How to get the best out of using Twitter

It’s Thursday and I’m back with my mini Social Media Series.  Today’s topic is Twitter!  I am admitting I’m no expert.  Also, this will not be on ALL social media because I’m not on all of them.

This is more about what I’ve learned, what works and what doesn’t. Things I’ve learnt, things that have helped me (or hindered me).  Hopefully, some of this will be useful to you guys too 🙂

The Social Media Series: How to get the best out of using Twitter. Image: Social media icons

What Twitter Is

Twitter is considered the “soapbox” of social media.  It’s a micro-blogging site where people sent out small, bite-size messages.  Each tweet allows for 280 characters, so you have to be succinct in your message.

What is your Twitter Purpose?

Twitter is still one of the most popular social media platforms.  However, it’s not for everyone.

Like with everything, you need a purpose when using Twitter.  Maybe you just want to keep in touch with friends or blurt out random thoughts, fine.

But if you plan on using it as part of your marketing or brand building, you need to go into it with a purpose.

Many people start on Twitter and then it quickly fizzles out.  I started on Twitter in 2016, I had no plan and no connections (none of my family or friends was on it) and it was hard to build up any kind of following.

This is why you need to have a purpose and a strategy.  Define what you want to get from using this platform – driving traffic, building a following, gain sales?  Whatever it is, define it!

I see people all the time, following me and if I follow back, I’m suddenly bombarded with DM messages with links to their books or a feed full of “buy my book” Tweets.  Not surprising then, that I will un-follow them immediately.

Let’s look at some stats and data

Knowing who is using Twitter, can help determine whether or not it’s worth your time.

As of the 2nd quarter of 2018, there was an average of 335 million monthly active users. (source: Statista – 2018)

This statistic shows the share of adults in the United States who were using Twitter as of January 2018, sorted by age group. During that period of time, 40 percent of respondents aged between 18 and 29 years stated that they used the microblogging platform.  (source:Statista)

Twitter is a great place to build a community as it’s used by a large range of ages and it’s around 50/50 male/female with a broad interest range.

Get started on Twitter

Don’t get on Twitter because everyone else is on it.  Get on Twitter because you want to learn how to use it and make it work for you.

Unlike other social media, Twitter is fast moving and it’s believed that the average half-life of a tweet is around 24 minutes.  (source: Mtomconsulting.com, 2016)

This means you really do need to go in this a plan to make your tweets counts.

Anyway, let’s start with the basics.

Profile

Name

When you start with Twitter you select a Username.  This is the part that is used when tagging and can be seen with the @ symbol.

As well as the username, you have a section for your “name”.  So if your username is something random or say, connected to your blog or novel etc.  You can then put in your name/pen name as well.

Screenshot of name on Twitter

Here you can see mine.  I have the option to change the top “name” part.  People do this to show they are taking a hiatus, showing what they are working on etc.  eg “Ari Meghlen is Editing”.

I personally like to keep my usernames as my name, this just makes it easier.

Avatar

Screenshot of Twitter's Avatar imageYou can add an avatar image to your Twitter.  The standard one Twitter gives used to be an egg, now it’s a little blob person, as you can see here.

Do take the time to change it.  People get very squirrely about following accounts with this template avatar.  So, make sure to add a photo of yourself, a picture of your dog, book cover, photo of an ice cream cone… whatever you feel, but do change it.

I like to use the same avatar I use for all my social media.  Again, I’m branding them all so they are instantly recognisable as me! 😀

Profile Bio

You get 160 characters to create a profile bio.  Again, like the avatar, take your time and complete this.

Your profile can have hashtags, so use them wisely.  In the profile (not part of the 160 characters) you can have 1 link and include your location.

Decide what website/blog etc you want to link to in your Twitter Bio.  Avoid using shortened links.  Many people don’t like clicking them.

Tell people about yourself.  Give them information that will show them what might be in your Twitter feed.  That way, you get to encourage people to follow you who would be interested in that.

Screenshot of my twitter bio profile

This is my current bio profile that gives people a little insight into me. 🙂

Banner

There is a section to include a banner across the top of your account.  This can be used to advertise your book, tell people about what you do etc.  I’ve seen people show their social media account details on their banner, details of their story such as chapter excerpts etc

Screenshot of my Twitter banner

Here is my banner, I included the image from my website header as well as my current tagline.  I also added in a few other images connected to it.  I wanted it to stand out and let people know that I am a writer and blogger.

Twitter Menu bar

Your home page shows the feed which is the tweets of people you follow.  You also have Moments, Notifications & Messages tabs.

