If you’re not on Twitter already (or have an account you barely use), you probably have good reasons. You’re afraid it’s a black hole time suck. You don’t see the value it adds over Facebook. You’re worried about privacy. You’re not sure how to make the best use of it, it moves too fast, or it’s confusing.
While I agree those are valid concerns, they can all be fixed with a little time and training. And if you’re not on Twitter, there are five amazing benefits you’re missing out on.
(1) Twitter Has Over 100 Million Active Accounts
Whether you’re seeking traditional publication or plan to self-publish, whether you’re a non-fiction author, a novelist, a poet, or a short story writer, you need a platform to sell your work. Your audience is on Twitter. You just need to know how to tap in to them. This is true even if you write children’s books or YA. Your readers might not be on Twitter, but their parents and aunts and uncles and even grandparents are, and your books might just be the perfect gift they’re looking for.
Because of the ability to participate in conversations through hashtags, Twitter also allows you to build a following faster than any other social networking site. People who find you on Facebook usually already know you. People who find you on Twitter are more likely to be complete strangers, and that’s a good thing because you’re expanding your friendships and your reach. I met some of my favorite writer friends on Twitter.
(2) Twitter Makes You a Better Writer
Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with. Not 140 letters or 140 words, but 140 characters. Spaces count, and so does punctuation. Links count as well.
Working within those constraints forces you to write tighter. No purple prose allowed. You need to figure out exactly what you’re trying to say. Twitter’s character limit also helps you value strong verbs and specific nouns over adverbs and adjectives. Both of those skills translate directly into better writing elsewhere.
(3) Twitter Brings You the News Faster than Any News Site Can
Twitter is real time, which means that while reporters are putting together their stories and getting approval from their editors, normal people on site are tweeting. Last August, Twitter lit up like a firefly on crack about the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia before the news stations could catch their balance. In the plague of tornadoes that rolled through Texas this spring, Twitter might have even saved lives.
(4) Twitter Allows You to Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of the Publishing Industry
Twitter is like a writer’s mecca because you can quickly find out about interesting and informative new blog posts (already vetted by others), get tips on writing and publishing from agents, editors, and bestselling authors, and keep up on industry trends and new releases. No searching involved. It comes to you in a bite-sized 140 character nugget. If you decide you want more, you click the link.
(5) Twitter Helps You Research
In her bestselling book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen Lamb tells the story of how she needed information on bounty hunters for her novel. Rather than wasting hours trying to sort through results on Google and still not coming up with what she needed, she tweeted about it and received replies from actual bounty hunters willing to answer her questions.
But it’s not only facts you can research on Twitter. If you’re not sure your main character’s name is a good fit for his personality and job, ask. If you want to know what writing software other writers actually trust, ask. In my co-written novel with Lisa Hall-Wilson, I mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah, and we debated whether enough people would know what we meant. So I asked, and we ended up leaving it in the book.
In August, I’ll be teaching a course to help people who aren’t on Twitter get started or people who are on Twitter but are struggling to improve. For eight months, I let Twitter intimidate me. I barely used it and only had five followers (two of which were my brother and sister-in-law). Then, in less than a year, I learned to love Twitter and went from five followers to over 3,600. This course will save you the wasted time, headaches, embarrassment, and learning curve I had starting out on Twitter, and show you how fun and helpful it can really be.
Twitter is where I hang out most days, so if you’re already on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you. My username is @MarcyKennedy (straightforward right – it’s very important on Twitter to use your name). And please help me spread this post not only on Twitter, but also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ (where the folks who aren’t yet on Twitter are likely to be).
If you’re already on Twitter, what do you love best about it? If you’re not, what’s the biggest thing holding you back?
Sidenote: Since I know this is the busiest time of year for everyone, I’m going down to two posts a week for the rest of the summer. Starting in July, I’ll be doing my science fiction/fantasy themed posts on Mondays and the regular post for writers will move to Thursdays. I’ll be back to the three-day schedule come fall