Anyone who knows me knows that I’m just a little bit obsessed with Twitter at the moment. It’s hard not to be. As I write this, we’re all stuck in quarantine with not much to do, and what better way to spend time than working on blog posts and sharing them on Twitter for (potentially) thousands of people to see?
Twitter is a great marketing tool. Of all the social media accounts I have, it’s probably my favorite and where I get the most engagement for my website. But when I was just starting out, I was pretty overwhelmed with it despite how simple it looks at first glance. Now that I’ve (sort of) gotten the hang of things, I figured it could be helpful to provide the writing community with some tips on how to optimize their Twitter profiles/posts. So here they are!
A Good Bio Is Key
Good vs. Not So Good
- Tells people general info about you.
- Includes hashtags so people interested in similar things can find you.
- Includes link to your blog/website/Instagram or whatever you want people to check out.
- Has a call to action (Find me on Goodreads!).
- A little bit of humor doesn’t hurt!
Not So Good
- Doesn’t really tell anyone anything important about you.
- No hashtags, so it’s harder for you to be found by anyone.
- What does this bio even mean?
- No website link.
- Kind of makes you seem like you might be a bot.
It’s not uncommon for writers (and people on Twitter in general) to go on the hunt for new people to follow. Usually, relevant bios are what can make the difference between someone choosing to follow you and choosing to move on. When I get a new follow, my preference is to always follow them back, but one major factor in whether I feel it’s a good idea to do that or not is if their bio gives me enough information about them to tell me that they’re 1. Not a bot, 2. Not a creeper, and 3. Relevant to what I’m interested in following. When I see writers with detailed bios about what they write, what their work-in-progress is, and hashtags like #writer or #writingcommunity, I know that they’re someone who is invested in writing and will post content that other writers will be interested in looking at. A good bio doesn’t take very long to write, but it can get you many more followers than just a random quote, a couple of words, or nothing at all!
Let Go Of Your Pinned Tweet
My very first pinned tweet was when I started on Twitter and wanted to market Satyr to users everywhere. I considered it the perfect tweet: it told everyone who visited my profile all about my site and who else they should follow, it gave a quick introduction to what I was interested in (writing), and it was quick, simple, and to the point. Because it was pinned, it eventually became my tweet with the highest engagement, and I was convinced that I needed to keep it forever. Surely I couldn’t just replace a tweet that had far more likes and retweets than any other, could I?
But you can, and you should. Pinned tweets are great for drawing attention to anything new going on with your blog, channel, or business. It’s the first thing someone sees when they visit your profile, and while it’s great to have a very popular tweet drawing attention to what you’re all about in general, it’s even better to keep people updated on what you’re up to now. After all, tweets don’t last very long. When you tweet an announcement, the lifespan of that tweet depends entirely on who sees it first and whether or not they engage with it. But pinning a tweet gives you the chance to keep an announcement available for all to see longer term.
First Pinned Tweet vs. Most Recent Pinned Tweet
Retweet Your Own Tweets
This one might be an unpopular one. Twitter is a fickle beast. And while the notion of retweeting your own content may seem self-involved and, yes, maybe even a bit sad, tweets only stay relevant in my experience for about 15 minutes or so, after which point they fade into the ether, never to be seen—or liked, or retweeted—again.
That is, unless you give it a little nudge. By retweeting your own tweet, you are giving it a second shot at being seen by the right people: the ones who will click the link to your blog, like it, retweet it, and maybe even comment on the blog post itself. Tweets tend to go unnoticed often, not because no one cares about you or the content you’re offering, but because in that short 15 minute window after you posted your tweet, the right people just didn’t get a chance to see it and spread the word. Sometimes you have to shout a little louder and maybe repeat yourself a few times before it really sticks.
Let’s take my recent pinned tweet as an example again. I had the pleasure of reading Jude Gwynaire’s Aliens in My Garden and making it my very first Goodreads book review. I wanted my Twitter followers to see the review, both in the hopes of getting them to check out the book and in the hopes of getting them to follow me on Goodreads and keep updated on my reviews.
It did okay initially. About three or four likes in fifteen minutes or so. But once I retweeted it, some Twitter buddies who I engage with fairly regularly started to take notice. It’s hard to tell when the right people will be online, so it’s good to wait at least a half hour or so before either retweeting your own tweet or sending out another.
I tend to pay the most attention to link clicks because I find it to be the ultimate sign that someone is interested in the content. Sure, likes and retweets are great, but it’s easy to like a post without even seeing what the post was actually about, so be sure to keep link clicks in mind when checking follower engagement (which you should be doing often! More on that later).
It wasn’t until I retweeted my own tweet that another Twitter buddy liked and retweeted it too. This resulted in a couple more likes and retweets, which resulted in some comments. All of these things get more people to see the post. And speaking of comments…
Stagger Your Comments
Now, I have no idea how the Twitter algorithm works. It’s a big ol’ mystery with lots of speculation, but no definitive answers. I have found, however, that much like retweets, comments refresh a tweet and make it visible to all sorts of new people. It’s not unusual for me to get more engagements on a post after someone comments on it, and that’s because new comments show up in the feed of the commenter’s followers, starting a potential chain reaction that can greatly boost how many people interact with your tweet.
You might notice on your feed that occasionally you’ll see someone you follow tweet a reply to someone else. Not only that, you’ll see the original tweet they’re replying to. Now you’re privy to that original tweet when you might not have seen it otherwise. The original tweet’s audience has been expanded because of one comment.
