Yesterday’s New York Times piece, Putting Twitter’s World to Use , showed how Twitter can be used, from uniting disgruntled Moldovan youth to assisting doctors in surgery. (As big a fan of Twitter as I am, I’d still have to question whether the operating room is the time or the place to be … tweeting?) Another article, by publishing reporter Motoko Rich, explored how two days of online venting on Twitter led Amazon to correct a cataloguing error. As a book publicist, I use Twitter as an RSS feed of sorts, to keep tabs on what’s going on with the media and in publishing.
A lot of people have already signed up for Twitter — if you haven’t but would like to, check here for information about how to get started — but the question is: once you’ve signed up, how do you actually make use of it?
Twitter works by connecting people with “followers.” Thus, everyone has two lists: followers (people following you and reading your updates) and “Following,” a list of people whose updates you follow.
Finding people to follow
– Look up individuals. This can be pretty laborious since a lot of people don’t use real (or full) names. You can search email addresses too, although that can also get confusing since a lot of people use multiple email addresses and you won’t necessarily know which one they’re using for Twitter.
– Crib from someone else’s Follower / Following list. You know what I’m talking about: you’ve done this before on Facebook and LinkedIn. When you find someone interesting, look through their lists for people to Follow.
– #FollowFriday. Every Friday, people list others they like to follow. This is a great way to find people who tweet about a certain topic (like ebooks or book acquisitions).
Getting people to follow you
Those of you familiar with other social networking sites but who are new to Twitter will no doubt find it creepy that strangers follow you. This is a common practice on Twitter. Although you can protect your updates and change your settings so that you approve all followers, most tweeple don’t make use of these functions. (After all, your profile displays virtually no personal information.) Here’s how to get followers:
– Post your Twitter handle. Post your “handle,” e.g. @yodiwan, on your blog / website / in your email signature.
– Follow others. Some people will “autofollow,” which means they have applications that enable them to automatically follow you if you follow them. Others don’t autofollow, but will scan through their follower requests and follow those people who look interesting.
Tips for Facebook users
– The Twitter application for Facebook. You can download the Twitter application in Facebook (use the Search function to find it) which will enable you to have all your Twitter updates automatically posted on Facebook. (It doesn’t work the other way.) A few considerations: how often do you update your Twitter status? It’s fine to post 50 times a day on Twitter; FB users will simply get annoyed by that many status updates. Also, your Twitter Follower list will likely differ from your Facebook Friend list and the same updates may not be appropriate for both groups.
Tips for Blackberry and iPhone users
– Many people tweet from cell phones. Popular mobile applications include Twitterberry (for the Blackberry) and Tweetie (for the iPhone). Think tweeting from a cell phone is a waste of time? It’s actually one of the best ways to get real-time coverage of an event (from surgery to the plane crashing in the Hudson to a conference panel).
I’ve written about Twitter, a lot, because I’m personally interested in social networking, but without concrete examples, it’s difficult to show how useful anything is. Enter this weekend’s New Think for Old Publishers panel at South By Southwest, in which an offline panel discussion was accompanied by an online discussion on Twitter. In the wake of that panel, a number of people have asked me about Twitter, since that experience highlighted how important it is to know what Twitter is and how it works, even if you choose not to use it. Here are the basics.
What is Twitter?
How does Twitter work?
You select people to follow in order to see their updates. Others do the same with you. For those of you familiar with RSS feeds, it’s much the same principle, only instead of selecting blogs to add to your feed, you’re choosing people. (In fact, many people — including myself — find that Twitter in many ways replaces an RSS reader.)
You can change your settings so that you can approve your followers (prior to their being able to view your updates) and you can also block followers. Most people don’t do either, but it can be done.
Why use Twitter — why would I even want to see other peoples’ updates?
I thought Twitter was a pretty inane concept when I first heard about it in a marketing meeting several years ago. But I don’t follow people who only ever talk about what they had for lunch or what party they’re going to. Virtually all of the 150 or so people I follow are bloggers, writers, literary agents, social marketing experts and people in the publishing and public relations industries, which allows me to keep up on issues affecting my job in book publicity. Do people sometimes talk about what they had for lunch? Sure. Most people mix it up a bit between personal and professional updates.
How do I get started?
First, sign up for a Twitter account. You will then need to update your profile (which takes about a minute to do). Then, you select people to follow. You can look up people individually or you can have Twitter search through your address books (in Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, etc.) to see which of your contacts are already on Twitter. You will notice that some of the people who you follow will follow you back. Another way to find people to follow is to search through someone else’s Follow / Follower lists. Also, Highspot’s Jennifer Tribe maintains a comprehensive list of publishing folk on Twitter.
How do I interact with people?
You can either reply to a tweet or you can Direct Message someone if you don’t want your message appearing the Twitter stream for everyone to see.
If you come upon an interesting tweet, you can retweet (RT) it — giving the original tweeter credit, of course, by including their Twitter handle — and in doing so, broadcasting the information further.
Can you include photos and links in tweets?
Yes, although I’ve never posted a photo in Twitter. (And Twitter itself doesn’t allow photos to be viewed, although you can do so in many of the Twitter applications.)
