Recently, I peeked in my mailbag and spied an urgent email from a reader of the blog. She was having trouble getting any traction in promoting her paid blogging gig on Twitter:
I write for this site, and most of the hits or “recommendations” stories get are from the writer’s social media and personal website followers, as well as friends and family. So mine don’t get a ton of hits comparatively, which makes me very nervous about my position on the site.
I signed up on Twitter a little while ago and followed who I could, but still only have like eight followers. I linked Facebook too I believe … And yes, I still need to make a web site for myself.
But otherwise, do you know a way to get followers fast for Twitter, to bump up the hits for my stories on a site? Most visitors aren’t just going there because of the site as much as the writers they already know.
I guess I dread social media but I know it’s essential. I don’t think I’m entertaining enough to tweet enough to get a following about anything. It’s the last thing I enjoy doing 🙁
I took a look at her Twitter profile, and this is what I discovered: No one is following or retweeting her because in the world of Twitter, she is no one.
She has no bio filled out, no URL link, her Twitter handle is not her name, and her image is that lame egg graphic Twitter hands out as a default. She had sent a big 25 tweets, and they all seemed to be links to her own blog posts. She was following 16 people.
This experience reminded me that only about 8 percent of people are yet on Twitter. Those of us who’ve been cranking along on it for a while tend to forget that not everybody understands how Twitter works yet.
It’s worth taking the time to do that, because Twitter can be a powerful tool for spreading the word about what you’re doing, and for meeting great, useful new people. I ended up guest-posting on Copyblogger from promoting my blog posts on Twitter, and meeting a $2-a-word assigning editor at a high-profile website who’s still giving me assignments.
So here is a 15-step crash course in how to win on Twitter as a freelance writer:
1. Get a useful handle. If your name is already taken (this reader’s problem), maybe you have a cool branding thing you could do, like my tweep Stefanie Flaxman @RevisionFairy, or my franchise-consultant friend Joel Libava @FranchiseKing. Or you could put an underline in your name like @Carol_Tice. Takeaway: You can put key words about what you do right into your handle, like mine: @TiceWrites.
2. Fill out your profile completely. Really, it takes maybe five minutes. And it’s so, so important. Why? People search on words they’re interested in on Twitter, and if you have them in your profile, you will appear in their search results. Stuff it with key words about what you do, up to the limit of what it will accept. Mine includes: freelance writer, copywriter, journalist, Top 10 Blogs for Writers winner, writing, helping writers earn, business. If you want to connect with people in your town, include your location.
3. Provide a link to your Web site. If you do not have a writer Web site yet, link to your LinkedIn profile, or your ZoomInfo profile, or your Facebook page. Something — anything! Profiles with no links people can follow to learn more are ignored. There really is no excuse for not having a writer website these days, when you can have a WordPress site for $99 from the National Association of Independent Writers & Editors (NAIWE) up and running in about the next 10 minutes. But whatever you do, get your clips organized somewhere and post a link to that site on Twitter.
4. Put up a photo. Preferably, a good little photo of you. Or maybe a fun cartoon gravatar of you. But kill off that egg — spammers all have those (I actually just blocked three of them this evening), so you’re giving your profile a very bad connotation sticking with the egg.
5. Don’t use robots to get followers. If you search on “get Twitter followers,” you will find lots of offers of products that promise to automatically get you hundreds of followers overnight. Don’t use them. Why? These followers are useless — they don’t really want to follow you, and won’t retweet your links.
6. Search for influential people in your niche, and follow them. There are thousands of people this reader could be following on Twitter. You’ve never followed “all you could.” Many of the top people automatically follow you back if you follow them. Identify the key people and start building a list.
7. Stop constantly marketing yourself. Twitter isn’t a channel to constantly blare about what you’re doing — it’s just considered bad form. You’ll need to mix links to your own blog posts in with other useful information from other sources in your niche. Once you’re following thought leaders in your topic, you can just scan down your Tweetstream and quickly find things to retweet. Or use SmartBriefs to find interesting articles, or Google Alerts. Presto! You are interesting enough to get followers now. But stop making it all about you, because that’s why no one is interested.
8. Watch your follower/following ratio. Once you start to accumulate a few hundred followers, it’s time to cut back your list of who you’re following. That’s because just like the ratio of good to bad cholesterol, your ratio of followers to people you’re following is important. When you have substantially more followers than you do people you follow, it tells people you’re interesting. You don’t have to follow people to get them to follow you. That attracts more followers.
9. Promote other people. Thank people (with a link to their Twitter name) for retweeting your content, RT their links and rave about them…and you will find new friends.
10. Use hashtags. Know how to help your content get found by using hashtags. For instance, if you’d like other writers to see your link, you might post it on #WW (Writer Wednesday), or if you’d like to flatter someone else by promoting them you could mention them on #FF (Follow Friday). People search on these hashtags for content they might be interested in, such as #writer, #business, #blog.
11. Use lists. One great way to stay connected to people without having to follow them is by adding them to your lists. For instance, I have probably 800 writers on lists, and 150 thought leaders that might be good future story sources in a “gurus” list. Many people are flattered by getting into lists, so this is another weapon you have besides following.
12. Get a nice background. People who really operate on Twitter take the time to at least grab a free, unique Twitter background to spice up their site. The really together people have pictures of their products, website logos, and other cool stuff.
13. Understand how other forms of social media work. When I read “I linked Facebook too I believe,” it leads me to suspect that you don’t understand how other social-media channels work, either. Since coordinating your work in several social-media channels can save you time and help accelerate the level of help you get, you’ll want to learn how Facebook works, too.
14. Social media — love it or leave it. If you loathe social media, I’m going to put on my fortuneteller’s hat here and predict that you aren’t going to be successful using it. If you really hate it, do in-person networking or send email to people you want to come “recommend” your blog posts. If you hate it, people will pick up on that, and it won’t be a useful marketing channel for you.
15. The secret of being a writer on Twitter. Let you in on a little secret — umpty-million people on Twitter want to connect with writers! Especially journalists. If you say you are one, you will start to get followers rapidly. At this point, I follow very few people back…because I don’t have to. You should be able to fairly effortlessly achieve a good ratio with more followers and fewer following.
To sum up, take social media seriously and learn to have fun doing it if you can…it could really help your career. I’ve had a couple of Fortune 500 companies hire me through my LinkedIn profile — take a look at all the key words I’ve stuffed in there.
Need to learn more about how to market your writing? Join my learning community Freelance Writers Den, where high-earning pros answer your questions. There are e-courses, live events, private forums, and much more.
Photo via Flickr user Rosaura Ochoa