Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tweet! Tweet!

A few weeks ago, WB Jon Strother posted an entry to his blog regarding the use of Twitter to promote his short story concept, Flash Friday.

“The idea is for writers to post a polished piece of flash fiction on their blogs and then tweet the links to them on Fridays via Twitter, using a common hashtag. Readers on Twitter will become accustomed over time to look for that hashtag and go read the posts, thus building a following. I think it's a solid concept (my blog hits went up significantly the past two Fridays) and will work well given time.”

Until then, I had serious reservations about Twitter (as well as Facebook and My Space). For one thing, the IS department in the company I work for has blocked their access, stating that connections through these sites pose a security risk. Adding to the IS warnings, a series of news reports regarding how pedophiles have used places like this to find their victims raised even more concerns. The last thing I need is for some wacko to put the crosshairs on me. However, Jon’s post gave me something else to think about: Twitter as a marketing tool, rather than a place to ramble on about the texture of your oatmeal. After thinking it through, I joined. A link to my Twitter site has been posted in the sidebar.

Since I’ve never used Twitter before, the first thing I noticed was the learning curve ahead. Twitter uses a different set of codes and protocol than anything I’ve used before. And after two weeks, plugging in only at night, I’m still learning. For those of you who are considering Twitter, I recommend stopping first at Shelley Lieber’s website, The Wordy Woman. Shelley is the author of 4Ps to Publishing Success, and on her website you will find a link to an audio file where she talks about Twitter and how to use it.

The next thing you need to be prepared for is the sudden rush of people you don’t know wanting to follow your updates (or “tweets”). This is how I learned about Shelley Lieber. There is a caveat, though. Because these people have shown an interest in you, there may be a feeling that you need to reciprocate. My advice, however, is to be selective about who you choose to follow. Take the time to check them out. What’s their focus? What’s the content of their updates? While it may be nice to have Mark from Minneapolis following you, it probably doesn’t fit in with your strategy to have his updates about the benefits of Ginko Biloba showing up on your Twitter page. After all, this is a marketing tool to provide other writers with information about the craft and information about your writing career. To be honest, I have posted a few updates about personal items, like what book I'm reading. In the future, though, I plan to keep this more focused upon writing.

As writers, we’ve read countless times that we need to build our platform. Creating exposure and building a group of readers is part of your platform, and I submit that Twitter is only one more tool to accomplish that goal. Whether or not you join Twitter (or some other networking site) is a matter of personal comfort. At the very least, you might want to consider it and keep your options open.


  1. I went to the Wiki entry on Twitter and couldn't find the answer I was looking for, so I'll pose it here: Do you have to have a iphone or blackberry or similar device with a keypad to use Twitter, or will any old cell phone work?

    Just curious.


  2. Honestly, John, I don't know for sure. I think you have to have a phone that has text messaging capabilities, or at least that's what I took away from reading some of the material on the Twitter site. However, I'll have to defer that question to Jon or Linda, as they both have more experience with it than I do.

    As for me, I'm not interested. First, I have a company phone, and I don't want to clog up the company phone with million text messages. Secondly, I enough distractions during the day. I don't need to add Twitter messages to the mix. I like just stepping in at the end of the day to see what everyone else has posted.

  3. say it ain't so Stephen.

    Am I to be left in the dark cold real world un-tweeting?

    Oh well that is a burden I can live with for now as I have way too much to distract me from the real world already.

  4. Oh, I'm with you 100% on the tweet-phenom, Stephen. I have no plans to get it or use it. I'm hoping its a fad like pet rocks or those stupid troll dolls where everyone has to have one then all of the sudden it is over.

  5. ::::::DINOSAUR ALERT::::::

    Stephen, you're scaring me.

    Seriously, I buy into Jon's concept, but there's a tremendous amount of work involved to take advantage of this. Not only do you have to keep up on your updates, but you're giving away a story a week.

    Sheesh. I need more hours and more caffeine.


  6. Paige: I don't think you'll be the last one tweeting. On a comparison, you've already established your blog. That puts you ahead of others.

    Greta: Jon invites people to submit one story a week, or when they can. I imagine I'll fall into the second group. I think the primary benefit is to use Twitter as a promotional tool. As you develop a group of followers, you can update them regarding each new achievement. Those followers who haven't read you will receive your announcement and maybe check you out. Furthermore, if you're hitting their homepage, then you'll also be getting exposure to anyone else who's trying to check them out as well. The amount of exposure can be exponential.