Using Twitter Strategically: It's All About Making Meaningful Connections
Two weeks ago I wrote about balancing two kinds of writing — memoir and social media (Facebook and Twitter). Kathleen Pooler wrote a comment on that post, which prompted my invitation to her to share what she has learned about Twitter. I tend to use Facebook more than Twitter, but I see the advantages of Twitter when I watch someone like Kathleen in action.
“Writers need to think of Twitter as the largest cocktail party in the world where you can mingle away with fellow writers, editors, publishers and friends from all over the world.”
Editor, Alan Rinzler, “Strategic Tweeting for Authors” on his blog, The Book Deal.
Why Use Social Media?
If you are anything like me, when I became serious about writing in 2009, the whole idea of getting involved in social media initially seemed overwhelming and frivolous. I mean, even the word “twitter” sounded giddy and trivial.
“Why in the world would I care about what someone else was having for lunch or what TV program they were watching? All I really want to do is write a memoir….”
Fast forward to 2012 where the publishing industry is experiencing cataclysmic changes likened to the changes that occurred with invention of the printing press.
Suddenly, I, the writer now have to take full responsibility for marketing myself so when my book is published (traditionally or independently via self-publishing), I will already have a following of perspective readers. And, since I’m not a celebrity, I need to establish my own author platform to define my brand (who am I and what am I about) and spread my message to my target audience (my followers).
Long story short, I took a giant leap of faith in December 2009 and started a free WordPress.com blog, Write On. After attending a writing conference in February 2010 and listening to all the agents to whom I pitched my story idea ask, “What is your author platform?” I knew I needed help.
I signed up (wisely) for Dan Blank’s Build Your Author Platform Course in March, 2010, upgraded my blog to a website, Memoir Writer’s Journey and plunged into the social media scene — Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, LinkedIn and became instantly overwhelmed. Where was the time to write?
I needed to find my own way through the maze of social media.
Twitter was the last place I joined in November of 2010 but it became my favorite social media tool and still is. But, initially, I became a “twitter-junkie”, tethering myself constantly to tweeting and retweeting from early morning until late at night. My husband thought I moved to another country. He even coined a term in my honor, F.O.M.O. (“fear of missing out”). I was like a little kid let loose in a candy store, unsupervised.
I needed to learn how to use twitter strategically- to figure out a way to make it work for me not be a slave to its distractions.
So, I developed a plan of action:
- I limited Twitter and Facebook to 15 minutes three times per day
- I subscribed to my favorite blogs via Google Reader so they are all in one place
- I scheduled “sacred “ time to pray, think, journal, play the piano, and write
- I exercise at least 60 minutes five days a week
- I limit TV and magazine subscriptions to Time, Writer’s Digest and The Sun
In order to make Twitter work for me, I had to take care of everything else first.
Here’s how I use Twitter strategically:
- I honed my brand “memoir writer who shares hope through faith” and added that to my Twitter profile.
- I follow people who align with my brand- other memoir writers, writers of any genre, social media strategists, editors, publishers, Christian writers, journalists, cancer survivors, single parents, nurses. I do not follow anyone who does not have a description in their profile.
- I tweet messages and posts, including my own that resonate with my brand.
- I make sure that promotion of others outweighs my self-promotion ( as a rule for every 5 tweets, only 1 should be about me)
- I schedule my tweets using Tweetdeck (Hootesuite has this capability too) so that all my tweets don’t post at once.
- If I like a blog post, I make sure to spread the word via Twitter as well as other channels.
- I retweet tweets that align with my brand
- I use hash tags (#) i.e. #memoir, #amwriting #writing tips as much as possible. They serve to identify specific discussions (also called lists) that are occurring, further extending the reach.
Here’s how Twitter works for me:
- The use of hashtags has resulted in being picked up by several curating sites, i.e. #memoirDaily, ScoopIt for memoir writing, personal storytelling. My blog posts have been posted on these sites numerous times.
