I know from your comments on my post about blogging that many of you are sceptical about Twitter anyway. I won't evangelise about it, just tell you why I like it and how I do it.
If you haven't read my recent post about whether and why authors need platforms, please do. And the one on blogging was part of the same trio of posts on author pre-, post- and peri-publicationary marketing. (Yes, I did just invent that word, but you are welcome to use it if you can get your tongue around it.)
Your experience of Twitter will be determined largely by the people you choose to "follow". If you follow 500 people who tweet boringly 50 times a day, you will see hundreds of mind-numbingly dull tweets and gain nothing. If you select people who have interesting things to say and who come up with useful links, thoughts and blog posts (which they link to), you'll have a great time, make contacts and learn loads.
- If you don't use Twitter, your life will continue unabated. By avoiding Twitter, you are not condemning yourself to obscurity.
- Twitter is a tool to make contacts and keep up with what's going on in your chosen areas, but it is not the only tool. There is no rule that says authors must Twitter.
- I find it very useful, fun, and not at all time-consuming. It is much less time-consuming than blogging, and is in some ways easier. (Yes, and completely different.)
- You can do it just on your computer or also on your mobile. Doing it by mobile/cell-phone certainly opens up more use for you, but obviously it depends on your tariff and internet allowance. I use an iphone which makes it stupendously easy, but then the iphone makes life stupendously easy ...
Think of a dog. Facebook is the equivalent of a dog lying on its back by the fire being scratched between the ears and luxuriating at the end of a hard day's squirrel-chasing. Twitter is the equivalent of a dog going for a quick walk and sniffing at absolutely everything to see what's been going on in the neighbourhood since its last walk. Twitter, one might say, is about pissing and sniffing. Apologies for that but I can't think of a better way to put it.
TWITTER BASICS - really basics (skip this if you already know what Twitter is):
- People follow you and you follow people.
- If you follow someone, you automatically see their "tweets". (A tweet is a message, up to 140 characters long). Twitter consists of nothing but tweets.
- Tweets can contain links and pictures. These are formatted in a special tweety way.
- People who follow you see all your tweets.
- If you follow someone, you and that person can also send each other Direct Messages (DMs). No one else can see a DM. (I hope...) No one can send you a DM if you aren't following that person.
- Unlike Facebook, anyone can follow you without your permission. (Though you can block people.)
- Twitter is very quick to access - much quicker than sending an email. You can choose to have it on in the background while you're working, or just access it when you want. There are various Twitter platforms or "clients" to choose from, and I'll speak about one (Tweetdeck) below.
- Spambots (robots) have invaded Twitter; so, some people who follow you will be trying to sell things - don't follow them back. Block them.
- go to www.twitter.com and sign up. It's free and you can change your profile later.
- you'll see an option saying "find people" - one option is for Twitter to trawl your email address book. It will come up with all your contacts who are on Twitter.
- you're started!
- you choose which of those names to follow; then you can find who they follow, and follow them in turn
- on your Twitter page, explore the small number of options on the right - particularly the one where it says @your name - here you can choose to see all tweets with your name in - there won't be any yet because you've just started, but there soon will be!
- now, consider choosing a better "client" than the basic Twitter page. There are many but the one I use is Tweetdeck, which I explain a bit about below. Those of you who prefer something else, tell us about it.
Here are three of their most relevant posts:
For very clear instructions for beginners
For advanced instructions on everything to do with Twitter (and other things)
For other info, go to their blog and use the search box at bottom right. But please come back.
- this allows you to use Twitter more easily and fruitfully than the basic page. It has columns, which you can add or remove. The ones I have are the default ones: "All friends" - tweets from everyone I follow; "Mentions" - any tweet that mentions my username, because when someone uses your name in a tweet they want you to see it, and it's how someone I don't follow can get my attention (because they can't DM me); and DMs. There's also "Twitter recommends" but I deleted that because I don't care what Twitter recommends.
- I have Tweetdeck open most of the time in the background on my computer but with the sound turned off, otherwise you get a stupid birdsound every time a tweet appears. There's an iphone Tweetdeck App, which is free and I like it, though no doubt someone will tell me about a better one and then my life will be perfect.
- Tweetdeck also (automatically on the new version, by request on the old version) shortens any URL so that it only uses a few characters - important since many tweets contain links to webpages and links which would make the tweet too long. (I am sure other clients do this too).
