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#TwitterTips | 9 Tips for Authors on Twitter

Twitter is for twits.

That was my first impression, and my second wasn’t much better: that Twitter is like a gaggle of teenage girls with everyone talking and no one listening.

But I’ve persevered, and Twitter is now my second most influential social media network, after Facebook. And I’ve got to the point where it requires very little effort to add my content and maintain both my profile (@iolagoulton) and the profiles for the two group blogs I’m part of: Australasian Christian Writers account (@acwriters) and International Christian Fiction Writers (@icfwriters).

Despite the noise, the seemingly endless spam from authors who don’t know how to use Twitter, and the rumours it’s dying, Twitter has two huge advantages over Facebook:

  • There are no limits as to the number of followers you can have.
  • Tweets are indexed by Google, which impacts on search engine optimisation.

No, Twitter shouldn’t replace your own website and email list. But it’s an additional way of getting yourself out there and connecting with potential readers. And once you know a few Twitter tricks, it’s easy to use and doesn’t take long.

So what are my must-do #TwitterTips?

1. Set up a Twitter account

Set up a Twitter account using your author name, not your book name (you are going to write more than one book, aren’t you?). Even if you don’t plan to actively use Twitter, this enables other people to tag you in their posts (using what’s called the at-mention, e.g. @iolagoulton). Note that your Twitter name can be no longer than 15 characters.

If your name is taken, use your website name, or try JohnSmith-Writer, JohnSmith-Author, WriterJohnSmith or similar.

Add your author photo.

Also add a header image (use Canva to create a 1500 x 500 pixel Twitter header.

Write your bio.

You have 160 characters, and can include hashtags (see below). You can also include website addresses: use a link shortener such as bit.ly if the website addresses push you over your 160-character limit. Check out the bios of authors in your genre for ideas.

2. Manage Your Follows

The Twitterverse considers it good manners to follow anyone who follows you (unless you’re a major league celebrity). I follow back most people who follow me, excluding:

  • People who don’t Tweet in English (I don’t want Tweets I can’t read).
  • Spam accounts (e.g. buy followers, US Army surgins, and Prince Harry).

3. Tweet and Retweet

A tweet is you sending an original message while a retweet is you forwarding someone else’s message. Many people use RT to signal a retweet.

Figure out what you’re going to tweet, and make sure it’s not all about you—no read my blog, buy my book, follow me on every social media platform in existence including MySpace.

Twitter is a social network, and the key word is “social”. Think about what your target reader might be interested in: if you write science fiction, try Dr Who memes and pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch. Mystery authors could tweet Sherlock Holmes quotes and pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch. If you write Christian romance, Bible verses, poetry quotes and funny book memes might be more appropriate. Perhaps no pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch. A shame.

All blog posts are better with a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch. I'm just sorry you can't see it.

Advice used to be to include images and links in your tweets to maximise engagement. That may be true, but my personal experience is that I get the most interaction from snarky “Dear Author” oneliners and #badwritingtips.

4. Use Hashtags

The # (hashtag) is used to identify topics by making tweets easily searchable by Google, which helps SEO (search engine optimisation). Popular writer hashtags include:

  • Genre tags (#romance, #chrisfic)
  • Book tags (#amreading, #books, #greatreads, #bookblogger)
  • Writing tags (#amwriting, #amediting, #1K1H—writing 1000 words in an hour)
  • Publishing tags (#amazon, #kindle, #publishingtips)
  • Marketing tags (#bookmarketing, #marketingtips).

Research shows Tweets with one or two hashtags get the most retweets.

Hashtags are also used for Twitter chats and events. However, these are usually in the evenings in US time, which makes them a little inconvenient for those of us in Australia and New Zealand.

5. Use Appropriate Tools

@iolagoulton tweets book reviews, and tips on writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and social media. I curate and schedule all my social media updates using Buffer. I have sprung for Buffer’s Pro plan (USD 10 per month) and the WP to Buffer plugin for WordPress. This combination automatically posts all my blog posts, even when I’m on holiday.

Many Twitter experts recommend Hootsuite to manage Twitter and other social media accounts. You can combine this with the WP to Hootsuite plugin for WordPress.

Others rave about Edgar, but that costs around USD 50 per month. (which is probably worth it, because it combines the features of several other services). ManageFlitter is another option: you can schedule posts if you are on their paid Pro plan.

I find the Buffer interface cleaner and easier to use, and the paid plan allows me to schedule tweets for @iolagoulton, @acwriters, and @ICFWriters (as I’m the person with the password). As @iolagoulton, I’ve also started using SocialJukebox, which cycles through a preset list of tweets, such as evergreen blog posts. Unfortunately, SocialJukebox no longer lets users tag other users (Twitter removed that functionality).

Most of these tools will both schedule posts and recommend optimum posting times based on when your followers are online (yes, Big Brother is watching you). The trick with these tools is to ensure your retweets are consistent with your author brand: as a Christian, you don’t want to find yourself retweeting Christian Grey quotes because the keyword matches.

