Twitter for Writers


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With more than 550 million active users and counting, Twitter is one of the top 10 most visited Internet sites. Yet debate rages among authors and writers as to whether Twitter is useful as a promotional tool, or just another distraction. Writer and social media manager Corinne Litchfield explains the basics of Twitter, how to make it a part of your social media platform, and how writers can manage their Twitter account in as little as one hour a week.

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  • Many thanks to CWC Sacramento for this opportunity to speak with you today about Twitter. My love affair with Twitter started in 2008, when in a job interview at a boutique PR agency, my soon-to-be boss said he didn’t see the value of Twitter as a PR tool. I was intrigued and signed up, and within a few months and several well-crafted tweets to journalists, I convinced the agency that Twitter was not to be ignored. That agency has gone on to list social media management as one of its areas of expertise. As for me, I’ve gone on to help advocacy groups and nonprofits use Twitter as a means of promoting their causes, and I’ve worked with individuals and small businesses to set up Twitter accounts and help them understand how to make the most of Twitter. This morning I’ll briefly talk about what Twitter is, why it should be part of your platform, and how you can make the most of Twitter in as little as one hour a week.
  • Let’s briefly go over the basics: Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news. Twitter transmits information by way of tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters long. You can use Twitter through, on a mobile device, or via third-party applications. You can post links to content on the Internet, photos, videos. Twitter can be easily integrated into websites and blogs as well as other social media accounts, such as Facebook.
  • We all may be word lovers here, but numbers do tend to resonate strongly with folks, so here are a few numbers related to Twitter and Twitter users that you may find interesting. These statistics come courtesy of Statistic Brain and were posted in May of this year. The most fascinating figure here to me is the last one on lurking. This means that these Twitter users are simply using the site to get information – they aren’t tweeting out their own content. If these numbers seem overwhelming, it’s okay – I’ll be talking about how you can sift through all the Twitter chatter to find what’s most relevant and important to you.
  • People often ask me, “But if I have Facebook, isn’t that enough?” Well, depending on what you want to accomplish, it can be, but for the most part everyone you connect with on Facebook is connected to you in some way. Many people use the analogy that Facebook is like a family reunion, whereas Twitter is like a cocktail party. When you go to a family reunion, you may not know everyone intimately, but you are all connected through the family. At a cocktail party, you may know a few people, or you may not know anyone. But you can drop in on random conversations or start one of your own, and find people who have shared interests; people you want to continue to connect with.
  • When using Twitter, it really boils down to engagement: are you engaging others in conversation? Are others engaging you? Here’s some very simple tips when it comes to tweeting: Be yourself – Let all your alter-egos come out to play on Twitter, except for the raging lunatic. The writer, the amateur baker, the Disney film lover, the karaoke superstar, the foodie, the traveler - all of it is welcome on Twitter. Just don’t be a jerk. Share what interests you – If you just read an article on basket weaving that you found really fascinating, share it on Twitter. If a video clip from Conan O’Brien’s show made you laugh, link to the video in a tweet. If another Twitter user tweeted something you find inspiring or clever, retweet it. Engage with others – On Twitter the @ symbol is used to send a public message to another user. So if you wanted to send a tweet to me, you’d type @CorinneL, then your message. Use it to tell other Twitter users you appreciate them, or how their last tweet made you laugh. Expand your horizons – Remember what I said about the 550 million-plus users on Twitter? A large part of that are authors, athletes, actors, musicians, TV personalities, politicians, literary magazines, publishers. Find folks you admire on Twitter and let them know you like their work. You may be surprised how they respond. I’ve gotten tweets from Chris Noth (Law and Order, Sex and the City) and Josh Mankiewicz (Dateline NBC)
  • I believe that it’s possible to maintain your Twitter presence on as little as one hour a week. To do this, you’ll have to spend some time building up your account in a way that you are engaging with the people, businesses, and brands that are relevant to you and your writing. We’re going to start from the premise that you’ve created a Twitter account and understand the basics on how to tweet – Twitter’s term for posting – from the Twitter website. The first step in laying the foundation is creating lists. Lists can be public or private, and they are a great way to organize Twitter users into categories you can easily review to find out the latest information. The beauty of lists is that it allows you to keep track of various Twitter accounts without following them. Here’s a screenshot of a public list I created titled Writers and Writing. I don’t need to follow everyone I have included on this list; it’s simply a way of keeping track of authors and publications I like. There are less than 10 members currently on this list, but I have other lists that are much bigger. It’s a good idea to periodically review your lists – I’d recommend once every 3 months – to check for inactive or deleted accounts, people you may want to actually start following (or unfollowing), and accounts you want to add to your lists.
