What the hell is Twitter for?

It’s one of those questions that has a dozen answers.Twitter_logo_blue

This is what Twitter is about, according to somebody.

  • Communication.
  • Connection.
  • Conversation.
  • Knowledge.
  • Advertising.
  • Business.
  • Branding.

Not to mention social change, public shaming, pornography, bigotry, and random idiocy.

Like many social media sharing sites, Twitter is many things to many people. So as a writer how do you use Twitter effectively, without pissing off those people, lovely each and every one of them, who have decided you have something to say worth listening to?

Writing something meaningful in 140 characters is difficult. Ask any celebrity who has been misunderstood, or tweeted a photo of his private areas instead of writing what he really meant.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 6.12.17 PMOf course if you’re well-known you can say anything cute and get all sorts of cute attention.

And if you talk about Twitter on Twitter, well, that is so meta. Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 6.08.26 PM



But for the author how does Twitter work? Can you sell a book, or even get some name recognition through a barrage of tweets? That’s debatable. Lots of authors use Twitter to promote their books. I “belong” to a group of authors who use social media. It’s called ASMSG: Author Social Media Support Group. There is no fee for being part of this group of independently published authors some 1000 strong. They are good about re-tweeting when you use the hashtag #asmsg.

But here’s what I’ve found. A direct plea, “buy my book,” is not effective on Twitter. Unless your audience is already aware of your book or your writing, a tweet, even an endless barrage of them, has very little effect. There are TONS of novels out there, all by people you’ve never heard of.

This doesn’t stop some people from being clever and funny and sales-y on Twitter. If you have a huge following, like Cindy Blackburn who writes funny mysteries, this will probably work. 

Keep in mind though that Cindy has 55,000 Twitter followers. That’s right. 55k. And she got a grand total of 16 retweets for that tweet.


Another big mystery author on Twitter is Jinx Schwartz who has 16,000 followers. She is an avid user of hashtags and connects with mystery authors (as I do) using #murdermust. This hashtag was developed by Jeffrey Marks of the Yahoo Group, Murder Must Advertise.

I love this group but we still haven’t figured out how to use Twitter to maximum or even average effectiveness. I don’t think any of the groups I use have. Such is the mystery of Twitter.

Big brands use Twitter to get people interested in products, contests, memes, movies, songs, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and more. But they’re brands you already know. Would you click on something or somebody who wanted to sell you something you never heard of? Me neither.

The one thing that Twitter helps writers do is point readers toward their long form posts. Blog posts, articles, Facebook (maybe), something out there in the big wide world that gives readers more of a view of who you are and what you write. Facebook is similar in this way. You won’t get lots of people to read long posts on Facebook unless you have a huge following. Photos and videos are the click magnet these days. But using social media to point readers to whatever else you have on offer is a good marketing ploy.

Don’t discount Twitter however. It’s easy to look away, to say, “I don’t understand Twitter. I don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. It freaks me out! It’s for young people or hip people or somebody who isn’t me.”

But if you’re like me, some of your kids and other young people in your circle use Twitter like email. Like texting to tons of people. I resisted myself but it hasn’t killed me, folks.

My advice: Don’t get left behind. Figure your own way through to Twitter. Do some things, try some hashtags. It may be a disaster but, hey, you won’t lose any money doing it.

My new favorite hashtag? One of my readers did it! #TeamPascal By putting in a search for your name in Twitter (without the @) you can find random readers who post about your book like I did with Meg. “Connecting with new reader = awesome” Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 7.58.34 PM

Below is my latest Tweet. Come play with me! @lisemcclendon

And yes, I have a new box set out with five awesome authors! And, sigh, I have tweeted about it.

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