Moments

“Twitter Moments enable users to stitch together multiple tweets into slideshow-like stories. When they originally launched, Moments were intended to help Twitter users keep up with what the world is talking about at any given time without having to follow loads of new people or watch trending topics closely.”  (source: Buffer, 2016)

I believe these are like “Stories” on Instagram.

Personally, I’ve never used them (for that).  I marked the odd tweet as a Moment just as a reminder for me when I needed to find them again. :p

Notifications

When someone follows you, likes your tweet, retweets your tweet or leaves a comment, you get a notification.

You also get a notification if someone does any of that to someone else, where you are tagged in.

Which can mean you can get a lot of notifications.  These are broken down into “all Notifications” and “Mentions”.

Selecting the “Mentions” tab at the top of Notifications can filter out all the likes, follows and retweets leaving you with any messages to respond to.

Messages

Twitter does have a DM (direct messaging) ability.  However, most Twitter users do not accept unsolicited DMs and you can only DM someone if you follow them and they follow you.

Messaging is definitely something to be avoided until it’s been agreed.  Also, while I’ve seen it suggested to writers to use the “auto message” (this is where when someone follows, Twitter sends them an auto DM usually with a link to a website/book link), but I can say categorically – don’t!

It’s bad marketing, it’s spammy and you are more likely to lose followers than gain sales – unless you’re already a big name in books.

Using Twitter

What to tweet

Twitter is great for sharing views, making announcements, memes and jokes, current events and creating communities.

As with most social media, while you can (and should) tweet your own content.  For example, I tweet every one of my blog posts.  You should also be tweeting other people’s content and if possible, tag them in so they know you have done so.

You can do this by creating a tweet with a link or retweeting something they have already posted.

I like to keep a list of interesting articles and blog posts from other writers and store them, so I always have good content to share with my followers.

Types of Media

A tweet that is just text will last the average of 24 minutes.  However, add in a picture or gif and that tweet can last for an hour.

Pictures, videos and gifs are great visuals to add to tweets.  They are more engaging, more eye-catching and as I said, they last longer in people’s feeds.

Also, if you want to say more and the 280 characters in the tweet aren’t enough, then add it to a graphic or make a video and say it.

Below is a graphic I recently did where I shared an excerpt from my current WIP.  I would never have managed to fit all this on the tweet.  But by making it a picture, it drew more attention and lived longer.

Excerpt from The Blessed by Ari Meghlen

How often should you tweet?

There are different levels of thought on this.  It is recommended that you should tweet at least 5 times a day.  Especially if you are starting out. 

Some recommend 15 times a day.  Though many sources state not going above 30 times a day.

In the end, you don’t want to overfill people’s feed so I would recommend staying below 15 a day.

What time should you tweet?

I often see the times of 1 – 3pm being touted as the “best times” to tweet.  However, as with most things, it’s best to work out your own best times.

Currently, my best times to tweet are 12 noon – 3pm and 9pm weekdays, and 9pm weekends.

Try tweeting at different times and track your progress to see where the highest activity is.

How to analyze

Twitter activity

Twitter has its own analysis in the Twitter Activity graph.  If you go to your profile, it appears beside your timeline on the right-hand side.  This gives you some basics on activity.

Screenshot twitter activity

Here is the view of my last Twitter activity.  This information does give you an idea of when things slow down.

Tweroid

There is a free online software called Tweroid that can give you an analysis report.  This is a more detailed report that gives you stats on when your tweets get the most exposure and when most of your followers are online etc.

It connects to your Twitter profile and goes off your timezones listed on your Twitter settings.

Here’s a screenshot of my last report (Jul 2018).  You can see the best times for weekends on the left and a graph of my followers being online, on a Monday, on the right.

Screenshot of my July 2018 Tweriod

There is also a paid Premium version you can get for a deeper analysis.

Try Tweroid

Tagging people

You can tag people into tweets by using their username.  Simply use their @username in the tweet and it will send them a notification.

Do not do this for no reason or to try and sell.  You should only tag people if you are sharing their content, if you are sharing something they might find interesting, or tagging them into a game/challenge etc. (with that last one, be aware, not everyone wants to be tagged so think carefully about it)

Don’t use it to target people in hopes of drawing them in for no other reason than to sell.  Don’t overuse tagging as it can come across as spammy and get you blocked.

Using hashtags

Always use hashtags responsibility.  It’s recommended you stick to no more than 3 hashtags per tweet.  So consider what hashtags would have the best impact.  Don’t just fill your tweet with hashtags.

