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
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 search.creativecommons.com, or pixabay.com. 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.