Saturday, April 3, 2010

Guest Krista Davis: Twitter For Authors -- Part I

Twitter 101 -- The Basics

MySpace was all the rage a couple of years ago.  Now you hardly go there anymore.  Then came Facebook.  You’ve befriended your high school crush and about 3,000 other writers.  Have you sold many books?  Who knows?  You have, however, spent countless hours befriending people and reading about other writers and their lives when you should have been writing.  The last thing in the world that you need is to waste time on yet another social site.

Happily, Twitter is a little bit different.  It can be used as a Facebook-like entity, but it has much bigger marketing capabilities.  They call it viral, because tweets (the messages that are posted) spread in amazing ways.  The other big bonus is that messages can only be 140 characters long.  So while you could spend hours reading tweets, you really can’t spend too much time writing them.

It took me quite awhile to understand why Twitter is such a great marketing tool.  If you have already joined and become disillusioned, I understand completely.  I went through the same process.  When you join, all sorts of strangers begin to follow you.  Before you know it, your Twitter page seems to be full of disjointed and unimportant messages from a bunch of people you don’t know.  Do you really need to know that Jane Doe is going to bed now?  Or that John Doe is waiting for a flight?

Ah, but reaching people who don’t know you is key to marketing.  So that’s a good thing.  I like to think of Twitter as a big billboard.  If you paid a small fortune for a billboard in Times Square, a lot of people would walk by it.  Some would notice, others would be too busy flirting or drinking coffee or tweeting.  When you send a tweet out into the world, some people will notice it and others won’t.  There are a few key things, though, that increase your chances.

Joining Twitter is fairly simple.  Go to and click on JOIN.  However, do not protect your tweets!  You are there to see and be seen.

The Basics
# is called a hashtag.  It denotes a subject.  So, for instance, if you want people who read books to read your tweet, you would put #books in the body of your tweet.

@ designates a person or company.  I am @KristaDavis.  If you put #KristaDavis in your tweet, it won’t do you much good.  Only people searching tweets containing KristaDavis would see it.  Your Twitter address will be @YourName.

Remember all those tweets that started coming in fast and thick?   Imagine what will happen when you’re being followed by 1,000 people.  (And you will be if you work at it!)  You need a mechanism to keep track of the subjects that interest you.  Personally, I like TweetDeck.  (  It allows me to break subjects into columns.  For instance, since I write the Domestic Diva Mysteries, I can follow people tweeting about baking, Foodbuzz, books, reading, and recipes.  It also lets me know if I’ve been mentioned in a tweet, which I want to know because it might require a return tweet.

When I use TweetDeck, I’m not seeing the thousands of tweets that come in, just the ones that interest me.  Keywords for writers are #book, #books, #writing, #author, #writers, #write, #litchat, #amwriting, and #tweet4lit.  There are more for young adult writing, for NaNoWriMo, romance, paranormal, and countless other things.  This is where you need to understand your own brand and post to the #subjects that pertain to your writing.  All writers can use the broad subjects like #write, but you need to consider who your readers are and what interests them.  If you’re at a total loss, think about the things you like -- your favorite sports teams, books, movies, or hobbies.  That will get you started, but you’ll maximize the advertising value if you can target subjects that appeal to readers of your books.

How do you get people to follow you?  Easy.  Days of the week have special designations to spread the word.  Greetings are sent on #MM which stands for Meow Monday as well as Mystery Monday. #TT which means Tuna Tuesday. #WW for Writer Wednesday and Woof Wednesday. #FF is the most general -- Follow Friday.

To compose a message, you simply write something like: #writers #books Super blog on pitching to agents!

That means people following the subjects #writers and #books will see your tweet.

You can also bring your tweet to the attention of others by naming someone:  #writers #books Great blog by @JessicaAgent on pitching to agents!

Remember, you only have 140 characters to convey your message.   Consequently, you have to be smart about it.  If you write:

#writers #books #Great blog on #pitching to agents! yourname

The #s in front of “great” and “pitching” are wasted because there probably aren’t people reading tweets on the subject of great or pitching.

