The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media: Twitter part 1 12

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twitter_logoBACK TO BASICS by Rebecca Byfield



Let’s face it: being a writer in this day and age means embracing a whole range of new technologies – some that are as clear as mud!
I have always been able to navigate my way around a computer but since becoming an author and a blogger, I have had to take a crash course in computer-geekdom.


I’ve had to learn how to create and update webpages, publish web blogs, upload to YouTube, design book trailers and book covers – and that doesn’t even scratch the surface on all the social media networks I’ve had to familiarise myself with.


Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, LibraryThing, LinkedIn, Shelfari, StumpleUpon, Tumblr, Triberr…


The list just goes on and on ad nauseum, and that’s just me. There are tons more out there I haven’t even begun to explore yet.


Wikipedia lists over 200 different social media networks, though by the time this blog goes online, that number will have probably already grown  (


This series won’t even attempt to cover them all. If we tried to keep up with every social media network out there, we’d never get anything written. And that, my friends, is the most important thing to keep in mind; that mythical balance between writing and promoting.


I will, however, attempt to explain the pros and cons of the ones that are beneficial to you as a writer.


First cab off the rank is Twitter.


Eventually, I will share my not-so-expert knowledge and try to explain exactly what it can do for you and your writing.


If you’ve already been using Twitter and know the basics, you might want to mark this blog and come back next week when we check out some of the ways to use Twitter to better effect.


This week is for the real beginner that has no idea how Twitter works – the writer floundering in a Twitterverse they don’t understand.



Twitter Basics:

I’m going to assume that you at least know what Twitter is. If you don’t, do a Google search (and if you don’t know what Google is… you need help I cannot provide).
I’m going to assume you already have an account. Before we go any further, it is vital that you give some indication as to what you do in your profile heading.


For example, mine (  is:

Freelance #journalist and communications specialist available for hire. #Author. #Editor-in-Chief of The #Writers’ Shack #blogs. Loves #travel, #books, and #TVD. Hobart, Tasmania


It also lists my website address.


Why cover so much in my profile? Simple, I use this profile to advertise my work as a journalist and freelance writer, as well as my books. I use it to promote my website and blogs. I also talk about my hobbies on there, including my love of the Vampire Diaries.


By putting who you are and what you do in your profile, people will be able to search you out. The hashtag (#) simply lets people find me based on searches in those topics.


Next, you need to have a photo, even if it’s not you. People steer clear of profiles with no pictures, because that’s what spammers tend you use.


Now let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s start with the real basics – Twitter definitions. 
Follower – What is a follower and how do you get them?


No, it’s not some bizarre cult you’ve just signed up for. You don’t have to sell your home and donate all your money to the people you follow (though if you choose to send me money, I won’t turn it away).


Simply put, a follower is someone who chooses to read your thoughts.


On the flip side, you follow people whose thoughts you are interested in reading. Your Twitter Feed (or homepage) will show all the posts from people you follow.


Remember, Twitter connections are not always reciprocal. You can follow people who choose not to follow you back (this often happens when you follow celebrities, major companies and news services – they rarely follow back), and vice versa – you do not automatically have to follow back anyone who follows you.


That being said, it is a good practice – at least in the beginning – to follow back. The more followers you have, the more you get.



How do you find followers on Twitter? 


When you first signed up to Twitter, you would have been asked to follow some popular people, mostly those famous musicians, sportspeople, news services and the likes I mentioned earlier. Main problem with that is that very few will have followed you back, and at the end of the day, that’s what you want Twitter for – the followers.


A great way to grow your follower list is to add people with similar careers or interests as you.


So how do you add people?


Go to the #Discover tab on your Twitter account and click on the left hand side tab ‘Who to follow’.


It will give you a list of people that Twitter thinks is similar to you (this grows and evolves as you add more people) based on your profiles.


Also in discover, type a keyword into the search bar. You can use either the word on its own or with a hashtag (the hashtag just narrows the search down even more).


This opens up popular search lists of people with similar jobs or interests.