Four Twitter Don’ts

6. Don’t follow everybody

Twitter limits each account to following 5,000 people until you have 5,000 followers. Then you can follow no more than 10% more than the number of people following you. So if you have 10,000 followers, you can follow 11,000 people. (Better to be the other way around, and follow fewer people than follow you).

7. Don’t make it all about you

Follow the 80:20 rule, and ensure no more than 20% of your Tweets are about you. Some commentators recommend 20:1. Unfortunately, most authors seem to think it’s all about them, and my Twitter stream is often full of “buy my book!” spam, which I ignore.

8. Don’t send automatic messages

It might feel rude, but don’t thank people for following you, asking them to follow you on Facebook, or subscribe to your blog, or anywhere else. And don’t ask them to buy your book.

9. Don’t automatically screen followers

Specifically, don’t use TrueTwit or any other computer program to determine whether or not your followers are real. The only people I’ve seen recommend TrueTwit are TrueTwit employees.

Finally …

Twitter is not about selling books. That’s a nice-to-have. The main purpose of social networking is to be social, and to aid discoverability. It’s social. Not sell-me.

Do you use Twitter? Do you have any #twittertips to share?

Twitter Automation

How to (Responsibly) Use Twitter Automation

This week I’m going to talk about how to responsibly use Twitter automation to reduce your time on Twitter (and other social media) while still being a good Twitter citizen i.e. how not to be a Twitter spammer. Apps and plugins are your friend!

Yes, this will require a little time to set up, and there is a cost involved.

But it really is set-it-and-forget-it. Mostly. And it will save you time in the long run—and time is money.

Here are the main tools I use:

  • SocialJukebox
  • Buffer
  • WP to Buffer Pro

SocialJukebox (previously TweetJukebox)

You all know what a jukebox is: in the old days, it had a bunch of 45s and you could select which song you wanted from the playlist (for the younger readers: a 45 is a record with only one song on each side). They also had a random play function, and that is the concept behind Social Jukebox.

You load a virtual jukebox up with tweets, and SocialJukebox sends them randomly at predetermined intervals.

So, for example, you could have a jukebox for old blog posts that you tweet each Thursday using the #tbt (Throwback Thursday) hashtag. Yes, you have to load the posts into the relevant jukebox, but it’s a once-and-done thing: once you’ve loaded a post, it will be in that jukebox until you delete it.

SocialJukebox was previously known as TweetJukebox, and it just offered Tweets. The new version also posts to Facebook and LinkedIn, although I don’t use those options. Yet. Mostly because while I don’t mind seeing Tweets repeated, I’m not a fan of seeing the same Facebook post over and over. And if it annoys me, it’s reasonable to assume it will annoy my followers.

Click here to find out more about SocialJukebox.


Buffer requires a little more input in my part. It works in a similar way to SocialJukebox in that it automatically posts content for me. The only difference is I have to load the posts in myself, and each will only post once (although there is a multiple post option). I find Buffer is an excellent tool for posting new content or news, whereas SocialJukebox is better suited for evergreen content (content which isn’t going to date—like a book review or Bible verse meme).

Buffer’s Pro plan currently costs USD 15 per month (with a 20% discount if paid annually), and allows users to link up to eight social media accounts including Pinterest and Instagram. Tip: if you subscribe to a paid plan, your price is locked in. I subscribed when it was USD 10 per month for 12 social media accounts, so my annual cost is only a little over $100.

If I could only justify one paying for social media plan, this would be it, because it enables me to post throughout the day even when I’m out of wifi zone (yes, it happens).

One thing I especially love about Buffer is that they appear to work closely with Twitter, and Buffer won’t allow you to bend or break the Twitter rules around spam and posting. If you try to Buffer two similar Tweets in too short a time, Buffer will reject the second Tweet. I like that—I have had my Twitter account suspended for unintentional spamming, and it’s not an experience I wish to repeat.

Click here to find out more about Buffer.

WP to Buffer Pro

I combine Buffer with another WordPress plugin: WP to Buffer.

The WP to Buffer plugin automatically sends all my new blog posts to Buffer, so I don’t have to remember to Tweet and share them in a timely manner. There is a free version and a paid version. The free version (WP to Buffer) is available to all WordPress users, and allows limited posting to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter via the free or paid Buffer plans.

I bought the Pro version ($39/year for a one-year single-site licence, or $199 for a lifetime multi-site licence). The Pro version is only available to self-hosted WordPress users or those on the more expensive WordPress.com plans. I currently use WP to Buffer Pro on my two sites (Christian Editing Services and Iola Goulton, my reviewing site), on Australasian Christian Writers, and on International Christian Fiction Writers.

WP to Buffer Pro allows me to:

  • Post to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.
  • Send multiple posts to each social media network.
  • Send posts to the start or end of my Buffer queue, or post them at a specific time.
  • Customise my posts by social network.
  • Add selected images to my posts.
  • Customise individual posts.

