I recently wrote a very long post about social media, and how authors (and other professionals) can use it to their advantage (think: sales), but I wanted to hone in on one particular aspect of social networks in particular:

How to truly get the most out of Twitter.

You’ve most likely got a Twitter account already; if not, get one. It’s single-handedly been the best network to help me develop the most connections online, save for my own blog and website.

It’s worth your time to cultivate a value-adding group of like-minded followers in your niche–it takes time, but it will absolutely help you promote and sell your work down the road.

But I do get asked often, “How do I really get the most out of Twitter?” The question is a good one: people really seem to think of Twitter as a giant networking event, full of spammy, non-helpful and sometimes downright “leechy” individuals.

With all the clutter and mess, it’s no wonder they’re frustrated.

So what can you do to really get the Twitterverse to work for you?

Here are five things I’ve seen people doing (or that I’ve done myself!) that really won’t work out. As well, I’ll talk about what you should be doing instead:

1. You’re using it only to promote your own stuff.

This is the most obvious, yet most flagrant of the “bad” things I’ve seen. If you’re not adding value 4-5 times more than promoting your own stuff, people will tune you out very quickly. Specifically, I recommend promoting other peoples’ work at least 80% of the time. Retweet their Tweets, promote their blog posts, and genuinely care the vast majority of the time you’re online.

2. Your self-promotion Tweets aren’t really adding value.

Sure, maybe you have written the Ultimate Guide to Using Social Media for Writers, but if you’re simply shooting out the title and a link each time, people will phase it out like it’s invisible. Instead, try extracting a short blurb from the post or article, and Tweeting that (plus a link) instead:

For MY guide, that would look like:

“Twitter is NOT a networking event! [link]”


“Why you’re using social media incorrectly: [link]”

Appeal to the desires and curiosity of your network–don’t just link out to your latest post.

3. You’re not using lists.

Lists are a fantastic way to cultivate and organize your network, and apps like Tweetdeck make lists even easier to see.

I have a general “policy” of “follow anyone and everyone, then move them to different lists.”

This means that I will pretty much follow anyone that sounds interesting, and after I’ve seen what types of posts they add or how helpful and value-adding they are, I’ll move them into different “buckets” (lists). I have a list for people who I think would like the kind of fiction I write (@Readers), a list for people who like to write novels or other books (@Writers), and a list for people who I really want to connect with (@InList), to name a few.

Use lists to manage your followers and cut through the clutter.

4. You’re not automating some of your posts.

I’m going to get some serious flak for this, I realize. But, I stand by the fact that if had to continuously add and schedule my tweets, I would never get anything done.

I use a service called BufferApp to keep a going list of tweets that go out on a pre-determined schedule, and I have a system set up to add to my Buffer account automatically when I post something on my blog or mark something as “read” on my ReadItLater account.

Because of this, I don’t need to constantly have Twitter open in my browser, and I end up spending way more time actually writing.

That said, I make sure to spend real time on Twitter every day or every other day–finding good Tweets from people on my lists, and preparing the next “batch” of RTs and links to add to my Buffer. It ends up still being “genuine” and “real,” it’s just on a more spread-out schedule–a fact I believe my followers would prefer (rather than getting a huge “chunk” of updates every day at the same time!

5. Not sticking with it.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the three or so years I’ve been on Twitter, it’s that we need to consistently and purposefully cultivate our network. It’s like farming: spend the time and effort sowing the seed, then reap the reward!

Don’t throw in the towel and claim Twitter “doesn’t work for your business” just because you haven’t had any sales or mentions after a few months.

Unless you’re a celebrity, it takes time for your brand and your message to cut through the clutter!

As with anything of worth achieving, building a solid reputation of adding value for other people takes time, effort, and active management. Don’t pay for followers or enlist the help of “tricks” to gain massive RTs, mentions, or links–just be persistent and stick with it!

Thanks for reading–I hope it helps shed light on some things for you. What other ways have you used Twitter to achieve “success?” I read and respond to every comment, so feel free to drop a line!

In addition, I’d love to have you on my mailing list!