You might put in author, blogger, freelance writer, journalist, copywriter, or writer.


A few good key words to search for people involved in the book community: publisher, read, book, book review, literary, Indie, Goodreads.


Maybe you’d prefer to connect with people you share other interests with. Try things like #tennis, #rugby, #surfing, #travel, #movies, #cooking…


You get the idea. What you’re doing is finding like minded people to connect with rather than random celebrities who will never follow back.


Now that you’ve added some people, sit back and wait for them to reciprocate. If they don’t follow back, you can always unfollow them (we’ll find out how later).


HelpTweet – Is it a bird…



A tweet is the name given to the mini-message sent on Twitter.  Tweets are public and can be read by anyone searching keywords and subjects.




The only way to privately tweet to someone is through direct messaging, and that has a whole lot of problems of its own that we’ll talk about later.



However, if you start your tweet with someone’s Twitter handle, it does make the conversation semi-private, where only people who follow both of you can see it.
One of the hardest things to get used to with Twitter is the 140 character limit. That means every post you send must be short and sweet and to the point.



Twitter is not the place for verbose statements and long-winded sales pitches. As you read more tweets, you will see that people tend to favour abbreviations.



As such, Twitter has spawned a kind of Twitter short hand. You becomes u. You are becomes UR. To or too becomes 2. Retweet becomes RT, weekend becomes w/e and so on. It’s all about being frugal with those characters.
If possible, don’t use up all of your 140 characters. If you’re adding a URL, you need room to include that.


Plus if you want people to retweet you, you need to take into account that the original tweet will be shortened to make way for the new tweeters Twitter handle.






A retweet is what happens when someone shares your tweet (or you share someone else’s tweet). It is a stamp of approval, in some ways. Someone is saying ‘I think this post is worth sharing’.



Think of it as a worldwide version of Chinese whispers (hopefully without the errors in the message). You say something, your followers pass it on, and their followers in turn, pass it on.
Great tweets (or just very average ones written by famous people) can be retweeted millions of times.


Obama tweeted about his re-election and it was retweeted more than 800,000 times.



Retweets are definitely your aim. Think of a retweet as someone wearing a billboard advertising you.



Retweeting is also something of a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ phenomenon. If you see something that grabs your interest, hit the retweet button and share it with your followers. You may just find that person paying you back with some kindly retweets of your own information.


If you want to add your own thoughts to the tweet, when you press retweet, click on ‘Quote’ and it will allow you to add in your own text. The whole thing will still need to stay below 140 characters.






A mention is what happens when someone inserts an @ sign before your Twitter name. It’s kind of like a wave really. They are acknowledging you publically, and drawing your attention to the post they are making.


Mentions also happen when you press reply to a Tweet. Basically, you are opening up a line of communication with that person – though admittedly, it’s a line of public communication that can be seen by others.



Direct Message (DM)


Direct message or DM is a private tweet that goes only to the person you are talking to. It is still governed by Twitter’s 140 character count but it is not broadcast publically to all your followers.




You send a DM by clicking on a person’s profile and dropping down the tab next to the following button to select ‘send a Direct Message’.




You can only send a direct message to someone who is following you back. You cannot send direct messages to anyone not following you.




However, there is something I should mention here. Most people in the Twitter community HATE Direct Messages. Why? Because that’s what spammers use. That’s what people who bombard you with their ‘thanks for connecting. Do you want to buy my book’ messages use.




Most people I know on Twitter (including me) don’t even bother reading DMs anymore. They just go straight into our trash bin.




So if you plan to use DMs, be aware that the likelihood of it being seen is pretty slim.






What is a hashtag? The hashtag, or # as it is in Twitter shorthand, makes your Tweets more easily searched.




Say, for instance, I want to find out the latest news on the bushfires in New South Wales (hey, going with current news here at the moment), I would search #bushfires #NSW. That would bring up every tweet that has been made with those hashtags and puts me instantly in touch with the topics I want to read about, rather than wading through millions of twitter posts trying to find something I want to know about.




