Twitter Tips for Newbies: Authors and Writers
Updated: Jan 2
Engaging on Twitter was a daunting task for me! I have been on Twitter since 2010 but I only lurked and scrolled, and had only a handful of followers. Then, in November 2018, I suddenly found a purpose to be on Twitter and that was to connect with other writers in the #WritingCommunity.
Emma’s Twitter Tips for Newbies Series
Part 1 – Twitter Tips for Newbies - this blog post
Part 2 – More Twitter Tips for Newbies
Part 3 - Even More Twitter Tips for Newbies
And so began my journey of stumbling through the Twitterverse. With a bit of research and plenty of mistakes, I eventually started to figure out how to rein in this multi-headed beast. I began posting Twitter Tips threads to throw a life ring out to other newbies. But I was surprised to have Award-winning Historical Fantasy author and Twitter veteran JD Stanley (@jdstanleywrites), who has been on Twitter since 2013 and has over 27k followers, jump aboard my bot tips post with these comments:
"I’m STILL cleaning up mine [followers] from my first year back when I didn’t know anything yet. So much junk. I hope it [the bot post] saves some people that agony. Where were you when I had to find out all this stuff myself?"
Now, I’m no expert. I’m simply a Twitter user, like you. I have fumbled my way to an understanding of what works for me. Under the umbrella of being the #WritingCommunityMum, here is a compilation of all my Twitter Tips for newbies. Please feel free to pick and choose what works for you.
To maximise engagement with your followers and others in the #WritingCommunity, you might like to try a couple of these tricks of the trade:
Retweeting a post is a great way of sharing something you like – a retweeted post also shows up on YOUR feed, so your followers can see it. If your followers comment on a post you retweeted, you too can see what they say and respond, if you wish
Did you know, with ‘Retweet With Comment’, no one in original thread sees your comment because it’s only on your feed? So if a post asks a question, rather reply directly to the post so that everyone else can see your answer and engage with you
If you ‘Retweet With Comment’, it’s Twitter etiquette to tag the original poster in your comment
Tagging games are super fun and are a highly interactive way to engage. Start one today – be creative and use humour. See for yourself! But take care not to tag long lists of people as Twitter's rules forbid 'follow train' behaviour and you will be suspended.
Did you know, it’s Twitter etiquette to un-tag others in tag games? This prevents their notifications blowing up, especially if you end up in a humorous GIF war or an ongoing conversation with someone. Highly amusing to the 2 or 3 people involved, but not to the 47 others in the thread
Joining in Conversations
Not got much to tweet about today? Check out what your favourite followers are doing and jump into their conversations
It’s okay to jump into conversations – Twitter is a public platform and interaction with others is key for building your online presence
It is not okay to troll conversations where you throw in a Molotov cocktail for the fun of watching the conversation ignite
If a conversation goes pear-shaped and makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to mute the conversation and/or unfollow those who made you uncomfortable. It’s okay to ensure your Twitter feed remains a place you are happy to come to
Not feeling witty with words? Ask a simple question and get people to reply with GIFs only. Hilarious results!
Engage with, laugh with and support folks in the #WritingCommunity – we can’t see you if you’re lurking in the wings
Follow Back Etiquette
It’s okay to not automatically follow back everyone. Screen your followers and DELETE BOTS (more about bots later). Screening followers is highly recommended to ensure you are compatible with people and are happy to see their content come up on your feed
It is not okay to follow people and then immediately unfollow when they follow back just to inflate your follower numbers. People are smarter than that and you will find yourself unfollowed too. Plus it is a Twitter violation and your account will be suspended.
Your Twitter = Your Rules! Build the kind of platform you want, with followers you are happy to see on your feed
What is DM?
A direct message (aka PM = private message) is a personal and private way to message someone on Twitter. Only you and the other person in the DM can see the content.
Who can DM who?
Any two people following each other on Twitter.
Must I ask permission first before sending a DM?
Yes, it is Twitter etiquette to ask someone first on their public feed if you can contact them privately.
But what if they say no?
Respect their reply and don’t invade their privacy.
When is it appropriate to approach someone about a DM?
Once you have established an online connection with someone and you both agree to chat privately off your main feeds.
Can I personally thank someone for following me in a DM?
Sliding into someone’s DM uninvited is poor form. This can make some people very uncomfortable - it's like knocking on a stranger’s front door and immediately seating yourself in their lounge room. Rather tag and thank them on your main feed. An @ mention is more meaningful when everyone else sees your thanks publicly and realises what an awesome person you are.
Using a DM to hit on someone is a NO NO – that’s what Tinder is for
Should I promote my product or service directly via DM?
Only if you want to risk finding yourself instantly unfollowed. This kind of hard sell is a hard pass for some people and you may lose their following if you spam their DM with marketing or advertising.
It’s okay to promote your book on Twitter – be loud and proud about it but don’t overdo it. Over-promotion is a huge turn-off for some folks.
Some social media gurus say to use DMs to promote your services or products. In my experience on Twitter in the #WritingCommunity, most people loathe DM promotion, so use it at your discretion. I haven’t come across one person yet who has bought someone’s book through a DM promotion. I have, however, seen plenty of followers buy books from people they are engaged with and connected to on Twitter.
Basic Nuts and Bolts of Twitter
If you wake up to find your Twitter Mentions on one of your posts have EXPLODED (which is lovely and flattering, but can be overwhelming too), here are some tips to manage this.
