I’ve heard that so many times, from writers and non-writers alike. I’ve even heard it from people who are on Twitter!
In fact, my younger brother – who’s an IT bod and runs his own business and who, you’d think, would be into all things ‘social-meedja’ – said it to me only yesterday.
I have an added interest in Twitter now as, as well as running my own Twitter account (the imaginatively-named @helenyendall, if you’re interested!), I’ve taken over the running of the Twitter account for the children’s charity that I work for, which had been stagnant (the Twitter, not the company!) for some time.
There’s a definite difference between tweeting ‘personally’ when, (as long as you don’t libel or troll anyone), almost anything goes and tweeting for a business and I’ll come to that in a minute.
So, for those who say they don’t ‘get’ Twitter, here’s what I like about it and how it might be useful for you, if you’re a writer:
1. Interacting with other writers. It’s a lonely old world out there when you’re a writer and a few minutes (ahem, of course that’s all I do..) on Twitter is the equivalent of a chat around the coffee machine or the water cooler at work. It makes you feel connected, it’s a break, there’s a bit of gossip sometimes or news. It’s – dare I say it – fun?
2. You can learn things! I follow everything that I’m interested in, so that ranges from tennis to local restaurants to Writing and Writers Forum magazines and authors that I like. For example, I found out that Louise Doughty’s book ‘Apple Tree Yard’ is being made into a BBC series through Twitter.
3. It’s creative! Much more so, I think, than Facebook because you’ve only got 140 characters so you have to be pithy when you Tweet!
4. Apparently, publishers and agents ‘expect’ it! You might disagree, but, depending on the kind of writing you’re involved with then yes, I think it’s true. It’s not just publishers and agents that expect you to be on Twitter: readers do, too. We want our authors to be accessible, living breathing people, not mysterious figures locked away in ivory towers.
Let me give you an example. A novelist that I know (a little), has just published her seventh book. I have a vested interest in reading it because I am mentioned in the acknowledgements at the front! (I was part of a group that gave her feedback when the novel was a work-in-progress).
But when I looked up some of the reviews (and they were favourable, on the whole) – some of which were linked to on Twitter – I realised that she doesn’t have a Twitter handle and she’s not on Facebook either and I felt rather disappointed and let down. I wanted some interaction, some feedback and perhaps even a photo of the launch party. The fact that she was ‘incommunicado’ gave me the impression, rightly or wrongly, that she’s not interested in her readers, or in those who’ve been reviewing the book. I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling. And that’s made me hesitate about buying her novel.
OK, but I don’t have a novel, you say, so why should I be on Twitter if I don’t have any readers to engage with? Well, you may have readers in the future and there’s nothing wrong with building your social media ‘platform’ in anticipation of that happy day!
5. You can promote yourself and your work. But do this with a very light touch, would be my advice. It’s a big turn off when a writer continually Tweets the equivalent of ‘buy my book, buy my book, buy my book!’ (Several times a day). In fact, that’s when I press the ‘unfollow’ button.
There are more subtle – and interesting – ways of getting someone to buy your book. Tweet about the inspiration for it, or Tweet a link to a favourable review or to a blog tour that you’ve done, run a giveaway or a competition.. GIVE something to the reader, rather than asking (demanding!) something from him.
I follow Marian Keyes on Twitter and she’s a writer who has, I think, got tweeting down to a fine art. Now, as a best-selling author, she doesn’t have to do as much self-promotion as many writers further down the ladder, I admit – she has a big team behind her and a host of adoring readers ready to snap up anything she writes – but she uses Twitter to Tweet about her life, what she’s up to, where she’s going, things that she’s seen. She uses lots of photos (Twitter likes photos! they lend colour and interest to your Tweet and they tend to be read more than Tweets without them), she is witty and self-depreciating and she is the only person who has actually made me cry with laughter through Twitter (it was a series of Tweets, not just one, I hasten to add. Now, that would be genius!). Oh, and if you reply to her Tweets, she will often ‘like’ your Tweet (which just shows that she’s read it but it’s a nice touch). Once she did actually reply to me, though! Wheeee!
I’m making this sound as though I’m on Twitter all the time. I go on it every day but only for a few minutes. That’s all it needs.
As for the business Twitter feed that I’m now running, it’s made me look at Twitter in a new way. Essentially, I want to get across two messages:
1. We need more volunteers
2. Would you like to fund (or continue to fund) us?
But if I continually tweet that, it’s going to be pretty boring! So I’m dressing it up a bit. Which is what I suggest you do, if you actually want to use Twitter to increase your book sales say, or drive people to your blog.
So, I am Tweeting about things that might be of interest to our followers, I’m re-tweeting items about charities, volunteering and issues that children have, such as bullying. Whenever possible (without using photos of the children that we help), I’m attaching a photo and I’m trying to portray The Friendship Project as a great charity to fund and volunteer for – caring, friendly, relevant and worthwhile.
It’s not that dissimilar to what you might want to do if you’re an author, hoping to attract new readers and followers. Tweet about things that will be of interest to your followers; re-tweet Tweets about writing or the issues that you write about; whenever possible, attach a photo of something or someone and build an image of yourself (a true one, I’m sure!) as a friendly, fun, likeable writer – or a serious, knowledgeable journalist (or whatever image you want your readers to have of you).
What d’you think? Do you ‘get’ Twitter? Does it work for you?
PS: If you live in or around Warwickshire and you’re on Twitter, please follow us – @FriendshipProj – thank you!)