If you have a writing business, or you are researching about how to start as a freelance writer, you have probably heard the advice to get on Twitter. You’ve probably also read about people who got clients from Twitter, or writing gigs off Twitter. It’s true, it happens, but you can’t just create an account, and tweet out a bunch of self-serving links to your website. You have to build Twitter just like any other networking opportunity, otherwise, you’re just the electronic equivalent of that guy who shows up at a writing group and starts handing out business cards without actually knowing anyone.
How To Use Twitter as a Writer
I have an epic
tirade post coming about the different kinds of writers, and how being a professional writer doesn’t necessarily mean what everyone else thinks it does. In the meantime, suffice to say that there are not only many different kinds of writers, but there are many different ways of using Twitter. With writing, you have to understand the basics and foundations of success and then take it from there to find your voice and style. Twitter is no different. You have to find what works for you specifically, but this advice will get you going and help you build a foundation while you find your Twitter voice.
First up, you need to create a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Unless your name is relatively unique, you might have to get creative with your Twitter handle. It may not match your business name or your writing name. Don’t worry about this. Most clients, and even the Twitter webpage itself will gladly serve up the information you put in those First Name, Last Name fields when you register. So, if your name is Brian Nelson and you own a writing business called ArcticLlama, you’ll have more luck getting the latter rather than the former for your Twitter handle. This is not a problem, because whether you are on the Twitter webpage reading directly, or using a client like HootSuite, your real name actually displays more prominently than your user name. That means when people reading my Twitter timeline think, “Hey, this guy I follow sounds like the kind of freelance writer I’d like to hire,” it will be pretty easy for them to find my name.
Which brings us to Twitter tips for writers #1:
Pick a non-offensive, not too commercial, hopefully related, Twitter user name.
My twitter handle is my freelance writing business name. If you also have a writing business, see if you can get the name, or some variation of it. Don’t worry about it if you have to add something to make it unique. Adding ‘the,’ ‘a,’ or even ‘superduper’ to your name to make something unique will be fine. Believe it or not, almost no one will find your Twitter account via a search, unless you are already famous somehow. For example, I’m sure plenty of people search for Chuck Wendig’s Twitter account after reading his books, but most people find my Twitter account via a link or by someone retweeting me or mentioning me. In other words, having your exact name as your Twitter handle isn’t necessary since few people will try and find you that way. Once someone clicks the FOLLOW button, it really doesn’t matter what your handle is, as along as they can recognize it.
A word about overly commercial names. Twitter, like the rest of the internet, is full of bots and spam and scammers. Eventually, most Twitter users wise up to this and try and avoid such accounts. So, while, CheapBusinessWritingDirect sounds like a great Twitter name, it might turn some people off before they even see your tweets.
Writer Twitter tip #2:
Get rid of the egg.
This sounds obvious, but when you first start out on Twitter it may seem like it isn’t really worth much of your time, and getting and uploading a picture takes some effort. Most people who have been on Twitter more than a few minutes will not follow “eggs,” which is what accounts with default egg picture are derisively called. A picture of yourself, if you are comfortable with that, is fine. I use my writing website logo.
Writer Twitter tip #3:
Put info in your bio, but make sure some of it is actually your bio.
Any successful writer knows that promotion is important. However, there is such a thing as trying too hard. Do mention your business name, or any books you have written. Do have a link to your writing website. Do say that you are a writer. Now, throw in some other interesting things about you personally. Avoid trying to keyword stuff your bio. It doesn’t work on search engines, and it doesn’t work on users looking for someone to follow either.
- Good: I’m the author of Big Book. I love pina coladas and walks in the rain. Also, a dad.
- Bad: I’m author of Big Book. Ghostwriter. Newsletter writer. Freelance writer. Pro writer. Great Grammar
The link to your webpage should be your sales page. Don’t do it in your bio.
Twitter for Writers Tip #4:
Tweet more than business.
OK, fine. You’re only on Twitter because of what it can do for you professionally. Frankly, there are probably easier ways to network. Either way, the fact remains that if you never tweet anything but “I have a writing special,” or, “Buy my books on Amazon,” or whatever, people will
- a) be more likely to unfollow you (if you bore them, they will stop reading)
- b) be less likely to follow you in the first place
Remember how I told you very few people would end up finding you via search?
The way they WILL find you is either from your own links, or from when someone else on Twitter mentions you to their followers. Either way, they are likely to check your timeline before following you. If all they see is you begging for sales and attention, they aren’t as likely to click FOLLOW. Even worse, if you never tweet anything interesting, then the people who do already follow you won’t retweet or mention you and you’ll never get new followers from them either.
Think about that guy who shows up to an organization or meeting that you attend regularly and actually care about. When he just starts handing out business cards, you don’t think too highly of him. But, if he gets to know people, fits in, participates, and THEN hands you a business card, because you happen to have a need for something he does, that’s much more welcome. It’s the same thing on Twitter.
