How to get on well with Twitter - by Roz Morris

I had to be dragged to Twitter by the scruff of my tail. I had a blog - wasn’t that enough? Wasn’t Twitter just a means of wasting time? 
I soon saw it was a fantastic move. A couple of days in, my blog visits trebled. If your blog is like your writing salon, until you’re on a network like Twitter you’re talking at a closed door.
And blogging aside, Twitter is a terrific tool in its own right. Half your job as a writer is making contacts; on Twitter you can do that without ever going to a meeting, a group or a launch. 
So those are the professional platforming reasons to tweet. But Twitter is not a pitching party or a careers fair. It’s not your blog. No one has to follow you, read your tweets or pass on your news. Although you can bumble up uninvited, it’s as easy to buzz people off as it is to make friends. 

Here are some things I learned along the way.
1 The 80:20 rule - What do you tweet? Obviously you want to draw attention to your posts or books, but tweet others’ posts, books etc far more than you tweet your own. No one minds if you go promo-mad at times of excitement, such as launches or if you get a new review, but some people hammer away with ‘my book is marvellous’ day in, day out, excuse or no. When you do mention your book, introduce it gracefully - eg ‘read the first 15 pages of The Erring Cupboard here’ - which doesn’t leave the reader feeling hectored. 
2 Make tweets interesting. Don’t put ‘Interesting post’. What’s it about? What made YOU find it interesting? Twitter’s about contact and personality. Write a headline of your own, or at least put the post’s headline: ‘Why Twitter isn’t trivial’. And not every tweet has to be a link. Be a person. Ask questions. Some folks start each day with a hello to whoever is out there. Trivia is fine if it’s engaging; Twitter is sometimes about putting a hand out and seeing who waves back. Be spontaneous. Be surprising. Be silly. 
Let him do his own tweeting
3 Don’t regurgitate inspirational quotes. They’re usually crap and have been seen a thousand times. Make up your own - we’re writers after all. Gandhi can tweet his thoughts for himself. 
4 Not too much, not too little. Everything comes out on the tweet stream instantly. When I started I thought I was doing the right thing by putting up a burst of tweets, but that makes you look as though you’ll deluge people. Conversely, if the last time you posted was two weeks ago a potential follower may assume you gave up. 
5 Find a scheduling service to spread your tweets out. You want to keep a steady presence, but you don’t want to be a slave to it. I use Hootsuite (which is, like Twitter, free as air). Other options are Tweetdeck and SocialOomph. Then I hop back to see if anyone has responded to them, or if I can natter to other people who are interesting. 
6 Credit others. When I retweet a post, I include the name of the original writer (searching for their Twitter handle if necessary) AND the handle of the person who passed it to me. There are two reasons. As a journalist I feel it’s unprofessional not to credit sources. Reason 2: Twitter tells you if someone has mentioned you. If you mention another tweep’s handle, they see - and thus they might become interested in you... another tweep’s wings just flitted through your heavens. (More on Twitter handles here from my friend Porter Anderson at the blog of agent Rachelle Gardner.)
7 Don’t start a tweet with @name unless you only want it to go to the people who follow them and follow you. That’s usually a very small set. But put a magic full stop in front of the @ and you will tweet it to all the people who follow them PLUS THE people who follow you. Big difference. 
8 Although you want your content to go viral, do not include the words ‘please RT’ or ‘worth the RT’ unless your tweet is for urgent humanitarian reasons. I’ll work out for myself if I want to RT. 
9 Don’t tweet as the character from your book. Would you follow that if I did it? Some publishers are telling writers to do this - but this advice has usually come from consultants who haven’t a clue. One Big 6 publisher I know had Twitter training with such an expert, who neglected to tell him the stuff in point 7 about @s and full stops. 
10 As this is a conversation, I leave point 10 to you. In the comments or on Twitter :)

Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor. She blogs at Nail Your Novel  and has a double life on Twitter; for writing advice follow her as @dirtywhitecandy, for more normal chit-chat try her on @ByRozMorris. Her books are Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books And How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available in print and on Kindle  She also has a novel, My Memories of a Future Life available on Kindle (US and UK) and also in print. You can also listen to or download a free audio of the first 4 chapters right here.


