Sunday, March 3, 2013

Here's how I make Twitter work for me....

I have friends who could benefit from using Twitter, but who refuse to take advantage of it.
I am relatively new to Twitter myself, and so this advice is being written for people who are not yet on Twitter, but who might want to test the waters and use this social medium to develop their own business or personal interests, whatever they might be.
The advice might also work for some who have been on Twitter for a while, but who have not been able to develop a good list of Followers.
Because people don't understand Twitter, many are afraid of it -- I was, too, when I first started.
But thanks to some of the people already there and willing to share their experiences, I learned how to use it.
At least I learned how to make this particular social medium work for me, for now.
So, here's my advice for beginners, for what it is worth:

First step for me, at least: Buy (yes, buy) a book so that you can understand the basics of how Twitter works.

Know why you are here. Only then can you make Twitter work for you the way you want it to.
Some people use it for social events or to follow friends, which is fine.
Others use it to get their news: my sister has joined Twitter for exactly that reason, and though she says in her header that she is a writer (and she has 4 Followers because she said she's a #writer), she Followed numerous newscasters and fills her page with news reports and entertainment.
I am promoting a book, and so I use Twitter in quite a different way than she does.

If you are going to "tweet," you have to have something to say.
Again, why are you here? You have to know that.
Some people spent time on websites and other internet locations and share the information they uncover on other sites, on Twitter, hoping their news will be interesting to enough to others to get Followers. They do.
When I got on Twitter, I watched and waited until I discovered how I could use the medium.
I stumbled on the Vancouver Museum's Twitter feed: they are Tweeting a pioneer's journal from their collection, 140 characters at a time.
And that is what started me off -- I have enough of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's writings and journals to keep some people entertained for years to come.

It's just like writing a book -- you have to have something to say.
Then you have to find a way to say it, so you give people a reason to follow you.

Sometimes it takes a little while to figure it all out; take your time, but jump in when you're ready.
One Facebook friend, a writer, could post poems line by line, or even better -- the Indian Trade Books, 140 characters at a time.
Another could find others interested in Addiction and lead them to her Facebook page, where she talks out various problems and solutions.
My sister, another memoir writer-to-be, could post lines from our mother's letters and writings, because she was a character with a quirky sense of humor that came through in every line of her writing.

So, find people who will read the "book," and sell the idea to them.
On Twitter, these people are called Followers.

Do your basic search to find and follow people who have interests similar or the same as yours.
I searched for and followed people who said they were #historians and/or #writers -- some followed me back and some did not.
I searched for "#fur trade" and found absolutely no one there.
I searched "#BritishColumbia" and "#BC" and "#history" and whatever else seemed reasonable, and some of the people I found in that search followed me back immediately, and are still my best followers.
Do not worry if they do not follow you back immediately; you are building a list of people to follow and the next step will be the more important step.
The next step will build you followers -- or at least it will build followers once you have figured out how you are going to work Twitter, and are tweeting things that are of interest to others.
Most people will not follow you back until you have something to tempt them to do so, and for that you need to have an interesting (to them) Twitter feed.
But some will, just to encourage you. This is a very kind place.

Followers List = people following you; Following List = people who you are following.

The next step is to find people who will follow you.
You are, of course, already Tweeting by this time, and you are following a few people. Maybe you even have a few Followers.
This next step feels a little like you are rummaging through a stranger's underwear drawer, but this is what Twitter is all about.
Open up the home page of the person at the very bottom of your Followers list, and check on their Followers (or alternately, check on who they are Following, or both).
Follow whichever of their Followers you think might be interesting and useful to you. Make a quick decision; it doesn't matter whether these new people follow you back or not.
You are encouraging them to do so, but not demanding it.

I found this uncomfortable at first, but now I see that this is the main way to get new Followers, which is what I want to do.
You can check the Followers of list of people who are not yet Following you, unless they have a lock on their feed.
Later you might realize these people will never Follow you because you have no common interests, but at the moment, this is unimportant.