Another way to get people to follow you is to RT or retweet.  Let’s say one of your followers reads greatblog and thinks it’s good advice.  He hits retweet (usually located on the tweet itself) and he’s done.  He has just sent your message to his followers.  It will look like this:

RT @yourname: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! FollowersName

And then one of his followers re-tweets it to her followers:

RT@followersname: RT @yourname: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! FollowerOfFollowersname

And that’s how it becomes viral.  It all started with a tweet that you sent out into the world.  It was re-tweeted by one of your followers and re-tweeted again to another group  of followers.  Who knows how often it will be re-tweeted and who it might reach.  That’s the billboard on Times Square.

Tomorrow, Twitter 102 -- a few FAQs about Twitter.
National Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime.  Her most recent release is The Diva Paints the Town.  The Diva Cooks A Goose will be in bookstores in December.  Learn more about Krista's books at and visit her at, where she blogs on Saturdays. Follow her on Twitter at @KristaDavis.  She promises to follow you back!


Dru said...

I'm not an author, but thanks Krista for the twitter lesson. I've always wanted to know what certain tweets and symbols were, but was afraid to ask. I'm going to look into TweetDeck.

Lover of Books said...

That is all interesting stuff but I won't ever join Twitter. I just think it is one more thing that is a waste of time. But for those who use it, this is great stuff. Thanks for sharing!


Deb Baker said...

I have an account and followers, but really haven't done much with it. Thanks Krista. I took notes and really like the idea of columns at Tweetdeck.

Krista said...

Dru and Deb, I'm glad you found this helpful. I was so confused when I started. It's really very easy once you know what # means. And it doesn't take as much time as some of the other social sites.

Lover of Books, I think I'd rather read a book than tweet. But we authors need to get out there and tweet about our books. : )

~ Krista

Kate Collins said...

This is good stuff! Thanks for explaining those puzzling hash marks.
Will Tweetdeck help when I get multiple posts from the same person? For instance, I'll get the same 4 tweets via different sites: myspace, etc.

Anita Clenney said...

Did you write this just for me? LOL! I've been on Twitter for about two months, but I don't really use it except to post every few days. I knew it had great marketing potential, but didn't know how and hadn't taken the time to really delve into it. I didn't even understand the hash things so this is just great.

I do have Tweetdeck, thanks to another friend who sent me there. Now, I'm going to explore. I'm excited! Thanks so much.

Melissa Eiselein said...

I think this should be renamed: Everything I didn't want to know about Twittering but glad I learned.

I'm still not interested in Twitter for personal use but will definitely keep it in mind for profession use.

Now, if I can just get over the idea that most of the people I know call Twitter users "Twits". I guess I'm still a victim of peer pressure. LOL

Helen said...

Great job. I, too, recommend TweetDeck. It makes it so much easier to keep up with the tweets that you want to read. Without it, things get lost in the flood of tweets coming in constantly.


Stacy Juba said...

Thanks Krista! Getting onto Twitter is on my to-do list, but I've been a little intimidated. Will print out your articles for a reference.


Lindy said...

Hmmm... marketing? I wondered what the alure of twitter was supposed to be. I can see why the writers find it interesting, but I fail to see why a simple reader such as myself would want to be the target of said marketing and inanity posted by strangers. I'm glad it is working for you, but I think I'll just stay here in the dark ages with my books and candles.

Deb Baker said...

How do I add tweetdeck columns?

RhondaL said...

I've made some good contacts and even new face2face friends via Twitter. I know of book sales between Twitter friends.

What I think works best is a mix of business and personal. The whole point of Twitter is to make a connection with people who share your interests.

I try to do three tweets a day. I would prefer to do it different times in the day, but I tend to Tweet in the mornings. Since I cover three subject areas - books, horses and personal - I try to do one from each "column" per day.

I also Tweet links to my blog posts along with a clever "tease." A recent essay on the prevalence of a certain European breed's presence in movies about the ancient world, I tweeted as, "What's big and black and seen all over?"

And by "personal," I'm very careful about what I tweet about. I try to pick common experiences that people can relate to and maybe RT or reply to, which exposes people on their list to my voice. I try to put a clever spin on it.

IMO, Twitter is like a little sample pack of your voice.

Krista said...

Sorry, Kate. TweetDeck won't prevent you from receiving the same message on all your social sites. It will help you organize, though. So you might miss some of those duplicates.

Anita, of course I had you in mind when I wrote this! LOL! Seriously, I've been getting questions from a lot of my friends and thought it was time to share.

Krista said...

Melissa, you're so funny. That would have been a better title!

So true, Helen. I need my "mention" column so I won't miss a tweet.