Stroppy Author said…
My '10' is don't treat it as a numbers game. The point is not to get thousands of followers for the sake of it but to be interesting and interested! You don't have to follow back everyone who follows you, nor unfollow people who don't follow you back.
Dan Holloway said…
point 8 is so important. I moderately regularly get @replies from a certain poet who shall remain nameless one of whose videos went viral, with a link and a "please RT" for his latest video. At first I was flattered - did he think I was an influential poetry tweeter? Then I looked at his timeline - it was filled with hudreds of @s to his followers individually, all asking the same thing - and the same on every poetry Facebook group. Maybe it was worth it. Tens of thousands of people have seen the video - and it is a *very* important video. But it's left me at any rate feeling used, and he certainly never retweeted any of my links that didn't come complete with begging message - so the overall result is I fell used and look at him as someone who thinks he's better than i am. He may be, no, in fairness he is, but making people feel you see them like that on a social networking site isn't cool
Thanks Roz! I have a tweeting blind-spot so far, haven't been able to get over it and get a feel for what it is all about yet...but I'm going to use your 9 points as a manageable starting-off "point"!
Sheridan Winn said…
Thanks for this, Roz - learned a lot. Have to date been a very reluctant tweeter, Must Do Better.
Jan Needle said…
ditto from me, roz. very useful post. ta
Stroppy - that's a good one. I don't know how people follow 2000 and genuinely have time to look at what they're saying. It's not about numbers, it's a long haul.
Dan - you put your finger on it, and as you so rightly say the people who do this rarely reciprocate. Which seems to me like bad manners.
John - perhaps you should tweet as a white butterfly...
Sheridan, Jan - thanks!
Christine Nolfi said…
I especially enjoy Twitter's ability to connect artists. Writing is a solitary pursuit, and I'm genuinely interested in the lives, trials and successes of other authors I meet.

Thanks for the wonderful post on Twitter etiquette.
Louise Wise said…
Never knew that about the fullstop! Thanks for sharing that little nugget.

My numbers have grown all of a sudden. The only different thing I've been doing is connecting with others more, and RTing whether they ask or not. And yes, "please RT" is needy and desperate sounding.
Daniel said…
That's an excellent list, Roz. I agree with Stroppy's number 10 as well. I review the Twitter stream of everyone who follows me. If I see a stream of "buy my book" tweets or anything other than genuine interaction with other tweeps, I don't follow back.

I also don't follow back anyone who labels themselves as an "Internet marketer" (which equals "spammer" in my experience.) I'm a writer, so I only follow other writers or people related to the publishing industry in some capacity.

As a result of these policies, my incoming Tweet stream is mostly useful and interesting stuff that I can happily read and re-tweet. Your tweets definitely fall into that category, although I follow you in 500 other ways too!
julia jones said…
A really helpful post and I know you're right .. (can you hear the 'but' that I'm too ashamed to say?) I think I'll go take the dog for a solitary walk and listen to the birds. But thanks anyway - you are extremely generous with your good advice.
Richard said…
For the Yanks among us, a "full stop" is what we call a "period".
Jillian Kent said…
Richard, I was just going to ask Roz what a full stop is. :) I had no clue. I still don't understand and use Twitter as effectively as I need to. I'll be putting this post on my desk. I was just wondering the other day if Twitter is really worth it. You answered that question. Thanks Roz. I only caught this because of Porter.
Friend Grief said…
Roz, can we talk about Friday Follows?? It's wonderful to have someone #FF me, because I often find new tweeps that way. author I follow does one person at a time for #FF - and he explains WHY you should follow them. I nearly fainted when I saw him list me that way. That shows real engagement and appreciation. And as we all know, if Porter says do it, we damn well better!
Tahlia Newland said…
Some good points there, but I find it hard not to do bursts because when I'm looking down a search column, I'll see things I want to retweet, so I do. I'm not going to come back later and do it one at a time. Also I think it's fine to retweet quotes if they're the kind of thing that can inspire people. Just don't let it be all you tweet.

