In a recent article about actions to take to increase book sales, I mentioned that you could leverage Twitter to become a great traffic driver.
I have received many messages since then wanting more information about using Twitter more effectively.
So here is a list of Twitter for authors tips, tricks, and how to’s that may help you in understanding how Twitter works.
By following this guide, authors can make better use of Twitter’s opportunities on social media.
The Twitter basics
Select a sensible twitter username and Twitter profile picture because it will help promote your author image. You can change your username and edit profile details at any time.
Social networking is all about creating a reputation. Make sure your Twitter page has the look of an author or writer.
Twitter increased its original 140 character limit to 280.
When you post your tweet, use as close to the 280 characters you are allowed. The longer the character count, the more chance you will find people who are interested in what you have to say.
Another good way to attract attention is to include an image when you send a tweet. Simply click the image icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the Tweet box to add an image to your post.
To protect your Twitter account, it is a good idea to add your phone number to your account details. Don’t worry, other users will not be able to see it, but it allows Twitter to contact you if there is any problem with your account.
If you only wish to use Twitter as a source of information, or to follow trending topics, then the one tip I would give you is to use Twitter Lists.
Even if you only follow 1,000 accounts, your main Twitter feed will be full of spam, promotion, and junk.
The best way to filter the information down to you want to read is to set up lists.
From an author or writer’s perspective, this may include lists of fellow authors, publishers, literary agents, or bookshops. Then by selecting a list, only Tweets from your chosen sources will appear in the list feed in real-time.
You can then actively participate in discussions or Twitter chats by using the reply tweet button, or by beginning a new Tweet with the user’s @address.
If you don’t have many followers, Tweeting without an @address is not going to be seen by many users.
Therefore, if you want more people to see your Tweets, you will need to increase your followers.
If you want to be proactive on Twitter, there are many things you can do to increase your effectiveness.
But the most viable means by a long way is to post great Tweets and great content. It’s the first thing users look for when deciding to follow an account.
Your content can come from blogs, news sites, or your author website or blog.
The other major issue, of course, is to increase the number of followers you have.
With Twitter’s 5,000 following rule, this can be a little difficult to achieve at the beginning for new Indie authors. But once you have gained 5,000 followers, increasing your following gets a lot easier.
Twitter’s infamous 5,000 following rule.
So how do you get over this first 5,000 hurdle? The answer is slowly.
Do not be tempted into buying followers, as it will do nothing to help your effectiveness. Purchased followers are only bots, so they will give you no exposure at all.
The only way to gain real followers is to follow users who follow you (follow back) and to follow other users and hope that some of them will follow you back.
But you need to be very selective. Do not follow hundreds of users by clicking down a long list. Be very selective about who you follow.
Tip! Here’s a little checklist I use when looking for people to follow, or follow back.
1. Is the user active? Inactive accounts are unlikely to follow back.
2. Is it a real person? Look at the profile pic and bio to make your decision.
3. Is the user posting? No Tweets means, no activity, so unlikely to follow back.
4. Does the user have a huge following? If so, don’t follow. Look for users with small followings as they, like you, are looking to build their follower count, so they will be more likely to follow back.
5. Is the user posting spam? Check their timeline, and if it’s repetitive spam, don’t follow.
To get over the 5,000 limit, you will have to unfollow users at some point to keep your following ratio close to one-to-one. But don’t rush into this.
Following and unfollowing in the wrong way can result in your Twitter account being suspended, so be very careful.
Twitter takes a very hard line on ‘Churning’.
It is the action of following and then unfollowing a lot of users in a short period of time.
Put simply, if you churn, you could have your account suspended.
The way to avoid this, and at the same time keep your account growing, you should follow modestly.
Following 5,000 users and quickly hitting the Twitter limit will not result in your account growing.
Then unfollowing users to get your account back into balance will be classed as churning.
