Getting Started on Twitter
To sign up for a Twitter account, go to Twitter.com and click the "Sign up" button.
Full Name: Using your real name will help people find you on Twitter. Your name will often appear next to your username on Twitter.
Username: This is critical; it is how you will be known on Twitter. Usernames, also known as handles, are denoted on Twitter with @ symbols. For example, if you choose "surfergirl2015" as your username, it will appear as @surfergirl2015 on Twitter. Your handle should be as short as possible and should feel relevant to the image you want to present. Check to see if your first name/last name combination is available or some permutation of that. Otherwise, think of something meaningful and memorable. Don't make a confusing username such as your name, last two initials and the year your first child was born. No one will remember @bethjk1994.
Bio: You don't have many characters to work with (160), so make them count. The bio should be descriptive and engaging. It's fine to add personality here, but keep things in the proper priority for business/branding goals. Instead of "Mother of two, jogger, unashamed lover of reality TV, and author of "Raising Media Savvy Kids,'" reverse the order to list your role as an author first with the other elements adding context around that.
Profile Picture: For an author, this should be a face, not a logo, not a book cover. People want to connect on a direct human level. Adding a logo may feel like you are establishing authority and branding, but you are really putting a barrier between yourself and others. A logo works fine for a publisher's official handle. Twitter recommends 400px x 400px square images for your profile picture.
Header: Twitter header recommended dimensions are 1500px x 500px. Exact dimensions are 1263px x 421px if you don't want Twitter to resize and crop header images. Take into account the room taken up by your profile picture and leave space at the bottom left corner. People will only see your header when visiting your profile, so you can let your individuality shine here. Popular choices for cover photos include landscapes, mood-setting scenes, and images of text (it's prime real estate if you have something to say or promote!). For upcoming releases, try including some element from the book cover in your header.
Find and Follow Relevant People
Following someone on Twitter means you are subscribing to their tweets, so everything they post will appear in your "feed" or "timeline"—the flow of posts you see when you log into twitter.com. People can see when you follow them, and you can see when people follow you. In addition, you can see the people each person follows on Twitter. So, if you find someone on Twitter whose taste you trust, check out the users they're following. You might like what those people have to say, too. Also, sometimes when you follow someone, that person will respond by following you. This doesn't always happen, but following relevant handles can help build your following.
Twitter will suggest people for you to follow when you sign up. You can always search for people's names, usernames, or keywords to find more people to follow, whether at sign-up or later.
Listen and Share
Unsure of what to say on Twitter? No problem—learn from those already doing it. Read the tweets from those you follow, real people who are in the community you care about most. Some popular things to tweet are opinions (on an event, industry, or area of expertise); links to interesting content, such as insightful articles; pictures and videos that you've created or that you've found online (just remember to say where you found them!); recommendations for good things to read or do, people to follow, etc; and questions to your followers. Retweets (more on that below) allow you to share other people's tweets. If you see something amazing or hilarious, go ahead and click that retweet button to share it with all your followers, who will likely find it as engaging as you do! However you choose to tweet, try to make it a mix of interesting things, including original content, retweets, and @replies, with plenty of links to sites that have nothing to do with you. Tweeting mostly promotional content is a bad strategy. Too much self-promotion can annoy and bore your followers, plus you'd miss out on lots of intriguing conversation.
Twitter Basics: Types of Tweet and Interactions
@replies and mentions
A mention is any tweet that includes another user's handle/username (always following the @ sign), such as @Running_Press. In this tweet, @HachetteUS mentions @Running_Press:
If the author, journalist, or media entity you are referencing is on Twitter, it is considered good practice to use their Twitter handles instead of their real-world names. That way, you are linking directly to them on Twitter. For example, in the below tweet, @HachetteBooks has substituted Julie Andrews' name for her presence on Twitter.