I like to actually engage with people on Twitter, but there's very few who do. Sometimes it seems as if there's a lot of people shouting into a vacum and no one is listening. I have a separate colum on Tweetdeck for those who talk to me, so I don't miss their tweets.
Jackie Buxton said…
Yes! Yes to all of it, including the being dragged kicking and screaming to Twitter (and I'm sure we're not the only ones) and my blog visits increased massively because of it, too. I love getting links to writerly things, blogs and competitions and it is a lot of fun. And yes, it's also a time sap. I'm guilty of binge tweeting because it just seems to be the best use of my time. I tweet when I'm on the exercise bike in the kitchen so that I don't feel too guilty about either. I try to do a bit of skimming of my 'news' and mix it them with some direct answers but do fear that people, particularly those who aren't following too many, think, heyup! Jackie's back, groan...! I didn't know about the full stop after the tweet name - brilliant, thank you!
Lucy Coats said…
Great advice, Roz, and I agree with Victoria on the #ff thing. There's nothing more off-putting than a list of twit names with no reasons. I wish people would learn this! I think my no 10 would be Don't Be Afraid To Jump In. 'But I dont know anyone, so how do I find people to jump in with?' is one of the questions I get asked most when I give an 'author platform' talk. Joining in conversations with people you don't know is kind of the point of Twitter...however much our British reserve tends to tell us not to! So how do you seek out like-minded people to join in with? One of the best ways to find people in the field you are interested in is to look at some Twitter lists (there's a button on the profile page). I have one for children's books, where I add everyone connected to that industry (writers, publishers, booksellers etc). So look at one or two of those, for starters... I'll stop rabbitting on now!
Lucy Coats @lucycoats
Anonymous said…
I find hashtags very useful. Worth including in your tweets to get a wider readership and also worth following to pick up lots of relevant tweets without all the ones about what people had for dinner.
@Christine - I could wax lyrical about the wonders of the internet, especially for solitary creatives.
@Louise - interesting about your experience with follower numbers. The polar opposite is the marketers who appear in my inbox as a follower, then appear all over again a few days later - obviously having unfollowed and tried again. If they just tweeted and said hello it might be more effective.
@Daniel - hello! I tend to steer clear of the marketing people too. I know I need to learn about marketing, but I never found a Twitter internet marketer who wasn't like a motivational bullhorn. And thank you for all the followings...
@Julia... :) Thanks for commenting anyway
@Richard - also for the yanks: in UK English, a period is either a slice of time or a womanly inconvenience. Thus we prefer not to Americanise this particular piece of punctuation.
@Jillian - so glad Porter sent you here - a tweep of immense wisdom
@Victoria - oh my, the #ffs (and #wws). When I first started tweeting I was so excited to see myself mentioned that I RTd my own great lists of thanks - because I didn't want to seem ungrateful. I soon learned....
@Tahlia - I have the same problem and the only possible way I can solve it is by scheduling. And I keep lists to make sure I can see a wider selection of people than just the ones who've got recent tweets.
@Jaxbee - thanks! Tweeting while biking is smart. I recommend Hootsuite if you do decide to spread them out more
@Lucy - that's a lovely point about jumping in. We can do that on Twitter because unlike in real life, it's not noticed if someone ignores you or you say the wrong thing. Twitter is perfect for the shy.
Friend Grief said…
I spoke recently about the development of my blog and I said that hashtags are like conversations you're joining. I mix up the hashtags when I tweet my blog posts. That way I can join multiple conversations that are relevant to the content of my blog post.
So stuffed with useful advice - (and so are the comments!) Thanks to all. I still don't feel I engage with Twitter as fully as I should. I finish up tweeting nonsense a lot of the time, but perhaps that's no bad thing!
Anonymous said…
wonderful advice!

I don't spend as much time on twitter as I "should" but I do daily stop by -- I know I need to find a way to organize things into "lists" or whatall to help me scan my interests, but my interests are all over the place *laugh!* Science, writing, books, vodka, fitness, food, people, animals -- lawd be!
Vodka and fitness? You're a well balanced lady, Kathryn!
Catherine, Kathryn gets away with vodka and fitness - you have nothing to fear.
Lee said…
I also didn't know that about the fullstop. Thanks.

