As a certain horror writer once advised me, be on social media sites because it's fun, not for what it will do for your career. This is true. If you make your presence on Twitter all about your career, you won't get far. But, if you can master being on Twitter for the fun of it AND for what it might do for your career, you can go very far, at least in social media terms.
Most people think they know how to interact well with their Twitter followers, but I can tell you, they really don't. From how you set up your profile message to what you tweet, making sure you're sending the right message is key to making positive connections and making/keeping followers. Here are 7 tips I recommend every writer follow on Twitter:
#1 DON'T put in your profile that you don't accept direct messages (DMs)
I've put this one at the top of my list, because I've noticed an increase in the number of profiles that reject direct messages. Maybe you've had issues with solicitations or other unsavory messages in the past. I understand your inclination to close yourself off to these interactions. However, putting "don't DM" or "no DMs" in your Twitter is a direct message of its own. It tells everyone, "I'm not open to your tweets, unless EVERYONE can see them." This isn't a very audience-friendly message to put out on Twitter.
If you've turned off direct messaging due to unwanted messages on Twitter, my advice to you is simple: just ignore them. This is what I do, and it is 100% effective. Sure, you may find someone is very persistent, but most people just get bored and find someone else to bother.
#2 be sure to acknowledge people when they reach out to you
If you get a direct message or a reply to one of your tweets, unless there is some genuine reason you don't want to acknowledge the message, respond back, and in a timely manner. People are more likely to continue to follow you and retweet your tweets if you show a willingness to interact with them. Ignoring a friendly direct message or a tweet reply is as much of a turn off as putting "no DMs" in your profile.
#3 DON'T just tweet about your book
This is a frequent mistake made by authors, regardless of whether they have one book out or five. Many of authors tweet almost constantly about their books. Some don't tweet about anything else. This gets old for your followers very, very quickly.
Case in point: an author I followed for a time used to regularly caution other authors not tweet about their book all the time, but suddenly, as this year's Christmas shopping season drew near, he did the exact thing he cautioned other authors not to do. In the end, I just couldn't stand one more tweet about his book, and I felt forced to unfollow him.
#4 tweet frequently - at least once a day
It is important to tweet at least once a day so that followers know your account is active. With many millions of users tweeting at the speed of light each day, your tweets can easily be lost in the noise. The way to get around this is to tweet a couple times, throughout the day. I've noticed that after 7:30pm EST, things slow down and my tweets get noticed a little more easily.
While posting often is important, don't think that you need to come up with something original every time you tweet. Post quotes from your favorite writers or other influencers. Also, the Retweet feature is a great way to support other people's feeds and let others know what you're looking at, which they might like too.
#5 DON'T tweet at someone to sell them something
Writers are VERY guilty of doing this on Twitter. If I had a dollar for every author (usually an indie author) who messaged me on Twitter to say "check out my book on Amazon", I could quit my day job. This is annoying, and I've never checked out a single one of those books pitched to me. I'm not on Twitter to be pitched to, and very few other people actually are, so a good rule of thumb is to just don't pitch people on Twitter, unless they ask for the pitch first.
Related to this "don't" is:
#6 DON'T start a direct message thread with the intent to sell the person on your book
I made this it's own "don't" because tweeting at someone and direct messaging someone are two distinct things, and abuse of the direct message system is a worse infraction in my opinion. When you DM someone, you indicate you want to have a private interaction with them. When that private interaction turns out to be a sales call, it is highly disappointing to the recipient. Here's an example:
Recently, I followed an author's Twitter feed. A couple minutes later, he direct messaged me.
I thought this author wanted to have a real conversation with me about what I'm reading, based on his initial question. I did not expect to have him turn the conversation into a sales pitch for his "brilliant" novel. This interaction was a faux pas on many levels, and I unfollowed him shortly thereafter. I did not look at his book on Amazon.
#7 thank people from time to time for following you or sharing your tweets
Everyone likes feeling like they're appreciated. This extends to the social media world as well. Thank your followers for following you. Thank your top 10 sharers. Those that you thank are more likely to keep following you and keep sharing your content, which will increase your scope of influence on Twitter.
This is not to say, however, that you should thank everyone who follows you. This is a good way to lose existing followers, because all they see from your feed is "Thanks for the follow @[twittername]!" I will frequently unfollow people on Twitter for this kind of thing.
So, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to build your platform and interact a little better on Twitter. Using good manners when interacting with people on Twitter is (or should be) a given, but knowing how to shape your profile, posting interesting things, and furthering the shared interests of other people will also work in your favor. And, never make your Twitter all about you and your work. Even the most dedicated fan will find that tedious in a short period of time.
If you have any other ways to build a Twitter presence that have worked well for you, feel free to share them in the comments.