If you follow whoever was replying to me in this post, this is what you’d see.
It’s because of this that I sometimes wait a few minutes in between replying to comments. When someone replies, their followers are seeing their response and your original tweet, and when you respond, your followers are seeing your original tweet again. It’s like retweeting your own post without actually, y’know, retweeting your own post.
Do NOT Auto-Market Through DMs
As a writer, blogger, artist, etc, it might sound like a good idea to send automated messages to new followers alerting them to your new blog post, your Youtube channel, your book, or whatever project it is you want them to see. But in my experience, all it does is drive your followers absolutely nuts. No one likes to get excited over getting a new message only to find out that it’s just a soulless automated message telling them to “go retweet my pinned tweet” or “subscribe to my Youtube channel.” As someone who has a number of Twitter buddies I love getting DMs from, it’s always disappointing when it turns out to be a message from someone I recently followed marketing themselves in the most in-your-face, impersonal way possible. I would probably say that even automated messages thanking people for the follow is probably not the best idea, as we can very much tell that it’s automated, which only makes it feel disingenuous and, yes, a waste of time. Basically, it’s like thrusting an advertisement onto people unsolicited. And let’s be honest, no one is going to solicit having ads forced upon them. So don’t do it.
To be fair to those who do use this tactic, I will say that I don’t know how effective it is. For all we know, it’s a great way to get your book sold or your blog post viewed. However, you aren’t exactly making a great first impression to those who hate this kind of tactic, and I’m willing to bet most of us are in the camp that do.
Know What Hashtags To Use
Hashtags are extremely important. They make sure that your tweet is seen by relevant people who are looking for what you’re tweeting about. You’ll see below that I’ve included a screenshot of a recent post I did, working to get speculative fiction writers to join a Goodreads group that I created. Notice that I used hashtags like #scifi, #fantasy, and #horror to make sure that Twitter users interested in that kind of content would be the ones to see the post.
How many hashtags you should use per tweet tend to vary, but I, uh, tend to go a little overboard with them. Maybe don’t do that.
I’d recommend using 2-3 hashtags per post. Some sites I’ve looked at while trying to figure out how many to use when I was starting out argued anywhere between 1 and 5, which can only mean one thing: life is chaos, order is meaningless, do what you please. Just make sure you use at least one hashtag so that you’re making your tweet known to a relevant audience.
Don’t Just Market. Engage!
Just like no one wants to immediately be accosted with marketing DMs, no one wants to follow someone whose only posts are marketing their own content without engaging in anyone else’s. If you establish yourself as someone who cares about the community and is interested in what people have to say, your occasional marketing posts will have a lot more value than if you just constantly posted about your latest blog entry, Youtube video, Instagram post, etc. Here’s a good example from Ashlie’s Twitter page:
She is interested in the works of everyone in the writing community and engaging in conversation with the people who comment. It’s important not just to feign interest in what the community is doing, but to be genuinely interested. If someone links to their Goodreads page for their book, check out the synopsis! Would you buy it? Do you like it? What do you like about it? Do you have questions about it? Ask them! Show them that you care about what they’re showing you. Writers work hard on their books and blog posts, and it means a lot to us when someone not only comments, but does so in a way that shows us that they took the time to actually look into what we posted.
Tell Us About The Link You’re Tweeting
When you post a link, whether it’s for a writer lift, a pinned tweet, or just a quick tweet announcing that a post, video, etc has been released, you want to make sure that you include a quick description instead of just throwing the link out there and hoping people click on it. Twitter now includes a preview of posts when you link them, which does increase the likelihood of the link being clicked on, but it still doesn’t hurt to tell users what the link is, why you’re posting it, and who you think would most benefit from clicking on it.
When I posted about my most recent blog post, Rating My Favorite Scary SCPs, I included #horror in the hopes that people who like horror would see the post. I also gave a quick description of what the SCP Foundation is as well as what the article specifically is about. You don’t have much to work with considering Twitter only gives you 280 characters (which is a lot less than it seems), but part of finding success when posting is working with what you’ve got and giving your followers as much information about your posts as you can.
Writers Lifts Give Great Easy Engagement…But Don’t Overdo It!
I admit I was a writers lift fiend starting out. For those who don’t know what that is, the #WritingCommunity on Twitter is very supportive and often hosts #writerslifts where you can shamelessly promote yourself and follow each other, either by posting links to your blog/website/book, by giving some information about yourself, by answering some sort of prompt, or even just by posting a GIF in the comments. From there, everyone follows and retweets each other and it’s just one beautiful (Twitter) engagement party where everyone benefits from a nice boost in followers.
HOWEVER, while this is a great and simple way to interact with the writing community on Twitter, it’s also a very surface-level form of engagement that helps boost your numbers, but not much else. If you decide to participate in writers lift, it’s important to supplement them with other ways of engaging with the community and don’t just spend all your time liking, retweeting, and commenting on lifts.
Tweet about what you’re up to on occasion. How’s your work-in-progress going? What kind of shenanigans are going on in your day to day life? Do you have a question about writing that the community can answer? Do you want to draw attention to something cool one of your Twitter buddies is up to? I’ve met lots of cool people on Twitter just by asking questions they were excited to answer, or by answering questions myself. Don’t fall into the #writerslift hole!
Huge thanks to Ashlie for helping me out with this post! She’s a great Twitter buddy to have, and you can follow her here.
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Bryanna Gary is the founder of The Angry Noodle and a current editorial assistant at Del Rey Books–science fiction, fantasy, and horror imprint of Penguin Random House.