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Using Twitter to (Effectively) Build Your Fanbase and Market Your Book

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What’s it like dining at a crowded restaurant?

You know the ones I’m talking about — the place is loud, busy and it’s difficult to hear the person sitting right across the table.

How many people does it take to create that uninviting atmosphere? 100? 200, at most?

Now, imagine a restaurant filled with half a billion other patrons. Shudder. In that case, you couldn’t hear your dinner date, even if he was screaming in your ear!

If you’re on Twitter, congratulations: you have a reserved table at the world’s most jam-packed restaurant.

Alone in a Crowd

With that much shouting, it’s no wonder you’ve found yourself confuzzled about what’s supposed to make this Twitter thing so awesome. If you’ve thrown tweets in to the wind…and heard nary a whisper back, you’re certainly not alone.

But, you do have some issues.

Here’s the thing: Twitter’s getting a bit…stifling. Clicking ‘tweet’ and hoping for an instant throng of adoring fans isn’t going to work anymore.

Once upon a time, that did work. Twitter was hip and exclusive (like that trendy new restaurant off the beaten path). You could tweet something pithy, shocking, or spectacular and go viral, gaining you more fans than you could count, instantly.

Not so anymore. See, everyone else noticed how well that was working and wanted to get in on the action, too. Well, poop.

Goodbye, trendy. Hello, Applebees.

So, like it or not, getting those 500 million others in the room to check out your book is not going to happen. You can, however, create your own cozy corner of the Twitterverse with a more intimate setting.

Even better: you’ll save more time and be more effective than those practicing ‘wind-tweeting.’

How? You know our shtick: slow down, be consistent — and check out these tips:

5 Keys to Building Your Fanbase on Twitter

Note: these tips are for someone who’s relatively comfortable with Twitter basics. If this stuff makes your head spin, check out Joel’s guide to Twitter for terrified newbies!

#1: Focus on making connections.

I hate to break it to you, but effective Twitter use isn’t a hands-off endeavor.

While processes to instantly accrue thousands of followers exist, Twitter success isn’t strictly a numbers game. It’s not about how many followers you have, but the quality of the connection between you.

To get a picture of your REAL Twitter sway, mentally list the followers you (1) know by name and (2) have had a meaningful conversation with. I bet it’s WAY less than your total count!

Foster personal connections by mentioning folks personally, not in mass. Create value. Start conversations. Give freely. You know, all that stuff we teach for promotion applies perfectly to Twitter, as well.

#2: Be focused.

We hate wasting time, and so do you. Before you log on to Twitter again, go in with a game plan. Ask yourself:

  • Who do I want to reach? Many authors reach out to other authors (instead of readers) on Twitter, and that’s great. BUT, if you do that, don’t endlessly market your book. Make community and camaraderie your focus, instead.
  • What will I tweet? Create a list of what you want to achieve through tweeting (your objectives) and the types of tweets that will guide you in that direction. For best results, mix up your tweets: musings from your daily life, conversations, quotes, links, etc. Keep things random and non-robotic!

#3: Use hashtags wisely.

Hashtags are an awesome way to find like-minded folks (#geek FTW!), but be cool about how you use them:

  • Follow the rules. Some hashtags are “set aside” for specific purposes and have their own rules. #MyWANA, for example, is strictly against automation and linking to your own work.
  • Quality matters. Search for recent tweets that include the hashtag. If it’s all spam and no interaction, the tag isn’t of much use.
  • Quantity matters…somewhat. If you’re including a hashtag to be funny, like “It’s a chilly fall day in Florida! #what67degreesiscold,” popularity doesn’t matter. If you’re including a hashtag to be seen, however, research the popularity of the hashtag to ensure it’ll garner attention.
  • Don’t go tag-crazy. Include no more than 2-3 hashtags in your tweet, lest things start to look spam-tastic: “Check out the first chapter of my book! https://lin.ky/12345 #writing #authors #stories #selfpub #indiepub
  • Be relevant.  I hope this goes without saying, but only use hashtags relevant to your tweet. Don’t include a hashtag just because it’s popular or trending: “Check out the first chapter of my forthcoming novel! https://lin.ky/12345 #happybirthdayeminem

For a full list of writing (and reading)-related hashtags (and a great primer on how to use them), check out the guide from Writer’s Road Trip.

#4: Participate in Twitter chats.

Twitter chats are fun, fast-moving ways to connect with readers and other authors.

While the best way to learn about chats is to jump right in (sorry!), don’t try to follow them from your home feed, lest your eyes glaze over after 10 seconds (ask me how I know!)

Connecting with TweetChat makes chats way more pleasant, and it’s easy-as-pie to use: just enter in the chat’s hashtag, and you’re good to go. TweetChat automatically appends the chat’s hashtag to your tweets, too, so all you have to worry about is participating. Woot!

Finding Relevant Chats

The below is a sampling of current (popular) chats. Since there are approximately a gajillion, however, check out the full list of writing-related chats on InkyGirl’s website and an exhaustive list of all Twitter chats (you never know where that crazy-dedicated fan is lurking!)

New chats are always being created, so share your faves in the comments — or start up your own!

#5: Create a customized dashboard.

Using your home feed to keep an eye on your followers (and followees) is like watching the credits at the end of a movie. You MEAN to pay attention to see who played the very-attractive Thug #2, but eventually you just get overwhelmed (or bored) and give up.

Instead, use an app like HootSuite to create separate “streams” for the people, lists and hashtags you love most.

As an example, our dashboard includes a list of other peeps from the self-pub blogging community, our conversations/mentions and searches for topics where we can add to the discussion.

Use Your Time Wisely

You don’t have extra time to waste on social media, so write down three ways to streamline your Twitter usage (based on the tips above) and post it near your computer. Whenever you feel your grip on Twitter slipping, refer to the tips to get back on track!