- Many meaningful connections have been forged via Twitter-by responding to tweets, retweeting or following lists. These have resulted in opportunities to guest post or find writers to guest post on my blog. Here are a few examples:
@TerreBritton~ curator at the Creative Flux blog (Sirius Press) invited me to do a guest post on memoir writing
@llbarkat (L.L. Barkat) author of Rumors on the Waters: Thoughts on Creativity inspired me in one of her tweets to write a post on “Evoking Emotions: The Power of Sensory Detail in Storytelling.” I linked her post in this post and she commented on my site.
Additionally, L.L.Barkat is the managing editor of HighCalling.org website where I submitted an Advent story which was linked on the site.
@dianaraab requested I do a review of her book, Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey which I posted on Amazon and Goodreads. My blog post this week, “Healing with Words: The Power of Memoir” will also link the book review.http://krpooler.com/2012/04/30/healing-with-words-the-power-of-memoir/
These are just a few of the meaningful connections I have been able to make through Twitter. I use several social media tools to expand my message, but Twitter, along with my weekly blog posts are my main ones. I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Goodreads to a lesser degree.
In the end it really boils down to personal preference.
My main advice is to narrow it down to a few that work the best. Do not try to do it all.
It really is all about making meaningful connections no matter what social media tool you decide to use. That’s a good place to start forging a relationship with your readers.
Two of my teachers about social media and writing have been Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson. Porter does an amazing weekly summary of the latest publishing industry news on Jane’s website called Writing on the Ether. In his posts, he embeds actual tweets using a Word Press plug-in called Blackbird Pie. It seems fitting to end this essay with an actual tweet from Shirley to Porter and me. In it, you too can learn about Blackbird Pie.
What meaningful connections are you making in your life and in your writing?
I’d love to hear from you~
Kathy can be reached at her blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey(http://krpooler.com) Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and and Goodreads at Kathleen Pooler and Twitter@kathypooler http://krpooler.com/2012/04/30/healing-with-words-the-power-of-memoir/
A wonderful post, and one I definitely needed to read! I just opened a Twitter account, and I’ve been lost about what to do with it. I love how you made a schedule for yourself, allotting a certain amount of time to social media, while including other important parts of your life. I’ve been talking about creating such a schedule, but seeing an example of one helps me tremendously.
I have made a lot of meaningful connections through blogging. I never expected to connect so much with like-minded people concerned about many of the things I’m concerned about. I would like to use Twitter and FB more strategically to make more connections. Not connections for the sake of connections, but, as you say, meaningful connections. I’m still in the dark about Google +, though I did sign up.
Thank you for helping this overwhelmed writer!
Thank you so much for your comments. It sounds like you have a great start in building your platform through your blog. What I learned the hard way is I tried to do everything at once at first. I think it’s important to try them all out to see what fits but in the end it is so much better to pick a few and concentrate on how they can work for you. It is very overwhelming but when I thought of it all as a “beast”, I concentrated my efforts on “taming the beast” to meet my needs. Good Luck and I hope to see you on Twitter or whatever else you decide will work best for you. I appreciate your comments and am happy to answer any other questions.
So glad this post helped in your continuing education, Tina. That’s what all of us are doing — learning as we go. Thanks for the comment.
Kathy, I have a question for you. How did you decide WHICH relationships were most strategic for you? And do you use the list function and search function to enhance your strategic use of Twitter? How?
Great post, Kathy! I am still in such a learning stage about all these strategies–and need to focus down to the most important things to do. I do believe in all this though in a way I didn’t use to–that real people are at the other end of tweets, and real people just like us are trying to connect and learn and share. You are the go-to girl with these great strategies.
Shirley–your blog is so beautiful!!
Thanks so much for stopping by. It truly is a “learn-as- you- go deal and you can make it work to your distinct advantage. I have met the most incredible people through Twitter so, yes, there are real people behind all the tweets. In the end, it really just boils down to having another way to make meaningful connections. I appreciate your comments!
