Authors are often thrown in to this social media thing. You are trying to get published or score that shiny contract and think – crap! I need to get on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and OH MY GOD WHEN WILL I FIND TIME TO WRITE??? With that in mind, I see lots of authors search for time saving measures and not spending time researching social media best practices.
I can help with that! Why the hell should you listen to me? *clears throat and sits up straighter* My day job is working as a university public relations person. Social media is my area of expertise. I’ve done oodles of research in the area, have mega oodles of training, and have presented at higher education conferences and writing groups.
Ok, enough about me. Let’s talk about Twitter. Social media is not black and white – there is gray area. What I talk about below are best practices and suggestions, not strict rules. They are proven strategies to improve the experience for your user. Much like head-hopping isn’t outlawed in fiction and can be seen in books by proven authors, it’s strongly discouraged (especially among the newly published and pre-published). Yes, I’m going to use a lot of writing similes and I apologize in advance.
Twitter tip: Don’t sync Facebook to Twitter
I can hear folks now. “But whyyyyy? It’s so fast and easy! What’s the harm?”
Twitter and Facebook were created with different purposes in mind. Twitter has a short character limit (for the time being, anyway…) because it is meant for quick and succinct updates. Plus, people like Facebook and Twitter for different reasons. Some may follow you on all of your platforms. Don’t you think they may get bored if they see the exact same thing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Mix it up a bit! Others are adamantly opposed to certain platforms. If someone hates Facebook and refuses to use it, having your tweets direct that person to Facebook won’t make them a happy camper.
In writing terms, syncing Facebook to Twitter is the social media equivalent of telling instead of showing. Take a look at these blurred-to-be-anonymous examples of synced posts.
What’s the issue here? This tweet doesn’t tell you anything. Unless you’re the type of person who must solve absolutely EVERY MYSTERY you have no reason to click on this. When I clicked that link, it took me to a photo the author had shared from another page. Alternative suggestion: Save the photo you want to share and upload it into Twitter and paste the link to the source’s Facebook page in the Tweet to cite it. This way the image will appear in someone’s Twitter feed instead of making it one click away.
What’s the issue here? It has engaging language and looks enticing, right? The problem is this is saying you want all of your interaction to happen on Facebook. Why have a Twitter account at all? Someone has to go to Facebook to read the rest of it and then comment on the Facebook post. Or, you’re asking them to see this tweet, go to Facebook and read the rest, then come back to Twitter and reply? Alternative suggestion: Summarize what you’re saying in a tweet then put a link for more information. This way you’re giving the full nugget on Twitter for those who don’t want to click to Facebook, but giving them the option to read more (thus avoiding the dreaded ellipses). If it’s too long to be summarized in one tweet, see my suggestion below for making tweet threads (or write a blog post and tweet the link).
Twitter tip: Don’t DM new followers
Do you ever follow someone on Twitter then you get a direct message from them thanking you for the follow or trying to sell you something? Whenever I do I automatically unfollow that person.
Ok, maybe my response is a bit harsh. I would much rather see a more personalized response via a tweet instead of a direct message. If you get a new follower, instead of spamming their inbox with a thank you – take a moment to check out their profile and tweet them about something you found interesting. Or better yet, just don’t send anything at all. People don’t expect to be thanked for following you. Instead, focus your energy on crafting interesting tweets that your followers would be interested in.
As for the auto-DMs with sales links or links to info about unpublished books? That can come across a bit on the pushy side. A link in your Twitter bio is enough.
Twitter tip: Reply to your own tweet to create a thread
Do you ever see someone post multiple tweets and they show up in a nice linked thread? It’s such a neat way to get around the Twitter character limit if you’re talking about something more in-depth. I see a lot of people doing that with writing tips or addressing serious issues.
The best way to do that is post your first tweet then reply to that tweet. Erase the “@(your username)” (Twitter will remember it’s a reply to you, it’s already in the back-end code) and write your next tweet. Want a third? Reply again, erase your username and tweet. Just keep going as long as you want. If someone clicks on your first tweet all of the replies will show up chronologically. If someone clicks on a later tweet, they can see the previous replies. It’s also nice to put a number at the beginning or end so people know right away they are part of a series. For example: “1) blah blah blah blah” or “blah blah blah 2/?”
What happens if you tweet a series of things without using the reply function? Someone may see one of the tweets and not realize it’s part of a series. If they wanted to read more they’d have to go to your profile and scroll down to find the tweet series they’re looking for. It’s clunkier and takes more effort on your audience’s part.
Next time I’ll share some tips for using Facebook.