The Indie Author’s quick guide to Twitter

In a new feature, we’ve decided to provide some quick guides to various social networks, from our social media based moderator (Kai).  Remember too, that we have our own Twitter and Facebook page, and will be launching a Pinterest profile for our members soon!

The Quick guide to Twitter

Twitter is a basic social network where you can post tweets, which are 140 characters or less.  Tweets are designed to be short and sweet – they can contain hashtags (sort of like categories) and mention other members of twitter by username by using the @ symbol.  Your tweets can also be retweeted, you can follow people and place them on lists.

Signing up to Twitter

Twitter is easy to sign up for – all you need is a unique email address and a username.  That said, there are many limitations on usernames, mostly down to length and availability – Twitter is now a huge network, so even if you’re the same username everywhere else and don’t yet have a twitter account, you MAY not get the username you want.
Once signed up, Twitter encourages you to follow ten accounts, and explains the interface.  You can normally ‘skip’ after five.

Now what?

Once signed up, you should follow people who interest you (and a great place to start is the IAG members list.  Want on it, check out the Join our Twitter list post).  Tweeting is easy – retweeting is too.  If you’re not sure, check the guides on site for more information.

How do I know who to follow on Twitter?

One of the easiest ways to work out who to follow on Twitter is to look at the site, search by keyword and see who pops up.  Searching ‘writer’ will give you a wealth of people to follow.  Or, you can look at the lists like ours, and see what you think of people there.  Lots of people also follow celebrities and news outlets.  It’s easy to search by keyword or check out the lists other people have made (see below).

How about unfollowing?


Unfollowing is as easy as following – the only caution I would give is not to follow someone, wait for someone to follow you and then unfollow them – it’s not a nice way to build your followers, and though some people do it, I would recommend only unfollowing people you’re no longer interested in following, or those that follow you, wait till you follow them and unfollow again – there are ways to keep track of this, if you suspect it’s happening, though, most of the time, it’s easy to spot.
Again though, the point of Twitter isn’t to get a large following, it’s to have consistent interactions WITH your following.

I followed 2000 people and it won’t let me follow more!

Twitter has several follow caps, designed to thwart spammers.  One of them, and the most common one for most people to encounter is 2000.  The most important thing to remember is though many people will tell you otherwise, your follower count DOES NOT matter – it’s your influence that really matters.  I have a low follower count, but high influence, because I follow and more importantly, I interact with my feed several times a day.  Ideally you should be following people who interest you, not just to inflate your counts anyway (see above).

What should I share?

This is where many indies fall down, and the advice varies a bit.  Twitter isn’t just for ‘read my book’/’look at my GREAT reviews’/ I’m following you, you better follow me.  You’ve got to be authentic, interactive and fun on there too.  And even if no-one replies, don’t just cave to the easiest setting and just tweet about your books.

I recommend a ratio of about 7:1. So for every seven tweets you make that aren’t about you or your book, make one about your book.  Instead of talking about your book for the other seven, share information, articles, your own blog posts (that don’t talk about your books and are useful).  Basically, what you can do with your account is create your own area and niche of expertise.  That area or niche of expertise will mean people trust you when you mention your books/services/products.  And any research or information you share will give your followers the chance to see that you’re passionate about what you write about too.  You can also (and SHOULD also) share other people’s tweets by retweeting them.  It’s good for you, it extends the reach of others you read and it shows your own readership and followers that you’ve got a stake in the wider community.  You should try to retweet in your own genres/sphere of interest most of the time, but there’s really no such thing as a ‘bad’ retweet, unless it exposes you or others to account damage.

Tweet this:
Check out @IAGtweet’s quick guide to Twitter – by @Kaiberie

Check out @IAGtweet’s information on how to get the most out of twitter! – by @Kaiberie

What are #Hashtags?