  • If you’ve heard of SEO, then it may be easy to think of hashtags as Twitter’s version of SEO. By turning a word or short phrase into a hashtag – meaning that you’ve added a pound symbol # to the front of the word or phrase – you’ve enabled other Twitter users to find your content. You can use to find what hashtags are popular, identify which ones are applicable to you and your writing, and find people to follow who share this interest. A popular hashtag among writers is #amwriting – while you may question just how much writing they are accomplishing if they are on Twitter, the fact remains that it’s a good way to find other writers. I’ve included a screenshot here. Hashtags are like seasoning your food with salt: you want to use them sparingly. I have recently read that sticking with 2 hashtags is best, but I think 3 well-conceived hashtags are fine in many tweets. Many folks like to get cute with hashtags, using them as a way to be funny. Jimmy Fallon recently did a great sketch with Justin Timberlake on how hashtags would sound if we used them in conversation. The best hashtags are short, descriptive, and easy to read.
  • The easiest way to manage your social media platform is to use a dashboard service. There are several to choose from, but the two popular free ones are HootSuite and Tweetdeck. Each one has its pros and cons. Account Management – When deciding on your dashboard, consider if you want to use one dashboard to manage all your social media: your Facebook Page, your Twitter account, your Facebook personal profile. If that’s your goal, then HootSuite will let you do that. TweetDeck is just for Twitter management. Platform – Another big consideration is access. Do you plan on doing some social media management or posting/tweeting content from your smartphone or tablet? HootSuite offers apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. TweetDeck, as of today, just works on the web – they discontinued all apps earlier this year. User Interface – HootSuite allows you to set up separate tabs to organize your dashboard. I like to have different tabs for each social media account I’ve imported, as well as for my lists. TweetDeck allows you to have multiple columns on one screen, so you scroll through them. Searching - TweetDeck does have the advantage of allowing you to drill down with your searches. Using their search feature you can set up a column that will find any tweets related to specific terms, or tweets on a specific subject by people you follow. Refresh Rates – Refresh rates have to do with how often a site is updated to show the most current information. TweetDeck refreshes your feeds in real-time, whereas HootSuite may take a little longer to refresh. Analytics - If you like looking at reports and analytics on how your posts are doing, HootSuite does offer that feature – some reports are available for a small fee, but many are free of charge. Tweetdeck does not provide any reporting features. Team Collaboration/Management – Once you become the next J.K. Rowling, you will be too busy counting your money to handle your own social media, so you’ll need a team of people working on your posts and tweets. Many big corporations, such as Pepsi, Virgin, and Sony Music use HootSuite for social media management – that’s because the collaboration tools available with the paid account make it easy to assign tasks to team members.
  • HootSuite allows free users to import up to five accounts, which means that you can use HootSuite to manage not just your Twitter account, but also Facebook, Google+ Pages, and LinkedIn. There are also free apps you can install on HootSuite to import other social networks, including Tumblr, Instagram and self-hosted Wordpress sites. HootSuite’s content management is based on tabs and streams. I typically set up my clients with a HootSuite account as I like the user interface and its flexibility.
  • TweetDeck is owned by Twitter and it’s a dashboard for Twitter account management. You can set up columns to view your timeline, conversation threads (they call it Interactions) with other Twitter users, retweets, direct messages, list activity, hashtag searches, and so on. One nice feature with Tweetdeck is that you can set it to preview images and video right in the column, rather than clicking through to a link. The columns can also be set to larger sizes for easier viewing. Rather than setting up separate tabs, though, all your columns are on one screen, which means you have to scroll along the bottom to view your columns.
