10 Tips For Getting Started On Twitter

Guest Expert: Joel Friedlander

Social media keeps making news and attracting hundreds of millions of followers. It’s estimated that Twitter has 75 million members who sent 25 billion Tweets in 2010.

In the last year it’s become common for Twitter to get mentioned on national news programs and celebrity shows, with Tweets being shown onscreen with growing regularly. The popularity of Twitter for celebrities like Sarah Palin, KimKardashian and KeithOlbermann to engage with their audience and post instant responses to news events and comments by others has brought the micro-blogging site tremendous prominence.

So, how can an author get started on Twitter and learn to use this incredible real-time tool? Here’s a rundown on 10 tips to help supercharge your Twitter experience.

  1. Change that avatar! After you’ve signed up for a Twitter account at the opening screen, you’ll have a chance to customize your profile. This is one of the most important steps you can take because it establishes your “brand” on the service and creates the atmosphere you want to convey to the rest of the Twitter universe. As an author, this is where your branding starts.
  2. Complete the bio Another crucial task that you shouldn’t overlook. The bio, which allows you to further brand yourself in 160 characters, will show up in searches of all kinds. Give some real thought to what you want this to say.
  3. Show up From statistics it looks like many people who set up Twitter accounts never use them or abandon them after a few weeks. That’s too bad, because this has to be the easiest form of social media to use. But first you have to give it a try. Spending time just reading and following other user’s tweets for even 10 or 15 minutes a day, will quick make you feel right at home.
  4. Brand the background Last among the setup tasks, bring the branding of your website or blog to your Twitter background. This is just an image file you or a designer can create that loads “behind” the Twitter panel on your home page. Consistency across platforms lets us know we’re dealing with the same trusted source in each location.
  5. Social proof matters I don’t think a Twitter user’s usefulness is determined by the number of followers they have. It’s more about engagement and helpful content. But you can’t ignore the element of social proof. As you find more people to network with in your field of interest your followers will naturally grow.
  6. Be sincere A lot of posts on Twitter are indecipherable to the newcomer, as people attempt to shorten their thoughts and links to meet the 140-character limit. This can result in strings of text that barely qualify as English. However, it’s still important to you and to your readers that you come across as a real person with real interests and concerns.
  7. Use Twitter search The biggest challenge facing new authors on Twitter is: Who should I follow? Amongst the millions of Twitter users, how will you find people who have something interesting to say, or who post links that you would find useful? This is where Twitter search comes in. You can start with search.twitter.com by simply searching on keywords within your niche. There are also third-party services that aggregate users by their interests or fields of expertise. Another way to find likely “follows” is to look at thought leaders in your field and follow their followers.
  8. Identify collaborators You’ll soon run into hashtags, a way to signal to other users what your Tweet is about. These appear with the pound sign (#) or hashtag at the beginning of a word or phrase. Because most people who take part in the discussion understand this, they include the hashtag in their posts, making them discoverable to a search. You will undoubtedly come across these in your Twitter reading, and when you see one just click on it and take a look at all the recent tweets on the same subject.
  9. Provide context and engagement with pictures Did you know you can post photos and other graphics to Twitter? You can do this easly through Twitpic links. Many dramatic shots from recent news events around the world are first seen on Twitter. But even if you’re showing a picture of your new book cover, it’s a great way to add an engaging element to a tweet.
  10. Tweet great content Like all blogging, your growth on Twitter will depend largely on one thing—great content. It might seem ridiculous to talk about content that’s only 140 characters long, but once you get used to the short form text, you’ll be surprised at how tweets can vary in their quality. Great ideas, interesting connections, humorous thoughts, news updates and links to genuinely valuable content will gain you lots of supportive and engaged followers.

Okay, tweeters, you’ve got a plan. You know how to get set up, how to get started, how to begin to find your community, and how to give—and get—value from Twitter. Tweet on.

Joel Friedlander is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, a publishing services company in San Rafael, CA, that has launched many self-publishers. Joel is a book designer, a self-published author, and blogs about publishing, book design and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com.
Follow Joel on Twitter

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