Hashtags are, in short, quick ways of tapping into communities of writers, ‘filing’ your tweet for easier retrieval by others, or showing solidairty.  Common ones include #amwriting, #amediting #amreading #MYWANA and #IDWB.  Recent studies have shown that tagging your posts with unrelated keywords, from an SEO point of view on Twitter, can be damaging, and is seen almost the same as comment spam on blogs.  If you do use them, make sure they’re to do with what you’re talking about (and not hopping onto trending tags as some do, unless of course, you’re ‘in’ that trend),  and use them judiciously.  On the flipside, having #(genre) as a handy search can give you some great fodder to share outside of your circle of readership, and maybe find you some new people to follow.  Experiment with hashtags in the search and see what you come up with.

Why are people @(myname) ?

@(yourtwittername) is how people reply to or tag/credit you in posts.  As you can see above, I’ve listed two twitter handles, mine and the group’s, so people can see where the article comes from.  If you @(someone’s twitter name) it goes direct to them, if it’s in the body of the text, it’s more visible.
Please note @(someone’stwittername) isn’t the same as direct messaging.

What do I use lists for?  Someone put me on a list, is that good?

Lists are Twitter’s way of providing a filter for people, so they can watch the people who are most important to them, curate people that they feel are interesting and generally categorise followers.  It’s good that you’ve been put on a Twitter list, it means your follower has you somewhere that they can see you.

Another good thing about lists is you can use them to follow other interesting people – that’s why we refer to them as ‘curated’ content.  Someone has taken the time to pick these accounts out of twitter, and place them on lists – it’s great that they’ve done so, and can shortcut following some great accounts for you.  You can also ‘subscribe’ to whole lists – giving YOU the chance to follow the same filter as them.
We’ve got a list at IAGtweets – you can either subscribe to the whole thing, or click ‘members’ then pick and choose who to follow.
To create your own list, simply follow someone, click on the little head and shoulders icon, choose ‘Add or remove from lists’ and create your lists.
Lists are great for filtering out the noise – I keep a list of my most retweeted people so I can nip on every day and know with absolute certainty, there will be something great for me to retweet.

What else can I use my Twitter logins for?

Twitter is part of something called ‘oAuth’, which means some sites use it for logins.  The two most notable ones that I recommend every twitter user investigates are ‘Triberr’ and ‘Klout’.
Triberr is a site that allows you to share blog posts from the people in your tribe, on an automated feed.  It does take a little bit of balance to get it right, but Triberr is a great resource.  We’ll be doing a ‘quick guide’ to Triberr soon, but if you’d like to join us at IAG’s tribe, please head on over!

Klout is another project again.  It has a ‘metric’ of influence.  You are scored out of 100 – the higher your number, the more influence you have on your networks.   It also allows you to award people points for their various contributions to your knowledge.  Basically, you vote for them in a category and they can see where their influence lies.
There are other places you can use your Twitter login – from apps on your smartphone, to websites and more. Be careful though – some of these apps are malicious, and can cause damage or closure to your account.
Do you know of any great apps or websites that use twitter?  Share them below!

How much is ‘too much’ self promotion?

One of the questions I get asked the most when consulting with The Finishing Fairies is how much promotion is ‘too much’.  The short answer is more than a few posts a day about your book, and even then, only IF you are engaging on your feed.  Too much self promotion can be damaging however, because it can lead to people ignoring you or unfollowing you.

Got any other questions?

I’d love to hear from you – just share them below!

Tweet this:
Check out @IAGtweet’s quick guide to Twitter – by @Kaiberie

Check out @IAGtweet’s information on how to get the most out of twitter! – by @Kaiberie

Image from 100+ remarkably beautiful Twitter icons.

Kai Wilson-Viola writes under various names, and in all genres. Co-founder and webmistress of the IAG site, she writes content on request of members.
She has written several books including the Ten Hour Marketing Plan and 12x12 - tutorials for social media.
When not writing, she can be found maintaining sites, designing themes, managing a charity called the Less than Three foundation, gaming, knitting or reading.

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