  • Let’s assume you’ve chosen HootSuite as your primary dashboard for managing Twitter, and you’ve decided to use HootSuite to help you manage your Facebook Page as well. Now it’s time to add them to HootSuite, which is a very simple process of allowing the service to access your accounts. Once you’ve added all the accounts, then set up your tabs and streams and start posting and tweeting away!
  • Now it’s time to put your dashboard to work. Again, let’s assume you’re using HootSuite as your social media manager. Once you’ve gotten your tabs and streams set up, you can start logging into HootSuite for about 10 minutes a day. That’s your opportunity to do any or all of the following: check your timeline/main feed check any hashtag search streams you set up retweet items you find funny or interesting send tweets on what you’re up to Respond to tweets sent to you One thing I love about HootSuite is being able to schedule messages ahead of time across multiple accounts. Here’s a screenshot of my HootSuite account and a tweet I wrote. Instead of sending it right away, I opted to send it about an hour later, so I used the scheduling tool to set up the day and time for my message. I can even save message drafts I’m working on and finish them when I’m ready to send them out. And if I change my mind, I can delete the tweet before it’s sent out.
  • After all this, you may either be really excited to start tweeting, or you may be annoyed at the idea of having to set up yet another social media account to try and get more readers. The reality is that self-promotion can be hard work, and if you’re determined to get your writing in front of more readers, you’re going to have to work for it. Author Neil Gaiman is an active Twitter user, but he understands that it’s not for everyone. He also believes, as I do, that writers should avoid Twitter if they feel it’s too much work or they don’t understand how to use it. In the July/August issue of Poets & Writers, Gaiman said: Do I feel that writers should be on Twitter? No, I think writers should write. Do I think people who enjoy using Twitter should use Twitter? Sure. I do it because I like it and it’s fun. And the fact that I like it and it’s fun communicates itself through the feed. People who are interested are going to sign up and stick around and follow me because I’m obviously enjoying it. If you are not enjoying it, for God’s sake don’t do it.
  • Twitter for Writers

    1. 1. Twitter for Writers Corinne Litchfield Social Media Manager, Writer
    2. 2. What is Twitter? • Real-time information network • Uses tweets - 140 characters or less - to transmit information • Can be used via web browser, mobile devices, or third-party applications • Allows links, photos, videos • Easily integrated into websites and other social media
    3. 3. Twitter by the Numbers • 554,750,000 active registered Twitter users • 115 million active Twitter users per month • 135,000 new users signing up daily • 40% of Twitter users do not tweet but “lurk” Statistics from Statistic Brain, May 2013 (
    4. 4. How is Twitter Different from Facebook? Facebook = family reunion Twitter = cocktail party
    5. 5. It’s All About Engagement, Baby • Be yourself • Share what interests you • Engage with others • Expand your horizons
    6. 6. Twitter on One Hour a Week 1a. Lay the foundation: Create lists
    7. 7. Twitter on One Hour a Week 1b. Lay the foundation: Use hashtags
    8. 8. Twitter on One Hour a Week HootSuite TweetDeck Multiple social media accounts Twitter only Web, iPhone, Android Web only* Tabs & streams Multiple columns, 1 screen Search Advanced search Periodic refresh Real time refresh Analytics & reporting No analytics/reporting Free & paid versions Free version only Team collaboration (paid account) One user 2. Choose your dashboard
    9. 9. HootSuite
    10. 10. TweetDeck
    11. 11. Twitter on One Hour a Week 3. Add your social media accounts
    12. 12. Twitter on One Hour a Week 4. Put your dashboard to work
    13. 13. But…Do I Really Need to Use Twitter? Twitter is completely democratic…if you want to get something read: establish, be there first, and then say to people who are interested and like you, “By the way I’ve got a book coming out,” and people will go, “Oh, we’ll go and check it out then.” Neil Gaiman
    14. 14. Any Questions? Book a free initial consultation Corinne Litchfield