Way back in June 2016, I wrote a blog post about Facebook vs. Twitter. At the time, I had a whole six months of expertise as a guy running a business full-time, so no wonder I did such a great job!

Well, okay, maybe I overstated my case. But the bottom line of that article was that, as necessary as Facebook is for authors, Twitter is really a place to build an audience and engage with them.

I know, I know, engage is one of those buzzwords that makes you want to gouge your eyes out with a fork. I get it. But it’s a real thing, and it just means that you have some kind of interaction: you message each other, you like or retweet each other…maybe you even end up buying a book. Maybe that person ends up buying your book. Get the importance now?

So here’s a little recap, except that I’d like to point out that, way back in June last year, I was bragging that I had over 2,000 followers on Twitter. Since then, that number has climbed to 11.3K. Yes, Twitter really does work that way, if you work at it. And no, those aren’t fake accounts or ‘paid’ followers. Don’t follow those. No, really, don’t.

Okay, here’s the recap:

  • Twitter is great because of the inherent brevity of your posts – I was resistant to even joining Twitter because I thought it was kind of stupid. I especially hated the cheesy word tweet. Having been on there a while, though, I see the value. Not everyone wants to read your 500-word blog post; have something you can convey to the short-attention-span crowd, too!
  • Twitter is a lot easier to build up than Facebook when it comes to a following – For me, the verdict on that deal is in: I’ve got 250 Facebook fans, but over 11,000 Twitter followers. Granted, a few of those are accounts I don’t follow back, but hey, some of those Facebook followers just clicked Like and then disappeared.
  • The rules for engagement favor Twitter for organic reach but favor Facebook for posting ads – I think it’s safe to say that Twitter ads do not yet generate revenue for most people like Facebook ads do; but when it comes to building an audience organically over time (again, not buying followers, which is always a mistake), Twitter is much more manageable. Maybe more authors are hanging out there, or maybe people find it a more user-friendly platform. That’s my experience, anyway.

How do you navigate Twitter as an author? Well, there are whole books on the subject – see Frances’ Caballo’s excellent Twitter Just for Writers – but here are three tips if you’re starting out.

  1. Don’t just follow; tweet something of value. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been followed by someone, and when I check their profile to decide whether to follow them back, there’s nothing there. No, really, there’s nothing there! They have followed 2,716 people (and somehow managed to get 412 people to follow them), but they haven’t sent out a single tweet. What’s the point of this account? Is there any value in it? Entertainment value, knowledge…anything? Maybe some day there will be, but for now, I’ve got zero incentive to follow them back. In fact, I’ve got incentive not to, because they might be some kind of spammer or nutcase. So remember: start out tweeting something. For ideas, look up accounts of famous people, other writers…get something out there.
  2. Don’t be an egghead. You know how when you first sign up for Twitter, your profile is a little egg with a colored background? Right. That’s where your profile picture goes. If you can’t be bothered putting something in there – preferably a nice professional head shot, but at the very least, something – then I can’t be bothered following you back. Makes sense, right?
  3. Engage, engage, engage. I know, I hate that word, too. Really. But this Twitter thing actually takes a little work. I’m not saying you have to tweet 200-300 times a month like I try to do (I’m a madman), but you have to interact with people if you hope to use Twitter as anything but another social media outlet. If someone likes your tweet, go ahead and check them out. Good chance they’re worth following! If they retweet you, thank them. Don’t send automated direct messages to every new follower. Almost everyone hates those, and they pile up like you wouldn’t believe.

So that’s my small overview on how to manage Twitter. Check out Frances’ book, and feel free to follow my account, @MikeSahno. Odds are, I’ll follow you back. I might even retweet you, if you’re tweeting something cool!

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