Twitter is a divisive social media platform: people either love it or hate, and sometimes both on the same day. When I decided to build my social media presence a year ago, I set up a Facebook author page and began to engage with the writing community on Twitter. At first, Facebook seemed the more user friendly of the two, more familiar somehow, and Twitter a bamboozling stream of consciousness. After a while, though, I began to ‘get’ Twitter and grew to love it while the Facebook page suffered from a combination of new Facebook algorithms and neglect.
Twitter is now my fast favourite, largely due to the supportive writing community, but it hasn’t always been so. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of Twitter:
- Building an authentic following takes time. This time last year, I had a handful of Twitter followers—a few family and friends. At first, I worked on the strategy of following five people with similar interests every day. When you only have a few followers, many seasoned Twitter users won’t bother following back, but some will. And slowly you build a community.
- Hashtags are your friend, to a point. We’ve all seen people who post a dozen meaningless hashtags. The point of hashtags is to categorise tweets so interested people can find them, and hopefully engage with or follow you. For this reason, it pays to search for the hashtag on Twitter before using it, to make sure the content aligns with yours. Trolls watch some hashtags, e.g. Everyday Sexism, to find new targets for their vitriol, so if you want to avoid their attention, avoid using certain hashtags. Here’s a link to a comprehensive list of writing hashtags. Oh, and use more than three at your peril; it makes the post look like spam.
- More engagement equals relevant tweets in your timeline. Rather than just liking other people’s posts, retweet and comment. Congratulate others for their wins, and share your struggles. It’s called social media for a reason.
- Tweets versus retweets. When someone follows me, I scroll through their feed before following them. If all I see is a stream of ‘buy my book’ tweets, I will not follow them. If the content doesn’t ring true, or they have followers in the thousands but only retweet, I assume they’re a bot and don’t follow. If their profile sounds too much like a personal ad, I don’t follow. There should be more retweets and comments on other people’s posts than tweets of your own content. And evidence of human interaction. If you’re only there to promote yourself, I’m not interested.
- Join in games and hashtags. I began building my Twitter profile by entering Queensland Writers’ Centre 8-word-story competition in 2017. If you pay attention to Twitter, there are almost constant games and hashtag prompts. They’re fun and allow you to find like-minded people to follow. This month, I’m participating in #AusWrites.
- Follow interesting people without expecting them to follow you. Many Twitter users complain about people who follow, unfollow, follow in the hope of increasing their follower numbers. It’s seen as poor form. If you are interested in someone, by all means follow them. If they have a large following or public profile, they usually won’t follow back. Sometimes they’ll follow you months later, sometimes not at all.
- Keep your day job. Have you noticed that lots of people have ‘Tweets are my own opinion. Retweets are not endorsement’ in their profile? You need to be aware that everything you tweet is a public comment. Your employer and professional body may see tweets that don’t fit with their philosophy as a problem. And claiming your tweets as your own opinion, not your employer’s, doesn’t protect you from legal action or being fired. It pays to think twice before making any tweet public.
- Don’t let it consume you. Twitter is addictive. The little endorphin rush you get when people interact positively with your tweets keep you coming back, especially when you’re engaged in the lonely pursuit of writing. If you don’t want to be consumed by social media, limit your time on Twitter.
- Karma is alive and well. The Twitter writing community, in particular, is extremely supportive. I’ve had private messages from writers to check on me after an uncharacteristically negative tweet, and others recommending agents. Many experienced authors and agents offer generous pay-it-forward critiques for new writers, which are well worth taking up. If you contribute to the positivity, you will be rewarded.
- Don’t let trolls get you down. If you’re a woman with an opinion, at some point you will attract the attention of trolls. At times, I’ve had to walk away from Twitter until the hate dies down. The more prominent you are, the more likely a target. My strategy is to ignore most of them, block or report the persistent trolls, and never follow them back. They want to silence women, and we shouldn’t allow that to happen. Nor should we accept online bullying or let it affect us.
What do you think of Twitter? Do you love it or hate it?