We hear it all the time. To get ahead in the publishing business, you need to network, and one of the hottest places for industry networking is Twitter. It’s a real-time online cocktail party, where you can join conversations, eavesdrop on agents, get siwh lists from editors, and of course, promote.
But there are some mistakes authors commonly make which can dilute or damage their presence on Twitter, making them invisible to their followers. it just takes a few small adjustments to fix these speedbumps and make your twitter account work for you.
1. Account Marked Private
Private accounts are great for private users. Recommended, even. Marking your account private insures your personal tweets and photos are restricted to a limited number of people. It can restrict the amount of spam and hacker threats hitting your account, too.
But your author account isn’t a private user. By marking the account private, you prevent readers, other authors and industry people from interacting with you. You’re not reaching readers, your promotion won’t be retweetable and you’ll be invivible to the industry people you want noticing you.
For industry interaction, you need to be visible. Take the privacy setting off and use your professional Twitter account for your professional stuff only. Still want a private feed for family and friends? That’s fine. You can have multiple accounts.
2. Automatic Follow-Backs
There are some who claim a follow-back is simply polite. If someone follows you, you need to add them to your follow list. But adding them means your Twitter stream is now full of their content, whether you find it interesting or not. In addition, some of those who follow you aren’t real people. Spammers and companies, especially small businesses, will follow you with the goal of getting you to follow back so they can add their advertising to your stream.
Before you choose to follow someone, take a minute to look at their profile. See what they’ve Tweeted in the past few days and see if they are sharing anything you consider to be of value to you. Make the decision to follow based on what you want to see.
3. Validation Services
Fear of hackers and spam has led to a series of apps designed to identify non-human users. It sounds like a nifty little feature. Just enable the app and no fake users will slip by your defenses. You can follow with the assurance that there is a real human manning the account.
The problem with this is twofold.
First, the apps demand people go through a manual verification step. Most people find this annoying and offensive, prompting them to unfollow instead of continuing through the process. It’s unlikely you’ll know it happened, and if you do, your verification service will probably report the failed follow was a threat it stopped.
Second, verifying a human is as easy as checking the Twitter profile and looking at what is being tweeted, something recommended for any Twitter follow you are considering. Approving an app that sends a direct message demanding verification won’t filter out trash content.
Drop the app and take some time to check profiles instead. You’ll leave the door open for more followers and your stream will reflect more of what you want to see.
4. No Response
Twitter is a huge public venue, a place you can jump in and interact with just about anyone. You can talk about anything, ask questions and get feedback on just about anything. If someone can’t answer you directly, they might pass your question on to their follower list. Or maybe they’ll tell the world its yur birthday and well-wishes will pour in from all corners of the internet.
This is where the interaction part of Twitter kicks in. When someone talks to you or forwards your tweet, it’s polite to acknowledge them. Something as simple as an @ reply “thank you” will keep you in the loop and in the collective good graces of the Twitterverse. And you do want those good graces, because when it’s time to promote that next book or crow about a sale, the news will be forwarded by people who think you’re worth sharing.
Take some time to check your @ mentions and respond to them.
5. Promotional Groups
You probably have some of these in your tweet stream, the people who will dutufully retweet every promotional tweet they see, because when they have something to promote, they want their promo retweeted as much as possible. They might be using a service or just following and retweeting in mass quantity. Whichever it is, they are filling your stream with dozens of buy links every day.
There is nothing wrong with being part of small promotional cooperatives, but quantity and quality can sink you. Quite simply, no one likes being bombarded with a steady stream of advertising. interesting content get lost in the flood of sales links and to stop it, followers will either filter you out of unfollow you completely.
If you are using a cooperative promotion system, keep it small and focused. Join a handful of authors who share a target audience and don’t let that promotion become the bulk of your tweeting.
Two good rules of thumb are to send a maximum of three promotional tweets a day, including promoting others or to not let promotional tweets make up more than 10% of your twitter activity.
6. #Hashtag #Abuse
Hashtags are very useful tools for finding content and following conversation. They can add a dash of humor to the end of a tweet or share a bit of emotion without getting too involved. But too many hashtags can become annoyances. The tweet stops being about information or conversation and starts being about fishing for followers.
So where is the line? If you find yourself using entire sentences made up of hashtags links by prepositions and conjunctions, you have a problem. One or two applicable hashtags is all you need. Pick something that links it to something specific or leave the hashtag out.
7. Adult Media
Ah… dirty pictures. There is rarely an indifferent reaction to them. But love them or hate them, they can prove to cause some problems when they get in your Twitter stream.
As a viewer, if you don’t want to see adult content, go to your Twitter settings and have it filtered out. The tweets will come through with the option to view the picture, giving you more control over what you see and when you see it. This can be very important if you have small children around, or use Twitter at work or in public.
As a tweeter, you need to be aware that posting adult media directly to Twitter can cause problems for your followers, and it’s much easier for people to unfollow than adjust settings. Consider moving your adult images off Twitter to a site like Tumblr and link there instead, making sure to label adult material as NSFW, Not Safe For Work.
If you do keep the images on twitter, make sure you adjust your settings, marking your content as being adult. Keep in mind, this adult content flag might keep people from seeing things that are not sensitive, like your book cover reveal.
8. The Direct Message Welcome
Welcoming new followers is another thing that many people consider to be good etiquette, but how that welcome happens can go horribly wrong. Case in point: The DM welcome. These can range from a simple hello to links to websites, Facebook and sales pages, and turn what should have been a friendly hello into a back-alley mugging.
It is not required for you to in any way acknowledge a new follower. If you want to say hi, don’t do it in DM and don’t push links.
9. Not Using Lists
When you follow a lot of people, it follows that you have a lot of content flowing through your stream. That makes it easy to miss comments from people you consider important to watch. This is where lists come in.
A list will collect the tweets from users you want to see. You do not have to follow the user to put them on your list, which means watch-only accounts won’t clutter up your tweet stream. A the same time the shortlisted tweets are easy to access and not likely to get lost in a flood of kitten pictures, book release announcement and blog links. With this short list of tweets, you can easily pick out what you need to acknowledge and make the appropriate responses.
Make lists of your top Twitter follows so their tweets are more readily available.
10. Playing Shy
While this is in our tenth slot, it’s the number one reason Twitter isn’t working for most people. They just don’t know what to say or do. It’s like going to a party full of strangers solo.
The key to making Twitter work is interaction. Big or small, interact. Say hi to people. If you met someone at a conference, follow them on Twitter and respond to their comments. Retweet a friend’s joke or new cover. Show thew world how cute your cat is when she washes her face. Post a Youtube link to a song on your playlist. Tell us you just got edits and need a drink. Be brave enough to respond to someone else’s tweet.
Yes, there are times that talking on Twitter feels like you’re talking to yourself in the middle of Grand Central, but if you don’t make that comment about hating mornings, no one can agree with you and spark a real converation.
Quiet is invisible. Do something.
Which of these strikes home with you? Do you hate them? Are you guilty of any? Have one I missed?