Part 3: Short-Form Social Media and Hashtags
Two weeks ago, I shared my descent into social media and my guiding philosophies for interacting with others on the internet. Last week, I discussed the generals about creating a website and starting your own blog.
Now? Let’s talk about the rest of the social mediums.
ALL OF THEM. Or maybe I’ll hit 2000 words before I’ve finished with Facebook, and Twitter, and Hashtags, oh my!… Looks like there’s gonna be a Part 4 after all.
The granddaddy of all social media these days. With ‘friends’, ‘followers’, and everything in between.
What is Facebook
In case you’ve been living under a rock: For Facebook, you sign up, and your “profile page” shows all your “posts”– anything you want to share from 1 liners to links, to long-form notes. You ‘friend’ people and they friend you back.
Your ‘feed’ consists of what you and your friends post. It’s often sorted by ‘Top Stories’ – i.e. things that others have been commenting or ‘liking’ (hitting the thumbs up button on) a lot. But, you can switch it to show the feed in chronological order as well.
Groups and Privacy
There are privacy settings of ‘public’, ‘friends only’, and you can create your own custom lists, or share in groups.
Groups are facebook pages with members and their own privacy settings. You can search for groups based on your interests, or just wait for people to invite you. If the group is private, the posts can’t be shared externally, and can’t be seen by other people.
This doesn’t mean people can’t screenshot them, though. So be considerate of what you post.
Your Facebook page is where you can announce things to everyone you’ve ever known and their 2nd cousins. (Unless they’re under 13.)
One Thing. Teens are catching on about that whole object permanence thing. They’re moving off Facebook, to places their parents don’t supervise. To places where the message is erased right after they send it.
How to use Facebook and Improve Your Visibility
Personally? Most of my followers, writing groups, and blog share hits come from Facebook. Despite the teen-flee, it’s still super useful and a great way to connect.
However, if people don’t interact with you, Facebook will stop showing them your posts. Especially blog links or Patreons, assuming they’re all spam.
So how do you make Facebook show your friends and followers your posts?
Don’t just talk about your writing! Post things from your life, upload pictures, share memes (stock images, with quippy text).
If you have pets? The internet is 50% cat pictures and videos and people still love them.
You can share personal information without sharing private information. You’ll see me talking about my life and interactions, but only rarely do I discuss details or name names.
These are sort of like a Group but typically owned by one person or a business. They’re for professional use only.
If you’re an author, it’s reasonable to establish one. But, don’t count on anything here being seen unless you have a large group of active followers, or you pony up some cash. They have the lowest priority in Facebook feed because Facebook wants to earn some money off you.
Another way to get seen more is to post videos or pictures. Facebook prioritizes these. Especially facebook videos, but I’m not quite ready for live-streaming…
This one can be very polarizing. Some people love it, some people hate it. A lot of it is in how you use it and what sections of twitter you hang out in.
This is one I’d REALLY advise caution when wading into socio-political issues.
What is Twitter
Here, you chose a username, add a brief description, then share text or images, up to 280 characters long (it used to be 140 characters).
Remember to think about brand consistency. You can change your profile name, but the username, i.e. the ‘@whatever’ part will stay the same FOREVER.
How To Use Twitter
There are no ‘groups’, per se. And everything is shown on your feed chronologically. Which means, after you’ve followed a couple handfuls of people, it can be hard to keep up.
I like to create lists. Mostly based on why I followed them (agents/publishers), or where I know them from (Writer support group A or Support Group B). That way, when I see a comment in my feed, I can associate it with the right people.
I have to admit, unless your profile picture is of you, or your name is in your username? I have a hard time keeping track of who is who on twitter. And… I kinda don’t even try.
If you like a post, you can ‘heart’ it.
It’s perfectly reasonable to respond to a tweet directed at you with a GIF–and Twitter has the GIF library to support it (before facebook!)
If you want to share a post, so your followers can see it – it bumps it in THEIR follower’s feed so they have a better chance of seeing it. You can either ‘Retweet’ or ‘Quote Retweet’. Quote retweet lets you add your own comment to the reshared tweet, and means they won’t get notifications for everyone who comments on it.
Why would they get notified? When you @mention someone in your tweet, so it shows up on their notifications. Just type @[their username] and they’ll be notified.
I spend a lot more time tweeting and looking at my notifications than I do looking at my main twitter feed.
When I do want to see what my friends are saying, I’ll go to specific lists and look. The rest of the tweets? I only see what Twitter suggests as “your friends are liking this post” or “did you miss this” from people I interact with a lot.
Why Writers Should Consider Twitter
Twitter offers a lot of opportunities:
- A writing community
- I like to check out writer hashtags, and, after making sure I’m looking at the ‘Latest Tweets’, not the ‘Top Tweets’ tab that’s the default, I’ll go cruising through the tweets looking for people to follow.
- Twitter Pitch Contests:
- Essentially, boil your Manuscript’s pitch down to about 240 characters, add the relevant hashtags
- The contest name: #pitchWhatever
- Your manuscript’s genre: #f (fantasy) #r (romance), #litfic (literary fiction), etc
- Twitter Contests:
- Many agents and Editors are active on Twitter.