What do you mean by “other” Twitter applications?
Twitter is a really basic application as far as web apps go these days. So some smart people decided to juice it up a bit by making it look and work better. Tweet Deck was the desktop app of choice at South by Southwest (yes — I sneaked peaks at other peoples’ laptops) although many people also use applications like Twhirl.
More people actually tweet from phones than from computers (or so I’ve read), which is where applications like Tweetie, Twitterberry, Twitterific and others come in handy. (You can also text a tweet, although few people do that because there’s no way to view others’ tweets, which is where all the fun is.)
What is this “hash tag” I’ve been hearing about?
One problem with Twitter in the past was that there wasn’t a way to search for or archive tweets about a certain topic. On blogs, for example, you can tag and categorize (and therefore look up) posts; not so on Twitter. The hash tag allows you to do this.
You create a tag (a series of letters) preceded by the “#” sign (which the Brits call a “hash” but we call the “number” or “pound” sign.) So the tag for the SXSW panel, for example, was #sxswbp. Other popular publishing hash tags are #plnws (Publishers Lunch news), #digiarc (digital galleys) and #queryfail (what authors should not do when querying literary agents).
Can I see what’s going on on Twitter even if I’m not a member?
Yes. You can search hash tags without logging in.
Why should I bother learning about Twitter now? It’s been around for a while for already — won’t something new replace it in about a minute?
Twitter has been around for several years, but it’s also become increasingly popular even over the past year. Will it be replaced soon? Quite possibly. For now, though, it’s how people communicate and it’s likely that whatever comes next will build on its existing features and concepts.
Tweeple: any basic tips that I’ve forgotten? Comment at will.
I was having dinner the other night with a college roommate and her husband, a newspaper editor. He’s on Facebook, (although he doesn’t really use his account), but he asked me what Twitter “is all about.”
“Twitter has influenced how:
- Media connects with audiences
- Businesses listen to and respond with customers
- Communications professionals, marketers, and advertisers connect with the new world of influencers
- Journalists, bloggers, analysts, event organizers can get help and answers from the community, instantly
- Everyday people can create an in-demand personal brand to open new doors and create new destinies
- People are made aware of news and important information from all over the world”
– The other day I posted about what not to have on a book website. A couple colleagues tweeted about my post and traffic spiked.
– Prior to posting, I’d asked for some thoughts about what people like and don’t like in book websites. A number of people following my Twitter feed responded and I incorporated their feedback into the post.
– At this point my RSS feed is pretty full (I probably shouldn’t have added 300 blogs) so while I check it every now and then, sometimes Twitter is the easiest way to pick up on breaking news, like when the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly was let go, or when John Updike passed away.
– Sporadically I’ll “chat,” albeit in 140-character increments, with journalists, literary agents, authors and other book publicists, a good (and quick) way to “meet” people or keep in touch.
Of course, a lot of authors use Twitter to reach readers. And there you have it.
That’s right — Gossip Girl just announced their new spin-off series. Battlestar Galactica is in its final season, again. And we have a new president.
For those of you glued to your television sets for the Inauguration, you may be interested to know that the online world is encroaching on not just the print but also on the broadcast world. Today, the New York Times reports record online viewership of the inauguration. Of course, traffic was so high that viewing live video footage on sites like CNN and MSNBC was difficult (or for yours truly, impossible), although the Timessays that might be the fault of individual offices’ Internet services rather than the bandwidths of the media companies. (At any rate, having decided to boycott my office viewing of the Inauguration — which utilized the Civil War technology known as the “teevee” — I was stuck listening to it live streamed on NPR and then catching the video on YouTube later in the afternoon.)
I find it encouraging that a lot of people in the publishing business are coming around and realizing the influence of online media (helped by posts like this one at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists about the increasing influence of online media. Phenix & Phenix notes that online coverage means not just online book reviews, but also commenting, links, blogs and more).
For many, now, the question is not “Is online promotion worthwhile?” but rather, “Which site(s) are important?” given that there are now dozens of social networks and hundreds (or thousands, more likely) of publishing blogs and websites. Which makes the social networking numbers GalleyCat posted last week particularly handy. Also of note: according to TechCrunch, Twitter surpassed Digg in traffic last week. (Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows a user to tell followers what they’re doing 24/7. Because you really want to know what I had for dinner last night. Digg is an aggregator that posts the most popular online stories according to readers in various categories.)
If you are pretty handy with social networking sites, you might consider heading over to Booksquare’s social media survey if you haven’t already done so. You could win a free pass to the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference (sort of the BEA of the social media world). Deadline is tomorrow, January 22, so step on it if you’re interested.
The moral of the story is that we need to view the online world with a new appreciation. Although most of us do indeed have at least some understanding of online and social media, we all need to take the next step and follow through on that with acceptance if we are indeed going to usher in a new era.
January 21, 2009 Posted by Yen | Blogs, Online Marketing, Social Networking, Trends | Booksquare, CNN, Digg, GalleyCat, MSNBC, NPR, Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists, TechCrunch, Twitter, YouTube | 1 Comment
Cision reports that for the first time, more people get news from the Internet than from newspapers and lists the top 10 newspaper blog networks (excluding national newspapers like USA TODAY and the Wall Street Journal).
