Demystifying Twitter for Authors

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For new authors, one of the biggest challenges is marketing. Sure, if you're lucky enough to land an agent and publisher to market for you, you can sit back, relax, and watch the magic happen. But for the other 99.9% of authors, we need to get our names out there and advertise our creations.  One of the best methods for getting your work out to the public, is Twitter.

Managing twitter can be a mystery to many and I hope to demystify it for authors. If followers is all you want, there are a ton of sites who help find followers. I am not going to share those sites because they are usually a waste of time. Unfortunately, not all followers are created equally. As a writer, you want to build a following of readers, reviewers, and other authors. If you manage to get a thousand followers who have no interest in your posts, you have successfully wasted your time on Twitter. If you build a following of a thousand potential readers, you now have an audience you can work with.

Starting: Start with following other authors. Search twitter for authors writing in your same genre. Read their posts. Look at their Twitter lists. You may find entire lists of other authors, readers, and reviewers who have similar interests as you. Use these to find more "qualified" users to follow.

Profiles: Be sure that you write something in your profile.  Change your picture and if possible, change your Twitter background.  By personalizing your account, people will be able to find you. If they can't find you, they can't follow you. Also, by personalizing the account, people will know that you are a real person and not just a bot trying to collect followers.

Lists: Once you get the hang of how others use lists, create some lists for yourself. By adding someone to one of your lists, that person is notified of the list addition and is more likely to follow you back. Tools such as TweetBe can be used to manage your lists, find followers similar to you, and allow you to quickly follow others.

Activity: When following new users, take notice of how active they are on Twitter. When you look at a profile, you can see how many followers a user has and how many accounts he/she follows. You can also see the quantity of tweets from an account and the recent activity. If you notice that the person has a ton of followers, but follows very few users, there is a good chance that this person will not follow you back. If someone is not following you, you won't be successful at marketing to that person. Another thing to notice on a profile is the recent activity. If you see that an account hasn't had any activity for more than a month, chances are that person no longer uses Twitter. Again, that person won't likely follow you back.

Tweet!: Be sure that you maintain a high enough level of activity so others will want to follow you. People look at activity before they follow. If you are not tweeting, people will assume that you are no longer active on Twitter and won't bother following you. Tweet your thoughts. Tweet about your books or current projects. Retweet other people's tweets that are interesting to you. All of these will appear as activity for people searching your profile.

Followback: Once you start to get some followers, you will want to selectively follow people back.  You will find authors, readers, and reviewers who have found you by searching keywords in your profile. If they follow you, be sure to follow them back. You will also find many spam accounts who follow you. If their profile seems like spam, so will their tweets. Don't follow spammers! Periodically check your Followers page to see if other readers, authors, or reviewers are following you who you are not following back. Some of your best followers will find you before you find them.

Limits: Even if you are careful to inspect each profile before following, it is inevitable that you will find many users who don't follow you back. When you get to the point of following 2,000 users, you will likely hit the follow limit of Twitter. Once you follow 2,000 people, Twitter requires that the number of accounts you follow does not exceed your number of followers by more than 10%. If you have 2,000 accounts following you, no problem.  You can follow up to 10% more than your number of followers or 2,200 total. If you aren't great at math, take your number of followers and multiply by 1.1.  The result will represent the total number of users you can follow until your number of followers is increased.

Unfollowing: Because of the limits imposed by Twitter, there will come a time to unfollow other people.  You will want to start by unfollowing people who already don't follow you.  This can be done by clicking the "Following" link in your profile and unfollow people who don't follow you back. Unfortunately, this can be time consuming. There are several tools available that help you identify accounts that don't follow you and even allow you to unfollow from the tool. Most of these tools provide a few unfollows per day for free and an option to pay for unlimited unfollows.  You can choose to use these tools as advertised or just use them to identify your non-followers and manually unfollow them from Twitter. Here are a few great unfollowing tools to get you started: TweetStork, Unfollowers.me, JustUnfollow, and iUnfollow.

There is no magical formula that will get you millions of qualified followers. Unless you are J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, you can't afford to just sit back and wait for followers. Actively work on Twitter to find followers. Market your work to them. Help other authors when possible and they will help you when you need it. Good luck and happy tweeting!


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