Twitter 101: The Basics, For Writers

Twitter 101 for Writers Part One

The past few writers’ conference presentations I’ve given about Author Platforms have prompted many of the same questions. Most surround social media. I’m gonna tackle one biggie here: Twitter. Let’s look at the very basic concept of Twitter in this post, for the true beginner. How to use it effectively will be a different post, so be sure to keep looking around on my site if you need more help or detail.

“I know what Twitter is, but I don’t know how to use it like I should. Is there a specific process?” “Why do I want to use Twitter in the first place?” “What is Twitter anyway?” Let’s start with the very basics. Here are some definitions of Twitter:

  • Twitter is the best way to connect with people, express yourself and discover what’s happening. – Twitter

That’s kinda broad. Let’s look at a different definition:

  • Twitter is a free social networking microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short update posts called tweets. –WhatIs.com

Okay, that’s not really helpful at all. Let’s give it one more try:

  • A stupid site for stupid people with no friends, who think everyone else gives a sh*t what they’re doing at any given time. –UrbanDictionary.com

Haha well that sure is one way to look at it! I view Twitter as a huge cocktail party. You interact as much as you want, you come in and out of conversations as you see fit, you listen to other people rant or rave, you observe trends and popular topics, you initiate some conversations and contribute to others, you walk around to see what’s happening over in that side of the room, and yes maybe you enjoy a few people so much that you follow them around a little bit.

Looking at some statistics, it’s clear that social media is here to stay.

  • Facebook: 1.23 Billion users as of Dec 2013, 81% outside of U.S. (Facebook.com), 57% American adults, 73% 12-17 year olds (Pew Research)
  • LinkedIn: 277 million users as of Feb 2014 (Digital Marketing Ramblings)
  • Instagram (where you share photos and up to 15-second videos, image filters are offered): 150 million active users, 1.2 Billion likes/day (DMR, Feb 2014)
  • Vine (users share 6-second videos) : 40 million users (Vine)
  • Twitter: As of Aug 2013, Twitter reports

    280 Million users

    500 Million tweets/day

    Average 5,700 tweets PER SECOND

    135,000 new users/day

A tweet, or Twitter post, gives you 140 spaces, called characters, to say whatever you want. “Happy birthday” is 14 characters (without the quote marks), and “Happy birthday!” (without quotes) is 15. With quotes, they’d 16 and 17 characters. Anything that takes up a space, even a blank space, counts as one. The good news is you are forced to be brief. The bad news is it takes practice to get your point across succinctly.

Once you’ve got the hang of 140 characters, why keep going? What’s in it for you? Plenty. When used effectively, Twitter can:

“Not all treasu…

“Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.” -Captain Jack Sparrow

Besides giving me an excuse to picture Johnny Depp (hubba hubba), that quote is relevant because this Saturday is the annual Spring Spirit conference for the Northern California Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (try saying that three times fast…). [Man, there is just no easy way get those words out. Does “@NorthCalSCBWI #SpSp14 conf” sound any better? No? I’ll stick with conference then.]  If you’re a budding writer or illustrator of children’s books and you haven’t heard of the event or the group or the conference, write it down and pay attention next year! The 2014 April conference in Sacramento is sold out, as were pretty much all past conferences. There are a variety of events in the area year round, though, so check the group out soon, either on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/221623931231668/) or Twitter (@NorthCalSCBWI) or http://canorthcentral.scbwi.org/ (local website) SCBWI.org (the national website with local chapters all around the world). I think you’ll find us to be good peeps (well, most of us…).

Anyhoo, there is bound to be a bevy of golden nuggets shared at this weekend’s conference. I say that not just as a proud conference presenter, but as an active SCBWI member in continued awe of all the great ways this group helps make our industry better. I’ll be presenting on “How to Market the @&$! out of Yourself with Twitter,” humbly amid greats like NYTimes best-selling author Jay Asher, award-winning and best selling poet/author Nikki Grimes, plus nationally-recognized editors, agents, artists and writers. Topics range from query writing to book proposals to multiculturalism and diversity in children’s books. (I’d list more but if you’re not attending it’ll just make you bitter to miss it.) It’s going to be a great day.

Captain Sparrow is right, all treasure is not silver and gold.