If you've read my first Twitter post, you'll know WHY you might want to be on Twitter if you're a writer. And if you've read the second one here, you'll already have a small list of people to follow to get you started. (Please do make sure you've done that before going on, or things won't make sense.)
Now, we're going to get started with some actual tweeting, which is the way to attract a few followers and start to feel the benefits. I call it Tweeting in the Void, because since you don't have many followers yet, it can feel as though no one's listening. But, combining some basic techniques of following and tweeting is the best way to begin to get followers and start to enjoy the benefits of Twitter. Do, please, be patient.
First, because I'm using Tweetdeck, I need to make sure that you've got started properly on that. (There is nothing wrong with sticking with the basic Twitter page, but it's less easy to see what's going on or identifying when people are specifically talking to you.)
- Once you have your normal Twitter account, download Tweetdeck (from tweetdeck.com) and follow the instructions to sign into it, using your Twitter name and password. When you've done this, your screen should have three columns, titled: All Friends, Mentions, and Direct Messages.
- All Friends shows anything tweeted by someone you follow, with the most recent first. Mentions shows anything in which someone used YOUR Twitter name (always with @ in front of it) - these are people who have chosen to include you in a conversation, ask you a question, say hello, or "Retweet" (more later) something you've already said. It's a way of attracting your attention and you need to remember this because it's also how YOU will attract someone else's attention. Direct Messages are private messages to you, but no one can send one to you if you aren't following them, so you are very unlikely to get many at first. I caution against ever putting anything very confidential in these, as it is far too easy to click the wrong button and send it to the world...
- Now, I want you to add a 4th column - New Followers. To do this: near the top left corner of your screen, you'll see a circle with a + in it. Click this. A small screen will appear and you'll see a list of three things: Search, Groups/Lists and Core. Select Core. Select the option that says New Followers. (You can also select anything else you want - Tweetdeck Recommends might be helpful, but I'm not going to talk about it - it's simple enough to play with these things.)
- So, now you have a 4th column on your screen, showing the most recent people who have chosen to follow you. (Maybe no one yet!) If there's anyone there, you will see that you now have the chance to choose whether to follow them back. (Can you see the "follow" button to the bottom right of each one?) You will see a little biog for each person and you can click on their name (bottom left of each one) to see whether you'd like to follow them. When you click on their name, you will have the option to read their recent tweets and this will alert you to anything dodgy. At your stage, I recommend you DO follow unless it is someone who you definitely don't like the sound of, or someone selling stuff.
- One more thing you need to do, for your own sanity - switch off the bloody Tweetdeck alerts, otherwise you'll have a stupid bird cheeping at you every time someone you follow tweets. Go to Settings - the spanner icon, top right - choose "Detail OFF", "Summary OFF" and put the volume slider to the left-most position. Sorted!
- Play about with the various icons for a while so that you can see what they do.
So, getting followers has two main elements:
- Finding people to follow, and following them - because there's a good chance they'll follow you back, as long as they can see that you're not unpleasant or irritating.
- Tweeting things that people might find interesting, friendly, fun, relevant to them - then they might choose to follow you and possibly recommend you to their friends to follow. If someone sees you having a friendly conversation with someone they follow, they will probably follow you too. You then need to maintain those contacts by continuing to tweet in a postive, friendly and useful way.
- Start with the list in my blog-post here. (To find one of them, on the Tweetdeck screen find the icon which when you hover over it says Quick profile; click it and paste or type the name into the box. The profile will come up and you'll see an icon to click to follow them.)
- Visit blogs you like and click on the "Follow on Twitter" link which you will very often find there.
- Visit the Twitter profile of someone you follow and who seems to have lots of useful / friendly contacts, and follow any of the people you find there. For example, if you went to my Twitter page (https://twitter.com/nicolamorgan) you would see on the right-hand side an option to click on the list of my followers. They then appear in a list and you can click on any name to see who they are. There is a button to allow you to follow any you choose. (You can also find out what recent tweets I or any followers have recently made, so that you can see how we behave.)
- If you've just read or seen something funny, weird or interesting online, you can say so and include the link. (You will find a way of shortening the link - paste or type the URL into the writing space as normal; then, if it doesn't automatically shorten, click the button that looks like a link with two arrows. Experiment if you can't find it.)
- If you've read a book and loved it, say so, with a link to it if poss. If you happen to know that the author is on Twitter (see their web page) add their Twitter name (remember the @ sign). If you didn't like the book, I urge you not to say so - the author and all his/her friends are probably on Twitter too...
