The Definitive Guide to What and When to Post on Twitter

Unfortunately, the title of this post was a lie. There is, of course, no definitive guide to Twitter marketing. For every business, and for every genre, and even for every author, the best approach to Twitter will be slightly different.

There are, however, certain guiding principles that can help inform your unique strategy. Start with these guidelines and once you feel comfortable, you can begin to color outside the lines and find your own rhythm.

What to post on Twitter

Do: Images

If you can post a relevant image with every Tweet, do it. I get that this is time-consuming, especially if you aren’t using a browser extension (Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social) that makes it easy, but do it whenever you can. If an article doesn’t have an image in it, you can find your own by going to, or You can even whip up your own simple image on Canva. Images are proven to garner more engagement than any other type of post on Twitter. This is partly because our brains process visuals more readily than pure text, and partly because images take up more real estate on Twitter’s timeline.

Do: Excerpts from your book(s)

Queue them up: do your excerpts in batches, so you can do them just once a week and then forget about them. It’s easier to do ‘em in bulk, and then space them out throughout the week (or month).

Do them as you read, or while you’re writing. Sneak peeks of upcoming works are always extra fun for readers.

For bonus points, turn your book quote into an image (try Canva). Take a look at my public gallery of book quotes for inspiration.

Do: Use Twitter tools

Aside from the ones I mention in my article, I highly recommend using If This Then That (free) for integrations with other platforms. For example, IFTTT has a “recipe” that automatically tweets every time you post a picture on Instagram. Unlike Instagram’s built-in share function for this, IFTTT actually tweets the picture, not just the link! There are tons of other applications for IFTTT, so go explore the popular recipes and see what it can do for you.

Do: Retweet relevant, interesting content

Do: Favorite and reply to updates from your readers and community

Do: Show personality

Don’t just post about your books; give an inside peek into the life of a writer. Behind-the-scenes posts tend to make readers feel in-the-know, and show them that you’re human, too.

Do: Actively seek out, follow, and retweet followers who are in your target audience

Do: Use hashtags that your target audience would be inclined to check.

Identify who your target audience is, put yourself in their shoes, and consider what hashtag you’d be interested in checking. Click through to the hashtag to make sure your guess was right! General hashtags like #book #novel #interesting are not likely to help anyone discover you, but #lesbiancrimefictiononaboat might be a tad too niche.

Do: Give other writers a boost instead of only promoting yourself (follow the 90/10 rule of content)

Don’t: Make these common Twitter mistakes for authors

Don’t: Only tweet things that would appeal to other authors.

For example, I see lots of people sharing posts that are super relatable to other writers, but perhaps not to readers. Use your judgement; it’s of course great to build a community with other authors, but if you’re seeking fans/readers/sales, be sure to tweet other things too.

Don’t: Spam people about your book.

Example: I see authors tweet to every single person who follows them “Hi! Looks like you’re interested in romance-check out my new novel for just 1.99!” Even if you’re doing this by hand, it’s still automated, and it’s still spam. It also has resulted in precisely zero people buying your book. Okay, I don’t know that for a fact, but I’d be willing to bet a panini and a latte on it.

Don’t: Constantly tweet a buy link to your book.

Give something to readers, don’t just ask for something.

Example of giving: link to a freebie, or a valuable tip

Example of asking: “Buy my book – it’s only $1.99 this week”

When to Tweet

You’re not going to like this answer, but unfortunately, it depends.

Blogs like Buffer claim to identify optimal times to tweet. I’ve seen a proliferation of supposedly-definitive posts on the best time and day to tweet, because let’s face it: a clear-cut and actionable answer is far more seductive than an “it depends.”

The truth is, there is no one size fits all approach. How can my audience possibly be on the same checking-twitter-schedule as the audience of a Twitter about working moms? That’s the rub: it isn’t. The kind of research in Buffer’s post is based on averages, which makes it useless in actual practice. For “best times to tweet” to be helpful, it needs to be personalized to your audience.

There are automated services that scan your tweets to find the best times to tweet, like Sprout Social, but they’re far from cheap.

