Twitter Basics and Best Practices for Writers

Why Talk About Twitter Basics and Best Practices?

Cover for Creating an Online Presence

Cat's first nonfiction book talks about how to set up and maintain an online presence -- without cutting into your writing time.


This year I switched the focus of my social media efforts to Twitter, because it seemed to me Facebook was an increasingly ineffectual way to reach fans. Because of that, I’ve been spending a lot more time looking at the people following me on there as well as thinking about Twitter, its philosophy, and its uses overall.

Why does a writer want to be on Twitter? The reason is more than just “sell books”. It’s often a way to network with existing fans (who will buy more books in the future), cultivate new fans, connect with peers and other industry professionals, to find out industry and writing news and yes, of course, to procrastinate in a thousand different ways.

I used to automatically follow people who followed me but nowadays I spend a few minutes to click through and look at their page and the tweets it contains. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are doing it “wrong,” or at least in a way that ends up detracting from their purpose. Most of these are easy fixes. Here’s some tips for setting up an account on there and as well as for maintaining a presence.

The Basics of Setting up a Twitter Account

If you have never experienced Twitter, it’s basically a way to post short messages. I suggest reading some of these basic tutorials on it. Once you’re ready, create your account, keeping the following things in mind.

  1. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Include both a profile and a background picture. Please don’t just make it the default Twitter “egg”.
  2. Give people a reason to follow you. Tell them who you are, but do it in an interesting way.
  3. Give people a way to find out more. Include your website in your profile.
  4. Remember that profiles include SEO keywords. Think about what sort of searches you want readers to be finding you by and include them (gracefully!) in your bio.
  5. Don’t sell stuff via an overt link in your profile picture, background picture, or bio. It comes off as over-eager and clueless.
  6. Make it look nice. Proofread!

Best Practices on Twitter for Writers

Part of successful social media is consistency. You have to do something on at least a monthly basis, and really probably a bit more often than that unless you’re determined to be as barebones as possible, in which case you might as well just renounce the world electronic and move to the woods to live off the grid. (IMO).

  1. Don’t sell, sell, sell. If your stream is nothing but links to your book on Amazon, I’m not following you back. My rule of thumb is at least four non-selling Tweets to every selling one. Examples of nonselling? Promoting other people’s stuff, cat or child pictures, observations about life, interesting or enlightening quotes, links to articles that interested you, and snippets from your own #wip are all valid.
  2. Don’t be negative. Don’t be jaded or whiney or bitter or angry or mean. Just don’t. Studies show people prefer a positive or cheerful Twitter stream.
  3. Answer and acknowledge. When people RT, my habit is to thank them and also to add them to a special Twitter list. When I’m skimming through Twitter for things to amuse/entertain/idly chatter about/RT, I often look at that list because it’s people who’ve proven they want to build a Twitter relationship.
  4. Be a little selective about your followers. On a daily basis I look to see who’s following me. No profile info? Nothing but book selling? No tweets at all? I don’t follow back. Periodically I run the justunfollow tool and clear my follower list of people I don’t know but am following while they’re not following me back.
  5. It’s okay to repeat yourself (a little). Think that latest blog post was particularly noteworthy? Repeat the announcement the next day, and then again the following week. Build a list of such posts for a “best of” category on your site.
  6. Automate SOME things. Don’t auto-message followers, for example. But do use a tool like Buffer to schedule tweets so you catch a variety of times, such as those repeated posts.

Want to know more about how to use social media and your Internet presence to sell books and find new opportunities without wasting all your time staring at kitten pictures? Sign up for my online class Establishing an Online Presence for Writers on Sunday morning, February 15th, 2015, 9:30 AM-12:30 PM PST. Limited to eight students, who will also receive a free copy of Creating an Online Presence.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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