Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hello, my name's Sari and I've been a Tweeter for ten months...

...with no sign of giving it up any time soon.

And anyway, why would I want to? Since I've been on Twitter, I have:
  • made new writing friends
  • found new agents, publishers, editors and authors to stalk (not creepy, I promise)
  • gotten new traffic to the blog
  • been directed to a number of amazing and helpful articles on writing that I never would have found by myself
  • been able to chat in live time with real agents, and get their advice
  • participated in Tweet chats on the craft of writing (my favourite is #YAlitchat)
  • been directed to jobs and internships to apply for.

Before I signed up for Twitter I thought it was just another way for 14-year-old girls to write in 140 characters or less what they had for lunch that day, and to stalk Justin Bieber. When I signed up, I was sceptical at best about what I would get out of Twitter. But I thought I may as well check out what all the fuss was about. As you can see, I'm glad I did.
I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned about using Twitter from the perspective of an aspiring writer building her platform. A guide from a non-expert, you might call it.

~ If you haven't signed up yet, go do it! You're missing out on a world of new contacts, information and advice. Make sure your Twitter account isn't private. The whole idea of Twitter is connecting with people, and putting up this major roadblock won't help.

~ Once you're the owner of a shiny new account, before you do anything else, write your bio and upload a picture. (If you have a Twitter account already and haven't done this step, I recommend doing this now).

If I get an email saying I have a new Twitter follower, and that person has no bio and no picture, usually I just delete without following them back. Why? Because they haven't made the effort, so why should I? There are gazillions of worthy people to follow on Twitter, so make it easy for people to want to follow you. Here are some tips from social media expert Marian Schembari on writing your Twitter bio.

~ Sign up for TweetDeck or similar program. Trust me, if you use the Twitter website for tweeting, you'll never discover how awesome Twitter can be.

~ Before you start following people, send a few tweets. Post a link to a helpful blog post you've found. Search the #amwriting or #writing hashtags and send some encouragement to someone who's hit a writing milestone. Say something about your own writing for the day. Why do you do this before following people? The second thing I do after checking the bio to decide if I will follow someone is to check their Tweetstreem. If there's nothing there it's hard to tell if this is the sort of person I want to follow or not.
~ Follow! Search Twitter for writers, agents, publishers and whoever else you want to follow. Visit your favourite blogs and see if there is a link to the blogger's Twitter page. Check out the 'following' lists of the people you follow and follow some of the same people. Don't go overboard to start off with. You don't want a 'following' to 'follower' ratio of 1000 to 10.

~ Learn about hashtags and how to use them. Here's a list of hashtags for writers.

~ Participate in Twitter chats for writers. You learn heaps and meet heaps of cool people.

~ Keep your tweets balanced. Talk to people, post interesting articles, post links to your own blog posts, post updates in general. Try not to focus on any one of these.

The last thing I look at when deciding if I will follow is what a person is tweeting about. If their feed is full of self-promotion and links to their own blog, I don't follow. If their feed is full of updates to the world, but no actual interaction with other people, I don't follow. If their feed is full of links and RTs (retweets of other's posts), I don't follow.

This might sound a bit strict, but again there are so many people to choose from in Twitterland, and I'm there to meet and interact with people, not to be tweeted at or bombarded with links. It's like writing a good character: the reader needs to connect with you before they care what you have to say.

~ Have fun!

Also, here's a post from Marian Schembari on why you might be struggling to get followers, this Twitter Guide for Writers by @inkyelbows is a great resource, and Kristen Lamb has a regular Twitter Tuesday post with lots of good info.

Have you signed up for Twitter? What's the best thing that's happened to you since you started using it? Are you just starting? Is there anything you find confusing?


  1. Yep sure love Twitter, i am new to Twitter as well. Only be around for a few months myself.

    Thanks for the list of #tags!

    I struggle the most with balance. I go through phases where i just chat with people and then i retweet a lot of cool links in a day then back to chatting. I try and balance these a little by scheduling the posts through tweetdeck as well. Doesn't always work though.

    But i agree, Twitter works best when you give to others rather than just expecting stuff in return.

    I love Tweetdeck!

    Thanks Sari,


  2. I still don't get Twitter, but I'm trying! A little, at least ;)

  3.  All good TWeeet advice here - good job!

  4. I love Twitter. It's such a good way to get in contact with bunches of people, as you point out, and also to pursue multiple interests-- I get a lot of running/cycling news through Twitter, as well as good writing stuff.

  5.  I think you have a good balance with your tweets. It's when I look at a person's feed and all I see is "On the blog: How to blah blah blah..." over and over again, that I cringe and go hell no! That person only wants to advertise to the world, they don't want to interact.

  6.  If you have any questions, Trisha, let me know! Always happy to help :)

  7.  Hmmm, well firstly I don't even know if anyone ever sees Tweets that I send to them. In fact, I don't even know if I'm tweeting messages to people correctly. LOL.

  8. To mention someone in a tweet you need to make sure their twitter handle is included in the tweet, including the @. You can practise on me if you want. I'll respond if it works. I'm @sariwebb.

    If you're using TweetDeck you can set up a 'Mentions' collumn that shows tweets with your handle in them.

    If you reply to a person's tweet their handle should automatically populate the tweet.

  9. I've been on Twitter for about a year, I guess, and I love it too.  I love #yalitchat and #kidlitchat and #askagent and #querychat and all those awesome, informative chats.  I've made new friends, too, and even new critique partners and beta readers.  I feel so much more connected now. 

  10. Great post for someone (me!) who doesn't 'get' Twitter. It took me long enough to get a blog and then I didn't use it for a couple of years.
    In the same way, I don't 'get' Facebook either - yet I know these channels to communication are thought to be essential for writers and would-be-writers.

    Thanks very much for your timely post, Sari. I'll come back and reread when I've got longer and look into Twitter.

  11. Thanks for the advice! I've been on twitter for a while now, but I know I'm not really utilizing it. I tweet erratically at best! You've encouraged me to give it a bit more effort. 

  12.  #askagent's great! Jessica Faust is often very generous with her time for #askagent. And #yalitchat is also very cool :)

  13. Not a problem, Prue! Let me know if there's anything I can help with.

  14. Oh, am I following you on Twitter? I'll have to find out and fix that if not! :)

  15. I haven't been tweeting for all that long either. I do think it's kinda fun, when I get around to being there for a while.

    Great post on how to get started! I should check and see if my tweets are balanced as well. I love Tweet Deck! It's awesome.