Using WP to Buffer Pro means I can automatically share to each site, whether I have wifi access or not. It also saves me time—it takes five to ten minutes per blog post to share once to each social network, and the plugin shares each post between one and seven times (depending on how I’ve set it up). And I’m sharing from three blogs each weekday, so that’s saving me up to half an hour a day. That’s a win!

The fact I’m able to customise each post also means I’m keeping in Twitter’s good books, because each post is unique.

Other WordPress Plugins

The makers of WP to Buffer have a companion plugin for Hootsuite users, WP to Hootsuite. As far as I can tell, it has all the same features, as well as the paid upgrade.

WordPress users can also use Publicize (part of Jetpack) to automatically share blog posts to social media. However, I’m not sure if this is available on the free plan, or only on the paid plans (paid plans start at $5/month).

No, I’m not on Twitter (or social media in general) 24/7. But tools like this allow me to be “active” even when I’m asleep.

Do you use any free or paid tools to help you manage social media? Which tools do you recommend?

Twitter Hashtags Lists and Mentions

Twitter Hashtags, Lists, and Mentions (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

Last week, I talked about why authors need to be on Twitter.

Today I’m going to give you a little background to three important Twitter topics: hashtags, mentions, and lists. And an important Twitter Tip that you’ll need to remember before you even think about automating any Twitter tasks. I’ll be back next week to talk about Twitter tools and automation.

About Hashtags

You’ve all seen hashtags—they’re all over social media. Things like #amreading or #amwriting or #amediting … basically, anything preceeded by a hash symbol (#, which is what Americans call a pound key).

Hashtags are important because they are how people search for topics on Twitter (and Instagram). You want to hear the latest publishing scandal? Search for #CopyPasteCris. Want the latest Game of Thrones gossip and spoilers (or to vent about the current episode)? Try #gameofthrones or simply #got. Looking for a book to read? Try #amreading or #christfic or #inspy or #romance or #bookworm. Using #cr4u (Clean Reads for You) will always get you a lot of retweets.

You can even invent your own hashtag, for a book, a series, a genre (like #cr4u), or an event. And you can use the same hashtag on Facebook and Instagram (Instagram loves hashtags. Facebook … allows them, but not everyone uses them properly #soyougetlotsofwordsjoinedtogetherwhichdontmeanmuch.

#TwitterTip. If you are using multiple words in a hashtag, capitalise each word to make it easier to read: #SoYouGetLotsOfWordsJoinedTogetherWhichDontMeanMuch. Still a mouthful, but it is at least readable. Click To Tweet


These are called @-mentions (at-mentions), because of the @ key which comes in front of your Twitter name (so I’m @iolagoulton). If you want someone to see your Tweet, you tag them with an @-mention. This also means your tweet will show up in the Twitter feed of all their followers … so it’s not something to abuse.

But it is considered good Twitter etiquette to @-mention someone if:

  • You’re linking to a blog post about them.
  • If you’re reviewing their book.

If you’re interviewing them.

(This relates to my post last week, about why you need to be on Twitter. Why would you want to miss out on knowing when people are being nice about you?)

Twitter Lists

Once you’ve been on Twitter a while, you’ll find you can’t actually scan every tweet from every person you follow (and you wouldn’t want to, especially not if some of the people you follow are the spam-every-six-minutes types). But that doesn’t mean you want to unfollow them …

Twitter lists are the answer to this dilemma.

Group similar accounts into a List, and you can just review tweets from that list. Sometimes I add interesting people to a list, then find out they are tweet-every-six-minute spammers. The solution is simple: take them off the list.

(As an aside, this is why you shouldn’t be a tweet-every-six-minute spammer. It’s possible no one will notice if they follow hundreds or thousands of active accounts. But if they put you on a list, spammy behaviour is easy to spot and difficult to ignore.)

The way they achieve this annoying omniscience is through automation. They’ll use a tool to preschedule hundreds of tweets each week, each promoting themselves or their books. This behaviour gives automation a bad name.

But there is a better way to use automation. I’ll talk about that next week.

Meanwhile, here’s my big #TwitterTip (hey! See the hashtag!):

Twitter is not all about you.
If you spend any time on Twitter (or read blog posts about Twitter or other social media), you’ll come across some variation of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80:20 rule #TwitterTip Click To Tweet
No more than 20% of your posts should be about you.

Most of your posts (80%, or four out of five) should be posts from or about other people, such as retweets of interesting blog posts. That is, blog posts which are interesting to your target reader … which may or may not be people like you. Not blog posts you liked because they had useful writing or editing tips (unless your target reader is a writer).

If you can focus on this 80:20 principle, focus on providing content that your readers will find interesting, you’ll get interaction with readers and you might even find you come to enjoy using Twitter.

But if you make it all about you … Yeah. You might get nothing but tumbleweeds. Not so good.

This post is part of the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop, organised by Raimey Gallant. We now have over 40 blogs participating. To find more Blog Hop posts: