Twitter is one of the largest social media platforms, and when used correctly, can really help boost an indie author’s platform.
According to Social Media for Writers, “23 percent of online adults living in the United States are active on Twitter.” The post also breaks down the demographic of Twitter users, down to age, gender, education level, and more.
When you sign up for an account, you choose a Twitter handle. All handles begin with @, so for example, my Twitter handle is @sabsky.
Twitter has really expanded its functionality over the years. Of course, the main way to use Twitter is to communicate in short 140-character messages (and also photos and videos if you choose). After you sign up for an account, also known as a Twitter handle, and upload your cover photo, profile photo, and fill out your bio, you are ready to go. Twitter is often used to sign in to other apps or websites, and you can now even purchase items directly from Twitter (see more in your Settings tab, which pops up when you click on your profile image).
Building your platform on Twitter means increasing the number of people who follow you. For tips on how to do that, check out “Guest Post: 8 Secrets to Increase Your Twitter Followers.”
You should also follow people or companies that you find interesting. This will help you interact with people on Twitter, either by favoriting a tweet, retweeting, or replying to tweets.
You can also create lists on Twitter, curating by the topics people tend to tweet about or grouping people you like together. This can be especially helpful when you start following more than a couple hundred people.
One of Twitter’s most powerful tools is the hashtag. It allows you to join conversations, quickly find out about particular topics, and in some cases, start trending. (You can see what’s trending on the left side of your screen on the homepage, along with excerpts of what the hashtags mean–it’s an easy way to catch up on news.)
According to AuthorU, you can create different hashtags, but have them be all connected and link to the same website or blog post.
Chats and Festivals
The hashtag makes it easy to host live chats or participate in festivals, without having your tweets get lost among all the other tweets. One weekly Twitter chat is #k8chat, an hour-long chat about different indie publishing topics. For more ideas of chats to join, read “Finding Twitter Chats” on BadRedheadMedia.
One popular literary festival is #TwitterFiction Festival (see FastCoLabs for more on this), which encourages the 140 character format for storytelling. You could also just write stories on Twitter without being part of a festival, as Phillip Pullman did with his tale of Jeffrey the housefly. For more on writing fiction on Twitter, read “Is Twitter Fiction an Option for Self-Publishing Authors?” on BookWorks.
There are also pitch contests, where on specific days you can pitch your novel to agents using hashtags. One such contest is #PitMad, and the next event is September 7. At least one person has successfully found an agent via Twitter, according to The Book Designer.
One author, Gorric Racic, is also using Twitter in an innovative way, where he created a “a multi-dimensional social experience to complement the book,” according to Mashable. Once readers watch the book trailer, they “move on to read the novel. The Twitter account, then, picks up Loud’s experiences where the book leaves off. Racic is currently writing Loud Evolution‘s sequel, so the tweets, which began June 24, tell a series of shorter stories to loosely transition into the second book.”
If you want to collaborate with others in writing stories on Twitter, you can try out AuthorBee. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “Users can create an account/channel at the @AuthorBee Web site which must link to their Twitter account. When using any Twitter mobile client and mentioning #AuthorBee, that same tweet will be sent to the users’ @AuthorBee channel and saved in sequence. The Tweets of the users’ followers (who also use #AuthorBee hashtag) will also be archived in conjunction, and in sequence, on the channel.” Tweets can be organized by topic, according to PW.
There are many tools that help you analyze your Twitter followers, feed, and more. Twitter itself now offers analytics, where you can see the number of impressions of your tweets as well as the number of engagements (times it was retweeted or favorited).
Other tools include Followerwonk, which shows the demographics, active hours, topics, and more on your Twitter followers, ManageFlitter, which shows you which of your followers do not follow you back and makes it easy for you to unfollow people, and Crowdfire, which shows your account growth. Generally, you want to have more followers than people you follow.
Another tool is Twee-q, which allows you to input any Twitter handle, and it “tells you what proportion of that account’s recent retweets (made during the last 100 tweets) were of comments or opinions issued by men or by women.”
Twitter Management Tools
Because Twitter is updated by the second, and all the interaction is pretty much instant, it can be daunting trying to spend so much time on the site. To make things easier, you can try scheduling certain posts ahead of time, such as links to your blog, or even specific messages. Some tools to help you with this include Pluggio, Hootsuite, and Buffer.
Marketing with Twitter
To market your book on Twitter, you have to make sure you write effective tweets. Training Authors gives some advice on how to write strong tweets, which includes having a good hook and an image.
If you want to learn what makes a tweet retweetable, read Cornell University’s study, which used an algorithm to predict a tweet’s tweetability.
Twitter also sells ad space, though that can get quite expensive, especially for an indie author. For more on how to promote your tweets, read “How to promote a tweet according to Twitter” on Ben Zackheim’s site.
If you want to share an EPUB on Twitter, either an excerpt or the full book, you can use EPUB2Twitter. According to The Digital Reader, “When tweeted, that link triggers Twitter’s embed protocols, making it load an Epub viewer.”
You can also use Pay with a Tweet, where people can tweet about your book in exchange for a free copy.
Selling on Twitter
Now that you can purchase items directly on Twitter, some authors are able to sell their books via Twitter. Back in May, Amazon and Twitter announced #AmazonCart. According to TechCrunch, “After the user connects their Twitter account to Amazon, they can extend their Amazon shopping experience by tweeting a reply to Amazon product links they see on Twitter including the hashtag #AmazonCart — or #AmazonBasket in the UK — to add the product to their shopping basket.”
According to GoodeReader, “Authors can now tweet product links out to their followers or pay famous people to endorse the link to their book. This is a brand new marketing vertical that all authors should be embracing.”
Twitter also has other types of buy buttons, according to The Digital Reader.
Even large publishers are starting to sell directly on Twitter. In March, HarperCollins started working with Twitter Commerce, according to Publisher’s Weekly, which offers native commerce.
What to Tweet
There are many helpful articles on what to tweet and what not to tweet about. The general consensus is to not be constantly self-promoting, and instead use the platform to genuinely interact with people. (If you are getting too much Twitter spam, try out Twitter Mute.)
In addition to writing original tweets, you can retweet and add comments to a retweet. For more on how to do that, read “Twitter Gives Authors More Characters with ReTweet!” on where writers win.
For some Twitter tips on what to tweet, read:
- “Read This Before You SELL SELL SELL Books On Twitter” on Book Promotion
- “Authors: Improve Your Twitter Messaging and Control” on The eBook Author’s Corner
- “Twitter: Jazz It Up With Special Characters” on Bound and Determined
- “How Not to Sell Books on Twitter … And What to Do Instead” on Social Media Just for Writers
- “10 Things Authors Should Never Do on Twitter” on Social Media Just for Writers
Editor’s note: This post was originally published September 2015, as part of the Indie Author Marketing Guide series.