I loves me some Twitter. It’s true. Twitter is somehow more personal than Facebook, more accessible than Tumblr, more purposeful than Pinterest. It is also a great literary community.
I call Twitter the Great Equalizer. It is a place where I am in contact with writers that I would never know on a personal level otherwise, including Erika Robuck, Greer Macallister, Erika Dreifus, and many others. I am being followed by the esteemed Robert Gray from Shelf Awareness (a newsletter for booksellers), and once, just once, I received a personal tweet back from none other than Neil Gaiman, when I commented on his tweet with a question. He answered me.
In fact, it was Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer who both kind of convinced me that Twitter was the place to be. After all, if they are spending time on it, it had to be worthwhile, right? Amanda espouses the benefits of Twitter in interviews. I’ve heard her talk about the time she needed a nettie pot in Amsterdam or some such place, and tweeted it out and someone met her at a coffee shop with it. Now that’s community, right?
I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and I have more than 750 followers. I follow more than that – I follow more people very day. It started slowly, but has really ramped up over the past year. I’ve found that there is more going on in that universe than meets the eye. There are chats, there are challenges, there are regular features. Today, in fact, there is a 24 Hour Read-a-thon going on, which I heard about on Twitter but which is also taking place on Tumblr and Instagram. The social media outlets are where you go to cheer each other on, and to be cheered on in turn. I’m taking part – at least on some level.
The chats are great. The first one that I became aware of was LitChat – held in the afternoon, usually an interview with a published author, typically focused on some aspect of their work. But hey, open to everyone. You can ask questions, get great advice, and find other people to follow. Just use the hashtag #LitChat. (Hashtags allow you to see any conversation associated with that hashtag – just click on it and you have the whole conversation. Also used for other purposes.)
There is also #BinderChat, which has to do with topics of interest to women, #K8Chat, run by Kate Tilton, which may cover many different topics, and chats associated with different movements, challenges and so on. The Challenge I am doing right now has chats every Thursday (#atozchat), where we come together and the moderator poses questions, but which sometimes digresses into discussions of what we’re drinking (the evening chat) or what we’re working on. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to get to know other Challenge participants. All a chat means is that certain people interested in the same thing have a time where they have agreed to meet on Twitter.
My favorite Twitter story is how I met a woman who lives about 2 hours west of me, out on the prairie. We found we had some things in common, so we decided to meet for lunch, and to visit a bookstore that was about halfway between us. We had so much fun. Then she asked me if I wanted to come out to her neck of the woods to see the Saint John Bible. I love the Saint John Bible. So of course I said yes. What I didn’t really grasp was that we would be taken by the project manager, into the vault, and be allowed to see the actual pages, and touch them. Yes. He even gave us magnifying glasses to see some of the details in the illuminations (the scales on the dragonfly’s wing, the hairs on the butterfly). We spent two hours in that vault. I had tears in my eyes at the end. It was overwhelming.
So when you find people that you are in tune with, it’s a lovely thing. And Twitter is a great place to find people like that. Be generous with your RTs and your Favorites. If you really like something, tell the person who tweeted it. If someone mentions you in an article, and tags you, give it a RT.
Read someone’s bio and take a look at a few of their tweets before you follow them, though. I won’t follow someone who doesn’t have an original thought, or someone who only posts photos, or only says “Thank you for the follow!” to everyone. But I am following a guy who posts tiny little poems, and nothing else. They are lovely.
For a writer, Twitter is indeed the great equalizer. Most publications now include a Twitter handle either for the publication as a whole, or the specific section that might interest you. Follow book editors, follow authors of articles you like. Follow literary magazines, follow reading initiatives. Follow libraries and associated organizations. Follow the guy who posts amazing photos of medieval manuscripts (Erik Kwakkel). Search out whatever specifically interests you. When someone makes an interesting point in a chat, check out their bio and a few tweets in the pop-up, and if you like what you see, follow them.
Twitter works best if you have a smart phone and use the app. I use it on my desktop also, but it’s quicker on the phone. I have probably spent far too much time scrolling through my Twitter feed in the last few months (since I got a new phone), but you don’t have to do that. It’s great for events and causes and crowd-funding campaigns. I have more stories of lovely things that have happened because of Twitter. But hey, don’t break the Cardinal Rule: no selling on Twitter. Not in your bio, not in your ‘Thank you for the follow’ messages, not at all.
You can find an article called Twitter Basics on the website here that explains some of the nuts and bolts. Go on, tweet your little heart out!