Tip! If you are under the 5,000 follower point, only follow at most 50 users per day, and do not start unfollowing for at least two weeks. This allows time between following and unfollowing, and is then not churning.
Again, slowly and modestly. Maximum, 40 users per day. Always unfollow less than you follow each day, as hopefully, the difference will be made up by those who follow you.
As your account grows, you can increase your daily following, but again, very slowly. The Twitter limit for following in one day is 400.
For my own larger accounts that now have over 100,000 followers each, my daily follows never exceed 150, which is a very small percentage.
Remember, it’s not a race. It’s about gaining real followers who will engage with your Tweets.
Over time, your Twitter account will accumulate a lot of inactive users. People get bored, or they just didn’t like or understand Twitter.
For many reasons, Twitter has a transient user base, so you need to factor this into your planning.
Tip! Follow new active users, because they are the best candidates to follow you back.
Check their follower and tweet count. Numbers under 1,000 often indicate that they are new users.
The added benefit is that if you are posting great content, they have followed so few accounts that they have a much higher chance of reading and engaging with your content.
I have read a lot of advice articles about Twitter saying that inactive users should be unfollowed. I disagree, however, because, inactivity only means that a user is not tweeting.
Just because a user is not tweeting does not mean that they are not still using Twitter and reading content.
Twitter noted recently that a considerable proportion of Twitter users don’t Tweet. But that they still log in and use Twitter on a daily basis. So this means that millions of inactive Twitter users must be reading Twitter posts.
Tip! Don’t unfollow inactive users.
Learning to use Twitter better is a winner for blog traffic.
The most effective use and the main reason to use Twitter for a published author is to send more and more traffic to your blog, website, or book links.
The more traffic you can build, of course, the more chance you will have of selling books.
While increasing your following is a good outcome, it is not going to be enough, though.
You will have to have very good content to post on your timeline to encourage your new followers to click your links, go to your blog, and learn about your books.
The best way to do this is to write timeless blog posts. That is blog posts that are not going to be dated and can be used over and over again to engage other users.
As users on Twitter stay for a very short time, you can post one of your timeless blog posts over and over again without it being repetitive.
When you write a new post, add it to Twitter 4 times (every 6 hours) on the day of publishing on your blog, and then three times a week later. Then twice a week later. Then post it once a week for two months.
Remember, you are attracting new users every day, so it will be new to them, and for your existing followers, they will only see it in their streams if they happen to be checking when you re-post.
On average, when I post on Twitter, only around 1,000 of my 100,000 followers see my Tweet. So by reposting, I can get my message out to more of my followers.
Tip! Use Twitter Analytics to see how your Tweets perform. You can check impressions, engagements, retweets, favorites, replies, and clicks and then make a judgment on which of your Tweets perform better. These are the ones to repost, often.
While gaining followers is top of mind for many new to Twitter, I can honestly say that the very best way to achieve this is not by following lists of other Twitter accounts.
My top Twitter tip for authors is to regularly post great informative content, which can then get retweeted.
One single retweet has the potential to be seen by hundreds if not thousands of users, so it is by far the most powerful feature of Twitter.
A mix of your own content and content from other sites will make your Twitter feed popular and worth reading, and of course, worth retweeting.
Tip! Do you retweet? Did you know that you can retweet posts from accounts you are not following, or do not follow you?
This is one of the underused means of attracting people to follow you. They will see your retweet on their activity tab, and if you’re lucky, they will follow you.
Twitter is fun, informative and a fantastic tool for building a following, increasing blog traffic, and of course, learning. However, it is not a great place to sell stuff. It just doesn’t work.
So forget the book buy links and spend your time writing great content to share with all your new followers on Twitter that will not only enhance your reputation as a writer but also attract interest in your books.
If you have been using Twitter for some time, what has or hasn’t worked for you? I would welcome your comments to share your experience with our readers.
Note: This post has been updated to reflect the new follow limit of 5,000 on Twitter.