Talk Back

Tell me this: how do YOU use Twitter? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels instead of making progress? Or, what Twitter-ninja tips do you have for other authors? Let’s chat in the comments!

  • Great advice. Learning to ‘use’ Twitter goes far beyond the basics, so this piece is a great outline of some of the steps that should be taken.

    I tend to split Twitter into thirds: One third of the time, I share content from my own blog/website. I’ve formed something of a backlist now, so people who may have missed ancient blog posts get the occasional opportunity to via tweet.

    Another third of the time, I share links from other websites. It’s important not to go crazy and to make sure you stay relevant with this. For example, I will be tweeting about this post because I believe it is relevant to my followers and something I’d love for them to read. I always @ attribute too instead of retweeting, mainly because it adds a personal touch and shows a little time and consideration has been taken in sharing. It’s a great way to build connections, too.

    The rest of the time, I use social media to be, well, social. I reply to comments. If a book or an album has blown my mind, I’ll say so. That element of personality is important, I believe.

    I wrote a blog post a while back about Twitter for writers, and the whole ‘rule of thirds’ thing, if the above summary seemed a little concise. :)


  • Toni, a very useful post with great tips. I especially like #5 because as your Twitter activity grows and you’re following more people, segmenting your Twitter streams becomes more and more essential because otherwise you’lll just feel overwhelmed. And thanks for the mention, too!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Joel! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I am *definitely* an ardent supporter of #5.

  • Hi Toni, Thanks for the tips. Tweetdeck changed my twitter life because it allowed me to sort tweets by subject and suddenly I could see all of the interesting stuff I wanted to comment on.
    I’m in a group called #mysteristas who chat every Tuesday (1EST/10PT) about Mysteries. We start with a specific question that we post ahead of time, then chat for one hour about it–kind of a flash-mob concept. Anybody can join in, so it’s a great chance to interact with each other and find new people who love mysteries, too!

    • Awesome, Diane! Thanks for sharing — hopefully it’s okay if I add it to the list above :-)

    • Of course! Thanks!

  • These are great tips, thanks for the list of chats. Those are great way to meet new people with similar interests, The other thing that I recently tried was promoting posts. In the past I have had a hard time measuring ROI on tweets and felt that the CTR was low. But I spent $5 to promote 3 post and ended up with 26 clicks and a 2.77% CTR (which is great for this venue). I was very impressed with these results and it ended up costing pocket change to let people know about my offer. I think that in the future it would be cost effective to budget a little money for promoted posts and promoting my profile.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Leslie! I hadn’t thought of promoting posts on Twitter, but it’s really interesting to hear from someone who has (and had a positive experience).

  • I use Hootsuite myself, and I love it. I have several streams, and it lets me schedule tweets. But I’m going to try participating in a chat. That’s one thing I haven’t done.

    • I’m a fellow HootSuiter (sure, that’s a thing), yay! I highly encourage you to try out a chat. It might (will?) be a bit overwhelming the first time, but the more you do, the more fun you’ll have. Let me know what you think!

  • Great post! I use Hootsuite, too, and wouldn’t be without it. Having separate streams for lists keeps me sane. 😉

    I do think your #2 tip is essential – no-one wants to converse with a robot (well, I don’t!) I like to see a mix of personal, book-related (as a reader, rather than a writer) informational and helpful. :)

    • Exactly, and that mix will be different for every author, so it’s up to each one of us to experiment and figure out what works best for our readers! I totally hear you on the HootSuite lists, too…I couldn’t use Twitter without them. :-)

  • Lots of good advice here Toni and definitely one which I’ve bookmarked for future reference and reading. I also love using the Buffer extension on my Chrome browser – https://www.bufferapp.com. This allows me to spread out my posts during the day (or night). Have you tried it?

    • Oh man, I would be seriously hurting without Buffer. Love it SO very much, Vikram :-)

  • Daniel McInerny

    This is a very good advice, ladies. Thank you!

  • Jordan McCollum

    A little clarification on #MyWANA–it’s a tag for writers to find each other, socialize and share resources. WANA stands for “We Are Not Alone.” Here’s the explanation by the “founder,” @KristinLambTX : https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/join-the-love-revolution-mywana/ She specifically mentions tweeting her own blog posts with the hashtag, so I’ve always thought linking to that type of your work is fine. Happens quite a bit, actually. (On the other hand, spamming #MyWANA with your book link, as you mention–I report people who do that as spammers.)

    I’ve liked TweetDeck better than HootSuite, but both are GREAT for managing your Twitter!

  • Another great twitter chat you may want to add – #indiechat I host it with Miral Sattar and it has been trending every week. It is designed for indie authors and is every Tue from 9-10pm EST :)

    • Thanks Kate! I can’t believe I missed your great chat — added to the list :-)

    • Thanks for the add Toni! :) We have a marketing chat tonight! Hopefully we’ll see Duolit there!

    • See you there! I’m in the middle of re-vamping my twitter usage (hence why I’m reading this article) and that sounds right up my alley.

    • We’ll be so glad to have you join us! I will be hosting this Tuesday’s chat with Pubslush as our guest. I’m @Froze8 on Twitter and I’ll host from the @BiblioCrunch account :).
      I’m also planning on starting a #K8chat this summer on Thursdays geared towards both authors and readers. :)

  • Bette A. Stevens

    Not often, not well. Thanks for the tips and the links! :)

  • Great article. Twitter takes more downright hard graft than any other form of social media, but perseverance pays dividends. I’m still not a major fan, tending towards wordy rather than pithy 140 character soundbites, but its a good amplification tool for your other platform elements (blog, FB etc.)