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Random Thoughts: Twitter


My introduction to Twitter

When I started blogging just about a year ago, I noticed that many of the YA authors I’d stalked over the course of my fascination with young adult literature were on Twitter. It was actually quite a surprise. I’d always known that Twitter was a place to get news and information fast, but I never thought that it had these small communities – and in the word of Twitter YA is small – that shared news, socialized and kept each other up-to-date on pertinent information.

In fact, when I started blogging I was reluctant to join in any form of social media. But when I saw Cassandra Clare sending Tweets with all sorts of delicious bookish information, I was sold. Within a week, maybe two, I had my Twitter profile created and sought out as many authors as possible to stalk quietly.

I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that there was this timeline in which these rock stars – yes authors are rock stars to me – were conversing with one another and with real people. People like me. I was flabbergasted. Speechless. Shocked beyond belief.

I spent hours staring at that timeline worried I’d miss something. That lasted all of three days. Because there is just no way to keep up with a timeline. And that was back when I was following 100 people.

I tried to learn what I was supposed to do. I hadn’t ever sent out a Tweet before I began blogging. I was not part of the social. But monkey see, monkey do, and I learned by example. Bloggers tweet their posts to the authors. Sometimes authors thank the blogger for their reviews. Sometimes they Re-Tweet them out to their followers.

That’s how I first discovered a few bloggers that I would never have seen otherwise. And so I decided to follow them. I felt a little weird doing that. Almost like some kind of a real stalker. I mean they were real people, not celebrities. Although, judging by their following, they seemed more like celebs than real people.

Soon thereafter, one blogger started engaging me in conversation, jumping into Tweets I’d send to authors. Chiming in with her thoughts. I thought this was the weirdest thing ever. I asked my friends about it, but they aren’t Twitter people, and didn’t know. I asked my guy about it, and he, being as anti-social as I am, thought it was odd.

Twitter was supposed to be a place to send out information, not to engage in conversation. At least that’s what I had heard. Wrong. Well, at least for the YA community on Twitter. I soon learned that I could respond to this girl and that no one was going to yell at me or un-follow me for junking up their timeline. (I think I had about twenty or so followers at the time and was worried about losing even one of them.)

But it was her comfort level with Twitter and her interaction with me that got me to look at the bigger picture. She showed me – even if she didn’t intend to – that Twitter isn’t only about finding a larger audience for your blog posts or getting information about upcoming books from authors. It’s about meeting new bookish people. Developing relationships with bloggers, authors and publishers, which in a roundabout way helps to increase your following and your site traffic.

What is Twitter exactly?

What I’ve observed about Twitter in the YA community is that it’s a little bit of everything. But it seems that the large majority of Tweets – on my timeline anyway – consist of news and information, marketing/buzz, and conversation. Although news and marketing efforts often go hand-in-hand.

Bloggers certainly use it to spread the word about their reviews, posts and giveaways. Authors and publishers use it to disseminate information about their books.

Using Twitter is a great way to market your book or blog. You have the potential to reach a huge audience of people who are likely to be interested in the subject of your Tweets. They wouldn’t be following you if they weren’t.

Some choose to heavily market their books or blogs at different times during the day so as to reach the widest group of people. Some rely on Re-Tweets to help get the word out. And often authors have publishers on Twitter helping to market their books for them. Some just simply send out one or two Tweets to spread the word and call it a day.

There is no right or wrong way to go about it. However you choose to use Twitter to market what you have to “sell” is up to you. Your followers have the option to “un-follow” if they don’t like what you have to say. But chances are, there will be people who do. However, if you do notice a mass exodus, frequently, of Twitter followers, you may want to rethink your Tweets. YA is still a smallish community after all.

But there’s much more to Twitter than just the marketing aspects for the YA Tweeter. While everything you do on Twitter inadvertently helps or hurts your marketing efforts, the news and information you can get on Twitter can be extremely valuable.

Following the timeline can help you learn about new authors, existing authors, upcoming releases, cover reveals, author or publisher ARC giveaways, and positive or negative feedback about soon-to-be released or newly released books. For both bloggers and authors, having this information can tell you what the trends are, what’s popular, what readers and bloggers like and dislike.

For example, it might show you that the market is getting over-saturated with book covers with girls in dresses, and therefore it may be time to mix things up. Or maybe it’s just telling you what readers gravitate to most and therefore you should think about popping a girl into a dress and sticking her on the cover. (Information obtained from a Tweet for a vlog by Kristi at The Story Siren.com.)

However you choose to interpret or use the information you glean from Twitter is up to you, but it’s a great resource.

For an author, especially in YA, being on Twitter can really help build an audience of potential new fans and readers. Readers young and old, love to feel like they have a personal connection with the author of the books that they cherish. While sometimes the personality you choose to reveal on Twitter can backfire and cause you to lose fans, more often than not, it will help you grow your fan-base.

