Twitter for Beginners
I am often asked by author friends new to Twitter what hashtags are and why they should be using them. Quite simply, when you tweet a message with no hashtags it is invisible to anyone not following you. And when you are just starting out, that won’t be many people.
Twitter users can ‘find’ tweets two ways: searching for a keyword or checking their favorite hashtag streams. Yet the results are surprisingly different. Try it one time. For example, when I search for ‘Amsterdam’ I get another result than when I check the #Amsterdam stream. Tweets on the #Amsterdam stream have many more likes than those I find when searching for the word ‘Amsterdam’. That is because most users will check their favorite hashtag feed and not search for keywords. And you want readers, bloggers and reviewers to find you.
So how do you create messages that reach a wider audience? Add up to three hashtags to your tweet. You can add them into the message or at the end, whatever works best within 140 characters.
That means a message about an award one of my books won would look like this:
The Lover’s Portrait came in at No. 14 in #Mystery category, BookLife Prize for Fiction 2016! #amreading #artmystery http://www.amazon.com/LINK
I’ve included one hashtag within the message (#Mystery) and two at the end. That is simply to save space, adding #Mystery at the end of the message would make it too long. I could have also done this:
The Lover’s Portrait #artmystery came in at No. 14 in #Mystery category, BookLife Prize for Fiction 2016! #amreading http://www.amazon.com/LINK
Yes, the full title of my book is The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, but I chose not to it this second way because it reads easier when #artmystery is at the end of the message and not within it.
140 Characters Isn’t Much
Experiment with your messages to see how you can write a tweet that is easy to understand yet also fits within the 140 characters parameters. When you are typing the tweet in, Twitter shows you how many characters you have left. Spaces and punctuation do count. As does a link. I find it easiest to add the link into the new tweet first, and then write the message because the link does take up 20 to 30 characters.
I recommend using three hashtags in each tweet because any more than three is considered spamming by Twitter.
Choosing Keywords and Hashtags
How do you choose the words you want to hashtag? Before setting out to tweet your message, try to think up a list of keywords you would use to describe you book.
For example, I write mysteries and thrillers that are strong in setting and am about to publish a travelogue. So keywords relevant to my books include: travel fiction, Amsterdam, Nepal, Thailand, travel, mysteries, thrillers, art mystery, historical fiction, suspense, travelogue, travel writing, and expat fiction.
It is important to note that you cannot have spaces between words you want to hashtag. So ‘historical fiction’ becomes #historicalFiction . Some keywords are so popular that there is a special Twitter variation, in this case, #historicalFiction is used as much as #HistFic .
Search for the authors writing in similar genres and see what keywords and abbreviations they are hashtagging.
General Hashtags For Authors
There are also a plethora of general hashtags used by authors. Here is short list of some of the more popular ones to start you off (all words are preceded by a hashtag!):
#readers, amwriting, amreading, newrelease, 99cents, preorder, writerslife, authors, eBook, Kindle, Amazonbooks, iBooks, KoboBooks, books, paperback, weekendreads, greatreads, mustreads, cozymystery, paranormal, fantasy, romance, 5star, bookreview, mystery, thriller.
What Do I Tweet About?
You have 140 characters to play around with. Try using captivating excerpts from reviews or descriptions of your novels to tell potential readers something about your book. Hopefully your tweet will grab their attention enough that they retweet it or even click on the link. Here are two examples, one with a snippet from a review and the other from the description of my second book:
‘Read it. You’re sure to enjoy this fantastic #book ’ #5star review of The Lover’s Portrait by @jvlpoet #histFic http://www.bookblog.com/LINK
The Lover’s Portrait: Nazi blackmailers, missing paintings & a pesky #amateursleuth #mystery #suspense Amsterdam http://www.amazon.com/LINK
Note: You can ‘tag’ someone by adding their Twitter name into the tweet with the @ symbol in front of it. In this case, I ‘tagged’ reviewer Jo van Leerdam by adding in her Twitter name: @jvlpoet .
Creating a Hashtag for Each Book
You should create a hashtag for each book you have written. That is quite simple! All you have to do is #TITLEOFYOURBOOK with no spaces or punctuation between the words. So my debut novel Down and Out in Kathmandu becomes: #DownandOutinKathmandu
And my second novel, The Lover’s Portrait becomes #TheLoversPortrait
To ‘create’ the hashtag all you do is tweet it out to the world and – like magic – it appears a few seconds later as a searchable hashtag. Here is an example:
Gangsters, diamonds & a naive volunteer. Pick up #DownandOutinKathmandu & start ur adventure today! #eBook #thriller http://www.amazon.com/LINK
Update Your Profile with Hashtags
Consider adding the hashtag titles of your books to your profile description so people can find them even easier. My current profile description is:
Expat author #TheLoversPortrait : An Art Mystery, #DownandOutinKathmandu : adventures in backpacking (travel thriller), #NotesofaNaiveTraveler : Nepal & Thailand
Every word in your profile description is a searchable keyword. Try and fill your profile description with keywords relevant to your books.
That’s it! These tips are only meant to get you started. Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are plenty of blog posts out there which discuss advanced Twitter techniques and strategies.
I wish you much success on your Twitter adventure. I would love to know if applying these techniques helps you gain more followers. You can catch up with me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JSAauthor.
Either way, good luck! Jennifer
10 thoughts on “Twitter for Beginners”
Thank you. What’s all of the “follow” and “unfollow” about. This simply baffles me. Could you do a post on this? People follow me and then unfollow a short time later. I don’t understand the point. Cheers. D.
Hi Debra and thanks for reading. I am as baffled by those who follow then immediately unfollow. I think they are trolling for followers, but go about it in an fairly asocial way. Good luck to you!
This is a very helpful explanation of the role of hashtags, Jennifer. I need to start using hashtags in my tweets, and this points me in the right direction.
Hi Phylis, I am so glad to hear that! Good luck on your Twitter adventure. I do hope this articles helps make it easier.
Great post, Jennifer. I have not been using hashtags but really must give it a try. Shared on twitter @bakeandwrite and google.
Thanks for sharing this, Robbie! I’m glad it’s inspired you. 😉
Very helpful, Jennifer. Thank you!
Great to know, thanks Marie and good luck!
Thanks for writing this great article Jennifer – Yes I was clueless before, now at least I feel I understand how to use twitter much better.
Thank you, Jane! I’m so glad to hear it’s helped you get started. Good luck!
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