The best way to discover when your audience is most receptive to your tweets is through trial and error, and data-driven analysis. Experiment with your postings times over a long period of time (I’m talking weeks and months, not days), and then analyze your results.

You can use queue and scheduler functions to schedule your tweets at different times, even in the middle of the night. To analyze your results, Twitter’s analytics are incredibly helpful, once you export them out of the built-in tool. See my post on how to use Twitter analytics for authors to learn how to find meaningful information in your analytics.

But Eva, when do you Tweet?

Personally, I have success with posts in the morning and evening, and not much in between. But my audience is going to be vastly different from yours. For instance, if you’re the author of a book about parenting, your potential readers may only have time to check twitter after their kids are in bed. If you tweet NSFW content, you may notice a dip in engagement when users are at work (or not—I’ve certainly seen NSFW content do just fine during work hours!)

For the reasons outlined above, there aren’t many hard and fast rules. That said, here are a few that should hold true:

1. Space out your tweets (using any scheduling service) and your retweets (Buffer)

2. Try to hit multiple time zones

3. Put yourself in your ideal fan’s shoes, and imagine when you’d be on Twitter.

4. Tweet at least 2 times a day, and stay as consistent as possible. If you’re a 10-tweet-per-day kind of gal, try not to go silent for two weeks, and then come back with a barrage of posts.

Questions? Comments? Come join the Community and start a conversation about it.


The 7 Most Common Twitter Mistakes

1. Endless self-promotion

“But isn’t that why I got a twitter in the first place?” you might be wondering. “Isn’t self-promo a necessity for authors on social media?” Absolutely, but overdoing it is the #1 Twitter mistake for authors. It’s incredibly important to make self-promo a secondary part of your twitter account. A good rule of thumb is keeping your promo-to-personal ratio 1:10. Only 10% of tweets should be promotional in nature, and the rest should be interesting links, pictures, personal updates, and/or signal boosts for other people’s work.

2. Beginning a tweet with a handle

If I say “@AlisonTyler is the coolest author ever,” that tweet will only show up on the streams of Alison Tyler and anyone who happens to be following BOTH Alison and me. This vastly limits the number of people who will see the tweet, which sort of defeats the purpose of a public tweet. Please note that beginning a tweet with a handle is still appropriate when replying to a person or their tweet, or if your tweet is mainly intended for that person and their followers.

3. Overuse of the #hashtag

If half of your tweet is comprised of hashtags, you might want to reconsider your strategy. “#Awesome #cool #funny #lol” are not actually adding anything of value to the conversation, and are probably not placing your tweets in categories that people check. Don’t get me wrong—sometimes it’s hilarious to have a hashtag that’s clearly tongue in cheek, but they should still be used sparingly. Think of them as the of the hot sauce of the social media world. Just a dash (or a hash, as it were) will do.

4. “Check out this awesome thing”

If you can possibly avoid it, never, ever use this phrase. “Check out this …” is quite possibly the most overused phrase in the history of social media. Try eliminating this phrase from your social vocabulary, and come up with new ways to point users to your interesting links/pictures/content. Ex: instead of “Check out this exclusive excerpt from my novel!” try “Make Monday a little more romantic with this free excerpt from my novel!”

5. “Please RT”

The same goes for “Please follow.”It just makes you sound a little desperate. You’d hardly say “please be friends with me” in real life, would you? And hey, if you would, go ahead and do it on twitter, too, but I’d suggest something a bit more subtle for the rest of us. The key to getting more retweets (RT’s) and followers is having interesting content and a unique voice, not asking for them loudly and often.

6. Auto DM’s

Nine times out of ten, an auto DM (direct message) is a bad idea. Countless twitter accounts have auto DM’s set to send to every new follower. A canned message is, of necessity, generic and impersonal, the precise opposite of the tone most authors would like to create on their social media. Instead, if you want to make followers feel welcome, send a tweet thanking them for the follow, and telling them what you’re interested in about them.

7. Not spacing out tweets

Use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer (free) to space out your tweets over hours, days, and even months. You can even tweet the same link as many times as you like, if you change up the wording, to hit different time zones and users.

Want the latest tips and tricks on social media delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free Giving Books a Voice newsletter.