Social Media Roundup #4: To Twitter or Not? ASJA Members Weigh In

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series on social media for writers. A book-worthy peg in a blog hole, the series aims to point writers in the direction of finding more information and help them make informed decisions. Have a social media story to tell or experiences to share? Please email me or Thanks!

I have a confession: I dislike Twitter. Everything about it, from its initial limitation of 140 (now 280) characters to the circus-like atmosphere fueled by controversial tweets of politicians and celebrities to the fact that someone actually impersonates me (!) (@SandraGurvis) and the powers-that-be at Twitter refuse to do anything about it. Plus, unlike LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook, I find it difficult and at times confusing to navigate; for example, it presents quite the challenge in weeding out the occasional—and I’m being delicate here—“Russian brides” picture. (Yes, I know I can block people, but trying to put a permanent end to Twitter’s R-rated pop ups is like playing Whack-a-Mole).

Yet many successful writers not only use but prosper on Twitter. ASJA Confidential interviewed two such members, Susan Weiner (@susanweiner) and Linsey Knerl (@LKnerl). Susan, a CFA, writes and edits commentary, white papers, articles and blog posts for investment and wealth management firms. Linsey’s area of concentration includes social media, copywriting and digital content for businesses and individuals. Both have Twitter followers in the five figures.

Twitter is commonly pigeonholed as a virtual playground for bullies. One misstep or wrong word and your life on the Internet as you know it may be over forever. True or false?

SW: I know that bullies exist on Twitter, but my personal experience has been excellent. Of course, I generally stay away from politics and other controversial topics. As a writer-editor for investment and wealth management firms, I mainly share content related to writing and financial topics.

LK: Twitter is no more or no less a place for bullies than anywhere else. The key is to find your group. I frequently follow hashtags that other writers use such as #amwriting to find others working on projects. People who identify as writers tend to be friendly, open and willing to forego politics in their tweets. If nothing else, you can go to your Twitter settings and “mute” hashtags or words you don’t want to hear that would be upsetting or divisive. This keeps you from having to unfollow people or hurt their feelings.

What are the ways that you can use Twitter, not found on other social media, that can benefit your career?  

SW: Twitter is an easy way to interact with influential people who wouldn’t accept connection requests on other social media. An interaction can result from your directly asking them a question on Twitter or naming them in a post (as when you share something they’ve written). Or, they may simply react to something you share. In addition, you can promote your services on Twitter as long as you don’t go overboard. I’ve gained clients for my financial blogging and investment commentary webinars by sharing information on Twitter.

LK: Especially if you’re covering current events or a specific topic, the news cycle tends to be a little more real-time on Twitter and thus easier to follow. Often live events have unique hashtags that allow you to get real-time updates. It’s priceless for getting a different spin on what the mainstream media may be reporting. Many columnists and smaller publishers, papers and authors are equally represented here, unlike some other platforms.

How does someone get started on Twitter?  Any tips and traps to avoid when setting up your account and managing your personal Twitterverse?

SW: I have a blog post that covers this in detail. I try to engage, rather than blindly add followers, and I share my tweets and Twitter handle on my website and other social media. I also actively follow my target audience. This admittedly takes some time because it involves reviewing the profiles of my new followers, looking at names suggested by Twitter in its “Who to follow” section and checking Twitter lists of people whom I respect. But it has paid off in nearly doubling my followers over the past five years. I also rarely unfollow or block people unless they annoy me.

LK: Get a clear, professional photo, a simple bio that emphasizes how you’d like to connect (career topics, hobbies, other items you’d like to chat about in Twitter). Link to your profile or the project you want to promote. Include some hashtags that are highly searchable (#amwriting #ASJA etc.), and tweet a few times a day to start, making sure you like and retweet things that are of interest to you. Spend as much time sharing things from the community as you do promoting your own stuff, especially in the beginning. Ask questions and include fun CTAs (calls to action) in your tweets to increase engagement.

What advice would you give when using Twitter?

SW: Be judicious in tweeting to your audience. A major pet peeve of mine is when people tweet at me only to promote themselves and content that they’ve written, especially if it’s irrelevant. For example, “Hey @susanweiner, read our great blog post at http://…” Their using my Twitter name—my @name, @susanweiner—forces their tweet to my attention. These people’s Twitter timelines are filled with promotional tweets that differ only in the person whose Twitter name is mentioned. That said, I can forgive—and perhaps even enjoy—a one-time promotional tweet directed to @susanweiner. Perhaps there’s a link with some great content that’s perfect for me. But repeated tweets of the same self-promotional content that’s irrelevant to me? No thanks.

LK: It can be easy to get sucked in. I spend hours there if not checked. I love speaking with other writers, seeing what projects they are working on and taking part in fun games. Avoid political rants at all costs—the internet (while delete works) is forever. Someone will screenshot a moment of weakness, believe me! And unless you do politics for a living, keep things appealing to the masses. Our country is deeply divided, but if you’re a children’s book author or a writer in tech, it doesn’t have to affect your message or your business. I always say that it’s silly to alienate half the world and settle for 50 percent of the book sales you could have gotten if you’d played nice and tried to reach out to everyone.

Is it possible to have a strong social media presence/platform without Twitter?

SW: Sure. It partly depends where members of your target audience hang out.

LK: I believe Twitter is the best social media platform for writers right now. It’s easy to search for trends, connect with agents and editors and get support from others in the community. It has replaced Facebook as my platform of choice for its flexibility and focus.

Want to learn more about Twitter, along with other aspects of writing?  Recordings of the 2018 New York City conference are still available, including Linsey’s session on best practices for Twitter.