The Indie Author's Guide to Social Media - Part 1: Twitter

Social media is not just one of the most powerful tools available to an indie author, it is arguably the reason that any indie author could be successful. But with so many options available to you and each with their own niches, how do you even know where to start? How do you know if you’re doing it right? Is there even a right?

Welcome to the Indie Author’s Guide to Social Media.

In this guide, we will be going through the following social media platforms, how they can help indie authors, common mistakes, and how to most effectively utilize those platforms. This guide will cover the platforms that have the most potential for indie author growth. They include Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.

In this first instalment, we will be covering my personal favourite, Twitter.

Often touted as the greatest social network for aspiring authors, bloggers, and entrepreneurs, Twitter seems to be the single-greatest social media platform for building a network of peers and followers. Twitter can be used for equal parts self-promotion, learning, networking, and just being yourself.

Twitter allows users to follow one another, “tweet” messages of up to 140 characters, as well as like and retweet (share) the tweets of others. Furthermore, users make extensive use of hashtags to highlight keywords in their tweets, making them more likely to come up in searches.

How does it help indie authors?

There is a vibrant and ever-growing community of indie authors on Twitter that are more than happy to connect with one another. This community exists more on Twitter than any other social media platform, so this should be one of the social media accounts you make sure you have.

The use of hashtags also lets indie authors participate in massive weekly chats and games that span continents. These provide opportunities to not only learn from those on the same journey as you but to make a name for yourself among the indie author community.

Twitter also allows indie authors to reach audiences at an exponential rate. Whether you have 20, 200, 2000, or 20000 followers, each follower has the opportunity to retweet your tweets to their entire list of followers. While the ability to share posts is not uncommon among social media platforms, it is more frequent on Twitter than most, and directly links back to your profile.

Common Mistakes People Make on Twitter

There are a few things that you should avoid doing on Twitter that people do way too often. These include:

Promoting your product excessively. One of Twitter’s key strengths lies in its ability to network and promote one another. If someone looks at your feed and just sees a list of Amazon ads, then you are not likely to gather many followers.

Follow the Famous. If you want to keep up to date on your favourite band or celebrity icon, consider making a personal Twitter. Keep in mind that we are using social media as a tool, not as a plaything. If the person you follow is not likely to further your goal in some way – either by following you back, retweeting your tweets, or educating you – then they are not worth following on your author Twitter profile.

Don’t engage. One of the nice things about Twitter is the ability to engage with people, regardless of whether or not you follow each other. For this reason, it is incredibly easy to engage with everyone, on any interesting post you can see. Be sure to follow up on replies to your tweets, give some thank-you’s when people help you out, and throw your two cents in when you can. It is a social media platform, so be social!

How to Get Started on Twitter

Any social media platform can be daunting to get started on. You are a newcomer in a virtual landscape that has the established, the successful, and seemingly exclusive groups of people. Getting started on Twitter is easy though, just make sure you hit all of the following.

  1. Choose a Twitter handle and name that is recognizable as you. If you already have other social media channels, make them the same if possible. If you are consistently using the name D. William Landsborough, don’t make your Twitter handle @KrazeeGamer. Just don’t.
  2. Get a Profile Picture and a Cover Photo. Again, be consistent here, at least with the profile picture. There isn’t really a reason your profile photo is not the same on all your professional social media accounts. Make sure that it expresses who you are and has your face in it. As for the cover photo, there are a whole bunch of websites out there when you can make ones with stock images for free, or a small fee. The ideal Twitter cover image is 1500x500 pixels.
  3. Fill out your Bio. And make sure to fill it with keywords and 1-3 hashtags. You can add a splash of humour, but it is more important to get quality information in that small cluster of words. In a lot of cases, people might only see your profile picture and your bio, so take some time on them both.
  4. Follow 200 People on Day One. Make sure these 200 people are explicitly related to what you are pursuing: writing, indie authors, publishers, book bloggers, etc. This will generate recommended followers and make you more likely to be retweeted to the right audience.
  5. Start tweeting and retweeting. You might feel uncomfortable at first, but dive right in there. You can do an awkward, sort of funny first tweet if you want. But bear in mind that a simple hello and introduction does fine. And retweet those 200 people you just followed. Every 1 in 5 tweets should be yours, but retweeting shows the community that you want to be an active member of the indie author Twitterverse.

Take Your Twitter Up a Notch

Once you get up and running on Twitter, maybe with a few hundred followers of your own, it is time to start using some more expert techniques. These five tips are guaranteed to boost your engagement and follower count.

  1. Pin a Tweet. Statistically speaking, a visitor to your profile will pay more attention to your pinned tweet than your bio (though never ignore your bio). You can pin a tweet by clicking the arrow in the top right and selecting Pin to Profile. Make sure your pinned tweet is either a great reflection of you and your work or has some kind of call to action
  2. Participate in Hashtag Games. Because the indie author community is so prolific on Twitter, they usually come together to play some pretty fun hashtag games. These could include weekly events that highlight a line from your work in progress, or they could be ongoing chats. For the latter, you use the hashtag to make sure your tweets are included in the conversation. Our own hashtag game is premiering the day after this blog goes live, so check out the #WhoNeedsAHero game starting August 11.
  3. Link your Website to Your Profile. Don’t waste the space in your bio, since Twitter already gives you an option to add your website to your profile. This way people can connect back to your content very easily. Because your Twitter feed can easily be filled with pictures, other links, retweets, etc., you will want a reliable way to bring your fans and your network back to your website.
  4. Makes Lists. Don’t be like me and put this off. Lists are valuable tools that let you group your people you are following (and even those you don’t) into categories. This will add some organization to the ever-expanding chaos of your Following list. As an indie author, make lists such as Writers, Bloggers, Publishers, Editors, or any others you can think of. Lists let you see only tweets and retweets from those on the lists. They are very helpful in finding specific content to retweet and share with your followers.
  5. Use a Third-Party Application. As you get further along in your journey, you will need to start using some tools to make your life a little easier. Some of these are paid, and some of them have free options, but it is tough to dispute the effectiveness of the apps. And there are a countless ones out there. They include Hootsuite, Buffer, and Crowdfire, among many others. I personally use Buffer to schedule my posts on all my social media accounts, while Crowdfire is great for finding followers you want and curating content for those followers. But don’t just jump to them; look around for which ones work best for you. Just keep in mind that these tools compliment your own work, it doesn’t do it for you.

The journey to being an indie author is complex but enjoyable. Twitter not only lets you build a base and a network, possibly better than any other social media platform, but it lets you have a lot of fun while doing so.

Do you have anything to add to the Indie Author’s Social Media Guide to Twitter? I would be happy to include it in a later version of the guide. And let me know which social media platform you would like to see next. And be sure to subscribe to the mailing list for when the Guide gets updated; subscribers will get expanded versions of the Indie Author’s Guide to Social Media.

Click here to read Part Two of the Indie Author's Guide to Social Media, where we cover Google+.