The indie author’s guide to Twitter for beginners – Part III

Twitter – Using the tools

Social networking is a very time consuming occupation. When I first got going, I was clicking around all over the place trying to find people to follow, making sure that I followed people back, writing tweets at certain times of the day – like every 10 minutes. It was hard work. But you know what? It doesn’t need to be.

I’ve sorted myself out with three different pieces of software, and an occasional use of a fourth. There are loads and loads of different Twitter apps out there, and it all depends on what you want to achieve. But for me, these three/four work perfectly.

The first thing that I got was TweetDeck. This is free. I have got the desktop app – but I understand that there is an online version if you use Google Chrome as your browser. I haven’t investigated this, but you may want to.  What TweetDeck does is present you with all the information regarding your Twitter activity in a number of columns side by side on the screen. You can organise the columns any way you want, and you can add more for specific purposes (explained later). Hootsuite does the same thing, and is a much more attractive user interface in my opinion. But at the moment it doesn’t show your new followers, and I use this feature a lot in TweetDeck because I often use it to find out more about my new followers. I don’t use it to follow back (although I could) because I use other software for that.

On my TweetDeck I have the following permanent columns :

  • All Friends – shows the tweets from all my friends as they are posted. Almost impossible to read all these as they flash through – but I catch the odd one. There are better ways to follow individual groups of people – specifically “lists”.
  • Mentions – this shows all the tweets in which @Rachel__Abbott has been mentioned. That may have been a retweet, a mention as part of a tweet, an @reply to one of my tweets or a tweet sent directly to me.
  • Direct Messages – anything that has come to me direct from another Twitter user that I am following
  • New Followers – anybody who has recently followed me, with the option for me to follow them back

After that, I have columns for particular lists of people that I follow. When you reach the hundreds or thousands of people that you follow, you can’t possibly read all their tweets all the time – they come thick and fast. So I have lists of people that I am particularly interested in, and I can display these lists all the time on my TweetDeck.

I also have some columns dedicated to specific #signs. For example, I am a reviewer for the Kindle Book Review. If people within the review team want to share stuff with us, they use a #KBR so that we can all see what we need to retweet on behalf of our fellow reviewers. Similarly, I have a permanent column for #thriller so that I can see people who are tweeting about thrillers who I might be interested in following, or who might have some words of wisdom.

So that’s how I keep up to date with what’s happening, who’s talking about me, to me, or who I want to talk to.

I do, however, use the Twitter app itself from time to time, because it has some very neat functionality. For example if there is a link url embedded in the text, you can click an arrow to the side of the tweet to get a summary screen (when available).

The next thing that I knew that I needed was some sort of structure with regard to how I find people to follow, and how I create a tweet ‘stream’. For this, I initially purchased TweetAdder. I still use it, and wouldn’t be without it – but it doesn’t actually help me as much as I would like in creating a tweet ‘stream’ or ‘queue’.

TweetAdder is another offline programme. For it to work in automatic mode (see below) your computer has to be left switched on, and you have to be connected to the internet. We have a VERY flaky broadband signal here, and so this has some real drawbacks for me if this is going to generate my tweet stream. However, it has some amazingly useful features. You might find these in other software packages too – but this all works great for me.

In TweetAdder you can work with a number of different Twitter profiles. Most of you will only need one, so you can buy a single user licence. I use it to do the following :

Create a list of people to follow, and automatically follow them.

This feature is incredibly useful. I can create lists of thousands of people that I would like to follow. So why do I want to follow thousands of people? In the hope that some of them will follow me back. They won’t all – but we’ll deal with that later. And do I want just anybody to follow me? No – I want people who are interested in the same things that I am interested in. Let’s be honest, I want to find people who might be interested in my book, and also people who write books that I might be interested in buying or reviewing.

So how do I find them? There are a number of options. You can search for users by –

  • Location – not particularly useful to me, because I live in Italy. But if you were doing a real book tour, or a signing, in specific locations, you could search within 50 miles of that location, and get a great bunch of people to follow, and see who follows you back. It generates a list, and you can then add it to you “to follow” list.
  • Followers of a user – this is my favourite. I know which authors have influenced my writing, and I know who I aspire to be. Imagine finding all the followers of your favourite authors, and getting a lot of them to follow you? You simply type in the user, and it does all the work for you.
  • Followed by a user – there may be somebody very influential who you think would only follow other people who are interesting. You can find out everybody they follow, and add them to this list.
  • Twitter lists – are there any lists that you’ve found – not just one you’ve created, but ones that other users have created? Imagine you write YA novels, and one your favourite authors has a list of Fans? You could follow all of them.
  • Keywords – you can create an automatic update to your lists by adding a few keywords that you are interested in. It will do a regular check, and add the names of the Twitter users who have tweeted with these hashtags to your to Follow list.

By now, you have a massive To Follow list. Mine is regularly several thousand. But you don’t want to follow them all at once. For one thing, it makes you look a bit odd if you are following 10,000 people and only 93 are following you back. So set a sensible limit of new follows per day, and click Automatic. The follows will go out at regular intervals during the day, and build the list of people you follow.