- Say something TO someone you follow. This appears in his/her Mentions column. For example, you could say, "@nicolamorgan thanks for your blog post about Twitter - I'm having loads of fun with it!" Then I will see it and almost certainly say thank you - and follow you if I'm not already!
- Another type of mention would be to say something ABOUT someone you follow. Eg "I saw @hprw at the EdinburghBkFest and she was fab"
- Say something interesting you've just done or something that's just happened. Clearly, not everyone will be interested, but someone might be. For example, perhaps you're on your way to the theatre - if you tweet about it, you might find someone else went to see the same play and say so. In the same way as you might tell a group of freinds that something interesting / funny / horrible / frightening has just happened, you can do the same on Twitter. (Don't be offended if no one replies - it's not compulsory and they just might have missed your tweet.)
- Anything funny that's happened is always fun for people to see. I find a great deal of good material on train journeys. I once found someone on the same train because we were both tweeting about an incident.
- You can send a photo - especially if you've just witnessed something odd or interesting in some way. See the camera icon on the Tweetdeck screen.
- You could ask a question - but don't ask something that you could easily find on the internet yourself.
- If you have blogged about something, make sure you put it on twitter. (There's a way of automatically linking your blog to twitter, but I don't have time to deal with that just now.)
- Reply to someone's tweet. Hover your mouse over the person's icon and choose the one that says Reply. You will see their name appear in the writing space. Write your message and click send. It will appear in their Mentions column and they will often reply to you. (Don't be upset if they don't - if it's someone with lots of followers or if they just didn't feel it needed a reply, or were too busy, it's not rude not to reply.)
- RETWEET someone's tweet - see below.
- You see that someone has said something that you agree with or like in some way. (Or disagree with, if you want to be bold...) For example, they say something funny; or they include a link which you like.
- To Retweet (RT) it, hover your mouse over the person's picture on that tweet; one of the options says Retweet so-and-so's tweet. Click this.
- In the writing space, you'll see that the whole tweet has been copied there, with the letters RT at the beginning. You will also see two options: Retweet now or Edit then Retweet. Choose the edit one. Now, ideally, you add something to the beginning, even something short like Yes! or Ha! BUT, what if the tweet is now too long? You will need to cut it down. Shorten anything you can or remove something that's not necessary. Don't leave it so that the original writer might be misinterpreted though...
- Then click send. The orginal writer will now see this, and probably be grateful to you for RTing it.
- Anything inflammatory, or anything critical of another writer or anyone else you'd prefer not to upset. It's really, really not the place to tell someone you don't like their book.
- Asking an individual to do anything. I cannot emphasise enough how wrong it would be to pitch a novel to an agent or publishing person on Twitter. Sometimes people ask me to blog about something - that's fine. I don't know why that's fine, but it is...
- I recommend you do not link your Facebook personal page to Twitter - your FB friends will get pretty peed off because tweets are usually more informal and more frequent than FB updates. (An FB "author page" is a different matter.)
- Too much whingeing and negativity isn't ideal. If something's going wrong in my life I'd rather keep that to close friends and family and many people say the same, that Twitter is not the place to offload too much. Exasperation and grumpiness are different, because they can be amusing, but it's very hard for acquaintances to feel they can properly support someone who is going through a hard time. I am not being harsh - I'm a very willing listening ear for my friends, but I don't think public forum is the right place for it.
- Anything you might regret. Just be careful. Don't tweet after too much alcohol. Or when angry or hurt. ANYONE might see your tweet and even though you can delete it it will be too late. If someone has seen it and retweeted it, you can't rectify the situation. It is best to remember all the time that absolutely anyone might see your tweets, even if they don't follow you.
- Too much promotion and boasting. Off course, when something good happens, your friends want to know, and many of your friends are on Twitter, but,as with a face-to-face encounter, there are ways of doing it that are going to put people off or not. The nicest thing is when someone else announces your good news and then you can say thank you.
One thing I haven't mentioned at all is whether you need a phone to do all this. The answer is no, but an internet enabled phone will certainly give you much more chance to make use of Twitter.
Finally, I've said this before but I'll say it again: be patient. Making face-to-face relationships and contacts takes time and it's just the same with Twitter. But, in my opinion, it's well worth it and most people seem to enjoy it if they want to. But it does take time and it may be time you don't want to spend. It is entirely up to you.