Many want to know if it’s possible to make genuine connections and not just succumb to talking about what you ate for lunch. Then there’s the big concern…
When you first join your main concern is whether or not anyone is going to give a crap about what you have to say. What I quickly learned, however, is that it's not what you have to say about yourself, but what you say about others. Think in "pay it forward" style and you'll tweet successfully. It's been said that the only time someone cares about what you have to say is when you're saying something about them. I believe that, especially on twitter.
In my modest experience of sending and receiving tweets, I have observed the most successful posts tend to relate to others and what other news is happening in the land of publishing. Think about it. I consider myself an emerging/somewhat-established author with a humble list of publication credits to my name. Does anyone really need to receive a constant update about today's word count or the fact that my cat just furballed all over my rough draft? Not really.
What people do care about though is gossip. And I don't mean negative gossip (although we have recently seen a demonstration or two of how negative comments can multiply tweets by the nanosecond); I mean useful information. Like what? How about the announcement of an editor moving from one house to another. Or the release of a hot new book release. Then there's the promo for an upcoming author appearance. Being in the book biz, these are things I like to hear about. Plus, the amount of books publishers give away on twitter astonishes me. I’d say I see a giveaway just about every day. Who doesn’t like free books?
What I’ve discovered twitter is most useful for is keeping up with breaking news, hearing about to-the-minute contests and calls for submissions, and finding links to authors and editors I would perhaps not otherwise have connected with. Rather than searching around the Internet when I'm looking for something new and exciting, the exciting news comes to me.
Of course, you ask, how do you receive all this great news? You add yourself as a follower to other people's tweets. But, whoa, slow down. You don't want to follow everyone, do you? Just think of how your email inbox looks on the worst of days. Do you really want to wake up to 2,897 tweets? Not likely. So the trick is to be selective. Follow only those you actually want to hear updates from. You can still read any tweets you want without actually following them. But here's the kicker: When you do see something really cool, something worth sharing... share it!
Retweet the best of the best. By sending an RT@ post, you are not only sharing something others may appreciate, you will likely receive twitter love in return. Someone else is no doubt going to tweet you back or, ideally, become one of your followers. From this method, your own list of followers will grow.
Why do I think that’s so important? Because when you finally do want to share your own fabulous writing news (like the sale of a book, landing an agent, reaching the bestseller list), you will have long ago built up an audience who will all hopefully retweet til their heart's content. And thus the cycle will feed into itself. Doesn't that sound great? To have an audience eager to hear about what you're doing? Then you can tell them all about what you had for lunch!
If I can offer one final bit of wisdom I think we all know, but sometimes forget, it's this: Posting comments online is an open invitation into your world. Meaning, think before you tweet. Just as you wouldn't slam someone in person (I am assuming this much), it's not a great idea for a writer to moan about someone on twitter, or any social medium for that matter. These posts are indefinite and will possibly last longer than your career. Remember that. If you don't want a potential agent, editor, or employer seeing your nasty comments all over the net, back away from the keyboard before it's too late. After all, this is your career we're talking about.
Have I become a twitter master? No. I'm still figuring it out as I go. However, I have learned some of the ins and outs of using this social medium to my advantage. Treat twitter like a controlled substance and it can be one of your best promotional tools. Just remember to use it wisely, with forethought, and with a “pay it forward” mentality. And remember, friends don't let friends drink and twitter.
For writers interested in following people in the biz, High Spot compiled a great list of agents, editors, publishes, and more. Find it here. Tip: You don't need to follow each one that interests you, but you can 'bookmark' their tweets and read them when you have time.
Tip: If you are a reader looking to see what your favorite author is doing in between edits, type his or her name into the search field.
Also, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez recently wrote how writers can use twitter to start building the all-important platform. There’s great tips and discussion there, so check it out.
Agent Rachelle Gardner also has a lively discussion about social networking on her blog and you can see it here, but be sure to also visit this blog post about why Rachelle suggests unpublished authors should focus more time on writing than on social networking.
By the way, the twitter buttons used in this post can be found at http://www.twitterbuttons.com/. They have a great selection.
If you use twitter, don’t forget to visit me here. If you have any great twitter experiences, share them here!