Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

I promised another look at an aspect of social networking. People love it, hate it, and everything in between. To tweet or not to tweet? How useful is Twitter for writers? Today’s guest, cozy mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig, weighs in. I'm anticipating some lively conversation in the comment thread.


It used to be that I could say “sign up for Twitter only if you want to.” I wasn’t really getting a whole lot out of it, but was dutifully tweeting several times a day.

I think now I’ve got to give Twitter a big thumbs-up. Used correctly, Twitter can be an incredible tool for networking, driving traffic to your blog, and connecting with the greater writing community.

The key is finding the writing community on Twitter. I’m including book bloggers, avid readers, as well as industry professionals in the term ‘writing community.’ Think of Twitter as a huge university and your writing buddies as your fraternity or sorority that gives you a smaller group to communicate with—instead of trying to tweet to a random group of people.

Keep Reading...

Don’t be surprised by the learning curve on Twitter. It took me a week before I felt comfortable using it. There are many easy tutorials on YouTube to help you learn the basics. This one is good: http://tinyurl.com/b4b78p.


Get started by going to your favorite writing blogs and finding the blogger’s Twitter address. Start off by following these bloggers. Then you’ll see who they are following. Click through the community of people who they follow. Follow some of those people.

Twitter lists is just starting out. Basically, if there’s a writer you like, and they’re using Twitter lists, you can follow their entire list. In their sidebar will be labeled lists. My list is called “Great Follows for Writers.” You click on the list and Twitter asks if you’d like to follow the list.

You can use 3rd party applications like TweetDeck to organize the people you follow. You could have your favorite tweeters in one column, family or friends in another column, and local businesses in yet another one. I mainly follow book industry people, but I do also follow local weathermen, news organizations, and local businesses that tweet coupons.

What do I get from Twitter?

•Excellent links to writing articles

•An opportunity to learn more about writers I follow

•A chance to share my article discoveries with other writers.

•An opportunity to promote my own blog and blogs I’m interested in.

•Industry-related news in real-time.

Disadvantages

•As with all social media, it’s easy to spend too much time using it.

•It’s time-consuming to set up a list of good people to follow.

•It’s one more distraction from writing.

Some recommendations for usage:

•Set a timer.

•Use Twitter three times a day, sparingly, after getting it set up.

With a little time and effort, Twitter can be a great tool for writers to network, obtain industry information, and promote their work.

Elizabeth Spann Craig writes cozy mysteries for Midnight Ink (The Myrtle Clover series) and Berkley Prime Crime (The Memphis Barbeque Mysteries). Her latest release, Pretty is as Pretty Dies is available in bookstores now. You can enjoy Elizabeth's enlightening posts at her blog, Mystery Writing is Murder.

40 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

Great article, Elizabeth! I agree one hundred percent with everything you said!

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks for the Twitterinfo, Elizabeth. You are an excellent Twitterer by the way, providing lots of great links. That's the key, isn't it? Providing useful information in addition to driving traffic to your blog and other activities.

Jenna Byrnes said...

Elizabeth, Can you explain how the 'follow' list function works? If I follow a list, it doesn't change my number of people following, but it is listed down a bit lower in the sidebar. Will I get posts from the people on those lists, or do I need to go through and hit 'follow' on each one?

Thanks for the good info!

Margot Kinberg said...

Elizabeth - You're absolutely right that tweeting can be an incredibly useful tool! I agree with Alan, too, that you're quite skilled at using it :). To me, the key to effective tweeting is doing it in a planful way. Random tweets can be cathartic, but don't drive traffic to one's blog, etc., very effectively. I think a focused approach to tweeting's much more effective.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth knows I'm not yet on board with Twitter, but I would like to chime in with one of my pet peeves for those of you who are. I have taken the Facebook plunge. But why do so many people feed all their (I assume) private tweets to Facebook? I'm talking about the ones where it says 'person A to person B' and relays information I can't imagine anyone else caring about. I've had to create filters for these folks, simply to keep them from filling up my news feed.

Jenna Byrnes said...

Terry, I think there's an application that lets you feed your tweets to FB, but you can't pick and choose which ones, they all go. So even the @somebody replies go, too.

The Old Silly said...

