Fun with Twitter for Authors

This post, by Steven Ramirez, originally appeared on his Glass Highway site and is reprinted here in its entirety with the author’s permission.

Okay, here’s the deal. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at Twitter profiles. Why? Because I pretty much decide whom to follow based on the profile. Currently, I am interested in following other authors. And I will say that many make it very easy to just say no.

I don’t pretend to be a social media expert. For that kind of expertise, you should check out folks like Brian Solis, Jeremy Owyang, Charlene Li and Guy Kawasaki. But I have learned some things, and I’d like to offer you a few tips to get you going. Note that there are many other things you should be thinking about, but we’d be here all day. Anyway, let’s get started.

Protect Your Brand

It’s you out there on the Internet, and you don’t want anyone or anything messing with how people perceive you. Furthermore, you don’t want to take it lightly yourself. Social media is powerful—but it’s also kind of dangerous. One mistake can have horrible consequences, even if it wasn’t your fault. Just ask McDonalds (see “#McDStories, McDonald’s Twitter Hashtag Promotion, Goes Horribly Wrong”).

So what do you do? First you make sure that your online persona is consistent across the various social media sites. This does not mean that you need to sign up for every single thing out there! Who would have the time to manage all that? No, what I mean is that you should ensure that those sites you are active in are consistent in what they say about you—your profile—and what you look like—your photo.

While we’re at it, at a minimum you should be on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads, and have an updated Author profile on Amazon. Anything else—like Pinterest and Instagram—are optional as far as I’m concerned.

Make sure that all of your links are current. The last thing you want is for someone to hit a dead end. It makes you look like an amateur.

You Are a Business

That’s right. I am making the huge assumption that if you are a writer, you would actually like for someone to buy your books. If that’s indeed the case, then you must act like a business. That means having a “good” photo on Twitter.

This is something that continues to befuddle me. I can’t tell you the number of authors who choose pictures of their cat or their gimlet-eyed dog for their profile. Seriously, people! I’m not interested in following a cat. Look, if you love your pet that much, then create another Twitter account devoted exclusively to felines.

Another thing that annoys me is grainy or out-of-focus photos that look like they were taken at Aunt Minnie’s house back when you had hair and wore plaid pants. I realize that photographers are expensive. But at least try to get a decent photo. This also goes back to protecting your brand.

Finally, make sure your bio is relevant. Like the photos of the cat or dog, many authors do not actually lead with writing! They talk about such interesting topics as windsurfing and mountain climbing and hot dog-eating contests and any number of other pointless hobbies. You’re an author, right? Why isn’t that the first thing in your bio?

The ABCs of Engagement

Getting back to Twitter, there’s a well-known acronym that every good salesman knows—ABC. It stands for Always Be Closing. In other words, you should always be selling something to someone—convincing them that they need to buy your product.

Well, guess what. That doesn’t fly in social media. I have seen writers who spend a great deal of Twitter bandwidth hawking their books and little else. Look, it’s fine to advertise. But you should be giving back to the community. That means providing information that people can actually use.

I spend a good part of my Twitter time curating, which means that most days I scour all the blogs I follow and look for interesting posts I feel might be of benefit to others. Sometimes I add what I hope is useful commentary. And I don’t just focus on writing and publishing—I also like to find things related to movies and television.

Twitter is a strange and interesting creature. It forces us to think in 140 characters or less. In many cases, that’s enough to do something really great. I’m not saying that my Twitter profile is perfect. But I am always happy to share what I know with anyone who cares to listen. Good luck, and feel free to add your comments.