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Bonus Post: What Writers Ought To Know About Twitter

Photo Courtesy: topnews.net.nz

“For the uninitiated, here’s how Twitter works – I have no @#$% idea. I have no idea how it works – or why it is.” Jon Stewart, comedian and host of The Daily Show

With over 106 million accounts and the increase of users by 300,000 EVERY DAY in 2010 alone, Twitter is the new black in the colorful social media spectrum.

Writers shy away from Twitter because they do not grasp the concept.

140 words?!

Good gravy, I’m a writer. I need to express myself!

Hold on there, Skippy. Before you decide to throw Twitter under the bus, I want to take a look at what writers ought to know about Twitter.

The History of Twitter

Twitter began as a project of a think-tank and blossomed into a monstrous social giant overnight.

The tipping point for Twitter’s popularity was the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. During the event, Twitter usage increased from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000.

“The Twitter people cleverly placed two 60-inch plasma screens in the conference hallways, exclusively streaming Twitter messages,” remarked Newsweek’s Steven Levy. “Hundreds of conference-goers kept tabs on each other via constant twitters. Panelists and speakers mentioned the service, and the bloggers in attendance touted it.”

Reaction at the festival was highly positive.

Blogger Scott Beale said that Twitter “absolutely rul[ed]” SXSW. Social software researcher Danah Boyd said Twitter “own[ed]” the festival. Twitter staff received the festival’s Web Award prize with the remark “we’d like to thank you in 140 characters or less. And we just did!”

Don’t Be Scared

Twitter, like other things in life, needs to be taken slow. I am not expert. If you look at my Twitter followers, I have a whopping six followers (you can get up now from fainting). I am still learning as well. Let’s take the training wheels off of this Harley Davidson of Social Media and take a ride. (By the way, I am willing to go on record to say that Twitter is MORE powerful than the Social Media Goliath Facebook.)

Why Use Twitter?

I almost snickered when I wrote the subtitle to this. I was so clueless about Twitter yet as I studied more and more about this medium, I am becoming convinced that Twitter is the place to be.

I am going to steal some testimonials from writers/authors who use Twitter for their own success.

Lay your unbelieving and skeptical eyeballs on this excerpt from the article entitled: “Are Authors Who Twitter Any Fitter?” by Sarah Weinman:

Some authors use Twitter as a way to provide readers with links to newly published work online, reading-tour schedules, and submission calls. But authors such as Amanda Eyre Ward or Jami Attenberg eschew direct self-promotion, choosing instead to reveal snippets of their day-to-day life. Novelist Tayari Jones originally signed up for Twitter “because everyone else was” but didn’t commit to the service until last fall as a way of keeping people informed of the progress of herthird novel and providing details of her recent trips. “Twitter, for me, is a place to chat, a way to connect with my readers. Twitter, people come to my readings when they realize I am in their area. Sometimes it can be really spontaneous. I love it when that happens.”

Novelist John Wray took a more innovative approach, deciding from the outset that he would use his Twitter account to publish a kind of micro-epistolary novel, one 140- character installment at a time. “Citizen,” which Wray began writing on February 19, is told from the perspective of a character deleted from his most recent novel, Lowboy (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009). “I chose a character with fairly straightforward fears and desires, with the intention that each individual tweet might read as a complete micronarrative,” he explained in an e-mail message. “That’s a hell of a lot harder than I anticipated, of course, and a lot of good material has to be cut away. But it’s probably a healthy exercise to be compelled to say things in as few words as possible.”

Are We Going to Do The Number Thingy Again?

Did you know that numbered posts are popular ones in the blogosphere? I would like to help you gain an understanding on the reasons why writers BETTER use Twitter or get left.

What number would you like to use? I’ll wait? No, not that number. No, not that one either. Okay, I’ll help.

Here are 5 reasons why writers better ride on the Twitter wave or keep paddling against the thought of old-school marketing:

The Ripple Effect – How can Twitter help you as a writer? Let’s take a clear example of your favorite actor Charlie Sheen. Yes, I know, I know. Follow me here. Sheen was the cash cow for show Two and A Half Men ($1.25 million…I know…chump change) and when he was fired, the media sharks feasted on his antics.

Sheen needed an outlet to express his frustrations. Did he go to MySpace to do that? No. Facebook? Bzzt! Wrong. Friendster? Uh-no.

He launched his tirade courtesy of Twitter.

The result?

He now has the Guinness record for the “Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Followers.”

Sheen became the water drop to start the ripple effect and the results were staggering and undeniable (Regardless how you feel about him).