Unfollow users

What about people that don’t follow you back? You can set Tweetadder to ‘unfollow’ users who don’t follow me back within a certain period of time. Mine is set to 4 days – which is probably quite low, but I need to keep the numbers under control.  I have it set to ONLY unfollow users that have originally been followed by TweetAdder. Not those that I have followed manually. Otherwise it would get rid of my Val McDermids and others who I want to follow but I have precious little expectation of them following me back.

I also occasionally use to get rid of any people that I have followed manually who haven’t followed me back. But before I started using TweetAdder I did some pretty random clicking of people to follow – and as a result I do need to do some manual ‘unfollowing’. Justunfollow is quite manual – but it gives you a list of all the people you follow that are not following you back, with an option to click to unfollow.

So what else can you do automatically?

Follow back

You can follow back users who follow you. I spent a long time clicking on people to follow back – and it’s time consuming. TweetAdder automatically follows back anybody who follows you. Not immediately – you can set the time delay – but it works. Some say this is a bad thing, and you should be more selective. But if somebody has taken the time and trouble to follow me, I’m happy to follow them back.

Send thank you message

Thank you message to new followers (by Direct Message). There is a lot of debate about this. I read only yesterday that sending an automatic “thank you for the follow” message was really bad. I have seen other people say that actually it’s really bad manners NOT to respond. So within TweetAdder I have created a number of different Thank You messages which are sent randomly. Some suggest that people ‘like’ my Facebook page, others just say that I’m looking forward to chatting. Each one is different. I’ve recently added one with no link at all, that just asks people what kind of books they like. I want to see if I can start some conversations and get to know people.

Create tweets from RSS feeds

RSS Feed – currently my favourite option – and very underused by me. What this allows you to do is link to lots of different blogs that have interesting content. Any blog that has an RSS feed can be added. Every time the owner of that blog updates their content, a tweet will automatically be sent from you. I’ve only got about 8 blogs on my list, but I am going to be growing it fast, because it means that I will be tweeting really useful stuff.

Other tools

There are some other useful tools as well – in particular one that allows you to schedule a whole load of tweets and send them out at different time intervals and in random order. This means that you can create a variety of tweets in advance, and have them queued up to go. But this doesn’t work for me. Because of my internet problem, if I have lost my signal none of my tweets will go. There is also only one stack of tweets, which is a limiting factor because I deal in different time zones, so I want some tweets to go before 12 noon, others after.

There is one other really useful feature, though, and that is the tweet generator. You can create a number of different tweets from a couple of sentences, just by adding variables. You just put all the alternative words inside square brackets, and ask TweetAdder to produce all the different combinations – great if you are selling your books in different formats through different channels. I use this facility, and then I export the output so that I can fiddle a bit (see below). I have tried re-importing the content, but it always makes TweetAdder crash.

The final tool – which I now would not be without – is SocialOomph. This has many of the features of TweetAdder, but not quite everything – so I’m happy to have both. But it has one massive advantage. If you upgrade to the Advanced Scheduling package (for Twitter only), you can have a number of different Tweet streams (or queues, as they are called) running at different times of the day or night.  So I create a lot of different tweets – sometimes using TweetAdder’s tweet generator – and I export them all to Excel. I do this simply so that I can sort them into the different tweet queues.

For example, I may have five tweets that are pretty identical – but some are aimed at Kindle US users, (with the link to, some for Kindle UK, or Nook, Kobo, iTunes – etc. I just sort them all and split them into different queues. It’s a bit of a faff, because I have to identify them and move them round – all pretty basic IT skills – and then I output them to Notepad to get rid of random irrelevant characters, and import them into a number of different ‘queues’ on Social Oomph.

For those who want to know how I do it, read on. Those who don’t skip this and go to the following paragraph.

Because the tweets are aimed at different markets and different time zones, I need to separate them into different queues. In Excel, I have all my tweets in the first column. Then I do a search on a keyword – for example, Nook. I say to “find all” and then click through the list. In column B I put the letter N. I then search on UK, and do the same thing, putting K into column B – and so on. When all the tweets have been identified, I sort the whole lot based on the contents of column B. This puts all my Nook, Kindle UK, etc tweets next to each other in the list, so that I can quickly select them, and paste them into WordPad. This is just saved in UTF8 format – so I will have txt files for the Nook, Kindle UK, etc. Each of these can then be uploaded into different queues on SocialOomph.

I can get all of that done in about an hour, and have enough unique tweets to keep going for a couple of days – or if I decide to reuse them, they could keep going forever if there are enough of them to avoid repetition.

So I now have different queues for each of the ebook formats and territories, and I can set different timescales for the tweets to go out, depending on timezone and frequency.  I also have a queue which is called Miscellaneous which I use for all the writing prompts, writer interest tweets etc, and another called Current – things that are happening right now. You can set different timings for each, and the options are limitless.

Another advantage for me is that it works via the SocialOomph website, so that even when my internet signal has gone – my tweets continue to fly. You pay for SocialOomph on a two week basis – so if you reach the point where you don’t want it or need it anymore, it’s not been a huge risk.

So that’s it! It is viral, and it is a brilliant way of meeting people, getting to know a few of them, and most of all it’s unrivalled in terms of getting the name of your book out into the market and providing a vital leg for your ‘platform’.

I would be delighted to get feedback, suggestions, corrections – I am not an expert, but just a novice trying to help other novice users with my own experience.