Thank you so much for your kind comments about my blog, Linda Joy. It’s wonderful to have children who are in the website development business!
Learning to know you and Kathy online has been one of the joys of social media. Yes, real people. Real people we like and want to help are at the other end of our finger tips.
#1 I had to try them all out initially before I figured out Twitter was my favorite. The more I used it, the more connections I made. Personally, I am drawn to the simplicity and accessibility of meaningful content as well as the ease of communicating with people from all over the world who align with my brand. The first step in figuring out brand is to focus on your main message and put it in your profile to attract like-minded people.
#2 Hashtags in a tweet will organize your tweets into lists ,i.e. #memoir, #amwriting where there are dedicated discussion threads about these topics. It’s similar ot the Google Alert system where you identify a topic and Google curates online material for you related to that topic.
I use Tweet deck (can also do this with Hootsesuite but not Twitter) and I can add columns of lists ie #memoir so all relate discussions are organized into columns. It’s just another way of highlighting information pertinent to your brand.
As far as the search function, I use it to track down tweets of my main influencers (this you define by your brand- for me mine is writing a memoir with a Christian theme about the power of hope through faith) Twitter becomes very crowded especially as you gain followers so organizing tweets of influencers can help you access key information quickly.
I hope I’ve answered your questions in a way that makes sense. Let me know!
Kathy, thanks for this. I think I would use Twitter more, and more strategically, if I could whittle my influencers down to the top ten I most admire, who seem most aligned with my purpose, and who seem most helpful on Twitter.
I’ve noticed that some people with huge followings only broadcast their tweets. Some will thank people who give them good info, write reviews about their books, etc.
How have you developed your list of influencers?
Kathy, you’re quite the Twitter expert. You should be on the Google+ Hangout show that @Jason_Matthews moderates every Monday. Just finished my 3rd tonight, and we discussed marketing techniques, how to get book reviews, QR codes, which I knew nothing about, and how blogging has made a difference to us as writers. You just gave me a new # to follow: #memoir daily. Can’t believe I didn’t follow it before. Thanks Kathy, and keep moving along, you’re already way ahead.
Sonia, talking about queens, you are the queen of platform building. I just love watching you learn in public.
What’s a QR code?
I agree with Shirley, you are indeed the Queen of platform building and I am watching you closely! I never saw a forum explode ( in a good way) as fast as your Gutsy Indie Publisher facebook forum has. Thanks for all your kind feedback. I have listened in on Jason Matthews video hangout. It’s a great place for focused discussions on writing/ publishing. Right now I’m trying to focus on finishing the first draft of my memoir so am trying to keep the social media component managable
Con’t….That would be manageable..(Jane Friedman recently recommended 10-25% of writing time be devoted to social media).Thanks for your comments!
How have I developed my list of main influencers? Short answer..by getting clear on my own brand and by listening to those who resonate with what I am about.
Does that help?
This is a PS to developing an influencer list, Shirley. I also look at who my main influencers follow and check out their profiles to see if they align with my brand. You can tell a lot by looking at their most recent tweets. If the tweets resonate, I follow them.
Commenting on other blogs is another great way to develop “meaningful relationships” as evidenced by your response to my comment 🙂
@Shirley, and @Kathy. I thank you for the compliment, but I have to say, I’m learning all the time, and spend too much time joining groups and trying new things. Unlike what Jane Friedman recommends, I spend a good 50% of my time online with marketing, promotion, making a video or a podcast. But I’m also learning the publishing business since I set up my own. That’s been huge as well, but who doesn’t enjoy a challenge? 🙂
@Shirley, QR (Quick response) codes are scannable (or let me say, you take a photo of it on an ad or business card with your i-phone), and apparently this takes you straight to a website where you can purchase the product, like Amazon for a book or your website. I’m not sure how this works, but you can go to the app store and type in QR however, I did see on the Bowker, ISBN “myindentifiers,” that you can purchase a QR code for $25, and you place it on a business card, or bookmark. Sounds good to me, but I also read 1 in 5 i-phone owners use them.
