social media heartbreak twitterNearly a billion people have registered accounts on Twitter and 100 million of them use it every day. Three quarters of them on a mobile device.

As a writer, it’s easy to dismiss Twitter. If you’re an author, it’s a mistake to do so. If your readers are over 50 years old or under 10, you won’t find them on Twitter, right? Wrong question.

If you think of Twitter as a soap box to sell through self-promotion, think again. It doesn’t work that way.

Twitter is not the place to plug your publication. You’ll see plenty of self-published authors reducing their premise and pitch to 140 characters but that’s not how good books get sold. So turn your thinking inside out about Twitter. Twitter is a research tool.

One interesting fact you may overlooked about Twitter users is that 44% have registered an account and never sent a Tweet. What might those Tweeps do when they log into their accounts and don’t tweet?

I believe they are gathering information. Not all of them are online shopping.

You can’t read other people’s tweets unless you have an account so those who like to lurk online – read, think, and slip silently by as an eavesdropper – are onto something important about the platform. It’s about reading as much as tweeting.

To use Twitter as a search tool, use a hashtag and a keyword in the search bar and hit enter. Bam! You have tapped into a data stream which can lead you into directions you would never otherwise encounter in your face-to-face or Facebook circles. Or more importantly, perhaps, Google searches. It’s the vox populi.

ShowJacketIn searching for survivors of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff at the end of WWII, award-winning author Cathryn Prince used Twitter in 2012 to find several people in Germany, and she connected with deep sea diver Mike Boring who visited the shipwreck on the bottom of the Baltic ocean. If you are looking for something, search on Twitter. Within 10-30 seconds you will have two or three new links and leads to follow up outside of Twitter.

One overlooked feature of Twitter is the ability to create “lists” of separate news feeds for different subjects or categories of interest. Lists can be made private or public. And you can subscribe to others’ lists. Set up Twitter lists of those who you follow by subject/category. In the same way you’ve set up Google Alerts for key words related to your work-in-progress, set up lists so you skim through what’s new and who’s who.

If you’re an author looking for an agent. Look on Twitter. Don’t pitch on Twitter. Lurk a while. Follow if you’re serious and don’t tweet at the agent until after you’ve received a positive reply to a query. Instead go to LinkedIn and see if the agent is there and ask to connect there. This primes the pump before you send a query letter. The agent has seen your name. On Twitter. On LinkedIn. Then a perfect query letter fit to their submission specification. It increases your chances you will get a reply.

By following the authors of books of comparative titles, you can watch and see where writers schedule events with good audience turnouts. This helps you prepare a marketing strategy. Watch where current competitive titles are reviewed. Reviews are often tweeted and retweeted. Are any of these publications where your book could be reviewed? When your book is reviewed you’ll be expected to tweet it as a social courtesy to the reviewer.

Twitter leads you to new information to write or freshen your marketing with specific contact information, venues, submission guidelines, editors’ names. On Twitter, you’ll find organizations, associations, corporations, non-profits, philanthropies, publishers, authors, writers, reviewers, radio hosts, book bloggers, readers, booksellers, bookstores, publicists, cover designers, editors and millions of subject-specialists. Create lists in Twitter. Follow up on these Twitter contacts elsewhere. It’s a discovery tool.

Go ahead. Lurk a little. It’s okay to retweet this!

Contact me if you need a beginner’s one-hour $99 coaching session during the holiday season to get up and running on Twitter as a research tool in 2015 for your work-in-progress.roll of wrapping paper red

4 thoughts on “How to use Twitter for research and writing

  1. Thank you for this whole different way to treat Twitter. I have fallen in love with this site that used to terrify me. And I feel like I have “friends” there now. But with this information I can begin to really put twitter to work. I’ve been trying to figure out the hashtag thing for months. And the tags keep changing. I’m going to start looking for “keywords in the searchbar” and experiment with what you have here. cheers!

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