I had to write up a short guide to writing tweets/short social media posts for a group of writers, and it didn’t turn out awful–so I think I’ll share 🙂

BASICS:

  • The elements of a decent social media post are text, hashtags, and link.
  • All elements together should be fewer than 280 characters, which you can usually test in your word processing program by highlighting the text and checking the word count. (In Word 2007, it’s under Review | Word Count.)
  • A Twitter tweet is okay to use for Facebook as well, although you may want to remove hashtags if you don’t like the look of them.

TEXT:

  • The focus of a tweet should be on the benefit to the reader, not on the features of the work, like the author names or even the title—unless you have a Stephen King story, in which case, use the name.
  • If you’re not sure what benefits or features means here, they are terms from writing ad copy. I recommend reading The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly.
  • In short, start with what a demonstration of what makes your story fun to read (benefit), not with information about the story (feature).
  • Don’t tell the reader “it’s fun.” Show them.
  • Don’t describe the plot.  That’s a feature, not a benefit.  See below for more on benefits.
  • It’s always better to be a little melodramatic, silly, sly, clever—personality is always better.
  • Example: “Driving through the rain at night along the streets of Minneapolis, a dark figure jumps in front of her car: a minotaur” vs. “I WROTE A 12K URBAN FANTASY STORY ABOUT MINOTAURS PLS READ.”
  • Don’t worry too much about keywords.
  • Don’t be afraid to post test tweets live on your own account. This will immediately reveal all typos!

HASHTAGS:

  • Popular hashtags on Twitter come and go, but are a useful way to sum up key features, like genre.
  • Try not to use more than 2-3 per tweet.
  • Some recommendations: #urbanfantasy, #uf, #books, #bookworm, #contemporaryfantasy, #amreading, #anthology, #shortstory
  • You can also use elements from that story, e.g., #witches, #motorcycles, #secretbaby.
  • Try not to use the same hashtags every time, but keep a list of handy hashtags and rotate through them.

LINKS:

  • The shorter the link the better.
  • Recommend do not use link shorteners except on sale links (Amazon, Kobo, etc.).
  • Shorteners like owl.ly don’t help advertise your website!
  • Sales links should be Books2Read links so the reader has one click to get to a buy link.
  • Test the link!

A brief word on the benefits of fiction:

  • Put most simply, what stories sell is emotion. Don’t be afraid to toy with audience emotions in a tweet: that’s what the readers want.
  • The benefits of reading fiction are (roughly): escape, empathy, wish fulfillment (like punishing the bad guys, but this goes all kinds of directions), excitement, the feeling of falling in love, new experiences, laughter, making the reader feel smarter/stronger/more attractive, even demonstrating what not to do (as in 1984 or whenever the characters split up before going into the haunted basement).
  • More specifically, some of the benfits of urban and contemporary fantasy (for example): making our ordinary world more exciting (sort of an escape), empathy with the misunderstood (whether that’s an ogre or a single mom is up to you), wish fulfillment (overcoming beaurocracy, justice for the underdog, downfall of the arrogant), feeling supported by chosen families (or redefining the support you get from a birth family), choosing one’s own identity, learning to come to grips with difficult situations.  Feel free to generalize more 🙂
  • For the sake of Twitter, stick to one type of benefit per post. You can write multiple tweets on a story/anthology for sale, but each tweet should focus on a different benefit.
  • In the example, the minotaur/Minneapolis tweet focused on “making our ordinary world more exciting.”

PLAN:

  • Write one tweet per work that you’re trying to sell.
  • Only write 2-3 tweets at a time.
  • Priority: the first book in a series.  Next priority: Anything you’re selling for over $2.99.
  • Save the tweets to a file.
  • Sign up for a social media posting program’s free program (like Hootsuite) and schedule some posts for the coming week.
  • Set yourself a reminder to schedule more posts next week.
  • Every time you schedule more posts, write another tweet.
  • The new tweets help you practice and provide different text you can rotate through.

Not the greatest guide ever, but at least it’s short!  A note on The Copywriter’s Handbook: it seems dull and irrelevant for writers of fiction; the examples are all based on writing advertising copy.  Please take the time to read and talk yourself through just what your book is selling–this will help not only with ads but queries, synopses, talking about your book in public, and all sorts of things.

Good luck!

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Herald, here!