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A Twitter primer for tech-shy writers
Friday, November 16, 2012 (All day)

If you think Twitter is for the birds, please think again. It’s a great tool to find new information sources and expand your network. Not sure how to get started? Let’s walk through a few key steps together.

1. Set your goals

Who will you connect with on Twitter and why?

Will you build relationships with magazine and newspaper editors? Will you look for graphic designers and other allied professionals? Perhaps you’ll seek out potential clients for your corporate writing services. Or maybe you’ll follow professional associations to keep up to date on your industry.

Hint: Be sure to follow @pwactoronto for nonfiction writing news and events in Toronto.

2. Create your Twitter profile

Pick a short, memorable user name. The shorter it is, the more space there will be for people to comment when they retweet you.

Add a real photo to your profile. It builds trust and people will be more likely to follow you.

You have only 160 characters for your bio. Show your personality, your writing ability, and your niche. Remember the specific types of people you want to connect with—what key words would they use to search for you? Include those words in your bio.

3. Find smart people to follow and interesting conversations to join

Many of your favourite information sources also have Twitter accounts, so be sure to follow them. Check the blogs and websites you read for the Twitter icon.

Then use the search function in Twitter to look for people who tweet about your topics. You can also use Twitter directories such as Twellow.

Twitter chats will help you find good people and interesting exchanges. Simply go to the free tweetchat website and type in the hashtag for the chat you’d like to participate in. Check out #journchat to get started.

Also, PWAC Toronto Chapter live tweets from its monthly professional development seminars. You can join those conversations on Twitter by following the #pwacpanel hashtag on tweetchat.

You’ll find other chats related to writing or to your subject matter by using directories or schedules like this example.

Twilert is another great free service. It allows you to set up email alerts about tweets with specific key words, so you can find relevant conversations and people.

Hint: In addition to @pwactoronto, try following these organizations for journalists, writers and editors: @CJFE @jsource @WGCtweet @pictoronto @EACToronto

4. Build relationships online

Social media is not broadcasting. You’ll be most successful if you use Twitter to connect and build relationships.

For example, respond to anyone who mentions you or tweets directly to you. Click on the “@ Connect” tab to see these messages.

Welcome new followers. Send them a short message that starts with their Twitter handle. You’ll also find new followers under the “@ Connect” tab.

People appreciate it when you retweet their messages, so it’s a good way to start making connections. And when someone retweets you, be sure to thank her.

Ask people questions about their goals and offer help if you can.

Recommend people to your followers using the #FF (Follow Friday) or #WriterWednesday hashtags.

5. Share great content
You have a maximum of 140 characters for your tweet. Try to offer short messages of real value. Always lead with what’s in it for readers. Below you will find some ideas for types of content to share in your tweets.

Followers appreciate links to good resources and articles, by you and from others. Link shorteners like Bitly will save room for your message in addition to the link.

Photos get noticed. Share photos from industry conferences and events as well as useful infographics. An occasional photo of your family or hobby is okay too, much the way you would chat with colleagues in person about your interests from time to time.

Try a service like TwitPic to get started sharing your photos.

You can also tweet about events you would recommend.

Your followers will appreciate short, concrete action tips. You can share writing or editing tips, or tips related to your particular subject.

It’s good to share special offers from your business and tell people about your services. Just be sure commercial messages aren’t the only thing you tweet.

6. Track what works for you and refine your strategy

Do you get more response to questions? Or links? What time of day do you get the best response? As with any tool or strategy, watch what works for you and refine as you go.

As you get more advanced with your social media activities, tools like Hootsuite can help you track conversations, learn about social media, and even schedule your posts on Twitter and other platforms for the best results.

Karen Luttrell has been leading digital marketing initiatives for more than 13 years. She offers writing, communications and social media services for nonprofits and socially responsible businesses. As vice-president of communications of PWAC Toronto Chapter, she manages the Twitter and Facebook accounts. Tweet your social media questions to her at @karenluttrell.

- Karen Luttrell


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