Viewing ‘ALL’ vs ‘MENTIONS’ in Notifications
Click on the notification bell symbol
You will see two options: ALL or MENTIONS
‘ALL’ shows you every comment, like and re-tweet on EVERY SINGLE post you are tagged in
‘MENTIONS’ shows you only the comments of the posts you are tagged in
If you are short on time, just click on MENTIONS to be able to view or reply to those followers who have commented
If you have a bit more time up your sleeve, peruse ALL to see all activity
How to reply to only the original tagger
Twitter etiquette, when replying to post with a few other accounts listed, is to reply only to the original person who tagged you—you should untag all others in the conversation to prevent their notifications blowing up
When you reply to a post with other accounts tagged, at top of reply screen, you will see names of people in BLUE
Click on blue names to open a list of all people in the conversation
All the names will be TICKED GREEN
Click on the ‘Others in this conversation’ check mark and all check marks will turn GREY, except the original tagger
Now your reply will go to only that person instead of everyone
How to un-tag as explained in a quick video by @AstroKatie: https://twitter.com/astrokatie/status/988819255750688771?lang=en
What if people have not un-tagged me and my notifications are blowing up?
You can MUTE the conversation:
Open original post
Click GREY DOWN ARROW in top right corner of the message
A drop-down menu will open
Select ‘Mute this conversation’
But I don't want to miss out on seeing everyone's comments
If you don’t want to miss out but you want the notifications to stop, you can mute the conversation but save the post to your ‘Bookmarks’ or ‘Moments’. Then you can come back to the post throughout the day to see what’s happening and chat to people who have tagged you.
What is a bot?
I’m not even going to try and begin to explain it myself … have a look at this for a detailed explanation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_bot.
Scammers use bots to troll people and hook unsuspecting followers into money scams, usually under the guise of offers of love or friendship.
Ultimately, you do not want bots following you. Following bots back just to inflate your follower numbers isn’t cool either. You also risk being suspended if you engage with bot accounts, even if it's as a joke to then screenshot and share their responses with your followers. Just block 'em!
Red flags to spot bots
Any number of these combinations can mean it’s a bot (my rule of thumb is that if they tick three or more of these boxes, I BLOCK them):
Twitter handle is followed by a string of random numbers (note: some people use a Twitter-generated handle and this can have lots of numbers in it too, but they are real people – see if they tick any of the other boxes too)
No profile pic (some brand newbies haven’t got around to putting a profile pic in – it’s best to get one up as soon as you can so people don’t think you’re a bot)
No banner picture and the banner is still Twitter blue (again, a rookie mistake – your feed will look a whole lot more attractive if you personalise your banner)
Image of the person used in profile pic is also used in profile banner and appears multiple times in the feed
Spelling and grammar in the bio or in tweets doesn’t make sense
Bio proclaims occupation as doctor, surgeon, military, government, engineer, oil rigger, bit coin miner, SEO expert, orphans from Gambia, prince or famous celebrity (genuine celebrities have the blue check beside their name)
Bio explains that they are a nice person, honest, loving, looking for love, looking for a new mother/father for their child, God-loving, God-fearing, or they belong to some military or government organisation; bio claims to be a writer (including using #WritingCommunity hashtag) but content of posts do not reflect this
Profile pic and/or banner shows soldiers in uniform, surgeons in scrubs or flashy cars and yachts, oil rigs, beautiful girls, beautiful scenery or is an inspirational quote
Main ‘Tweets’ feed only has retweets
'Tweets & replies’ feed has no personal interaction with people or has sleazy comments about connecting through email or DM (direct message) or replies with “Hi beautiful” or “Hello dear” or "Can I DM you?"
They instantly DM when you follow – hitting you up for love or money and beginning the message with “Hello dear” or "Hey beautiful"; or making inappropriate comments about your marital status and propositioning you; or replying with promiscuous photos (if this happens, don’t panic and don’t respond – just instantly BLOCK)
Low number of followers disproportionate to the high number of people they are following (it's a computer clicking on following all those followers - also known as a click farm)
Bots are like the junk mail of Twitter. You don’t feel guilty chucking away junk mail from your letterbox or deleting spam from your email inbox, do you? Just chuck ‘em all in the bin!
Building A Following
As of September 2019, Twitter has introduced new follow rules: you will have your account suspended for buying follows, initiating or participating in 'follow trains', and following a ton of people and then immediately unfollowing them to inflate your numbers.
Twitter regularly cleans up bought follows and bots and you will find your fake figures will plummet when this happens - plus you now risk having your account deleted. Also, many people on Twitter are savvy and can spot this type of number harvesting from a mile away and will avoid you like the plague.
The best way to grow your following is ENGAGEMENT. Yes it's a slow process. Yes it takes time and energy. But it is the authentic way to build relationships with people online (just as you do in real life). Your followers will grow organically if you are yourself - you will attract like-minded folks to your Twitter feed.
I know it doesn't seem like you'll ever get up to the 1000 follower mark! But in my experience, once I reached that milestone, my twitter posts suddenly caught traction. Was this to do with my sparkling personality? I'd like to think that had a little to do with it but most likely it was the Twitter algorithms that suddenly found me in the Twitterverse and started pushing me out there more (I do not profess to even begin understanding how this works!)
My biggest successes in gaining followers has come from helping people
I offer Twitter tips, as well as sharing my writing and editing process. I also rally my troops to support those with fewer than 1000 followers. If you're going to do this, please caution other newbies not to blind follow and to screen their followers. Post fun stuff too: funny memes, hilarious polls or unique writing prompts - anything that gets your followers connecting, laughing and chatting with you and with one another.