Conquering Twitter: Social Media for Writers (Part 1)
Welcome to my multi-part post on social media for newbies in the #WritingCommunity!
Social media can be one of the more confusing aspects of establishing yourself as a writer. What should I be doing? Which platform is the most important? Should I be trying to create new content, or reposting others’ content, or what? Do I even need to do this?!? I’ll try to answer all of these questions, and more, in this multi-part series.
First: how am I qualified to give advice about social media? I am not! Not at all! So don’t rely on just me – try this great article from literary agent Eric Smith or do a quick Google search for more great insights.
BUT. I am a writer with a decent social media presence for someone who has yet to be published, and I was selected for Pitch Wars 2020 (I will definitely be writing a post about that very soon!). In my day job, I’ve conducted literally hundreds of job interviews and read hundreds of resumes, and let’s be honest, your social media is kind of like your writing resume. I’m also autistic, so I have something of a different take on social life – more analytical, instead of instinctive. It might be a perspective you haven’t thought of before!
I joined Twitter in September 2019, right before entering (and getting very soundly rejected for) Pitch Wars 2019. For the first few months, my Twitter account was a lonely wasteland where the wind whistled through all of my abandoned posts. It took time, but I slowly built up my Twitter presence and started having a bit more fun. I wouldn’t call myself an expert at social media, but after a year and a half, I have a few tricks I can pass on.
Social Media Tip #1: Think hard about how your online life will intersect with your real life…or not.
I recommend keeping your author accounts separate from your personal accounts. Let’s face it: your friends and family often don’t understand (or care) about your writing. That’s why you need writing friends, and social media is the perfect place to find them! On the flip side, your writing friends maybe aren’t interested in your non-writing friends and activities. Best to keep these two things separate.
If you want to keep your author identity a secret, use a photo where your face isn’t visible, or use an avatar. There are lots of artists who do gorgeous avatar drawings if you’d like to support other creators! You can also keep your bio and location vague.
Secret identity aside, social media algorithms are clever. Too clever. Literally five minutes after I created my author Instagram account, my spouse followed me. Why? Because the algorithm showed him my account before I could even tell him it existed. I’ve also had a work friend request to follow my author Facebook profile (eep!).
For these reasons, consider keeping your writing persona on a social media platform where you don’t have a personal account. If you decide to have both personal and writing accounts on Facebook, just for example, don’t friend yourself, and don’t stay logged into both accounts at the same time. Signed, someone who discovered the power of the algorithms only when it was too late. ☹
Social Media Tip #2: Your Author Identity
When you’re new to the writing community, your goal is to find and get found by the right people (writer friends, agents, publishers, etc.). My best strategy to achieve this has been to maintain a consistent identity.
When I made my brand-new Twitter/Instagram/Facebook accounts, I wanted to choose a username that described me as cleanly as possible. My full name was already taken - if yours is, too, you can try adding “Author”, “Writer”, “Books”, or your genre name (“Romance” of course!) to your handle.
If you chose a username you now regret, no problem. You can change your Twitter handle at any time using their how-to guide. You can change your Instagram username, too. Announce the change and pin that post to your profile for a while, to help people know it’s you.
If you’re on multiple platforms, try to snag the same username everywhere. Make it your email address too. Use the same profile photo on every platform, if possible. CONSISTENCY is key.
My Twitter handle is @MNorthAuthor, and my display name is always Maggie North. I don’t change it at Halloween or other holidays (even though it’s fun and even though Maggie Ho-ho-ho-rth is right there for the taking!). I also try not to change my profile photo. Why? Because I’m not huge or well known yet, so if someone’s looking for me, I want them to find me on the first try. The other reason is because I have mild prosopagnosia – face blindness – so I have trouble recognizing my friends’ accounts when their names or photos change. True story: there was a white guy I'll call Dave in Pitch Wars this year, and it took me over two months to figure out that Dave was actually two guys named Dave, and Pitch Wars Dave on Twitter was not the same as Pitch Wars Dave on Instagram. Oops.
Use a different profile photo on your author accounts than the one on your personal accounts – it will help you (and others) keep your accounts straight. And that way, you're less likely to post your spicy WIP snippets where your grandparents will see them.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series: Social Media Branding!