Four ways to build your Twitter following and not be a twit in the process

Ed. Note: In late November 2012, Preston, seeming a bit apprehensive, agreed to create a Twitter account to complement his Facebook account as a way to market his books. After a shaky start, he has built his Twitter following to more than 1,300 followers in less than four months! This impressive, and ongoing, feat qualifies him as one that knows what he’s doing and makes him worthy to offer advice on the subject.

by Preston Norton, author of “Blud and Magick”

Preston Photo[3]
‘Blud and Magick’ author–and Twitter expert–Preston Norton.
I will be the first to admit that vast world of cyberspace can be somewhat daunting. There’s just something about the World Wide Web being infinite that can make it ultimately terrifying. We’re writer’s, not techno-cyber geniuses. Why should we have to leave the comfort of Microsoft Word and explore this unfamiliar territory? Whether we want to accept it or not, social networking is the single-most powerful form of communication in the Muggle world. (Yes, if you go to Hogwarts, howlers are arguably more powerful and terrifying.) Anywho, I digress. Without further ado, I present to you four ways to build your Twitter following and not be a twit in the process.

1. The Power of a Profile:
Customize your Twitter page to sell your book. There is a right way and a very wrong way to do this. The very wrong way is to make yourself seem like a single-minded book selling spambot and not a human being.

I would recommend against using a book cover for your photo. Let people see your lovely face. And if your lovely face frightens small children and animals, maybe use a photo from your younger, better-looking days.Whatever the case, it is important for people to know you are a human being and not a sentient book”¦as cool as a sentient book would be.

Let your profile and your tweets speak for themselves. Mention your books in your bio, but also use this as an opportunity to share some neat or funny facts about yourself. Humor never fails. (Er”¦assuming that you’re funny, that is. Since you’re a writer, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re an absolute riot.)

Most importantly, customize your header and your background design to advertise your awesome book cover and/or related photos and illustrations. Include a link to your website or blog. You want to sell people the moment they click on your profile. An attractive profile page is crucial.

2. The Art of Following:
Follow a LOT of people. Not just any people. Follow the people who you think will want to read your book. The idea is that by following them, they will follow you in return.

Following book bloggers is an excellent start. These people eat, drink, and breathe books. I will just go out and say that you should follow EVERY book blogger that you can find unless they specifically mention they’re only interested in a specific type of book and yours isn’t it. Just type in “book blogger” in your search bar and fire away.

Also, another technique to utilize is to go to your writer friends’ profile pages and follow their followers who maybe express in their bio an interest in reading or something of the sort.

Once you’ve followed a significant amount of people who represent your ideal followers, Twitter has this neat feature called “Who to follow.” It will begin to do the work for you, finding people to follow. Click on their profile just to make sure they fit the bill and you’re not wasting a follow, but overall, it is pretty accurate.

Also, it is generally wise to follow the people who follow you for follower retention. (Only “follow back” people, not businesses that are

2013's 'Blud and Magick' by Preston Norton.
2013’s ‘Blud and Magick’ by Preston Norton.

obviously only following you for solicitation.) Why follow people who are already following you?

Tweeters all face a common problem: when you’ve followed 2,000 people, Twitter stops allowing you to follow people. “WHAT?” you say. “What am I supposed to do now?” The only way to recover from this is to “unfollow” the people who aren’t following you.

This seems tricky because Twitter doesn’t directly tell you which of the people you’re following isn’t following you back. Here’s the trick: once you’ve hit the barrier, go to your list of followers. Click on the button beside the blue “following” button. It looks like the top half of a stick figure with a down arrow. Among the options, it will either allow you to send a direct message or it won’t. If you can’t send a direct message, that person isn’t following you in return. “Unfollow” that person.

Once you’ve “unfollowed” a sizeable amount of people, you can start following new people. You can’t break the 2,000 limit until you have 1,800 people following you. Rinse and repeat this process until you’ve broken the barrier.

3. Tweeting Effectively:
If you want to have a significant presence on Twitter, you need to tweet regularly. I would recommend trying to tweet once every three hours. Obviously your schedule will not always permit this, but it is still a good guideline to follow.

Also, you should have three types of tweets:

  • Naturally, tweets that are related to the promotion of your book. Links to your latest blog, book reviews, etc”¦ Spread the word through the use of hashtags. A hashtag is basically a link to related conversations. Use Google to search out popular hashtags to connect with readers. Hashtags.org is a useful site for analyzing the popularity of a particular hashtag. However, these should only constitute roughly a third of your tweets. If it seems like all you’re trying to do is sell yourself, people will think that you’re just trying to spam their tweet feed and they will “unfollow” you.
  • Tweet stuff that people will find useful: quotes, tips, interesting news, articles, etc”¦ Give to the Twittersphere.
  • Tweet the random sort of “you” stuff that you would post on facebook. This is the opportunity to remind people that you are a human being. Again, humor never fails. Win them over with your wit and charm and they might click on your profile. Hopefully, if you’ve followed step one, your profile will do the rest of the work from there.
'The Lost Son' by Tamra Torero and Preston Norton.
2012’s ‘The Lost Son’ by Tamra Torero and Preston Norton.

4. Don’t ever do this:

Don’t spam people with book solicitations when they start following you. So many authors do that and it is SO annoying. In fact, I would steer away from auto-responses to people who follow you in general. Don’t bulk announce new followers either. If you want to greet them personally, that’s your choice. Otherwise, just be a fun, courteous tweeter and your new followers will be drawn to you.

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Preston Norton’s debut solo novel, “Blud and Magick,” is available in bookstores and on BooksAndThings, Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. Preston also co-authored 2012’s “The Lost Son” with his mother, Tamra Torero. This book is also available on BooksAndThings, Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.