The first time I considered signing up for Twitter, I was turned off by what looked, at the time, like an incomprehensible slurry of hashtags (#), at signs (@), and acronyms. How do people use this thing? I huffed, shutting the browser window. It’s just a bunch of nonsense. What a waste of time!
This week, at the urging of a writer friend, I gave it another try. And this time, I became a convert. Once you get used to its quirky conventions, it rapidly becomes obvious why Twitter is so popular: it’s fun, addictive, and an extremely useful tool for connecting with friends and strangers alike. If you’re a writer, a Twitter account can also be a great career move—assuming you don’t spend more time tweeting than revising your book.
Here’s why Twitter is great for writers—and why you should consider joining if you haven’t already.
It’s great for shy people.
A “follow” on Twitter doesn’t have nearly the same level of intimacy as “friending” on Facebook. For one thing, you don’t have to request to follow any Twitter user with a public account—all you have to do is click Follow to start automatically receiving their tweets.
This makes it way easier for shy people like me to follow and join conversations with complete strangers. With no chance of rejection and no awkward “Do I even know you?” moments, what do you have to lose? Within a few minutes of signing up for Twitter, I found myself gleefully clicking Follow whenever I spotted a writer, editor, or agent who looked interesting—all people I would be much too shy to “friend” on Facebook.
Following other writers and publishing industry folks is a great way to stay inspired, keep abreast of the latest publishing industry news, and even find out what certain agents and publishers are looking for.
It’s easier than blogging—but shares some of blogging’s advantages.
Twitter is a fabulous alternative for people who tend to lose steam on blogging after one or two posts. For one thing, you don’t have to come up with impressive, blog-worthy ideas every day. It’s enough to post a cool link or a neat quote—minus the filler.
Like blogging, however, you can give your Twitter feed a focus, like vegan cooking, politics, or sports. Many writers simply tweet about writing. Twitter, like blogging, allows for rapid commenting and feedback in the form of replies and re-tweets, so you lose none of the connected feeling you get from the followers of a blog. If anything, the feeling of connection is even greater, because many Twitter users stay signed in (and therefore receive your tweets) all day long.
You can set your own pace.
Unlike chat, there’s no pressure to think of a witty reply to someone’s latest tweet in the next ten seconds. And unlike e-mail, nobody will get miffed if you don’t respond to them within an hour, a day, or ever. The beauty of Twitter is that you can dip in and out of it whenever you want, at whatever level of intensity you feel comfortable with.
How much you choose to tweet depends on you—there’s no right or wrong amount (well, there is a wrong amount and it’s currently set at 1,001). Some of the writers I follow on Twitter post dozens of tweets per day. This creates an exciting sensation of ongoing dialogue and connectedness. Other writers only post one tweet every day or two—which makes it exciting to see their name show up in my feed.
It’s a great way to show off your talents.
There’s no question that the Twitterverse holds humor, wit, and pithiness in high esteem—but it also rewards insight, knowledge, and the ability to ask a good question. Whether you’re a screenwriter or an expert on marine biology, Twitter is a great vehicle for putting your talents on display.
Think of Twitter as a tray of samples at Whole Foods. You’re just here for a snack, not really intending to buy that expensive cheese—but ooh, that tastes good. If you master the Art of the Tweet, you can entice readers to check out your full-sized offerings—be it a book, a blog, a podcast, or a TV show.