So that’s what those things are called. I’ve seen people using them on the subway and at a Broadway play.
I’ll have to download the app and experiment. Could be a fun way to sell your book if people used them more.
Thanks for sharing, Sonia. And good luck as a publisher as well as a writer.
Me again. Here’s the link to QR codes by Sherry Snider.
I’m with Linda Joy — so much to learn, so little time. I’ve been using Twitter for awhile, but only as scatter shots in the dark. You masters are speaking a language of hash tags, etc. that I have yet to learn…
Thanks for the nudge.
Sharon, good to see you again! If you follow @KathyPooler for a while and watch how she interacts, shares, helps others, and learns, you will begin to get the knack of it.
I know what you mean about the so little time!
Great to see you here! I understand your reluctance to jump into yet another social media arena. I never thought I would get involved but once I soon discovered how easy it was to meet and interact with so many like-minded people. Twitter has forced me to be concise with my message by helping me to distill my thoughts into 140 characters. For me, the key to making it work is to hone in on my own message so I can attract those who align with me. I also have to enforce my own self-discipline to minimize the time I spend on it while making it count when I do. I think it’s worth a try and then you will find your own way to make it work for you. Good luck and hope to see you in my Twitter-verse 🙂
Here’s a podcast from the New Yorker magazine that I found fascinating. http://www.newyorker.com/online/2012/04/09/120409on_audio_twitter
In it, two writers describe the merits of Twitter and talk about the education it provides in flattering those above you on the “food chain” of influence. Hadn’t heard anyone put it quite that bluntly before.
Shirley, I just listened to the podcast and found the discussion very interesting, especially how young adults are using it to access prospective employers, using flattery in 140 characters to get them there! Enlightening view of how Twitter has impacted the way we communicate these days. Thanks for sharing.
Love it. Thanks. Wow. I have so much to learn.
Just found this post – via Kathy on Twitter! I love the easy world-wide networking of Twitter, and that’s usually how I prefer to keep up with blogs I like, by people tweeting about their newest posts. Tweetchats are fun learning and networking tools, too. I like interactive FB groups (ex. Sonia’s) instead of pages. LinkedIn also has useful groups for writers, but I prefer FB for that. Social media is no longer an option for authors, and like Kathy I’ve fully embraced it and find it fun as well as useful. Good, important post!
Nice to see you here. I love how we keeping running into each other! Your point about social media no longer being optional is an important one for all serious writers. Thanks for sharing what works for you. I think we all need to find our own way through all the different social media options. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing.
thank You for your twitter presence*
Awww, thanks so much , Kara for our kind moments. I appreciate you stopping by!
Awww, thanks so much , Kara for your kind moments. I appreciate you stopping by!
Kathy, just found this post as we’ve been away for almost two weeks. This is an incredible post and one I needed. I’ve felt that I’ve been floundering on Twitter, not knowing exactly how to handle what! Also, your suggestion of reading blogs through Google Reader was helpful as well. Some days I feel overwhelmed by this computer sitting in front of me, and I walk away in frustration and not writing. Can’t do that and get published! 🙂 Thanks so much for the sharing you do.
Welcome back, Sherrey! I know what you mean about feeling overwhelmed by social media and frustrated about being distracted from your writing. I think the key for me has been to figure out a way to use it all strategically so it works for me and still allows time for writing ( and for the rest of my life), not always easy and always a challenge but certainly well worth the effort to make so many meaningful connections. I’m glad you found the post helpful and appreciate you stopping by and commenting.
