to.
For your Twitter and other social media, you can afford not to be as professional as I had to be for the Firm I work for. You can pull daft faces; you can grin like the Cheshire cat or paint your face blue, as long as the picture is of your face then it’s great.
Follow and Comment On Tweets By People Who Are Relevant To What You Do
For LawCats (my nonfiction legal writing) Twitter I knew I wanted to help people with their legal problems but to find people with legal problems I started to follow other legal advice charities, solicitor firms and barristers. Legitimate news sources and anywhere where people looked for legal advice. I began commenting on various threads and before I knew it people searching for more prominent legal service providers were finding me.
I did the same for my fiction writing; I followed other writers, publishers, and authors I liked and emulated. And it worked. I met people following better-known horror and fantasy writers, and before I knew it, their readers were finding me and following.
To find the movers and shakers in your genre then I cannot recommend Twitters advanced search enough. Use it to find those with similar interests and large followings, take the time to read, share and comment on their threads (make sure you add to the conversation, going on the thread and posting “followmefollowmefollowme” will get you nowhere except maybe blocked) and before you know it you’ll be growing like a weed.
Twitter lists are also a great way to find people who are relevant. If you find one author or publisher, you can see if they have a list of individuals who write in a similar genre or are trying to reach the same audience as you. Once you find that list, you have access to potentially countless people to follow and engage with.
Lastly the most prominent tool, hashtags. I’m still not wonderful at hashtags, but when I do remember to use them, I get far more engagement as I’m able to reach a wider audience.
It should go without saying that you need to post good content. Always posting about your book might be tempting (believe me I know) but people will only follow you if you post something that interests them. If you post engaging and entertaining content sprinkled with the occasional “look I wrote a Book” post then you’re far more likely to grow an audience that’s interested in what you write. When they see you’ve got a book, they are far more liable to say “Gosh, more of what I already like?” and click the buy button.
Part of posting good content has little to do with the content itself (weird, right?) and more to do with the constancy of your posts. If you post in bursts you’re going to flood people’s feeds, and they are not going to like that, they will unfollow you. If you never post then, they will get bored, and when they have a clear out, you’ll get unfollowed. So not only do you have to be interesting but you have to find the right balance between too much and too little and be consistent with it.
This can take practice, and you may drop a few followers while you’re learning, I know I did, but once you find the right pace for you, chances are they will come back.
Tailor Posts To Your Audience
As I said above a big part of building a following is posting interesting content. Interesting for your audience that is. Stop tweeting about your dinner and start tweeting about what they are interested in.
This is a lot easier than it sounds and you can learn a lot by following others in the same genre as you. Those of them with decent followings will not post about themselves that often, they will post links to interesting articles or even better write interesting articles themselves and share links, they might start a conversation about a trending topic, or discuss another author they like that chances are their audience will like as well.
Make sure you are giving something of value to your audience with your posts. Take this post for example, when I sat down to write it I was about to have my birthday, and I wanted to talk about the awesome way I was planning to celebrate. But let’s face it while I’m excited about my birthday plans chances are you probably are not. Instead, I wrote what is (hopefully) an interesting and informative blog about Twitter You will get much more value from this post than me babbling on about what Chinese food I’m going to order when my friends and I go for dinner.
Although I have still managed to talk about my birthday plans, ha! Take that rules.
You should now have a few ideas that you can test yourself with your Twitter following and see what works for you. I’m still learning about this myself so I would love to hear what you’ve found that works and what doesn’t.