Monday, September 2, 2013

How to use Twitter as an Author -- Part I

Because I somehow feel I need even less free time, I recently signed up for a social media marketing certificate course -- and I just finished the module on how to use Twitter.  The course is largely focussed on using social media in a business context, and being an author is, in a way, a business, so there were a lot of lessons to take from it.

Today we'll discuss if you should get on Twitter and what you should do when setting it up.  Next month, we'll discuss more about how to effectively use Twitter, because, believe me, I see a LOT of people doing the wrong thing.

So, let's get started!

If you're not on Twitter, you need to consciously decide if it's worth your time.  People will tell you that if you want to get known, you have to use Twitter.  But they say the same about Facebook, and LinkedIn, and WordPress, and Goodreads, and Pinterest, and on and on and on.  Any social media network takes some time and dedication -- do you have the time and consistency to post to Twitter at least a few times per day?  You can use automated tools and you can link your accounts so that when you post on, say, Facebook, it cross-posts to Twitter -- these help take the pressure off, but you still need to be on Twitter and engaging with those who follow you.

If you're interested, but don't know what you'd say on Twitter, look up the accounts of some authors you like (big and small) and see what they do.  Can you do what they do?

The first thing you need is a Twitter handle, or a user name, which when displayed on Twitter is preceded by @.  You want something clear and simple.  While I love coffee and could have chosen @CoffeeMan101, that wouldn't make me easy to find -- my readers and other writers might have difficulty.  You also have a display name -- so if your name doesn't fit in the Twitter handle, you can put the full thing in your display name.  Mine is @Cameron_D_James and my display name is Cameron D. James.  Say my display name was Farnworth Hemingway Butterworth III -- that won't fit in the Twitter handle, but I could do @FHButterworthIII or something like that.

You profile information is very short.  Working in Twitter is an exercise in being concise.  You want to be sure that your profile says you are an author, your genre, and preferably your bestselling/newest title.  You also have a spot to put in your web address for people who want to find out more.  Make sure this is all complete.

Next is your profile picture!  Ideally, you will put a face picture of yourself.  If you use a pen name and don't want to associate your face with your name, then pick something different -- it can be a cartoon version of you, a snippet of your book cover, or something else.  Whatever you choose, make sure it displays nicely in the little square you're given.

After that, you need a banner picture behind your profile picture -- this is like the cover photo on Facebook.  You want something that looks nice in the background, but isn't too busy and doesn't attract too much attention -- you want your focus to be on your tweets, not your fancy graphics.  You might also want to change your wallpaper -- you can choose one of the preset wallpapers that Twitter gives you in the settings option or you can make your own.

For some good examples of profile picture, banner picture, and wallpaper, check out my editor's Twitter page (and to see it all, you need to be on a desktop or laptop -- your mobile device probably won't show the wallpaper): -- alternatively, check out the page for the Social Media Marketing University's Twitter feed (which is where I'm taking these courses):

There are some differences -- Virginia Nelson puts her book covers as her wallpaper and they make a nice backdrop.  Her banner image is a subdued green and isn't demanding.  Social Media Marketing University has a neat approach to the wallpaper -- they have information on them integrated into the page itself (and some large companies list their major Twitter feeds on the side like that).  However, SMMU, I feel, has a bad banner image -- it's too busy and bold, and it makes the text difficult to read.

So that's a very quick rundown of what you need to get started.  Next month, we'll discuss how to effectively tweet, what your primary goals should be on Twitter, building relationships, and what to definitely NOT do on Twitter.


Cameron D. James is an author of gay erotic romance.  He loves books, coffee, chocolate, and cute Starbucks baristas.  You can find out more about his novel, Autumn Fire, and free short story, Go Deep, on his website, as well as find links to his WordPress, Goodreads, smutty Tumblr, non-smutty Tumblr, and Twitter.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thank you. Although I am a passive and less agressive participant on Twitter, I like to use it for promoting when I actually have soemthing to say.

In an effort to stay visible, many people will retweet messages. One is not allowed to retweet one's own message until the following day with a new approach.

The chitchat is annoying.

Big Mike said...

Let us know how it works out James. Probably take a few months before you see results. My experience with SN (Facebook, Readln, etc) has not been positive in turns of the Return on invested time but like old dogs I can learn. Do let us know and thanks for the informative post.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Jude Johnson said...

I'm on Twitter @JudeJohnsonAZ and while I can't honestly say I can relate sales to the frenzy of social media, I enjoy hearing those little bits of news from folks. I have my Twitter linked to my Facebook Fan Page so whatever I post there gets tweeted and vice versa. I try not to hard sell but I have a set up with Bookbuzzr that tweets about my book once per week.

Cameron D James said...

Hi! Thanks for all the comments! I think it can be VERY hard to market yourself appropriately on Twitter (and other social media networks) because marketing by constant promotion almost never works -- you have to market by networking... which can be counter-intuitive because it doesn't lead to direct sales. I certainly haven't mastered it, but I do know that some people who have bought my book have done so because of our "relationship" on Twitter. I will have to think this thing through because this will be the focus of my post next month -- and hopefully I'll have learned a little more through experience by then!

Liz Fountain said...

I've not played with Twitter for exactly the reason you mention, Cameron - keeping up with my blog and FB takes enough time to do well. But this kind of post helps me stay in touch with the opportunities out there, and gives me info to determine whether I might want to take it on. Thanks!