Saturday 28 August 2010


This is one of my temporarily removed and now temporarily reinstated posts giving tutorials on Twitter. Please note that my forthcoming short ebook will do this much better and more conprehensively and more clearly! If I were you, I'd wait...

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.)

TWEETDECK - GETTING STARTED - NB there are older and newer versions of Tweetdeck and I hope what I'm going to say corresponds to yours. If not, please say if you can't find how to do it. A bit of playing around should sort you, though.
  1. Once you have your normal Twitter account, download Tweetdeck (from 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.
  2. 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...
  3. 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.)
  4. 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. 
  5. 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!
  6. Play about with the various icons for a while so that you can see what they do.
Until you have followers, no one can hear what you say. (Unless you "mention" them, which I'll come to in a minute.) The way to start is by following people - people who you want to make contact with or at least listen to. (Simply using Twitter to listen to others, without joining in, is perfectly reasonable.) It's important to remember that one big difference between Facebook and Twitter is that no permission is required. So, you choose to follow someone and they don't have to approve this. (They can block you but they would only bother to do this if you were annoying them.)

So, getting followers has two main elements:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Before I go on, let me give you my overall advice about enjoying Twitter: although Twitter is not exactly the same as a face-to-face environment, it rather closely mirrors they way we make friends and contacts in real life. So, as with any physical context, the best thing to do is not to leap in shouting, but to watch a bit, and find your way into the language and etiquette. People on Twitter usually want to make friends and will usually be welcoming, but the same sort of things are annoying on Twitter as in real life: boasting, demanding, only talking about yourself, not listening to others, being loud-mouthed and boring etc. The advantage of Twitter is that it's very easy to ignore someone or something that you don't like and very easy to chat with someone you do like.
    FINDING PEOPLE TO FOLLOW - three main options
    1. 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.)
    2. Visit blogs you like and click on the "Follow on Twitter" link which you will very often find there.
    3. 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 ( 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.)
    There are other ways to find followers, but I think this is enough for now, because I want you to start tweeting!

    1. 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.)
    2. 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...
    3. 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!
    4. Another type of mention would be to say something ABOUT someone you follow. Eg "I saw @hprw at the EdinburghBkFest and she was fab" 
    5. 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.)
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. You could ask a question  - but don't ask something that you could easily find on the internet yourself.
    9. 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.)
    10. 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.) 
    11. RETWEET someone's tweet - see below.

    This is one of the most useful things to know about communicating on Twitter. It's something you can do straightaway and people like it. What happens is this:
    1. 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. 
    2. 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. 
    3. 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...
    4. Then click send. The orginal writer will now see this, and probably be grateful to you for RTing it.
    1. 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. 
    2. 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...
    3. 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.)
    4. 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. 
    5. 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.
    6. 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. 
    WHAT NEXT? Another time, I'll cover hashtags, followfridays and avoiding spam. Anything else I need to cover?

    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.


        Dina Santorelli said...

        Great series of posts. So many of my friends are afraid of Twitter. I'll be sure to point them in your site's direction for a quick primer. :)

        Sally Zigmond said...

        Ah, thank you, Nicola. Now it's beginning to make sense.

        Essie Fox said...

        Excellent post! So many friends ask me about Twitter and from now on, rather than confusing them with my own fuzzy explanations, I can direct them to Nicola's blog.

        Thank you!

        Kate said...

        I'm finding these so helpful. Thanks.
        - Kate Long

        Lisa Gail Green said...

        Hey! These are all GREAT tips and I concur 100%. I use Tweetdeck too. And you have some great example of what to post and what not to post. Guess what I'm about to go tweet??

        Dan Holloway said...

        other things to cover
        Bots! These can range from infuriating to marvellous. a bot is a programme or person that finds tweets about specific topics - if you that doesn't make sense, do check out @hprw's timeline right now - she's bot-baiting. Top bots include bacon, sausages, tea and custard creams

        It's also a rule of twitter that all conversations ultimately become about food.

        A good thing to cover, more seriously, would be chat sessions, as these are fantastic ways to get to know others working on what you are.

        In terms of finding people to follow, a great way is searching on a topic you are really interested in and seeing who's tweeting about it. Something not too commonplace or you'll get flooded. I've found searching "Banana Yoshimoto", my favourite author once a wek will introduce me to 10-20 really interesting people at a time

        Jemi Fraser said...

        Love these tips. I've been using TweetDeck for a long while and hadn't figured out how to stop the annoying chirp. I ended up just muting my speakers all the time. THANK YOU!!!

        catdownunder said...

        I am not a technoc(r)at. It took me a long time to put a cat hair up on Twitter but it is fun to pounce on you and others occasionally Nicola - and have you swoop back!
        As for the friendship side. We have guests this weekend. They come from the other side of the world. It has taken almost 17 years of slow growing virtual friendship for us to meet. No, it did not happen overnight. We both worked at it. Now that we have physically met it was worth the effort. I think Twitter might help people make initial contact and that tweets are a challenge. They might also lead to friendships just as a casual comment on another internet list led to the friendship I now enjoy.

        sheilamcperry said...

