PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2017
by David Wogahn, President, AuthorImprints.com
How many books can you sell if the people you are marketing to are the people you currently know? Unless you are Beyoncé or Steph Curry, probably not many.
So, if you don’t know many people, how do you meet new friends—especially those that are well-connected—and make it easier for them to find you?
A few years ago, I read a blog post by a guy comparing his experience with Facebook versus Twitter, and why he preferred Twitter. That sentiment is summed up perfectly in this tweet from @TheNewDeal: Facebook is Filled with Old Friends You Have Nothing in Common With. Twitter is Filled with Strangers You Have Everything in Common With.
I’ll confess that one reason this statement resonates with me is that my mom had 12 brothers and sisters, and virtually all of my 80-something cousins are on Facebook. (Some people count sheep to fall asleep; I count cousins.) In the early days of Facebook, it seemed that most of them had discovered Farmville and were intent on me joining them. Mute!
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to expand our understanding of the term “metadata” in the book industry to go beyond the ISBN or BISG categories. I believe you can apply metadata thinking to any online presence to help us, as individuals, be discoverable—not just our books.
When it comes to using Twitter for tweeting, I’m no different than any of the other millions of people that periodically start and then give up trying to contribute on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean that I have not enjoyed my share of benefits from having a profile or using Twitter to discover something or someone new.
There are two reasons why I believe every author and publisher should have a Twitter account:
- To be accessible
- To do research
Let’s put aside whether you need to commit to tweeting or following people, much less regularly reading the stream of tweets posted by others. Here is something I hope gets your attention: Nearly one-third of all Twitter’s Verified users are journalists and media. This is by far the largest group represented, with the next largest coming in at 18 percent: sports, teams, and athletes*.
Now, guess who tweets the most? That’s right, the media.
(*Analysis by Haje Jan Kamps, originally published on Medium: tinyurl.com/zo4g7t5)
Think of Twitter as the White Pages
Going back to reason one—to be accessible—if you want to make it easier to be found by the media, it’s a good idea to have a profile. But not just any profile, a profile that is accurate and optimized to attract people searching for people like you.
Think of your Twitter profile as a mini “About” page—usually the most popular page on a website after the home page. You’ll have a photo, name, username, 160-character description, geographic location, and website.
(For ease of setup, the instructions in this article assume you are using a desktop computer, not a mobile device.)
The 5 Elements that Matter Most When it Comes to Being Accessible
- Your username, which is expressed with a leading @ followed by a maximum of 15 characters. My advice for authors is to choose a variation of their name (e.g., @A_Smith, @AlexSmith, or @AlexBSmith). Usernames must be unique but can be changed if no one is using the name to which you want to change.
- Use images that are congruent with your brand and how you want to be perceived by others. Assuming this is an author account, it probably makes sense to use an author photo (400 pixels by 400 pixels). Also, add a background image; the measurements are 1,500 pixels by 500 pixels. I like something that shows action—something that builds authority. My background image is me speaking to a group; maybe yours is you doing a book signing. Or perhaps a collection of your book covers. What is it about you that you wish to promote?
- Don’t skip location. This can be as broad as a country, or as narrow as your city. I recommend selecting your immediate locale because it makes you more discoverable by the Twitter community, especially the media.
- Website: of course.
- I saved bio for last because you must make efficient use of the 160-character limit, and it must be optimized in a way that helps people find you. Your words must convince people why they should contact or follow you.
Avoid insider language, potentially offensive references, clichés, bad grammar, and spelling errors. Don’t use this space to ask people to buy your book; it sounds desperate. Be sure to use keywords. Keywords in this context means words that people use to conduct an online search. Study the profiles (aka accounts) of popular Twitter users who are like you to discover keywords and references you might use for your profile. I talk more about this a little further on.
Make Sure You Can Be Contacted by Others
If you are not tweeting, or reading tweets with any regularity, you may not be logged into Twitter to receive a message (a tweet). A Twitter username is like an e-mail address in that once someone has it, they can send you a message. That means that you need to make sure your settings allow someone to reach you in the event they do come across your profile and want to connect.