Apparently the micro-blogging site Twitter grew 752 percent in 2008 (which I found out when Mashable tweeted their story). And lots o’ folks in the publishing industry are on Twitter (tip courtesy of a direct message — also on Twitter — from Amacom). Yes, that Twitter is mighty useful.
It’s nice being able to type with my left forefinger again — I accidentally smashed it so hard in a door late last week I almost threw up. (You figure if you have to endure that much pain, you at least want a black fingernail to show for it. No dice.)
I could talk about social networking until I’m blue in the face (actually, I do talk about social networking until I’m blue in the face), but there’s only so much you can say without using examples. Booksquare lists several publishing / publisher blogs in this post about social networking. One important point Kassia Krozser makes is that you can’t control what people say about your book / brand — much like you can’t control whether a book garners good or bad reviews — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contribute to the conversation.
Speaking of social networking, some of you may have heard of (one of) the latest additions to the literary social networking world: Red Room. (Authors can join by invitation only. Oooh.) I poked around a bit when one of my authors was invited to join, but haven’t been back since then because I don’t have enough time and / or don’t care enough. Fortunately, others do. Mark Athitakis of American Fiction Notes posts some of his thoughts about Red Room.
For anyone curious about the microblogging site Twitter, Dave Fleet posts some of the most basic, i.e., useful, tips I’ve seen for the Twitter novice. He briefly explains what Twitter is and how to sign up for an account and then walks you through using the site. To see what others are doing on Twitter, you can check this Buzz Bin post that links to various journalist / company profiles.
By this point, most people have heard of the microblogging site Twitter. I’m sure some of you have been meaning to join, but don’t quite know how – or, for that matter, why. On How to Change the World, Guy Kawasaki posts some tips about how to build a following on Twitter (and why you might want to join).
Personally, I like Twitter because it helps me keep track of what people are doing (or reading). Journalists I follow often post links to their stories or to stories they find of interest. Often, breaking news is Twittered since it’s easier to post a 140-character message than an entire story. Several publishing houses use Twitter accounts to promote their books (which you can find through my account). In fact, a friend of mine likened her Twitter account to an RSS feed in that all the important stories pop up in her Twitter feed, albeit in an abbreviated fashion.
Of course, you don’t even need a computer to use Twitter — many users Tweet from cell phones and PDAs. I admit, when I first heard about Twitter in a marketing meeting years ago, I thought it was pretty ridiculous, but used artfully, it’s actually a very effective way of keeping tabs on what’s going on.
Stop biting those nails. We’ll know soon enough.
Scott Karp Publishing 2.0 talks about how to increase your followers on the microblogging site Twitter. Specifically, he talks about ”narcissisistic” Tweets — updates that only refer to yourself / your product — versus linking. This concept (referring only to yourself vs. linking to others) can also apply to blogs. While an author (or publishing house or freelance publicist) obviously wants to promote their book(s), if you only ever talk about your book(s), you risk losing the interest of readers. On the other hand, if you also link to similar blogs / sites, not only do you provide variety for your readers, but you reach out to other bloggers. (When you mention another blog on your site, the other blogger gets a “ping.” Obviously, popular blogs like Boing Boing or Gawker will get zillions of pings, most of which they will ignore by necessity, but many bloggers do keep track of who mentions them and will investigate those blogs.)
A lot of authors debate whether it’s better to have a blog or a website. Men with Pens posts about the differences between the two (and points out that blogs today look pretty spiffy compared with blogs of yore).
For authors who want to delve into the world of social media, Mike Fruchter posts 35 step-by-step tips to establish a social media presence. Although you need a basic understanding of terms like “domain name” and “blogroll,” the instructions are pretty easy to follow for relative novices.
But why blog in the first place? To connect with readers, of course, but will that lead to increased sales? According to bub.blicio.us, yes — loyal blog readers are swayed by posts when it comes to purchasing decisions. (From personal experience, I can tell you I’ve bought many a product featured on Gizmodo, my favorite gadget blog, and the other day when Boing Boing featured one of my company’s backlist titles, the Amazon ranking shot up to about 500.)
For some time now, I’ve closely followed a lot of very informative sites about media and about the publishing industry. Since I find myself quite voluble at times about issues that pertain to my job in the publicity department at a large publishing house, I thought I’d set up a book publicity blog. The purpose of this blog is provide tips, primarily, but also information about publishing / marketing trends that will help book publicists — and hopefully others in media and publishing — do our jobs with greater ease and efficiency. Please note that the opinions expressed on this blog are my own, not those of my company.
I encourage you to subscribe to my feed in an RSS reader, but you can also receive a daily newsletter with content from this blog. See below for subscription options or for information about how to follow me on Twitter.
- List of freelance book publicists
- What is an imprint?
- What's a book blog tour?
- What to include on author websites
- Facebook profile or fan page? Who should set it up -- author? Publisher?
- Why email subject lines are so important
- Sending review copies of books to bloggers
- Contact / Submitting Tips
- What not to have on your book website
- Booking radio interviews
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