(Disclosure: mostly, I don't tweet. When I do, it's a dratted displacement activity.)
kathryn magendie said…
*laughing* -- I'm a woman of many *cough ungh* talents! :-D
Suzanne Lilly said…
I love Twitter for the conversations and the people I meet. One bit of advice about hashtags: Don't use them if you don't read them. That's like interrupting a conversation. What you say might not be appropriate for the occasion.
Phil South said…
Hi Roz,

Great post, and I agree fully.

The desperation to be noticed, as a solitary artist, does sometimes push you to do things you wouldn't do in public. You wouldn't walk around a cocktail party handing out cards with links to your blog or book and nothing else. Same rules apply in life as in Twitter and Facebook. You have to play nice, talk to people and wait till they ask about you before you foist your opinions or CV on them.

I sound like I've always known this (and I try and give that impression) but I learned my Twitter etiquette the hard way. When I started I was tweeting incessantly about my work for days on end and getting zero responses. It was exhausting and frustrating. Fortunately for everyone concerned I wised up. Now my Twitter followers are growing steadily and naturally.

It's a paradox but true that you can get attention as long as you are authentic, do good work, and act like you don't need it.

And it's odd but my Twitter followers started growing again when I wasn't checking the numbers every five minutes. It's not about numbers, it's about talking to people like they are another person and not a notch on your belt.

Thought provoking post! Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said…
Loved that post and all the comments. You helped me with my last novel and now it's Twitter.

It's all valid - your post AND comments. I don't have a thing to sell right now, so maybe I still see Twitter as a fun thing. When I'm watching tv, I comment and that's just my way. Just natural stuff to twat (as OH says) about! I hope I always retain that.

I have found friends on Twitter from as far away as America and, even nearer to home but still *far*, Scotland, who I might never have "met" or "spoken to" otherwise.

Between your website and Nicola Morgan's book "Tweet Right", I have learned what is okay and what is not! And it all makes good sense.

On the whole, I follow back but, one glance at someone's crazy self-promoting tweet stream tells me that I probably need *not* follow!

At the moment, I've worked out I've made an average of 16 tweets a day since I rejoined in November. These are rarely self-promotion - I almost feel embarrassed about mentioning I have a new blog post amongst all these various "greats" :)))

Loved the post and soooo agree!
Suzanne - hello! yes, good point about hashtags. They're actually not very readable and make your tweet hard going.
Phil - hello there! We all did clumsy things at the start - scroll up the comments for my confession about hamfisted #ffs and #wws! If any of you are wondering what those are, you're best not knowing.
Tessa - another 'old friend' it's lovely to see from the ethersphere! Which just goes to illustrate what you've said - Twitter, blogs etc are all about relationships first. Create a relationship and we're all naturally interested in each other's creative work.
jenny milchman said…
Good advice for a newbie, thanks! I'd love it if you did a post on how to interact with other people's tweets--there are so many I want to read and talk to, but it's hard to know how to sort everything out!
Jean Bull said…
Thanks a really useful blog. I'm still quite new to Twitter and learning the ropes. I don't know how I'd have found out about the full stop before the @, if I hadn't read it here!
Brittney Curtis said…
Thanks everyone! I am just exploring the world of writing, blogging, and tweeting this was very helpful! Keep sharing great advice please it's so helpful to those of us with no clue!
Anonymous said…
Excellent points, Roz and all the comments were great too. Above all, Twitter is about the personal connections you make and the unique content that you provide. Don't make it about anything more or less.
CallyPhillips said…
Not one to disagree that good advice is good advice, but can I just point out that twitter is for EVERYONE and for ANYONE to use it how they like. Proscriptive rules that 'normallise' how to use Twitter seem to go against the spirit of the thing and can scare off people who don't want to do things the 'normal' way. Actions have consequences so surely we can all interact how we want and if people don't like it they don't have to stay following us? I personally DON'T like all the personal twittery stuff, I want to find out promotional stuff because I'm using it for WORK purposes not to be 'friends' with people. Sorry to sound like a grumpy old git, but I'm beginning to feel quite uncomfortable with the concept that there's a 'right' way to tweet or blog. There's a 'right' way to publish as well in that case isn't there?

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