Twonderful Tweetarticle, Tweelizabeth. Twonce you get the Twang of it, Tweeting is a Great way to social nettweet and my blog traffic and book sales have jumped by tweets and bounds since learnign how to tweet effectively. You CAN get too tweeted out, though - did you ever watch this You Tube Clip? Hysterical!

Marvin D Wilson

ps - Terry - nice blog ya got here!

Terry Odell said...

Jenna - the trouble with Facebook feeds is that those apps have to be initiated on the other side. Unless I hide ALL updates from a person, I'm going to have to see them all. Same thing with friending. Half my update page tells me who just befriended who. I Don't Care.

Terry Odell said...

Marvin - thanks. Hope you'll stop by often now that you've found me.

Glen said...

I'm thankful for the community of writers who include me through Twitter. Elizabeth, you were among the first with whom I connected. You are such a great example of giving back to the writer community. (And I'm not even a cozyist.)

Maryann Miller said...

Elizabeth, I have always found your Tweets interesting and helpful, but I am such a neophyte with all this, I don't even know how to re-tweet. :-) Guess it is time to do some learning, but I always weigh that against writing time and writing always wins out.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Jody--Thanks so much!

Alan--Why thank you! Yes, I think that's the best way to Tweet. I also look at it as a way to record my favorite writing links for the future: I can just go to my profile page on Twitter and see the links I thought I'd pass along (and revisit them myself.)

Jenna--If you follow someone's list, then you will get all those folks' tweets on your home page. So it's a useful tool to subscribe to a bunch of people in one swoop. But the way they have it set up now, the listed people don't add to your sidebar under individual people you're following. This is what I'm *seeing* anyway--y'all correct me if your experience is different.

Margot--I think you're right. I'm not using it as a networking or social outlet--it's solely a way to share info and drive traffic to my blog and others...and the others tend to reciprocate, which is nice.

Terry--I find that annoying, too. I've made sure not to link FB to Twitter. Otherwise, there are way too many random status updates--especially on Follow Fridays and days like that.

Marvin--GREAT link! Hadn't seen it before--TOO funny. I know you're one of the successful tweeters....you're doing great with it.

Glen--Thanks so much! And thanks for the tweet you gave me today on Twitter...much appreciated!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Maryann--It's hard to learn Twitter at first--it seemed DOS-like to me. To retweet, you put RT and then the Twitter address of the person you're retweeting (like: RT @elizabethscraig) and then the link or item that you're tweeting.

But you're absolutely right...writing wins out over everything else.

Carol Kilgore said...

I don't Twitter. Yet. But I have explored it. This kind of information is the kind I like - the kind that works for real people in real situations. Thanks.

Crystal Clear Proofing said...

I still feel lost. I'll visit the link you posted, but the frustration over just not "getting it" is - ummm...frustrating! Especially when I read that so many people find it so valuable and useful!

I need a tutor...

Ingrid King said...

Great article, Elizabeth! I especially like how you use Twitter as a community for writers. I'm heading over there now to follow your list :-)

I don't like feeding my Twitter updates into Facebook, either. While both are wonderful social media sites, I think they are somewhat different audiences, and besides, it takes two seconds to copy and paste a tweet into Facebook if you want to share it there, too - and that way, your Facebook friends don't have to see everything you tweet.

And I agree with Alan, providing useful information is what tweeting is all about. That's how you build credibility, and how you build a following. And then, traffic to your blog/site, and hopefully book sales, happen naturally as a result of building relationships, not just selling.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Carol--When I thought I'd be plugged into a bunch of folks talking about their breakfast or their fave celebrities, I was dead-set against it. Finding a writing community has been a nice surprise.

Crystal--I definitely encountered a steepish learning curve with Twitter. But compared to Facebook's Networked Blogs app? Not nearly as tough as learning that thing! And I know you've got Networked Blogs downpat. If you want to explore Twitter, send me some experimental tweets and play around with figuring it out.

Ingrid--That's exactly how I feel about it! We're building an identity online, networking, and learning new info. I learn so much from the articles I tweet about. And the Twitter to FB thing is just clutter, isn't it?

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I'm not ready to give Twitter a thumbs-up yet, but I didn't know about the list thing. I'll try that and I'll hang in there for a while longer and hope I grow to like it as much as you do.

Lynnette Labelle said...

Maybe I'll have to take another look at Twitter...