Linda, Kara, and Sherrey. Welcome to this memoir blog and thank you for following your friend Kathy here through Twitter. Inadvertently, you have contributed to one more reason to use Twitter. This blog post has had over 170 hits, most of them in the first day, but it has continued to gain new hits and comments each day this week? Not through subscriptions or RSS feeds so much (six days after posting) but through a few discrete tweets throughout the week. Thanks again, Kathy. You had a busy week online with several guest posts and lots of tweets. Did you really restrict yourself to 15 minute segments??
HaHa Shirley, I confess I did spend a little more time on social media this week but I had a great time on your blog and Ollin Morales’ Courage2Create blog with the guest posts as well as with my own blog. This “kitchen table” I talk about gathering around is expanding and I’m loving the conversation! Believe it or not Twitter time was still quite manageable and within my 45 minute/ day timeframe because it is so quick and accessible. Thanks again for this wonderful and enjoyable opportunity to be your guest. I look forward to staying connected with you all. Hope to see you on Twitter, the ” greatest cocktail party in the world.”
Blessings to all!
[…] writing that began with this post about social media and continued when Kathy Pooler did a guest post about Twitter here last week. As I write my own memoir, I am learning to know many authors who have become […]
Thanks Kathleen for writing the post, Shirley for hosting it and everyone for all the great discussion. Kathleen, I love the way you think about all of this, and am SO impressed by the way you have tackled it as a solvable puzzle, fearlessly approaching the complexity, finding mentors, following information, and then implementing your own best strategy. What an awesome example you set for the rest of us as we attempt to tackle this multi-dimensional puzzle of becoming successful writers in an age of rapid change. And thanks for passing along what you’ve learned! As the old choices disintegrate, we can help each other find the path “here” in virtual space.
I appreciate your kind comments. Thank You!
It truly is a “multi-dimensional puzzle” we all have to face these days and we do need each other to find our way through the maze of challenges, opportunities and changes inherent in the current publishing environment.
I’m happy you found the post useful.
Great post. This social media is so overwhelming and you helped me put it all into perspective. I never use Twitter…I always thought it had no real substance. I will return to it with news eyes and a definite focus. Thanks
Hi, Jerry, Kathy, and Judy,
So glad that this post continues to speak to you. I still find it easier to use FB than Twitter strategically, but I can always come back here and get inspired again. One step at a time. Judy, great to meet you. Come back again!
OMG Kath…this is just what I needed to read today…feeling so, so overwhelmed with social media and real life. This will help me to better use the tools and stay in focus.
Hi, Pat, so glad Kathy’s wise and clear words offered you hope and a way out of the sometimes-overwhelming social media morass.
I’m so happy you found the post useful, Pat. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.
Shirley, thanks again for this opportunity to share what I have learned.
Here’s another post that I found very helpful when deciding how to spend my social media time:
It’s so nice to connect with so many incredible people. Meeting in person would really be the” icing on the cake”. And everytime I have met the people behind the tweets,etc I have felt like I was reuniting with longtime friends. There really are real and wonderful people behind all this social media 🙂
Thanks to Kathy and Shirley for this post. I’ve been out of circulation for a while and needed something inspiring to get me going again. Twitter is the one platform that I haven’t mastered yet, so I’ll approach it with better insight now. Having said that, my best success is sharing my blog posts to my LinkedIn groups and generating discussions around that topic, which often awards me with being one of the ‘top influencers of the week.’ The latest has been on out-of-the-box book marketing tips, which delivered so many wonderfully innovative ideas that I’m able to generate a new blog post from it. I guess different platforms have a stronger (natural) call to us all. In closing, I agree with everyone about the biggest wonder of social media platforms: making like-minded writing friends.
Hi, Belinda. This is very interesting. I was moderately active on one LinkedIn group but faded out of it after a while. Would you mind saying how you picked your group? Hope these tips are helping get you started in Twitter. I have not been very active there myself lately. My handle is @shirleyhs. Let’s follow each other and keep learning!
