How to Navigate Twitter as a Writer
Updated: Dec 14, 2021
Twitter can be difficult to manage for writers. You just want to write your books and sell them, but how do you pull off the latter? You could do nothing and have your publisher do all the lifting (good luck), you could just self-publish and sit there (good luck, lmao), or you could make use of one of the best platforms for writers, Twitter. If you put some of my advice to use, you could have a better experience and actually sell some books while maintaining a great feed. Let’s try some things.
A. Timeline Management
Curate your timeline, i.e., be selective with who you let in your Twitter-house. No one wants loudmouths, crybabies, or drama queens inside their actual homes. And likewise, you don’t want those jabronies in your timeline, either. Pay attention to people’s behavioral patterns. Determine whether their posts are worth seeing, worth interacting with. If they’re not, don’t follow. Now, we are all adults operating with fully developed pre-frontal cortices. (Or are we?) We can separate following on Twitter from being friendly and receptive to other writers. Just because you like someone’s fiction doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy their tweets, or vice versa. No one owes you a follow, and you don’t owe anyone else a follow. You are the grand curator with your magic wand. Conjure up a pretty timeline.
II. Following:Follower Ratio
It’s best to keep a low following-to-follower ratio. We’ve all seen accounts that follow four, five, twenty-thousand accounts. There really is no point to that. A timeline with that many accounts posting daily is impossible to scroll through. Stick with a manageable number of accounts to follow so you can be receptive and supportive of their content. Do not employ age-old strategies from MySpace days a.k.a. “follow4follow.” Why should every new Twitter relationship be reciprocal if you do not enjoy the other person’s posts? Let’s be reasonable and respectful adults. Also, the ratio isn’t all that important if no one engages with your content. We’ve all seen accounts with 50,000 followers yet their tweets receive maybe five likes and one or two retweets. Engagement is the most important metric and you can look extra silly if you follow every account just to try to force engagement.
Be mindful of your retweet frequency. It can be jarring to your followers if you flood them with several retweets in a row like a machine gun emptying its 30-round mag. No thank you. Please do not do this. Don’t abuse RTs with that itchy trigger finger. If you do, you may force your followers to utilize their “Turn Off Retweets” option for your account. Then your RTs will reach fewer and fewer timelines and be less effective. After all, Twitter is a highly curated social media experience, if we want it to be. People don’t often want “outsider” tweets being sprayed into their feed. If someone abuses RTs, feel free to use that option. Go to their profile page, click the options button (with the three dots), and choose Turn Off Retweets. On the flip side, if you abused this unspoken rule before and suspect many followers have disabled your retweets, you can quote tweet the said tweet instead and add a useful comment. *hot tip of the day*
Hold up your Twitter remote and mute that damn noisy TV (person). Holy moly, why are they talking so much? It’s overwhelming! I’ll be honest: I never mute accounts. If someone is abusing their Twitter timeline, I unfollow if our bond ain’t that strong. If it is, I get over it and scroll past the silliness. Muting is sort of pointless. It hides an account’s every post but you remain as an acknowledged follower. It’s sort of a weird way to “keep cool” with people you find annoying. Which—why? Just unfollow, maaaan.
Whoa. Blocking?! Isn’t that a last resort? Nope. Twitter blocking is mental freedom, mental peace. Twitter is an extension of humanity and because of that, there are toxic people online just as there is out in the “real world.” Luckily, in this quasi-virtual space, we can zap annoying people out of existence. You don’t owe them anything. This is the best tool for nipping harassment in the bud. It can be stopped before it’s even really started. We create our own Twitter reality. We have these wonderful tools at our disposal to make it a pleasant experience to sell books and interact with our friends who are also writers, or reviewers, or anyone else for that matter. Blue Oyster Cult wrote a hit song about the block button. Don’t be afraid of it.
VI. Twitter Lists
Lists can be extremely useful as they can be both private or public. Lists are straightforward. You can add a number of accounts to a category, name it, and you will have a private (or public) timeline to scroll through. You can use these as hyper-curated friend timelines, as in add your absolute favorite accounts to scroll through all their updates, missing nothing. Or you can create a list of accounts that only post about certain interests, e.g., horror movies, puppies, cats, Batman, feet pics, etc. Another benefit to Twitter Lists is they are scrollable timelines sans advertisements.
