Getting To Grips With Twitter
I’m always surprised that so many people who like Facebook don’t use Twitter, and I realise now that some of them have got the wrong idea about it. There are endless tips and hacks about using Twitter, mostly to do with keeping your post at the top of the pile and the right times of the day to post. You can get Siri to post for you, which is faster but riskier if you’re on the move, and you can embed tweets (I do on Facebook, which I don’t really have time to use), but most so-called hacks are pretty obvious and too well-know to add here.
Twitter has around 328 million monthly active users. A couple of years back the growth flatlined, but since then it’s been climbing again. But for writers, unless you want to look totally desperate I don’t think you should imagine it as a sales tool, but as a method of opening dialogue with readers. I don’t believe in pushing stuff at people, although I’ve been known to get excited about receiving a shiny new book and posting it.
If you’re promoting something the general rule of thumb that you preference publishing items of general interest over selling your wares. Most Twitter users I know who are sellers make sure there’s at least a 5-1 ratio of general interest articles to one promotion.
Twitter has some say in what you see and who sees you. They sometimes filters the timeline, showing tweets of your favourites first because their bots can see who you talk to the most frequently, so they know who you’d like to see tweets from. They then show real-time tweets again in reverse chronological order. That’s if you want to catch everything that’s happened while you’ve been offline.
Actually, being a totally rubbish networker I don’t use Twitter much to promote my books; my main purpose is to read articles on politics and the arts that I’ve missed. Trending is useful insofar as you can see what’s catching people’s imaginations at the moment, and work out whether it’s press release driven or from grass roots.
I largely follow writers, organisations and other professionals who regularly add interesting links. A friend admonished me for posting too early, saying; ‘You’re not maximising your hits’, to which I replied that I was just talking to my mates early in the mornings, not trying to monetise anything, the concept of which she appeared not to grasp.
Journalists (proper journalists, not feature writers) are great to follow as they often post their spiked stories, and you get to read a truthful alternative to fake news. Drawing attention to false stories was the one interesting thing the POTUS did; unfortunately he picked the real news and promoted his own fakes. It’s best to pick posters who follow almost as many people as the number who follow them. Beware the Tweeter with 50K followers who follows 20 people.
For me, it seems you get the best out of Twitter by treating it as a newspaper, using the links as directional pointers. Pick your follows well and you’ll end up with a genuinely interesting daily digest of what’s going on around the world and in your neighbourhood. Pick them badly and you’ll get pictures of cats and sunsets. I use sometimes Twitter to research, asking for certain geographical details or historical events; you’ll often get an expert who can give you an immediate answer.
I have no problem with unfollowing annoying posters, but I think it’s important to keep following those with dissenting views to your own, so long as they’re intelligent about them. The last thing you need is a gene pool of people who agree with you. If anyone reading this never uses Twitter I’d suggest you play around on it for a while and see if you find any links you like – I know there are people who edit out all posts with links, but that seems to defeat the purpose of Twitter – that you can see the world and hold genuinely intelligent discussions with posters.
There’s now a Beta mode in trial testing out longer posts. I personally think it will make you edit out the idiots more quickly and concentrate on the interesting ones, so I’m in favour – for now. We’ll see what happens when it goes live.