You're very welcome, Stacy. No need to be intimidated. Just go ahead and do it. It's really not complicated.

Ah, Lindy -- nestled among books and candles! I'm writing a Halloween themed book, and you're helping me conjure spooky images.

Krista said...

Deb, there's a plus inside a circle in the upper right corner of TweetDeck. Click on it and you can insert a column following anything that interests you. I've tried out some #subjects that way to see if anyone is talking about them. For instance, I find #mysteries is woefully underused for mysteries!

Krista said...

Rhonda, three times a day? You're very diligent. I try to tweet in the morning, but don't always manage it!

RhondaL said...

Krista - More like "three times in the morning" is how it works out.

I often have every intention of spreading out Tweets during the day, because different people see them at different times -- especially when I'm promoting blog posts -- but I just can't get around to it.

Krista said...

Rhonda, I've read that we're supposed to figure out what time our target audience reads their tweets -- yeah, sure! How would we know? But that's one reason I like TweetDeck. I can scroll through the subjects I follow and make quick work of it.

Darden North said...

This is great information, Krista. Thank you for compiling it. I was in Chicago last weekend for a book signing and was tweeted by one of the customers an hour later!

Krista said...

Wow, Darden! That's so cool. That customer will follow you and retweet your tweets. You're off to a great start!

~ Krista

Supriya said...

Krista, first of all, thank you for posting this! I am about to print it off and hang it on my wall. I'm not crazy about the idea of tweeting or twittering or whatever (note to self: fix attitude) but I'm told it's a must for professional authors these days.

(An aside: A few months ago, I pulled a chapter I'd written way back and needed a fresh critique on. I'd used "twittered" as a verb--you know, it's original meaning--and it was flagged: "did you write this before social networking?" I did, in fact. ;)

Ingrid King said...

This is one of the best summaries about how to use Twitter effectively that I've seen. Thanks, Krista!

J.A. Hennrikus said...

Great post Krista! For anyone tweeting as two personalities, I suggest Hootsuite as another great tool.


Krista said...

Supriya, marketing is changing so much for authors. I think a lot of us want to back off because all these social media groups involve so much time. Thankfully, a few well placed tweets can go a long way!

You're so welcome, Ingrid! I'm glad that you found it helpful.

Julie, who would ever tweet as two personalities? LOL! A *lot* of authors we know and love! Whew! I'm glad I only have to tweet as one person.

~ Krista

Avery Aames said...

Krista, excellent re-hashing ## of Twitter. Bravo!
Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

signlady217 said...

Thanks for the explanation of a few Twitter concepts. Appreciate that, and keep up the good work!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

This is wonderfully informative. Thanks so much!

Gwyn Ramsey said...

Great article, Krista. Enjoyed learning more about Twitter. Now for Part 2???

Gwyn Ramsey

Sandra Parshall said...

Excellent post, Krista! Thanks. I have a Twitter account but have never used it. Maybe now I will.

Krista said...

Thanks, Avery, signlady217, Nancy, and Gwyn. : )

Sandra, once you tweet, you'll realize it's not at all difficult. Start by finding a tweet you like and clicking on retweet. You'll see how easy it is, and the person whose tweet you retweeted will be grateful that you're spreading the word.

~ Krista

Kathleen Ernst said...

As an author who has studiously avoided Twitter, I appreciate the tutorial!

Krista said...

You're so welcome, Kathleen!

~ Krista

Andrea C. said...

I am interested in Twitter but have been holding off (I do have a facebook). It seems complicated - especially after reading your post LOL! I probably should just give in and do it!

Krista said...

Andrea, start by retweeting. If you don't have TweetDeck yet, run your cursor over a tweet and you'll see retweet appear on the lower right side. Click on it and you've sent a tweet!

Those with TweetDeck will find the little button by running the cursor over the person's photo in the tweet.

After doing a simple retweet, try writing your own tweet, perhaps about what you're reading. Add #books or #reading and your message.

#books #reading The Diva Paints the Town by @KristaDavis and LOVE it!

It's easy! Note the shameless plug! ;)

~ Krista

Sarah said...

Great tutorial, Krista! I learned a lot about Tweeting I didn't know.


Donna Fletcher Crow said...

Thank you, thank you, Krista. At last, a patient enough teacher to get through to me. I'm giving it a try. Watch for my Tweet.