Twitter can be overwhelming. Luckily, you can control how much of it overflows into your mentions. Twitter allows you to control WHO can reply to your tweets with three options: Everyone, People You Follow, or People You Mentioned. The first is self-explanatory. The second allows your curated list of people you follow to reply to your tweet, which is, yet again, an important reason why you should care about who you follow. And the last option is super restrictive, so only use this for posts you don’t want anyone to reply to, or the only accounts tagged in the tweet. This can really dampen your engagement but it can be useful for preventing jerks and the like from entering your space when unsolicited. Twitter also allows you to mute, not hide, but mute, notifications from accounts that don’t have a certain aspect, such as no profile photo, no confirmed email or phone number (typically spam but not 100%), etc. These mentions or interactions will still show in your notification feed, but you will never be notified. Probably better that way.
How about you actually respond to people if you have time? It doesn’t hurt. No, you absolutely don’t have to field every reply, every comment. If we did this, we would just be staring at screens all day. Pick your battles, they say. The more you try to be yourself and just chat on Twitter, the more likely people will enjoy your demeanor, your tweets. We want to follow people we relate to or we find interesting. I personally follow people who produce good conversations, cool content, or tweet things that make me question my own sanity and/or morals. Every single interaction can produce a positive outcome for you, if you want it to.
II. Explore Tab
You can increase your Twitter audience, a.k.a. potential readership by responding to popular tweets or tweets in currently popular topics, or even events that occurred that day. This is obviously optional, but it could help if you already find yourself browsing the Explore tab, anyway. Why not jump in and participate in some fun convos? I usually jump into fun tweets about horror movies or food or whatever if I have a minute to kill.
III. Pose Questions to Your Followers
Everyone likes to butt in and share their opinion on something. Tweet things that require more than a pointless yes or no answer. I like to engage with both general Writing Twitter and Horror Twitter. Obviously the questions would differ, you have to know which audience you seek to interact with. I’ve also had fun coercing people to choose between food items… just because. Or create polls with hard-to-choose options. Whatever you can do to get others’ minds off of the reality that we are on a cold, spinning rock in the middle of an impossible expanse of space waiting for our central star to explode.
I. Optimal Tweet Timing
Twitter is just a microcosm of people all over the world who tap into the virtual realm whenever they wanna escape their meat-reality and escape into something “elsewhere.” But, there’s a limiting factor there. People will only see your book promos when majority of people are peeking behind the blue bird blinds. When the hell do they do that? Well, typically, almost no one uses Twitter post-5pm Eastern on Fridays, almost barely on Saturdays, and never early Sunday mornings. There are studies that analyze global behavioral patterns and such, i.e., when people actually tweet and scroll. The best timing seems to be during the work week (Whodathunk? People want to escape the monotony of work??) when people are checking their phones during bathroom breaks, lunches, and immediately after work, slowly decreasing into the night. Promoting on the weekends or after work hours is almost like throwing your promo tweet in the garbage and stomping on it. Dammit, is that the moldy banana from a few days ago?!
II. Attach Media to Tweets
Did you really just try to promote your book, WIP, contract, announcement, etc. without a damn picture attached?! What are you doing, m8? All studies show that tweets with attached pictures or videos get the most engagement. Always include a picture or video in your promotional tweets. They catch the eye more. They are more fun to look at. And while I’m on this line of thought, make sure your text in your promotional tweet is easily legible without a follower having to click on the image and double tap to zoom. Lots of engagement happens from outside of Twitter’s “Detail expands”. When you add an image to your tweet, you best make it in the 16:9 ratio. It’s still the best despite Twitter changing image-dimension cropping on mobile apps. It still hasn’t carried over to the website. And hey, if you don’t care about that, feel free to post 1:1 (square) or 2:3 (portrait) images as well. The fun thing about these is: square promo images can be easily cross-posted to Facebook and Instagram, and portrait 3:2 images take up more of the screen real estate on mobile—when someone scrolls to your tweet, all the attention is on you. Better not sweat from that blazing spotlight, young lad.
III. Always Include a URL
For the love of god, did you just promote your book and not give followers an easy-to-click URL in the tweet?! Why do you hate them and hate making sales so much? Never forget to include URLs to your books, projects, merch site, etc. If you forget, delete the dang thing and re-do it all. Do not attach a second tweet to the original with the URL and clog up everyone’s timelines even more. No, no, bad dog!
IV. Books2Read URLs
Speaking of URLs, please consider using Books2Read URLs. This is a service provided by Draft2Digital, but anyone can use them as they aren’t tied to their services. They are essentially landing pages for your books for readers to purchase a copy. Instead of throwing up a link to Amazon, you can use a universal B2R URL which lists all stores your book is sold through, including Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Scribd, B&N, Audible, etc. They also provide analytics if you care to track that sorta stuff.