When people Follow you back, you will get an email.
If people you haven't Followed Follow you, you will also get an email, and you can make the choice whether or not to Follow these people back.
I set rules for the people I chose to follow: If someone has one or two thousand followers or more, I do not usually Follow as I think they won't hear me.
I tend to follow people who live in the western half of the continent.
I follow people who say they are historians, even though sometimes I do not know what kind of history they are interested in. I'll find that out later.
I follow people who say they read history; I follow other writers, especially British Columbia writers.
I follow people who talk about the region I am writing about.
You will make your own "rules," and you will break them too.

Eventually you will figure out for yourself what type of person will or won't follow you, and what type of person you want to follow.
But you have to test the water first.
Be ready to break your own rules: For example, I looked at Thompson-Nicola Transportation many times but said to myself, "they will not follow me."
However, they found me on someone else's list of Followers, and they Followed me.
Now we are both tweeting on transportation issues occurring in the same part of the world: they on modern day highway problems and me on explorers and brigades who travelled over the same routes 150 years ago!

Following list = people I follow. Followers list = people who follow me.

Next, Unfollow people who are not following you:
I leave new people on my Following List for a week or so, and if they are not yet Following me, then I Unfollow them.
But before I unfollow, I scour through their list of Followers and Follow those who might be of interest to you.
In this way I feel I keep the chatter on my page under control, and I will not be overwhelmed by Twitter.
For me it also ensures I am talking to people who are listening, and not wasting my time on people who will not.
Again, I have Unfollowed people only to have them find me and Follow me a week or so later, so not all is lost.
I have also Followed people (for the second time) and had them Follow me back, though they hadn't Followed me the first time.

All this is work, and more work at first than it will be later.
It becomes easier after a couple of months, when you have established yourself enough that others will follow you before you discover and follow them.
Begin your Twitter work when you are not overwhelmed by other tasks, otherwise you will abandon it.

Check your followers list every once in a while.
Starting at the bottom, click on every follower and see if they are still Following you.
Doublecheck the top part of their list -- perhaps they have added some people that you might be interested in.
I am keeping the bottom of my Following List clean and tidy and almost no one who is not following me will be followed by me.
The top part of my list of Followers is much more random: some are not following me but I am giving them time to do so, and leaving me some time before I root through their underwear drawer of Followers (or as I said, Following).

Keep your Home Page (that's the page where you see everyone's current Tweets) friendly and useful to you.
I find if I get too many Twitters on my Home page I get overwhelmed, and so I quickly unfollow people who post the same post many times over.
I unfollow people who only post pleading hints or demands to purchase their book; to look at their Facebook page; to read their Blog, etc. etc.
This should be a fun and sharing place and not a place that is all about you.

I made my own set of private rules, that will work for me.
I don't generally follow people who have thousands of followers; I think they probably won't follow me.
But rules aren't black and white: Some writers who have two thousand or more followers have followed me (perhaps because I followed them first) and are proving very useful.
In fact, it was one of these people who wrote an article on how to use Twitter, that taught me everything that I am now telling you -- with variations of course.
When I read her article I was such a "newby" to Twitter that I didn't even know how to "Favorite" it to save it.
Nor did I even print it out.
But I remembered it, and used what I remembered, and now I am passing what I remember on to those of you who don't believe you have a use for Twitter (and perhaps you don't).

By the way, those of you who follow my Nancy Marguerite Anderson Facebook page are following what I post on Twitter, more or less.

What's the next step?
I don't know yet. This step is still working for me, and it might always work.
I do other things: I Tweet in the morning when I am fresh, and RT others posts later in the day when I am tired.
I have connected my almost useless Facebook page to my Twitter feed and now have a use for it.
I have drawn new readers to my blog because I connected my Twitter feed to my blog.
My Twitter feed shows on my Amazon and other Author pages, too.
My Twitter feed is, in fact, the social media feed that ties all my pages together, and so it has proved very useful to me.

So this is where I am right now.
Give it a try. Have some fun -- it is fun!

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