OTHER LESS BASIC BASICS
- when you first sign up to Twitter, you will wonder why you did. Most first tweets say, "Well, here I am. Now what? Arghhhhhh!!!!"
- so, it's all about getting some people to follow and to follow you. Take your time. Once you are following someone, you can go to that profile and see who they're following - and follow them too. As soon as you follow someone, their tweets will appear on your home page. On Tweetdeck, they'll appear in the "All friends" column
- think about what sort of things you're going to say. I do not say "good morning all" as a tweet - some people do ... Gah. I like it when people have a healthy mix of fun/personal tweets and useful links to relevant sites or bits of writing/book-related news. As well as interesting individuals, I also follow things like the Bookseller, Bookbrunch and Book2book, and people like Scott Pack (@meandmybigmouth). I follow lots of you, too. If you're on Twitter and I'm not already following you, let me know your @name and I will, unless you're incredibly annoying or boring or try to sell me things.
Although tweeting is like standing on a street corner and shouting, it is worth remembering that a) there are a lot of people standing there shouting too, so why would I hear you? and b) people standing and shouting tend to get eggs and things thrown at them. I would be the person throwing eggs.
THE CRUCIAL @SIGN
@ - the @ immediately before a username (no space after the sign) means that that person will see your message in their "Mentions" column on Tweetdeck or equivalent on other platforms. So, you never just use someone's name, because they may not see it. For example, if you mention that Nicola Morgan has just said something fascinating on her blog (it happens) you say Brilliant piece by @nicolamorgan and then you'd insert the URL to my marvellous post. All your followers would see you'd done it, and I would too, even if I wasn't your follower already, because the @ would mean that it would appear in my "Mentions" column. When I saw that you'd done that, I would love you and probably follow you. It's all mutual back-scratching.
THE VITAL #SIGN
# - hashchats. Very good idea to get into some hashchats. At designated times, there are worldwide chats on particular topics, such as #writechat, #pubchat (publishers, not pubs, silly). It's a great way to get to "meet" more people with similar interests. You get more followers after joining a #chat. Some #chats are, I think, continuous - I have a feeling that an example is #amwriting, where people tweet about what they're writing, but I haven't looked at this yet.
An example of one I have experienced is #litchat, which is Mon/Wed/Fri, 9-10pm London time. You go to www.tweetchat.com, register and follow instructions. Then, the screen changes to a dedicated chat about books, hosted by #Litchat, and (until you choose to leave) the only tweets you see are people all in the same conversation, even if you weren't following them. Like the old-fashioned chat-rooms. Can be a bit mad, can be dead boring, can be stimulating. You'll usually find me, Jane Smith (@hprw), Maggie Dana (@MaggieDana) and Miss Pitch (@pitchparlour) there. We sometimes go off-topic and start bringing wine or chocolate into the conversation, for which we risk being ticked off by the moderator. Bit like being back at school, in my case.
When you like someone's tweet, you "retweet" or "RT" it by either (eg on Tweetdeck) choosing the RT option on the person's icon (avatar) or by copying and pasting it and adding RT + @name to the beginning. This then becomes a tweet of yours. People like to be RT'd but remember to make sure their @name is there, which is how you credit someone with having done or said something interesting.
How? Go to www.twitterfeed.com and follow the instructions relating to the blog platform you use. I use blogger and it's straightforward once you get the correct RSS feed address. I can't advise in any way other then to say: persevere. Also, it doesn't work instantly, so don't worry if you seem not to have got it to work: wait an hour and then do a test post.
Bit like my dog sniffing and ...
SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Twitter is changing fast and anything I've said here may be out of date in five minutes. It's a matter of holding your breath and leaping in, panicking a bit till you come up for air, treading water till you see where the pretty fish and treasure islands are and then just going with the flow. And never, ever labouring such a mixed metaphor again.
Meanwhile, all you Twitterers, do please add any of your favourite tips or clients or #chats in the comments below. What I don't know about Twitter could fill a lot more than a day's worth of tweets, so do add to my paltriness. And correct anything I've got wrong. I'm finding my way, too.
Also, in the comments, tell us your own Twitter name (@.........) so that we can follow you.
Now I must go and sniff around Twitter and see what's been going on in my absence.
(PS - remember that I'm away most of this week - commenting is tricky from Tuesday onwards, but I'll be reading yours.)