Add them into the text but still make it clear to read.   For example:

I #amwriting my current #fantasynovel and have just introduced a new character.  I think you are going to really like him.

Don’t cram every possible hashtag into your tweet as it will most likely have the opposite effect of what you were aiming for.

However, do add hashtags, Twitter is one of those places where people will search for relevant hashtags in order to connect with people.

Other things to consider

Don’t spam

Like all other platforms, nobody just wants to see your content, especially if it’s selling.  Add variety.  Include more personal tweets, share your thoughts, ask questions to create a dialogue, share other people’s videos and posts.

Lists

Use Twitter Lists.  This is where you can add a user to a list, creating a curated feed from all the people you want to hear from on a specific topic.

For example, I have created lists of writers I follow so that I can connect specifically with other writers.  You could have one for tech updates, readers, sci-fi fans etc.

These can be great to help you stay focused on a specific community and make stronger connections.

Learn to Untag people

If you get caught in a Twitter thread and there are lots of people tagged, such as a tagging game, you might want to untag them.

If people are tagged in and then you reply, your reply goes to everyone tagged.  After several replies, this thread can become long and people can get annoyed they are still seeing dozens of responses.

To Untag you simply go to reply and there will be a “Replying to….” just above the text box, listing everyone tagged.  Click these names and it opens up a drop-down where you can de-tag anyone who doesn’t need to see your reply.

I admit I am dreadful at remembering to do this but I am trying.  It can be great if you are in a long thread for #FF (Friday Follow).

Play Games To Connect

One thing I hear a lot is how people want to make friends and connections on Twitter, but they are finding it hard.  It’s like shouting into a blizzard.

My best advice is to join some Twitter games.  These are usually Hashtags games that give daily prompts/questions that people can follow along with.  These games create include communities around them.

How do I know this?

I created one.  I am the host of #TheMerryWriter game, designed for writers.  I run it with my co-host Rachel Poli, each month.

Here is the October 2018 Gameboard.

Screenshot of October 2018 #TheMerryWriter game board

Each day Rachel and I share the daily question and people answer it.  Not only that, they build connections.  The participants’ will chat, advise and encourage each other.  They learn about each other’s WIPs, find Betas and generally become part of this writing community.

There are loads of these games to try, not just ours (though if you want to, please follow me and Rachel and join in the fun).

So if you are not sure how to start connecting with other writers, search for some Twitter Hashtag games and join in.

Here are some great ones to try with excellent hosts:

#TheMerryWriter (of course) 😀

#AuthorConfession

#WIPJoy

#SensationalWIP

Use a Scheduler

I can’t stress this enough, if you want to be active on social media, get yourself a Scheduler!  This lets you organise and schedule some of your posts/tweets in advance so you don’t have to constantly be popping online.

I use Buffer for scheduling all my social media and I love it!  I do have the paid version (totally worth the money!), but there is a free version that lets you connect 3 accounts and schedule 10 posts each.  So give it a try and see what you think.

What are your tips for using Twitter? Share them in the comments below.

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Thanks to everyone who actually read all the way through this.   Do follow this blog if you aren’t already, I post lots of super content, several times a week!  

Also, how about following me on Twitter?  Go on, you know you want to!

Happy writing

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9 thoughts on “How to get the best out of using Twitter

  1. I’ve just joined Twitter, because it was the easiest way to communicate with another writer who was helping me with some research…and I am not liking it very much. The pace doesn’t work well for a non-smartphoner, (I suspected as much which is why I’ve avoided it so far) though the scheduling options would probably help. Anyway, this explanation makes it make more sense at least 😉 Your game sounds fantastic, though!

    • Hi Anne, i know what you mean. For a long time I just avoided it. I had it on my phone for 10 mins then removed it. I do find scheduling most of my tweets work a the best and always having images on them.

      It does take time to get used to and finding the right people can help

  2. As always Ari, above and beyond. You’re the best.

    I am surprised how much I enjoy twitter. When I first got on it was sort of an eye roll kind of thing but I’ve had a great time and I’ve met tons of fun people.

    The smartest thing I did was make sure everyone is a writer. I made the mistake on Facebook where it was one giant free for all. Lesson learned.

    • Hi Bryan, thanks for reading, glad you found this article helpful 😀 lol me too, I definitely did a lot of eye rolling.

      I think if you can get into or build a little community, it becomes a wonderful place for writers.

      I have to say, I have not yet become a fan of Facebook. Of all the social media platforms, I find it the least effective for everything.

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