Tapping Into Twitter Expertise
by Kimberly A. Edwards
Publishers on the rise take every opportunity to network with those who help them meet their goals. At this year’s San Francisco Writers Conference, co-directed by literary agents Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada, several hotshot experts characterized Twitter as a premiere device for making connections. The observations and advice highlighted below should help you tweet for best results.
“A 24/7 cocktail party,” says Rusty Shelton of Shelton Interactive. “An attentive audience reached without spending a dime. A chance to build a company brand—as opposed to always leading with an author or a book. As we enter a new publishing environment, Twitter is a great place to build a personality around your brand, which can translate to buzz.”
“A great and easy way to quickly get in front of your reader/consumer,” says Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. “A fantastic way to draw in new clients and engage them by offering a message they will care about.”
If you’re just getting started on Twitter, Sansevieri suggests finding the most successful “Twitter-peeps” in your area of expertise. Watch what they tweet about. This will give you a sense of what your audience wants to hear. Listen first; then jump in.
Tee Morris, author of Sam’s Teach Yourself Twitter in Ten Minutes and All a Twitter, says that it’s important to remember that Twitter is “about people. A way to link up. So engage. Get a Twitter account. Follow a handful of people. The 140-character limit requires careful message crafting.”
Shelton espouses a watch-and-study strategy to foster relationships with influencers, authors, media members, bloggers, and others. “I have clients spend a couple of weeks following key people to get a feel for nuances. Find ways to add to the discussion. Talk to those involved by @-replying them. Tweet from industry events or discuss breaking news, statistics, or other timely content from your area. You’ll know your tweeting is effective as you start getting @-replies from followers and begin growing your count.”
According to Shelton, focus yields the best results. “Work backward from your goals. Twitter offers a chance for direct dialog. Pay it forward to journalists doing a good job in your topic area. When you read well-done articles, help drive traffic to the story. Search for the journalist’s Twitter handle and reply with encouragement: ‘Love this story by @JohnSmith in the Wall Street Journal today [link]. Really smart take on this, John.’
“While most journalists get hundreds of emails daily, they get fewer @-replies. They may pay attention to those talking about them. Always add value to the discussion. Not an overnight solution, but one that I have seen be successful for lots of clients.”
Shelton suggests taking one’s own name (twitter.com/rustyshelton) if it’s available. When you’re trying to decide which people to follow, try doing a Google search to get lists of “leadership authors on Twitter” or “literary agents on Twitter.” A few of his faves: for media—muckrack.com; for book publishers—highspotinc.com/blog/2008/12/a-directory-of-book-trade-people-on-twitter; for authors–highspotinc.com/blog/2009/02/a-directory-of-authors-on-twitter.
Minimizing Time Suck
Apps abound to help organize, disseminate, and appraise tweets. Linda Lee of AskMePC-WebDesign and author of Smart Women, Stupid Computers, says that one of the best tools she has found is TweetDeck, which sorts tweets into direct messages, topics, and keywords.
Another is HootSuite, for tracking and measuring effectiveness and scheduling tweets. “Using these to run your Twitter account allows you to feel you’re having a conversation rather than tweeting into cyberspace,” Lee says. “You can set up channels and follow the chat and interact with followers. You get an overview of activity. See who is tweeting who and responding.”
To minimize workload and maximize potential, Lee uses Twitterfeed. “This program will post for you on Twitter and Facebook whenever you write a blog post—a huge time-saver because you have to write something only once, and it automatically posts an excerpt with an image (if you have one in your blog post) to Facebook, and it tweets it on your twitter ID. Twitterfeed is free at twitterfeed.com.”
Using the Twitter Web site interface can seem sterile, according to Lee. “It feels like you’re tweeting into the void. This is a reason so many people abandon their accounts.” She notes that only 17–20 percent of registered users actually use the site. (Twitter—launched only in July 2006—now has 200 million users, or 8 percent of adult Internet users, and they tweet about 40 million times a day, according to “3 Social Networking Channels Managers Must Master” by Bill Rosenthal, CEO, Communispond, Inc.)
“Last year RJ Metrics figured out that Twitter’s rate of churn was 83 percent—or rather, this was the percentage of accounts that had seen no activity for a month,” Lee notes. “It becomes just another chore or time suck for you or your staff. Hiring someone to tweet promotional nuggets without building some kind of relationship is not effective in the end.”
Counsel and Flirt
You’ll do best dispensing tips or sharing how a problem was solved: “When something goes wrong during your presentation, almost any excuse you make will be a bad one. Just correct the problem and move on,” according to Communispond, Inc.
“You have to be engaging,” says Morris. “A mindset of creating a marketing list or grabbing clients gets people into trouble. Nobody wants an infomercial. Promote occasionally, but don’t forget this is about people.”
Sansevieri says that the biggest mistake tweeters make is sending messages no one cares about. “I tell clients to look for growth in numbers. When you start to increase followers, it generally means you are on the right track. Next up is monetization. This won’t happen immediately, but if you stay on message, you’ll see an increase in traffic to your site—perhaps also sales. Be helpful, unique—the sales will follow.”
Shelton advises getting started on relationships long before a book comes out, and using less than 5 percent of what you put out to call attention to things you have a stake in. The other 95 percent should focus on providing value around your topic area. The 95 percent focused on relationships and good information will do more to pull people to you than any push messages.
Says Morris, “Tweet unto others as you’d have them tweet unto you.”
In the end, Twitter is like a date, says Linda Lee: “You want to be interesting enough so that that someone calls you the next day.”
Kimberly A. Edwards (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes on communication and cross-cultural issues and reports that the next San Francisco Writers Conference (sfwriters.org) is scheduled for February 16–20, 2012.