Monday 9 May 2016

#TwitterTips: Nine Tips for Using Twitter

By Iola Goulton

This week was going to be a post on using Facebook . . . but that's now going to be a two-part post next Monday and Tuesday. For today, here are nine tips on how to use Twitter as an author.

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 Australasian Christian Writers account (@acwriters).

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, and 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 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)
Use appropriate tools to manage who you follow (to unfollow non-followers, and find target readers to follow). All tools have free and paid plans, with paid plans offering added features such as multiple accounts. I use Crowdfire to manage @iolagoulton, and ManageFlitter to manage @acwriters (yes, it recently occurred to me that while I can only manage one account through the free version of Crowdfire, I can use two free tools to manage two accounts). ManageFlitter is apparently the better product, but I find Crowdfire easier to use.

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 (I ignore most tweets in my feed, because that’s exactly who it is all about, and I recently unfollowed one author because not only was it all about her, but she tweets every ten minutes. 24/7).

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

@ACWriters uses a free tool called Roundteam to retweet tweets from members of Australasian Christian Writers. This is managed using the ACW list: if you’d like to be added to the list, please follow @ACWriters and @iolagoulton, and tweet @iolagoulton to ask to be added. @acwriters also tweets the posts on Australasian Christian Writers.

@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 Awesome plan (USD 10 per month), which is truly awesome as it means I’m posting regularly without actually being on social media 24/7.

Many Twitter experts recommend Hootsuite to manage Twitter and other social media accounts. 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 both @iolagoulton and @acwriters (as I’m the person with the password). As @iolagoulton, I’ve also started using TweetJukebox, which cycles through a preset list of tweets, and thanks people who’ve retweeted me. Out of interest: is this annoying, or do you like being thanked?

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.

For more information

I spend maybe five minutes a day specifically on activities related to Twitter (i.e. following and unfollowing, and interacting with other Twitter users). The rest of my activity is automated, although I have to set up and feed that automation, which is part of my more general social media time.

If you’d like to learn more about using Twitter as an author, here are two suggestions:

  1. Read Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall
  2. Read Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors by Ian Sutherland

Of course, it’s not enough to read. You also need to apply what you’ve learned.

Finally, remember 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?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (,  subscribe to my monthly newsletter at CES Newsletter or follow me on Facebook (, Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (


  1. Well done, Iola. Lots of great tips. I've always struggled with the accepted practice of "follow those who follow you". It seems a bit disingenuous to me, following for sake of keeping your numbers up rather than generally taking an interest in what someone has to share.

    One thing I'm interesting in understanding is for those people who follow thousands how do they "discern" what to read and what not to? Do they establish "lists" of followers which limits whose tweets they actually read?

    Excellent post, Iola.

    1. Hi Ian - I've only just over 2000 followers - but I find lists invaluable for reading the content I'm interested in. Though the more I've followed authors, the more the unfiltered news feed is likely to be interesting too.

    2. I agree with Jeanette - definitely use lists. Hashtags can also be a good way of finding useful content. I follow a lot of blogs, and get a lot of my tweets from those.

      I get what you mean about the "follow those who follow you" practice, but Twitter's following rules mean that unless you're a major celebrity, you've got to keep your ratio of follows to followers close to 1:1. A lot of users who follow you first will unfollow you if you don't follow back, because they're managing their follower ratio.

      I guess there's no point in following back if you're just using Twitter to follow a handful of your favourite accounts - but you have to recognise this means you won't gain many followers either.

      Following or not following . . . both are tactics. Which is the best depends on your own personal marketing strategy.

    3. Thanks for the clarification, Iola. I didn't appreciate the 1:1 rule and now understand why people unfollow me soon after following me. And as you mention this unfollow is automated.

  2. I also struggle with the accepted practice of "follow those who follow you". Mostly I do, but the other day a dentist from Florida followed me and there seemed to be nothing in his feed that would interest me (and vica versa).

    Also I'd have to say, I really don't like being thanked for re-tweets, but I've noticed that it is very wide spread.

    Thanks for the tips. It's good to know how others use Twitter.

    1. Dentists from Florida . . . yes, I tend not to follow those back either. They don't appear to be my target reader, so I don't feel the need to follow them, and it doesn't bother me if they then unfollow me. If they're genuinely interested in me, they won't unfollow.

      I suspect thanking for RTs is widespread because there are a bunch of apps which do it automatically - which is what I'm doing, for better or for worse. People often like or RT the thank you posts, so I guess they like it!

  3. Hi Iola

    Great post. I can recommend Rayne Hall's book & will check out Sutherland.

    My additional #twittertips
    - use a hashtag of your novel or series when tweeting about them as that will collate all your tweets on this subject in one place for easy reference. (Yes, I agree don't make it all about your or 'buy my book' - but it worth doing it occasionally.) For instance I use #AkradsLegacy #TamrinTales etc
    - interesting re 5000 - it used to be 2000. Like you, I follow back except if 1) selling followeres, 2) full of erotica or porn (I've started blocking those) 3) in a foreign language and 4) sometimes if it a business selling product I have absolutely no interest in. I also unfollow accounts that then unfollow some weeks later or people who don't follow back (and I'm not really interested in their account)
    - if your feed becomes a cacophony of voices - use lists. Lists can include people you follow & even people that you don't and helps you to see their content easily
    - I don't find Thankyou for RT's annoying. One - it's a way of saying thankyou for the people who took time to retweet my content (I really appreciate that, another way is retweet their content too) & I when I see a TY for RTs - I often check & follow the people mentioned (as these are people who retweet so may be great followers to have)
    - actively follow (and then unfollow if necessary) - look at the followers of the people you follow, people how retweet your tweets and retweets, people mentioned in FF (Follow Friday), WW (Writers Wednesday) shout-outs. This is the fastest way to grow your account (as long as you unfollow as well).
    - have a pinned post that you would like others to retweet at the top of your feed. When people follow you, they often want to retweet you - make it easy for them to help you :)

    I initially hated Twitter by Rayne's book really helped. It doesn't take long to maintain even without all the automated programs though I appreciate hearing about the ones that work :)

    1. Jeanette, excellent addendum to Iola's post. Thanks so much.

    2. Yes, Jeannette, thanks! You've made some great points.

      I do actively follow followers of my followers (and doesn't that just run off the tongue!). I also follow some hashtags, but I've found that some which were once used by readers have now been taken over by spamming authors (e.g. #amreading).

      The hashtag for a book or series is a great idea. Must think of a title for my series . . .

      Regarding the book by Ian Sutherland - I haven't implemented many of his strategies because they do rely on paid services and I don't currently have books to sell to justify those services. But one day . . .

  4. Interesting I don't really use twitter much but seem to pick up followers including many who are interesting to say the lease. I haven't followed many of them.

    1. I get some interesting followers as well. Some are even interesting in a good way :)

  5. Iola, excellent post! I love the paid version of Buffer and I find it very user-friendly for scheduling tweets. I try to tweet daily the posts from my group blogs. I tend to only follow back people who have similar interests to myself. I will check their feed first to confirm they're not posting 'buy my book' tweets on a ten minute schedule. I also look at their retweets to see if they make sense re. their brand and interests.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.