Using Twitter Part 1

Here’s an article I wrote for the CWA’s Red Herrings magazine.  Part 2 will appear in next month’s edition.

Twitter Tips Part 1

Twitter is like an updated teletext service online, where anyone and everyone can join in.  It also provides another way of speaking, of having a conversation.  It means you have a voice and you will be remembered for this voice; it will be as distinctive as you make it.  So above all when tweeting:

Remember your audience.

Publishers expect authors to have an online presence and Twitter is part of that.  The writing and reading communities love Twitter for its ease of communication and break time relief from solitary lives and occupations.  When starting out, be clear on answers to these questions:

  • Who are you aiming at?  Who do you want to connect with?
  • How can you connect with them?
  • When is the best time to interact with them?

Some Basics

Setting up Your Account.  Do have a sensible, easy to recognise name.  I have seen an author use his initials plus an underscore and an ‘x’.  It may be lovely and luvvie, but where exactly does that pesky underscore go again?  To remember his twitter handle you’d need more post-its than S J Watson’s Christine.  Pick a decent personal avatar and stick with it as some applications, (more on this later), lend themselves to the visual.  An avatar on Tweetdeck is much bigger than the name, for example.  And how does your avatar look when really small?   One publisher has an acorn; sadly, really small it looks like something else.  I’ll leave you to guess.  Remember that when you change your avatar people may overlook you for a while.  Unless the new one is terrifically shocking.

Following.  You can look at anyone’s twitter page to see what they’ve tweeted as long as they don’t have a protected account.  When you follow them, their tweets will appear in your timeline when you are logged in.  Two people following one another are able to DM (Direct Message) one another.  This is a private messaging service and the home of salacious gossip.  Those who graduated at the Belt & Braces Academy delete their really risky DMs after the discussion as Twitter is not without its bugs – and who can really trust that those DMs might not one day float to the surface of all public?

A known Twitter bug at the moment occurs in unfollowing.  Twitter may do this for you without your instruction.  You can unfollow anyone at any time with one simple click.  And right now, if challenged, you can blame twitter over replying to someone that they bored/inflamed you.  Remember too, not to take unfollows personally.  Twitter is not you, it’s just one activity you pursue.  Drama queen reactions can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Example: you discover someone’s unfollowed you so you tweet that you’re ‘clearing out dead wood’ on your site’s links only to remove the unfollower.  Yes, it’s happened.

Mentions.  When you start a tweet with @ANother it won’t go out to all your followers.  It will only go out to @ANother and the followers you share with them.  Thus, if you have 3,647 followers to notify about your next book signing and start it with @the_cwa, if only 3 of them also follow @the_cwa, only those 3 and @the_cwa will receive your tweet in their timeline.  If you want to ensure @ANother sees a tweet, as in a c.c., add the twitter name at the end or in the middle of your tweet text.  Starting a tweet with @ANother will send it into their ‘mentions’ giving a higher chance they will see it.  It also signifies a conversation.  Don’t be surprised if others join in as it’s all public.

The Re-tweet (RT).  This can be used to pass on to your followers those tweets you like/enjoy/ find funny/consider newsworthy.  Unless from a known and trusted source, it’s always worth checking out the links included before you RT.  You could be passing on a link to a dubious dating site.  (A literary agent has performed this one.)

The MT.  No, not a pop star to be found on The Voice but a modified tweet.  Effectively it’s the good old RT but edited by the person sending it onwards.  They may have edited it to reduce the characters for RTing, and the editing to MT lets you know they’ve tampered with it.

#hashtags.  These are used to organise streams and allow for searching on topics, e.g. #crimefiction.  (Beware: there’s a spammer about on that one.)  Hashtags only like alpha and numeric characters and will end when things like an apostrophe are inserted.  You may call your beloved husband Dick but if you fancy tweeting a series of pics of his birthday presents don’t use #dick’sbirthday.

Timing.  Want to tell the world about something?  Pick your times.  Note the plural.  One tweet about that new release will only hit timelines at that one time.  A British author with mainly British followers is not picking the best time to tweet about their books at 6am.  (This has been observed.)  Pick busier times and tweet more than once in a day, but avoid having a timeline full of only promotional tweets which will soon have you tagged #BlatantSelfPromotion and #bore.  Kind interaction and interesting tweets are far more likely to bring book sales.

Apps.  Some people use apps, preferring them to twitter on the net where you have to change pages to flick from general timeline into DMs or mentions.  Tweetdeck is very popular here, placing your tweets in columns allowing easy tracking in one place: all friends; mentions; DMs; new followers; your searches.  Now owned by Twitter, it’s undergoing some tweaks, not always for the better.  You can have it on your PC and your phone.

Next time: don your best Attenborough safari suit and join me to look at behavioural issues.  Twit or tweep?  What have we learnt from Twitter’s pioneers?

6 thoughts on “Using Twitter Part 1

  1. Sarah

    What a great post Rhian. I am fairly new to twitter and still finding my way but I do find it enjoyable. I have no idea about the @ANother at the beginning of a tweet, not about the apostrophes in hashtags. So now I know. I do have tweetdeck but am not really au fair with it yet.

  2. Very Tessa Tangent

    I like that post very much! I’m at the 6 month phase (ha), having been on Twitter in and around 07 and not quite knowing what to *do* with it. I rejoined about December ’11 and then realised there were all these rules I simply had to try and find out for myself. That post was a useful indicator for any new tweep. Nicola Morgan’s ‘Tweet Right’ was helpful, too. But I hadn’t realised what MT meant, so that was worth knowing. I’ve clearly been RTing tweets I’ve modified through using TweetDeck. Right…

    I have unfollowed in error or without my knowing. I have used @ffhelper and realised many are merely selling to me. That would be fine if they said anything else, but! I have tweeted when severely depressed (not a good move, esp for my followers), I have *butted in* on conversations. And do you know what? I find most people on Twitter very understanding. I have *butted in*, we end up having a Twitter natter and then some of those people follow me.

    I agree with you. My pet hates are people who only ever seem to #FF or to promote their own work. I switch off and can’t even be bothered to RT when it’s incessant. I try not to look at all tweets or it is migraine-inducing. The ones I follow mainly catch my eye. Even since 2007, when I was last a bemused tweep, there has been e-publishing, which, love ’em and bless ’em, means there is quite an onslaught of tweets from those who *have* to do their own promotion. I could be one of them in, say, a year’s time.

    What strikes me as important and what I’ve certainly found is that, rather than *using* Twitter simply as a media platform, or somewhere to place a sales pitch, it’s also a place to *engage* with real people we may not meet otherwise, with similar interests, or with similar work to do.

    Writing is a lonely business and without Twitter it would remain so. Nowhere other than Twitter have I found such *fellowship* (Facebook is strictly for family and friends and a few other writers atm) and I have received the warmest of welcomes when I tweet to other writers telling them I’m a newbie, or asking them how they deal with writers’ problems.

    Great post with some wonderful tips. Thank you.

  3. Maxine

    On your point about the timings of tweets, if you use an application eg HootSuite (user interface is the same principle as Tweetdeck) you can time posts.

  4. MarinaSofia

    I probably make a lot of mistakes on Twitter, like just tweeting once about a blog post or upcoming publication, at a time when only very early risers in Europe would see it. But I’ve always wondered: is it rude to join in a conversation that happens between people tweeting each other directly @ANother? I have done it before (notably to yourself, Rhian), because I didn’t realise it was a direct conversation. I wasn’t aware of the difference between the @mention at the beginning or in the middle. Sorry!

Comments are closed.