A reply is similar to a mention but can be thought of as a more direct tweet at the person. A reply (also called an @reply) is any tweet that begins with a username, including the @ symbol. (This is also the type of tweet that appears when you click "Reply" on a tweet.) A reply looks like this:
Replies are only visible to people who follow both the sender and the recipient of the reply. These tweets are still public and appear on the sender's profile, but they do not appear in followers' timelines unless those conditions are met. To get around this limitation, people will sometimes put a "." before the @ symbol in a reply or mention. The "." turns the reply into a normal tweet that will go out to all of a person's followers, regardless of whether they are following the person being mentioned (or replied to). You can think of a reply that takes the form of ".@username" as an open letter to someone.
You can look at all of your replies and mentions by clicking on the "Notifications" bell in the top left-hand corner of your home page on desktop or the bottom menu on mobile.
When another user reposts one of your tweets, it's called a retweet. They are sharing your tweet with all of their followers. The most common way to do this is to click the retweet symbol beneath any tweet.
Retweets in your stream will appear like this, in which the person you follow, @orbitbooks, has retweeted a post from @audible_com:
Note that when you retweet something, the retweet is attributed to your real name, not your username, which is why it is important to use your real name on Twitter. When you click on the retweet symbol, you'll have the opportunity to add a comment to the retweet. The characters in the comment are counted separately from those in the retweet, so you'll have 280 characters to share your reaction or give your followers some context. You may also click retweet without adding a comment.
A retweet with a comment will look like this; the original tweet is embedded and the comment is above.
Direct Messages, or DMs, are Twitter's version of email—a private message only viewable by the sender and the recipient. Direct messages are viewable by clicking the "messages" button in the upper left-hand corner of your Twitter page. Traditionally, users must follow one another in order to send a direct message. So, unfortunately, you probably will not be able to DM @LadyGaga—unless you can convince her to follow you. However, Twitter recently changed the DM system to allow users to decide whether they want to receive and reply to direct messages from people they do not follow. You must opt into this new setting, and it is unclear how many users will choose to do so. Anyone you do not follow can send you a Direct Message if you have sent them a Direct Message in the past.
The most common way to give credit to someone on Twitter is through a "via". For example, say you come across a great blog post by someone who you know is on Twitter, but they haven't tweeted it yet, or you can't find their tweet. You can tweet it as an original tweet and give credit by mentioning them using a "via".
Pictures, Videos, Stickers, GIFs, and Polls
It's easy to add a picture or video to your tweet. When you go to compose a new tweet, there is a gallery icon button located in the lower left-hand corner of your compose box. Simply click on that and select the picture. Twitter will convert that into a preview photo that will appear in your feed. Click on a photo to enlarge it. Tweets with photos get much higher engagement than simple text-based tweets. You can edit photos in the iOS or Android Twitter app. Enhance, filter, crop, or add stickers from the sticker library by tapping the sticker icon (a smiley face emoji). Resize, rotate, and place the sticker with two fingers. Press and hold stickers and drag to the trash icon to delete them. To insert a GIF from the Gif library, click the GIF icon. You are limited to one GIF per Tweet. Tweets with multiple images can't include GIFs.
To add a poll, tap the sideways bar graph icon, add a question, up to four choices and a poll length time of up to seven days.
Hashtags are keywords that users can use to "tag" tweets in order to group them with larger conversations and Twitter chats. To add a hashtag, simply type the hash or number sign, #, followed by your keyword. Note that spaces or punctuation will end the hashtag, so if you have a multi-word keyword, make it all one word.
Examples of Hashtags
Author name (i.e. @AnnieRains, #DianaGardin)
Series name (i.e. #HarmonyHarbor) It's a good idea to use hashtags when your tweets are specifically related to a certain conversation or niche—especially if your tweets might seem strange or might be misinterpreted out of the context of that conversation (as it will appear in most people's feeds!). For example, if you are livetweeting—following along with a live event in real-time, such as BookCon—adding the #BookCon20 hashtag will help people to better understand your tweet. Some popular hashtags on Twitter include #FF, or Follow Friday, where people recommend other Twitter users to follow; #TBT, or Throwback Thursday, where people post pictures from a time earlier in their week/year/lifetime; #np, or #nowplaying, when people tweet the music they are listening to; and others.