Just to be safe, click your picture in the top right and select “Settings.” Now click “Mobile,” and then the e-mail notifications settings on the left. Between the two areas, there are more than 30 settings to customize how, when, and by whom you wish to be contacted. I suggest being as available as possible. For example, my mobile settings are such that I receive texts from people I follow, while my e-mail settings are set for me to receive notifications “by anyone.”
Why Use Twitter for Search Instead of Google?
If someone asked you in 1997 whether you needed Google, what would you say? Most likely the response would be something along the lines of “huh?” You might be asking yourself that same question about the value of Twitter search.
For our purposes, I can identify three key differences between using Google search versus Twitter search. Each have their strengths and weaknesses.
- Whether we recognize it or not, Google exerts editorial control over the results we see. Not in the traditional sense, but their computer algorithms are constantly evaluating information sources to deliver the most relevant results for a specific query (in their opinion). What you see depends on scores of ever-changing criteria. Larger brands and sophisticated operators can game the results or quickly adjust to Google’s algorithms (fake news anyone?).
- Unlike Google, Twitter is an unprocessed firehose of tweets in chronological order. What it lacks in presentation style can be excused in favor of its real-time stream of consciousness.
- On Twitter, it is all about people and conversations, and Twitter makes it super easy to search by keywords and hashtags.
What Might an Author or Publisher Use it for?
As noted above, Twitter is like “Google-unplugged,” a more natural and earthy experience, if you will. But, just like we’ve learned to manage Google, you’ll be exploring new people and new content in no time. For example, you can search for:
- Recent news about specific topics. (What can I share or contribute?)
- Ideas for articles and blog posts. (What are people sharing or discussing?)
- Profiles of other people. (Who are these people, and might I want to get to know them?)
- Events by location. (Are people talking about local events, or are any potential contacts near my location?)
- People asking questions. (How can I help them?)
Here is an example of how Max Robinson of AimesMedia in the UK used Twitter for research.
“We use Twitter extensively when trying to track down influencers. For a client who was launching a book on the back of a successful film release, we once contacted the actor who was playing the lead and asked for a retweet. They duly obliged, and retweeted the link to their followers (over 1 million). Sometimes you just need to ask politely! Because the actor was passionate about the film, they were more than happy to promote the original source material.”
The Basics of Twitter Search
The research process and options for searching on Twitter are easier when using a computer, so that’s where we’ll focus. Here are the basics:
- Type your query in the search box at the top, and press the magnifying glass.
- You can type a name, a username, a hashtag, or a keyword. Putting quotes around a term will find that exact term in your search, just like Google.
- On the search results page, just below your search term, you will see a menu. Clicking any of these applies your search to just these categories of information. For example, clicking on “People” brings up Twitter profiles that mention your search term.
- Now click “More options,” and select “Advanced search” (also found here: twitter.com/search-advanced). Now you can really dig into a topic or account research. You have 15 different ways to slice and dice your search to find exactly what you are looking for.
Putting it All Together
Your profile is now discoverable. You have some ideas about what or whom you might search for. You have the basics of using search to find those “strangers you have everything in common with.”
Let me leave you with a success story shared by Jared Drake at WildboundPR:
“An author of ours, who is focused on bridging the gender gap, tracked the use of popular hashtags associated with gender issues. One of these hashtags was #EverydaySexism. By watching what accounts posted this hashtag, she began to identify certain celebrities using that hashtag and, as a result, could assume these celebrities had an interest in the topic of her book.
She then started following these celebrities, interacting with their tweets (retweeting, replying, favoriting, etc.), as well as sharing with them relevant/useful posts in which they might have an interest. In doing so, she developed a relationship with one of these celebrities, and when it came time to announce her book, she shared the details and her book trailer with the celebrity. The celebrity loved it and offered to do a reading of the book at the book launch. Bing bang boom!”
David Wogahn is the author of Register Your Book: The Essential Guide to ISBNs, Barcodes, Copyright and LCCNs, the Lynda.com course Distributing and Marketing eBooks, and the president of AuthorImprints.com, a professional self-publishing services company that helps authors publish books and metadata.