Twitter for Writers Tip #5:
Tweet your life.
Right about now, you might be thinking, “Well, if I can’t just tweet business stuff, what else should I tweet?”
The most interesting accounts, and the most respected accounts are those that participate in more than just business. Anna Kendrick is frequently profiled as being incredibly Twitter savvy. Read her timeline. She doesn’t tweet all day every day, but when she does, it’s usually funny or interesting. Then, when she DOES go and tweet about a commercial she’s in or asks you to go check out her new movie trailer, no one minds, because she’s already cool. Also notice, that most of the things she tweets are little things that happened to her, her real life. Often they are funny tidbits. That’s what makes her “real” and so many other celebrity accounts cold and clinical.
Now, just because you’re tweet about real life doesn’t mean everyone wants to know that you are eating a sandwich. Think to yourself, would I tell a friend about this if we met up later? If so, you’ve got something. If it’s the kind of thing that someone would be bored or uninterested to hear, then pass. Notice that even though Kendrick is a movie star, there are not a lot of tweets about the things that happen every day on the set. Only if it’s interesting to both her, and to others does it show up.
So, what do you, non-movie star tweet about? Check out my timeline and then maybe Chuck Wendig’s timeline (link above). While not everything is interesting to everyone, both timelines let you into our lives a bit. Wendig’s is full of the tribulations of raising his toddler, but also things about writing, current events, and whatever else he finds interesting. Then, when he tweets about a new ebook offer you can buy, you feel OK about it, because an “internet friend” is saying it, not some shill who won’t shut up about buying his book.
For my bit, I try and tweet what happens to me that is interesting. This is trickier than it sounds since I spend all day, most days, in my basement home office writing. So, you’ll see a lot of things about my kids (THEY are interesting and funny). I tweet song lyrics, usually when I hear the song and I think, “Oh yeah! I love this.” Whatever I tweet, it’s sharing something I find interesting, even if not everyone else does. Either way, there is no way someone would look at my timeline and think that I’m just going to spam them with links to my blogs.
(Note: When tweeting about your kids, many people use little anonymous abbreviations instead of outing them on Twitter. You’ll see DD for Dearest Daughter, or DH for Dearest Husband. Many people also use their kids’ ages, especially if you have more than one. So 7, means the 7-year old, and 11 means the 11-year old. Do what feels right for you.)
Writer Twitter Tips #6:
Here’s the reality check. Unless you already have a following in real life, you won’t instantly have a following on Twitter. You’ll have to build that up over time. There are various short cuts such as buying followers, or following thousands in hopes that thousands will follow you back out of courtesy. However, while these methods may boost your follower count, they do nothing for you. Someone following 30,000 people isn’t actually reading most (any?) of their tweets. They are just so much flotsam drifting by. And the followers that you buy aren’t real people. You want real followers that actually care about what you say and do.
To get real followers, you need to promote your Twitter account. Make sure you have links on your writing pages. Put your Twitter account handle in other accounts like Instagram or Pinterest. That will give you a start. Now, start Tweeting. In the beginning, you’ll mostly be talking to yourself. That’s fine, it gives you a chance to work out how and what you want to say without standing in front of a bunch of people. When you do say something interesting, others will retweet, favorite, or mention you. When that happens, others will check you out. They’ll follow you based on what they see. If you never tweet, never say anything interesting, etc… then they won’t follow you. That’s why you want to tweet regularly, and well.
Twitter Tips for Writers #7:
Link your social.
To be really successful networking online, you’ll need more than just Twitter. The best way to do that is to link your accounts. Tell people on Twitter about your Instagram account or your Tumblr. Maybe what you say isn’t interesting to someone, but your picture are. A follower is a follower, and they may come around to what you say or do elsewhere. Don’t worry if you can’t keep up with everything. You’ll figure out which ones you actually LIKE using. Make those your main ones, and do everything else on the side.
Twitter Writer Tips #8:
Twitter does not count links to rank websites. There is no downside to you retweeting another user. There is no need to NOFOLLOW on Twitter. A retweet does two things. First, it adds interesting tweets and useful information to your timeline. Your followers will appreciate that. In addition, the person you retweet might check you out to find out who retweeted them. If you’re following the tips above, and you have related interests, then its likely that they will consider following you. If someone complains about how you retweeted them, don’t get too worked up about it. This is especially common with joke accounts (accounts that tweet funny things) because they keep score via how many retweets they get. Just move on. They aren’t followers you need for your writing account anyway.
In the end, the trick to Twitter is to do it regularly and in an interesting manner. Do that first, then worry about increasing your follower count. Remember that most “big accounts” either already had big followings from elsewhere, or they are joke accounts. There is nothing wrong with a joke account, but that big audience of followers who think that you’re funny probably aren’t the same people who can get you a new writing gig, unless you are a humor writer. A niche following that actually cares about you and your writing will be far more valuable.