Human LEGOS® – Who doesn’t like LEGOS®? This construction toy opened up the imagination gates to vast possibilities. A simple concept. You connecting block to create whatever you wanted. Twitter is the medium to help you to connect with others and help build them up.

Who would buy Dean Koontz’s books if he didn’t have an audience? What about James Patterson’s books? Twitter enables you to connect with friends, fellow writers, authors, or fans of a certain genre – you as a writer will quickly learn that we really do need each other to win.

Free Stalking! – Is there a particular author/writer who you adore? Do you have fine China with their picture on them? Maybe you have an action figure of them? Do you own towels with their face on them? (Now, Dude, that’s just plain weird.) You can now stalk them on Twitter to see what has caught their eye or their thoughts on subjects.

You get to learn from them and help improve your own writing mojo in the process.

Become Trendy – Maybe you are struggling with a story idea, need to stir up the muse, or need to think of a blog post? By being on the Twitterverse, you can keep an eye on what’s hot and what’s not in the world. When you add these nuggets to your writing, your writing will become more alive and be more current unless you enjoy writing about Pez® candy, floppy disks and 8-tracks. More power to you.

Save Time – Now wait a minute, E.J., wouldn’t Twitter be a time waster than a time saver? No, my skeptical writer friend. You can actually use Twitter to your advantage in the time department.

For example, there is a new book that you want to read because the book is advertised on the media and we all know they would never lie to us, right? (*snickers*) You can pop over to Twitter and do a search.

The result?

You can find those who have tweeted about whether the book is a good investment of your time or would be better to save the book later to use to build a fire in emergency situations. The same can go for movies, gadgets, or even restaurants. You have saved yourself time and money which we as writers love to spend foolishly at times.

There you are. I have given the clarion call on Twitter and the choice is yours to decide to take full advantage of this technology or not.

**Starts to walk away**

But, But…Wait…So Where Do I Start?

If you are serious about being serious about Twitter (and still have fun in the process), let’s help each other. If you really want to jumpstart your Twitter account, I’ll be willing to help you. All you will need to do is sign up for my updates / newsletter (coming soon) with your email and I’ll send you a free report that is helping me to build in the Twitterverse.

And to ease your mind, spam is only for canned meat not email (I don’t believe in either – canned meat or spam mail) plus your email will not be given to third parties ever. You will officially be welcomed into The Elite – a family of writers who are seeking to improve their own heroic journey to greatness.

(UPDATE: As of 4-15-2011, I now have 45 followers since using the free report.  Is that a clue? :))

What do you think?

Has this article changed your mind about Twitter?

How will you apply what you learned as a writer/author right now?

P.S. If you are already on Twitter, please follow me (look at the big Twitter button on the right) and I’ll do in kind as well. I like following heroes.

Sources:

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8 thoughts on “Bonus Post: What Writers Ought To Know About Twitter

  1. Ahh, yes, as you know I jumped onto the twitter bandwagon about the same time I started blogging. I’ve made surprising connections / friendships via twitter. Like blogging its all about community. You can find other writers by searching for tags like #amwriting or #amediting or #wip

    It takes a while to get a hang of. I’m no expert either, but I’ve already seen the benefits 🙂

    • Hi Theresa,

      Yes, you are correct x 100. If writers would tap into this source, they would build a strong tribe following for when they finally release their work, the benefits will be staggering.

  2. Thanks for sharing, EJ!

    I can see where using Twitter would be especially useful once you’ve got your book finished and out there in the world, to help spread the word about it. I also saw one author use it for making updates in the voices of their main characters, which I thought was kind of cool/fun. (I can’t remember which author it was now! A steampunk one, I thought. I wasn’t a fan of theirs, just happened to be browsing.)

    As for me, if I do choose to use Twitter it will be very sparingly. Primarily, as Theresa said, to discover other aspiring writers and connect with them for now.

    Hmm…couldn’t hurt to try, though, right?

  3. Wow, didn’t know all that about Twitter. Thanks for the info. And good luck in the Twitterlandia. I used to be anti-twitter for a long time, and only recently got on it. What it taught me was how to build a following w/o facebook and twitter. So I don’t rely on it anymore, but I have a lot of instances where readers will now find me through twitter. So it definitely is a plus these days. Can you live w/o it? Yes. But you can build your blog faster if you use it.

    • Hey Ollin,

      Glad to see you in these parts. 🙂

      Twitter is much more powerful to me than Facebook by far and Charlie Sheen is a testament to that. Hence, the reason I have the fat Twitter button slapped on the side of the blog. :mrgreen:

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