Getting Started with Twitter

I’ve found Twitter to be a great place to learn about writing and meet other writers. While I’ve had a Twitter account for several years, it’s only been in the past few months that I’ve started following writers and the writing profession. This is a description of my initial experiences.


I’ve found Twitter to be a great place to learn about writing and meet other writers. While I’ve had a Twitter account for several years, it’s only been in the past few months that I’ve started following writers and the writing profession. This is a description of my initial experiences.

What Is Twitter?

This article assumes you are familiar with the basic workings of Twitter. If you aren’t, then this tutorial by Twitter should help.

Hash Tags

I’m going to talk about hashtags first as I refer to them later. A hashtag is a word or several concatenated words beginning the a #, which is the hash symbol. Tweeters put them in their posts to act as commonly agreed upon search argument. An example is #amwriting. If you do a search with this hashtag, you will see posts from users talking about their writing efforts. There are thousands of hashtags and anyone can make up one.

There are several lists of writer hashtags on the Web. Rather than creating one of my own, I refer you to this one. My favorite hashtag is #amwriting. There are a lot of writers talking about their writing experiences using it. I feel right at home.

Finding Writers

I first started finding writers that were on Twitter from their websites. It’s getting pretty common to see an invitation to follow them on Twitter these days. There’s one on this site. The first writer I followed was Heather Havrilesky. I got her Twitter user id from her web site. I used to read her religiously when she wrote as Polly Esther on suck.com. Another lucky find was Jane Friedman. I found her through the Writer’s Digest Web site. She has since moved on to the Virginia Quarterly Review. So far, she has been my best find. I highly recommend her.

After you find a writer, you can see who is following him or her by clicking on the Followers button. A profile will be displayed for each follower. Chances are a number of them are writers. Look through them for any that might interest you.

Another way to find writers is to do search using a hashtag. I primarily look for writers using the #amwriting hashtag. If they’ve said something interesting, I check their profile. If I like their other posts, I usually follow them.

Many users will follow you back when you follow them. Some of the more popular writers may not. Jane Friedman, mentioned above, has over 160,000 followers and only follows about 250 as I write this. She couldn’t possibly follow everyone that follows her.

Writers Finding You

Slowly you will start to build a following. You may then notice users that you haven’t followed will start following you. They probably saw you as a follower of someone they follow, Twitter suggested you to them, or they saw one of your posts. It’s been my experience that most of these followers are just following me to get me to follow them back to build their follower count. If someone follows you unsolicited, look at their follower and followed counts. If they’re in the thousands then they’re most likely collecting followers. There’s nothing wrong with that. If they’re writers, I generally follow them back. I’ve read a lot of useful posts from these users. If some one with low counts follows you, then they’re most likely interested in what you have to say. These are the best followers.

In addition to writers, you may get completely unrelated followers. I always read the follower’s profile and some of their posts before I follow them back. I have a local nail salon and a marriage counselor following me, which are of no use. One that I do like sends hourly images of the sun.

If you choose not to follow someone that followed you, you may notice that they stop following you after a few days. This is typically a sign of a follower collector. In some cases, people only like to follow people that will follow them in the interest of a shared discussion.

Types of Tweeters

There are several types of tweeters you will come across. Here are a few types I’ve encountered.

The Incessant Self Promoter

For some users, it seems the sole purpose of their Twitter account is self promotion. Almost every one of their posts urge you to buy their books, visit their website, or like them on some other social media site. Most writers do this to a certain extent. It’s a great method to advertise your work. It’s the ones that do it to the exclusion of almost all else that are a nuisance.

The Trivial Tweeter

A trivial tweeter posts about the small things that are going on in their lives. I follow a few people who do it and I enjoy reading them. They’re writers so it gives me a view into their writing ups and downs. Another reason I stick with them is that they are pretty witty about it.

The Over Tweeter

While it’s far from an exact science, the recommendations I’ve read say you should post around 20 times a day to be effective. Some posters get completely carried away. I have one user I follow that seems to post quite a bit so I counted one day’s activity: it came to 110 posts. Another person I follow will post 20–30 times in a burst. A entire page of my feed only had posts by this one person. Some of the posts by these people are interesting, but they are repeated several times a day. After a while, the flood of posts just becomes noise. How can I miss them if they don’t ever go away.

Starting Out Slowly

I’m starting out slowly on Twitter. Compared to the people I follow, I only have a small amount of followers at around 150. I only post once or twice a day when I feel I have some of interest to say. I’m in no great rush to amass a large number of followers or be a prolific poster. I feel this keeps me from burning out on Twitter or spending too much time with it. However useful it is, Twitter is only a tool. My main job is writing.

Tags: Twitter

Categories: Social Media