When you are posting about popular topics, it's also a good idea to research the official hashtag, as oftentimes there will be many permutations of a hashtag. You want to make sure you use the one that gets the more search volume and is directly connected with the topic. Can you create your own hashtag? Absolutely! But keep in mind that no one may be looking for your hashtag if it's not commonly used—unless we tell them to, of course. Sometimes we create a hashtag specifically for a book campaign and use the hashtag across all marketing assets. Keep your hashtags short and to the point, to leave room for other characters in your tweet. This helps people retweet you, too. For more information on hashtags, check out these two articles: How to Find Popular Twitter Hashtags (sproutsocial)| How to Use Hashtags (Twitter)
Twitter Tips and Best Practices
- Keep Your Posts Relevant and on Topic. People choose to follow you because they like you or your brand. Don't waste their time with a tweet about something that will not interest them or might be a turnoff.
- Get Connected. Find people with similar interests, or in the same industry, and follow them. They will lead you to others who may eventually start following you.
- Write Clean. When you misspell something or use bad grammar, it just looks bad. Also, with only 280 characters to work with, you must keep it short and sweet.
- Be Thankful & Responsive. If someone mentions you, or your brand, say thanks and be appreciative. If they're critical or ask a question, respond politely. If needed, take the conversation off Twitter.
- Don't Fall Off the Radar. Try to tweet at least a few times a week. People will quickly lose interest if you tweet and then they don't hear from you again for a week. Remember to pin important content to the top of your news feed just like on your Facebook page.
- Don't Make it All About You. Limit the number of things you post, say, type, or tweet that start with the word "I".
- Watch What Others Are Doing. Follow people and brands you admire and learn by their example. Your fellow twitter-ers can be your best teachers.
- Build Relationships. Twitter is a two-way street, and people are more willing to help those who they really know. By building quality relationships with other users on Twitter, you'll always have someone in your corner. Think of Twitter as a place to have a conversation—either one you start or joining in with people you follow, trending topics, or well-known figures.
- Don't Get Too Personal. Feel free to share as much or as little personal details as you're comfortable with when entering into a conversation. If you keep your family life off-limits, don't feel that you must share it here. Ditto for talking about current events/politics. Many authors are jumping into this discussion, but if it's not for you, do not feel pressured to participate. It's ok to talk openly and get opinionated on your personal account, but when speaking as the voice of your brand, or your book, remember to watch your words.
- Ask Questions. People love to give their two cents and feel like they are participating. Ask questions to inspire conversation and interaction with your followers. Use polls for easy engagement.
- Have fun. Make your profile informative but also fun. Readers respond to relatable daily life, pets (!!), kids, etc. Once you get the hang of things, Twitter can be a blast. Have fun, meet new people, interact, spread the word, and enjoy yourself.
Click on the three horizontal dots labeled "More" on the left-hand menu, and go to "Analytics". (This is only accessible on desktop.) You can also see stats on any particular tweet by clicking on "View Tweet Activity" on your tweet, under the time and date stamp. (This is accessible on both mobile and desktop).
Twitter Sample Content Ideas
One of the more effective things we're seeing on Twitter are threads that read like short essays. For example:
We suggest composing some Twitter threads on topics related to your book, writing/creativity, and your general interests.
When composing a thread, consider linking to your book's page in the final tweet.
- Link to Instagram or Goodreads giveaways that may be running throughout the year.
- When tweeting about pop culture things, use the relevant hashtags (e.g. #TwitterOfTime, #GOT, etc.) to join ongoing conversations.
Tools for Managing Twitter
Many people manage Twitter through Twitter.com, but some people find applications such as TweetDeck easier to manage. Here is why TweetDeck is helpful:
- TweetDeck gives you more control. In a single interface, you are shown information streams based on columns. You can identify specifically what you want each column to display, instead of dealing with a single firehose of information on twitter.com
- You can easily track multiple accounts, and tweet from each of them.
- You can create columns for special purposes, such as searching on the title of a specific book or following a hashtag for an event.
TweetDeck is owned by Twitter. Another popular management software is called Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule tweets, so you don't have to be there to press the send button later.
It is also helpful to download the Twitter app on your mobile device, so you can tweet on the go (which is especially useful if you're doing author events).