Popular hashtags for authors include: #author, #book, #writer, #fiction, #non-fiction, #read, #Indie, #ebook , #Amazon, #Kindle, and #Goodreads.




If you want people to be able to find a list of posts about you or your book, you can also create hashtags yourself. For instance, I have created hashtags for #TheWilliamSClub and #VampireOrigins (though I’m not always the best at remembering to use it). That way, if someone clicked on that link, they could see all of the posts and news about my book.




You may have heard people on TV referring to things trending worldwide on Twitter. That’s basically when a hashtag gains so much popularity, people all over the world are logged onto that list, posting and reading posts on the subject.




Reality TV and news programs loves to use hashtags to get people talking about their shows. It’s a great way to get instant feedback from a wide range of people.




If you want to tap into what is trending, click on the #Discover tab again and down the bottom of the left hand column, you will see what is trending worldwide. As I write this, #TheBachelor, #Bachelor, and #faydeeandjamesfollow are just a couple of topics trending.




Well that’s it for the basics. Hopefully you have learned something new. Feel free to put some of your newfound skills into practice on me.

Follow me on Twitter at

If you want to practice retweeting, go to my profile page and retweet some of my Tweets (I know, what blatant self-promotion – shame on me).

Check out some of the hashtags I mentioned in this blog. Also see what is trending on Twitter and take part in some of the discussions.

Most of all; get out there and have a go. Don’t be afraid to interact with people on Twitter.

You learn more by doing than observing. Who knows, you may find yourself loving the Twitterverse as much as I do.
Want to know how to grow your Twitter network? 


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Rebecca Byfield

About Rebecca Byfield

Rebecca Byfield is Editor-in-Chief of The Writers' Shack and its associated blogs. She has more than 15 years' experience in journalism and communications. She writes fiction under her alter ego, Riley Banks. Rebecca is available for freelance assignments. For more information, go to Also, check out our Pens for Hire page for a list of freelance writers, editors, translators and more -

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12 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media: Twitter part 1

  • John Hanley

    This looks like it will be really helpful as sometimes we leap in and miss the basics. Thanks for providing it and all power to your typing digits. All the best

  • Anjali Manwani

    Firstly thanks a lot for such a wonderful post. I would like to know more about such topics and hope to get some more helpful information from your blog. C U soon.

  • L.Leander

    Thanks for this wonderful how-to on Twitter. I definitely found the information useful, even though I’ve been on the site for awhile. Have shared with my followers!

  • J, Conrad

    I understand, I think, the basic concept. What I don’t understand is how anyone with more than a handful of follows can keep up with all the tweets. In all honesty, I have several hundred follows and I can honestly say I don’t keep up with any of them.

    I get alerts for all new followers of my tweets, and I follow them in return, unless I have no interest in them,because that’s the courteous thing to do.

    The bottom line is, how does it affect my royalties, and frankly, I haven’t noticed an increase in sales, nor has my sales ranking on Amazon fluctuated to indicate more than a sale or two over a period of a month or longer.

    I also have an author page on Facebook, with many followers, most are authors, who I follow in return. Again, I can’t say I travel over to their page more than once, when I give my initial “like.” I’m fairly certain they don’t pay my page more than one visit either. So, what am I missing?

  • Rebecca Byfield
    Rebecca Byfield

    The easiest way to keep track of followers is to assign them to lists. We’ll go into more detail about that in the coming weeks, but basically, lists allow you to streamline your Twitter feed. I used to answer each new follower back with a personal message but with approximately 100 people following a day, I don’t have time anymore – not unless I want to make Twitter a full time gig – which I don’t.

    Wodke – what do you use to Tweet? An iPhone, a computer, a secondary program? I don’t see the quote function on Twitter on my computer but I do from my iPhone. Will check into and see how you quote from a computer.

    Thanks to everyone who has responded. Glad to see my thoughts have been some help.

  • John

    Hello there! I must tell you the blog post is really good. It is very informative. I want to mention one thing that I like the way you write the post to the point. I really appreciate and keep writing!