According to its website, Twitter is, “…an information network that brings people closer to what’s important to them.” One of the most popular social media networks, Twitter is an instrument that connects its tweeting members with their enthusiasms. In effect, Twitter is a virtual gathering spot for special interest communities—which makes it a great "place" to find an audience for your book.
What is Twitter and Why Do I Need to Know About It?
You probably already know this much about Twitter: sending a “tweet”—which must be 140 characters or less—is like sending out a little bite of information often linked to more information, such as a photo, a web page, etc. But the tiny size of those info tidbits belie the power of tweeting.
As a “microblogging” platform for subject mavens and their followers*, Twitter also can be a powerful and effective part of a strategic author promotion and/or book marketing campaign—if it is used wisely.
*(If you truly are new to Twitter, I’ve marked some unfamiliar terms with an asterisk. Don’t worry, I explain those in another article. For now, read this overview.)
What Makes Twitter Good for Book Promotion?
Social media and other marketing gurus have taken to using the phrase “discoverability”—the ability for potential audiences to find you and your book. It is Twitter’s capacity to make you “discoverable” that makes it so appealing.
As on other social media platforms, such as Facebook, the information you share on Twitter is automatically posted to your followers. However, one of the marketing advantages to the Twitterverse is that anyone interested in a subject can easily search for related information. This means, if you tweet your topic well, you will be very “discoverable”: the search functionality makes your tweets a potential audience-magnet for you and your book.
How to use Twitter for Book and Author Promotion
Note the word potential in the previous paragraph. Like so many things in life, Twitter is easy to use, but it takes a little practice to use it effectively. The good news is it won’t take long to get up to speed.
• Get Tweeting now!
While it’s never too late to start, it’s really never too early either. Even if your publication date is a year or more out, you can begin building followers for your topic, and finding your Twitter “voice” before the pressure of the publication is upon you.
(For the newbies: It’s free and easy to set up a Twitter account but, if you need help, my About.com Social Media Guide colleague will take you through the steps of opening a Twitter account.)
• Make sure your Twitter handle and your profile reflect your goals
It’s generally recommended that you use your @firstnamelastname as your twitter handle—but that’s not always possible (in fact, my own personal Twitter handle is @PetersonValerie because the alternatives were taken). Just make sure that your handle and your profile reflect what you want your followers to know about you. Whether it’s “Marathon runner, business owner, mother of seven, author of Delicious Dinners in 10 Minutes or Less,” or “Former championship arm wrestler, arm-wrestling coach, author of It’s Not About the Bicep,” your profile should attract like-minded souls.
• Remember it’s “social” media; treat Twitter like conversation
Sure, you have a book to sell—but how would you feel if every time you spoke to an acquaintance he tried to sell you something? You’d avoid him like the plague, right? It’s the same with tweeting. Think of Twitter as a conversation, not a hard sell. The more someone likes what you have to share in your tweets, the more likely he or she will be to check out your book.
• And speaking of sharing …
Twitter is the place to share yourself, your worldview and your topical expertise via how you curate what comes at you every day… Tweet and retweet* only what you truly value in some way (you should show you value colleagues and friends with generous retweets and mentions.*) Share your latest article, your friends’ latest articles, your comments on what you love. To engage your potential book audience, offer up yourself…
• But offer up your best self
You want to use Twitter to showcase your personality and offer your opinions and even share some personal details—but your tweets shouldn’t be a running commentary on the mundane details of your everyday life, such your fascination with your own toenail clippings (note: this rule does not apply to comics or celebrities).
And while you should feel free to have opinions, be careful that you don’t come off as rude or insulting or overly negative. Again it helps to remember that Twitter is a conversation—don’t do anything that might shut the conversation down: it could also turn off potential book buyers and the goal, of course, is to engage them.
So... are you ready to dip your toe into the Twitterstream—or ready to make your tweeting more effective? If so, here are some specifics about how to hold a Twitter "conversation"and some publishing-specific Twitter hashtag that will help make you more “discoverable” as a writer.
And, while you’re at it, you might want to learn more about other types of book marketing and publicity.