Writers love to write (when they aren’t complaining about how hard it is), so writers would seem a natural fit to embrace a social medium that is all about the challenge of writing engaging content under a strict word count. Or, in Twitter’s universe, character count. After all, Twitter’s 140 character limit makes the 750-1000 word count of a picture book sound easy.
Every time I go to a conference, however, I invariably meet writers or run into old friends who treat Twitter as if it’s some sort of mysterious other world that could only exist in a YA fantasy series. Often, these writers are older and less comfortable with social media in general, but not always. I opened my Twitter account in 2009, after an editor at a large house declared at a conference session I attended that, unless you had a great online presence, her company would need to believe you were the next J.K Rowling to take a chance on a debut author. While I think this editor overstated the importance of social media, it is essential for every author to have a marketing platform. So I’ve put together my list of top five reasons why every writer (including aspiring writers) should embrace Twitter with all of it’s messy wonderfulness.
5. Twitter is quick. Just as you might think about the cost effectiveness of any business decision, a successful Twitter account can be created and maintained even for an author with time management challenges, whether internal or external. Of course, internal challenges are harder to manage, but you can always set up rules for yourself that you won’t spend more than a certain number of minutes per day or week on Twitter. Because Twitter allows you to skim through content quickly, it’s easy to pick it up during otherwise wasted time (sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or your child’s car pick up line, or when you are stuck on the side of the road waiting for a salt truck to come by).
4. You don’t have to follow someone else back. While there are Twitter etiquette codes, such as not following someone if you don’t intend to stick it out, there isn’t any need to follow someone back just because they followed you. Check out their posts. Are they someone you are truly interested in? If not, do yourself a favor and don’t follow them back. If all they do is promote their own work, it will get really annoying really quickly. Do they promote things that are offensive to you? Skip them. I try not to follow people who promote porn because I don’t like the idea of people exploiting one another. Keep your twitter feed open for the content you really want. Or follow everyone back regardless. The choice is yours. If someone only wants to follow you if you will follow them back, then they will drop you in a few days and there’s no reason to feel guilty about it (you aren’t going to be seeing them at the PTA meeting most likely…if so, then you may want to go ahead and follow them just to be polite).
3. Twitter can be whatever you want it to be. Unlike Facebook, which was designed to allow people who already know one another in real life to stay connected, Twitter is all about bringing people of similar interests together. While you can protect your tweets so that they stay private, there usually isn’t a reason to do so. Because of the character restrictions and the purpose, most people don’t choose to reveal significant personal information on Twitter the way they might on Facebook. I do know some teachers who prefer not to have students connecting with them on Twitter who restrict access, and I do know some kids who also restrict access. But for most people. Twitter doesn’t create the type of privacy exposure that requires limited access.
2. Twitter is a great place to make and/or maintain connections. I couldn’t envision this when I first joined Twitter. How was I going to “meet” people through social media? It sounded a lot like online dating to me-you put your profile out there and hope the right people come along and…what exactly? I already have a husband, and one is more than enough for me. Talk with them about all my book deals that were just around the corner? Live happily ever after? I really had no idea. But, over the years, I’ve found I really like connecting over Twitter with my friends from my MFA program and my regional writing group. I’ve met authors at conferences and become followers. I’ve found authors and illustrators whom I admire and have been able to tell them so. Some are too busy or content with their lives to care, but some have reached out in return. Because Twitter allows people with like interests to find one another, it’s easy to make connections in meaningful ways.
1. Drum roll please…Twitter is a great repository for content, or, perhaps more accurately, a great content aggregator. Love YA? If you can’t find anything interesting about YA on Twitter, then you must not know how to spell it. Want news? @BBC, @NPR, @Reuters,are all at your fingertips. Al Jazeera America? It’s there. Do you speak another language? It’s there. Are you passionate about ______________? Fill in the blank and it’s there. Search for people, search for topics, or search by hash tags (#thosethingsthatstartwithahashtag). Or simply follow trending news on the discover tab. There is a myriad of content out there and I continually see fascinating photos, videos, article links, quotes, and ideas on Twitter.
What are your best reasons to for writers to use Twitter?