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Jane--I totally understand...it really took me a long time to become a Twitter enthusiast.

Lynnette--Good luck with it!

Nora Lumiere said...

I agree. Twitter is worth its weight in gold when you find your writerly niche and connect to people who amuse, educate, appreciate and inform you.
It takes a bit of work a lot of sifting and following, but the end result is worth the effort.
I learned things on Twitter it would have taken years to learn otherwise. I even wrote a post on it if you'd like to read about my experience:
http://bit.ly/1zlvRb

Elspeth Antonelli said...

All very useful information, Elizabeth. It's great for links; although I have to guard against tweeting too much useless drivel!

Elspeth

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nora--You definitely have to customize your individual experience. Thanks for the link...you've got an interesting blog.

Elspeth--I leave my drivel to Facebook! :) And I write loads of it there...

David Cranmer said...

Excellent reference here and points I was unaware of. Thanks.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

David--You're very welcome.

Mary Ricksen said...

Who has the time for all this stuff Elizabeth?

Watery Tart said...

I'm a total neophyte on Twitter, even months in... I have to admit, the charm eludes me, but I CAN see how useful it can be--the days I get lots of new blog visitors are inevitably the days I tweet about it.

Hope adding your list helps... and I'm glad Marion asked about retweeting... I guess I will get it eventually... it's been sort of fun with NaNo to see what others who are doing it have to say...

So thank you for sharing your wisdom and letting me follow you around!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Mary--Probably no one! :) I lump it into my promotional time. My editors are on Twitter and can see what I'm doing to help promote my books with them.

Hart--Thanks for following me! Hope Twitter ends up being more useful for you.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

What I need to do is organize my followers! Is Tweetdeck good for that?

Glynis said...

Great post. Twitter is useful for me, but I do have to log off so I don't get distracted.
I have found some great supporters and information there.

Sheila Deeth said...

Useful information. Thanks. I've been "using" it for a while, and it's comforting to know that logging on two or three times a day is relatively normal. I haven't got the hang of joining in any type of conversation, but I do find good articles to read, and I've posted this as one for others to read.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Diane--Organizing people who follow *you* would be nice, wouldn't it? I've got a few Twitter friends who really care nothing about my writing links....family members, etc. But Tweet Deck is great for organizing tweets from people *we* follow.

Glynis--I have to close the Twitter window or else I'm tempted.

Sheila--Thanks! I really only use Twitter for links...I use Facebook for interacting with my friends. It seems to work out well that way.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Terry---By the way, you can set your feed settings on Facebook so you don't get notified when people befriend other people: http://tinyurl.com/yglgszk That link will walk you through it.

Elizabeth

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth: I had already found and followed (I thought) those directions, but what happened was that I could control who saw when I added a friend, but unless everyone else follows that step, their friendings still show up on my updates.

If I missed something, email me. I might have missed a check box, but it still seems that the control is in the hands of the 'sender' and there's nothing there about me controlling what I see on MY wall.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post, Elizabeth. I was very leery when I joined Twitter - didn't know any "real" people who used it. Still don't actually...

But, there is a great writing community on Twitter - it can be fun and useful :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Jemi--So true--I only know one non-writer who uses it. I don't think it has as many applications for communicating with family members...we just send a text message or IM instead.

Tamika: said...

Elizabeth you've given me a lot of reasons to reconsider Twitter. Thanks for a very informative post.

I do have one question: Do you tweet from your cellphone? Do you find that easier than a computer?

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Tamika--For the kind of tweeting that I do, it probably wouldn't be as easy. I like to share links to writing-related articles and it would mean I'd need to read the story on the phone, link it (using TinyURL, etc.) and then type a tweet. So I tweet on my laptop at home.

But if you use Twitter as a networking medium...and you're holding conversations with other writers online---it would be very useful.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Patricia Stoltey said...

As you know, I'm a big fan of Twitter, partly because I have fun there and partly because I get a boost in blog visitors on the days I tweet about my blog posts. I also picked up a book about Twitter (which is already outdated because it came out before the new "list" feature was installed). I'm hoping to learn even more about Twitter world. And I totally agree we should keep Twitter feeds out of Facebook. I even took the Twitter feed off my blog because it was so annoying.

cassandrajade said...

Thanks for the great post and the explanation about lists. I hadn't quite figured them out yet.