Dear Belinda and Shirley,
I love how we keep connecting! I think selecting a few platforms that work for us as individuals is important since trying to do it all ends up being exhausting and self-defeating. I have also found LinkedIn groups to be very responsive- Women’s Memoir and Writers Cafe, in particular. Twitter is still my favorite one and I hope to see you both there. My handle is @kathypooler. Thanks for a great discussion. And, I agree, it is wonderful to meet like-minded people online.
Shirley, I’m following you now on Twitter. Basically, the groups I connect with are writers, private coaches, and expatriates. I look forward to being connected now.
Your post has given me a lot to think, or worry, about. I just started a twitter account yesterday, so I’m still trying to swim through it all. Any advice for someone with really disparate interests? i.e. playwriting, sci-fi, chickens, gardening, volleyball, poetry, Big 10 basketball… I mean, even the two plays I’ve written have wildly different topics: Appalachian Civil War History and Men Watching Football. (The only thing they have in common is they’re both comedies.)
Am I too hopelessly scatterbrained to get Twitter to work efficiently for me?
Hi Britt, Thanks for stopping by! Your comments reminded me of a quote I just read by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go for that.” It may take a while to get a focus on who you are and what you want to say,but start with what “makes you come alive.” Eventually you will find like-minded people and they will find you. Its’ important as you hone your message that you make it clear in your profile. Best wishes and brava to you for taking the plunge! I am following you. Kathy
Kathy has sage advice, Britt. I am only now beginning to find my Twitter audience/voice. In my bio, I am now emphasizing the words legacy and memoir. I am hoping to find people interested in sharing wisdom and also groups that might be interested in my particular memoir. I have yet to really explore this approach. Revision is my highest goal now. But I am actually revising with these themes in mind and hope to participate on Twitter around these themes, helping others who care about similar issues.
All writers can learn a lot from other writers online. You might want to follow @CreativePenn and @JaneFriedman and then see who they are following.
I’m new to Twitter and am already finding it valuable in making connections and identifying useful resources–that’s how I found this very helpful post. Thanks, Shirley!
Glad if you can use any of this info, April. Kathy is a real pro. Just use your natural generosity and you will be humming along beautifully. As I recall, you and I met on Twitter??
Thanks for your vote of confidence, Shirley and for the opportunity to be your guest.
April, It’s nice to meet you. I’m happy you found the information useful. Follow me @ kathypooler and I’ll follow you back.
[…] Kathy Pooler is one of my most prolific and generous memoir writer friends. If you’ve been following this blog, you have met her talking about how to use Twitter to build meaningful relationships. […]
[…] you start reading this article, you need to check out Kathy’s post “Using Twitter Strategically: Itâ€™s All About Making Meaningful Connections” because it discusses the initial stage of utilizing Twitter for book […]
Kathy, This is an amazing post with all the interactions. You have pieced together the elephant. The first item of business for most of us I do believe is to understand one’s own identity/message/work and its appeal. I am still struggling with these although I have finished my manuscript. Thank goodness for that! I will re-read this post again to pick at some of the specifics. A huge portion of your brand, Kathy, is your “generosity.”
Marlena, I agree with you in every way. First, we can’t learn everything at once, so we do what we can and use the rest for reference.
And I especially agree that “a huge portion” of Kathy’s brand is generosity. Very insightful of you. All the best in getting to the next stage with your manuscript. May you find just the perfect hashtags!
It’s so nice to see you here. I appreciate your kind and generous comments and am thrilled you found the post to be helpful. Congratulations on finishing your manuscript. I agree, it’s difficult to take in all this information at once. I certainly didn’t learn it all at once. It took a lot of trial and error and, of course, plunging in and trying it out. I wish you much success in your next step and look forward to hearing about it. And thank you, Shirley for your ongoing support!
Great advice about your strategy using social media, especially limiting the time spent. I can only add think of using these as research tools as a writer and when looking for marketing opportunities. With Twitter it is a slow process and don’t give up!