The more of a connection the reader feels with you as an author, the more likely they are to spread the word about your books, make their friends read your books and follow you.

While there’s nothing wrong with sending a Tweet and running off to hide, your fandom is likely to grow at a much slower rate than someone who is using Twitter to not only take part in the conversation but to make it.

The same is true for bloggers. If you just Tweet about your posts and giveaways and never engage in conversation with authors and other bloggers, it will be that much harder to make a name for yourself. As shy as you might be about jumping into a conversation with a stranger or a celebrity author, the worst that could happen is that they ignore you. The payoff is usually well worth the risk if they engage you in conversation, decided to follow you and your blog, or are interested in what you have to say.

But just remember, that while Tweets may not seem to be forever things, those 140 character conversations will turn up somewhere. Just because you delete your Tweet also doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.

And you never know just who may be watching. So, badmouthing an author or another blogger on Twitter might not be the smartest thing to do. That Tweet could be one Re-Tweet away from you tanking your entire blogging or writing career. Revealing private information about yourself – like your phone number – is also pretty risky. Talking about how much you hate your job and your co-workers is also not something you want to reveal during what seems like an intimate conversation. Twitter is not private. Not by a long-shot.

Always think before you Re-Tweet. While everything you see on Twitter may seem like news, it’s not guaranteed to be accurate. And accidentally passing along information that might not be in fact true – like Borders Tweeting about how Morgan Freeman passed away – can make you look pretty foolish. Re-Tweeting a giveaway to your followers without checking it out first or knowing the blogger could mean that you’re passing along something you’d never want to share if you’d read it. Not all blogger giveaways are honest. Fake giveaways to drum up followers has been known to happen. And not all books being given away are appropriate for all ages.

Twitter can be a great resource, a great source of information, a great way to meet new people, and a huge time suck. How much or little you choose to use it is up to you, but if you choose not to include Twitter as part of your Social Media outreach, you will likely lose out on a huge potential new readership and a chance to create more buzz for your books and blogs.

What I’ve changed about the way I Tweet

When I first started Tweeting, I only Tweeted my reviews, and only once a day. And I always @’d the author. I thought that was mandatory. I soon learned it wasn’t. I stopped. If I receive the book for review from the publisher or NetGalley, I’ll @ the publisher or NetGalley, but that’s it.

When I was at the RT convention in Los Angeles, I had learned that not every author wants to read reviews. Even positive ones. (I never sent a negative review directly to an author on Twitter. Even I knew that.) So I decided that I wouldn’t send my reviews directly to the author. If they were really interested in reading them, they’d find them on Amazon or Goodreads or through some program that searched the web for mentions. I may lose a few “thank you’s” or potential Re-Tweets or an author even knowing I wrote a review, but that’s okay. I’m happy with my choice.

I try to Tweet about more than just my reviews. I don’t want it to seem as if I’m only using Twitter to market myself and my blog. Because that’s not the reality. I try to Tweet other bloggers’ and authors’ posts and Re-Tweet a few of their “of interest” Tweets. And I try to jump into conversations or start them at least once a week.

I’m a terribly shy Tweeter. Still. I hate joining in a conversation with someone who is already talking. In the back of my mind I feel like I’m being rude. I don’t like reaching out to someone I don’t know and it doesn’t have to be a celebrity blogger or author. It’s anyone. And I never know when to end a Twitter conversation. I know I don’t have proper Twittiquette, but it is just so overwhelming.

Lately I’ve been trying to stay away from Twitter as much as possible, as I find that I don’t have enough time in the day to hang out on Twitter and get blog posts up, get books read, spend time with my loved ones, and hope to catch three hours sleep a night.

But I do miss the conversations and the social aspect of Twitter. On days when I’m Tweet silent I feel like I did when I first started blogging. Completely isolated with my thoughts. Which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes I feel like Jack in The Shining.

I may have just over 10,000 Tweets to my name, which seems like a lot, but most of them pertain to the YA Crush Tournament I was a part of this past summer. And if you average it out over the course of a year, it’s less than three Tweets a day. So it’s really not as bad as it sounds. Right?

So, after nearly a year of being on Twitter, while my following may have increased, not much else has changed. I’m still the same, socially awkward me in 140 characters as I was last November. And a year from now, if I’m around and Twitter is, I’m sure what I have to say will be pretty much the same.

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Oh, and in case you also didn’t know, the very first person, who was not an author, who talked to me on Twitter – the one who helped break me out of my cone of silence – was Jaime of Two Chicks on Books. Thanks again Jaime, as always!

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Have you “joined the conversation”? If so, how do you Tweet?

What is your favorite aspect of Twitter? What is its biggest drawback?

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