- #MSWL (Manuscript wish list) can help you find agents who are looking for your manuscript.
- Looking at their feed can give you a good feel for their personality, and if they’re a good fit.
- WARNING: Do NOT go back 5 years worth of tweets, gleaning for every crumb you can, liking all their posts. That’s creepy. Just look a couple weeks back, or look at a specific tag.
I just referenced a lot of hashtags, but they require their own discussion.
Twitter is one of those places where hashtags are important. Hashtags often give context to a post. But also, they can be ways of finding related discussions, or groups. And are useful for searching a person’s posts, for a specific topic.
Just because you’re a member of a group, doesn’t mean all of your tweets are related to that topic. But if you hashtag it with the group’s hashtag, everyone can find it.
NOTE: DO NOT MISUSE HASHTAGS
You will annoy people, or get remembered…for the wrong reasons. People use hashtags to find related posts and if you use them improperly, the search will be cluttered with off-topic posts.
- DO participate in Twitter Pitch Events such as: #PitchSlam, #pg70pit, #pitmad, #SFFPit, #PBPitch, #FaithPitch, and #IWSGPit
- An agent “like” on a twitter pitch during these contests is ONLY a request for a query. Add the contest hashtag to the subject line of your query and submit as normal, unless the agent has previously tweeted that you should do otherwise.
- DO read the #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) tag is for agents (and Editors of publishing houses) to share what they’re looking for.
- If they’re looking for something that’s a VERY CLOSE fit to the manuscript you’re actively ready to query, go to their agency website and submit while adding a reference to the #MSWL item to your query.
- DO join in on weekly hashtags like:
- #1linewed – there’s a theme each week, search to find it
- #WIPjoy – Work In Progress joy – a line that makes you happy that you recently wrote
- #FF – follow Fridays, where you tag friends or writers you’d recommend others follow
- DO use hashtags like #askagent to communicate with agents
- DO use hashtags like #amwriting, #amediting, #writersLife, #writeTips, #writingTips, #5amwritersClub, #9pmwritersClub, and #nanowrimo to connect with other writers!
Things To Avoid
- DO NOT pitch directly to agents. Outside of twitter pitch contests, Twitter is NOT for pitching.
- DO NOT ask an agent if they like the sound of your novel.
- DO NOT DM (direct message) them.
- DO NOT stalk and act like you’re suddenly besties.
- DO NOT tweet on #10queries, #tenqueries, #MSWL, etc. These are for AGENTS and Editors of Publishing companies
- DO NOT flood weekly hashtags with a stack of tweets.
- DO NOT use #askAgent for anything google can tell you in 2 minutes.
- Don’t ask what genres they represent, take 2 minutes to look at their literary agency website.
When you go to add a hashtag, on the app (unfortunately, not on the computer), it’ll show you the hashtag’s frequency. It can be 250 tweets in the last hour, or day, or ever. The more popular a hashtag is the more people who might see your tweet. Or, it might get lost in the crowd.
If enough people like or retweet your tweet, your visibility will skyrocket. If not, it can sit there in obscurity. The #trending tab can show you what a lot of people are actively talking about
Personally? I like to go for regularly used hashtags, that aren’t currently over-saturated.
But the funny thing about social media? You can get insta-famous for something you tweeted 3 years ago if it goes viral.
How to Get Followers
Check out posters on hashtags you like.
It’s as easy as that.
Many people auto-follow-back anyone who follows them.
If you get added to someone else’s list, and you like the company you’re in? Click on the list, find the ‘view members’ option from the menu tab (the 3 horizontal lines), and then click ‘follow’ on all of them.
Interact with your followers. Twitter loves GIFs and has a button and a library to add them to tweets. (I like to caption stuff so people who can’t see the image know what’s going on) And they did the GIF thing LONG before Facebook did.
DO NOT be the person who Direct Messages everyone who follows you, many of us hate that and want to unfollow people who do that.
When people follow me, I like to vet them. I don’t like people who are all advertisements or click-bait for 2 full screens. I’m picky. If I don’t see an original tweet from them for 2 full screens, or if their profile picture is empty and they seem to be adding only pretty girls, I back away slowly and pretend I was never there.
Although, if someone DMs me their website or whatever after I follow them? I’ve started sending mine back at them.
Tip: If you’re curious when someone followed you, your followers’ list is in order from most-recently-followed down to your first follower.
WARNING: Some people will go around following tons of people and, after they follow back, unfriend them!
ANOTHER WARNING: You can only follow a certain number of people a day, and you can’t follow significantly more people than people who follow you. The limit goes up as your follower list goes up. But, I think it maxes at 250 people in a sitting.
All-in-all, twitter can be a great place to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and people involved in all stages of publishing. It can be a great place for indie-authors and small publishers.
One Last Thing
Make sure to keep your brand consistent from site to site. You don’t have to reshare everything from Twitter onto your facebook, but you should still feel like the same person.
Check back next week, where I’ll take on Tumblr, Instagram, and more.