        Thanks Nicola - this has thrown some light on things - but as a Twitter newbie (is there a word for this? tweebie?) I will still be treading a bit tentatively.

        Linda Strachan said...

        Great post and as usual clear and helpful informations.

        I was wondering how to stop those annoying alerts - thank you!

        Can I add mine to your 'twitter to follow list' :) @Strachanlinda

        Jesse Owen (Reading to Life) said...

        Great post and I've learnt a feature that I hadn't seen on Tweetdeck :)

        Mary Hoffman said...

        After the great Death of Macbook Air Disaster, when I had to buy a new one, I uploaded everything from Time Machine to the new one and everything was deathly slow.

        After a bit of experimenting I got rid of Tweetdeck and everything speeded up.

        Now thanks to you I have it back and so far so good. I'm very fond of it - it makes me feel at home.

        Nicola Morgan said...

        Linda - I can't believe I left you off the list in the first place. So sorry. I do know why though - as i said to Fiona, I was doing it in a big ursh and my only method was to look at most recent tweets. Sorry. You are now there.

        Sheila - tweebie - good word! (No, I don't think that is the normal word but you can make things up on Twitter!)

        Sally - phew.

        Dan - bots, yes, will do. And chats. And lists, which someone else asked about.

        Funny how many people hadn't worked out how to turn the cheeps off! I feel quite clever now!

        cat - sounds like a happy occasion.

        Mary - glad you are now sorted with your lovely new mac.

        Katherine Roberts said...

        Great post Nicola, thank you! I wondered where all those peculiar shortened links came from on Twitter... now it all makes sense!
        Bit wary of installing Tweetdeck, though, after reading Mary's comment - anybody else find their computer slowed down?

        Linda Strachan said...

        No Prob, Nicola, you did say in the post that you were in a hurry.

        Can't believe I put 'clear and helpful informations' - makes me sound like a foreigner!!

        Hope your 'Imprisoned Writers' reading goes well this evening - Be thankful you don't have any impossible names to pronounce!

        Penny Dolan said...

        This is a greatly instructive set of posts, Nicola, with so much information about what to me is a sort of mystery. May even tempt me into tweeting - when I've tidied my desk, done my blog, caught up with the m/s, blah blah blah. :-) As you say, a question of sorting out one's time! Especially the admin/networking/creative splits. (How about telling us how you do that? Or have you?)

        BRIDGET said...

        Just posted about your three part post on my blog because it makes great good sense about something which can seem very 'other'. Also discovering your blog this morning inspired me to re-discover twitter - so big thanks.

        Stroppy Author said...

        Linda, 'helpful informations' makes you sound like a phishing email. Are you sure you don't live in Nigeria and $10 million I have inherited? :-)

        Damn, Nicola, I thought I was in an eilte group of people missed out of your twitter list (I was in Croatia, so know I won't have been in your recent twitter feed) but now you are adding my colleagues in the group it is dwindling to a very exclusive elite!

        This is a great resource for people who aren't using twitter.

        I've also found twitter useful for crowdsourcing things occasionally - foodstuffs that rhyme with a certain word, things that start with a certain letter. I've had some great suggestions and people are very happy to help with a real book in this way.

        M Louise Kelly said...

        This is great - I'm still finding my way with it all, but after meeting various Twitter folk in real life at the Edinburgh Book Festival tweetup that Nicola organised i'm convinced that twitter is a useful tool to help dig interesting people out of life's woodwork.

        Particular thanks for the useful summary of things that are perceived as acceptable to tweet about and things to avoid. I think fear of getting the subtle etiquette of this wrong is what stops many twitter-phobes joining it. It did me!

        Clare said...

        Reading this post was a bit like having a blindfold removed - my vision might still be cloudy but it's much improved.
        Thanks so much for this series of posts - I've had a fun week investigating Twitter and trying to work out what was going on - I might start making sense sometime soon! :)
        (Thanks also to Dan Holloway and many of your friends who welcomed and befriended me - a very patient bunch of people.)

        Queenie said...

        This is enormously helpful, Nicola. Thank you.

        Anonymous said...

        And it all makes so much more sense now that I've got Tweetdeck workin'. I even found a long-lost cousin in South Africa and tweeted him. Thanks Nicola!

        Pimlicokid said...

        Invaluable. Thank you

        Miriam said...

        So I followed those useful instructions and created a TweetDeck account and saw my columns. Fine. Then someone closed down my browser. I signed into TweetDeck again but I don't know how to get back to the page with the columns. Perhaps I should have remained on holiday :(

        broken biro said...

        I can't recall how I got here, but this is a really useful and well-written guide to a tricky-to-explain subject - everything you say is spot on. I wish I'd had it when I was just starting with Twitter!