Dear writers: It’s finally time to join Twitter. Here’s how to get started.

We get it: That little blue bird is intimidating. But as more and more authors, agents, and editors turn to social media to connect virtually in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by joining Twitter. Here are tips, strategies, and best practices from other authors on getting started.

It's finally time to join Twitter. Here's how.

The gaming journalist

Courtney Craven, writer and co-founder of the gaming website Can I Play That, initially hated Twitter.

“I always feel awkward talking to people, whether I know them or not. I felt like the conversation was already happening on Twitter, and I wasn’t a part of it, and I didn’t know how to become a part of it,” they explain. “I didn’t have any friends on the site, so who the hell was I supposed to talk to?”

Craven’s wife and game site co-founder, Susan Banks, offered advice based on years of networking on the site. “She knew how nervous I was, so she said ‘Just tweet like you’re talking to yourself, and people will find you and think you’re funny.’”

The strategy worked; at press time, Craven had almost 2,000 followers. “Let people know you within reason, and find people who are in your super-niche area,” they suggest. “I’m fairly well known in all of the gaming communities, but if I go specifically to the allied community in games, everyone knows who I am. Likewise, if you write fiction about cats, there are so many super-niche communities on Twitter. You can find them and start talking with those people.”

“Twitter is not about self-promotion; it’s about relationships.”

But Craven cautions against endlessly promoting your writing. “Take time to build relationships and let people know you as a person first and then as a brand,” they say. “At a writing conference, you don’t just walk up to someone and say, ‘Here’s my book; publish it.’ Twitter is not about self-promotion; it’s about relationships. When people see that you’re a genuine person, and they like you or appreciate the kind of work you do, they’re going to want to support you.”

Craven suggests creating a thread on Twitter (done by replying to your own initial tweet) about your particular field of expertise. “We all have something to teach,” they say, “and if it’s interesting and you present it in a way that people haven’t seen before – a way that everyone can learn from – people will share it like crazy.”

For instance, if the accessibility is poor on a video game, Craven will write an educational thread about the problems with it and teach people how to fix it. “I don’t attack the developer or the studio that released the game,” they say. “With a thread like this, that person can learn, and the whole gaming community can also learn. If you do this type of educational thread, you’ll find yourself being put on a lot of lists as a reference.”

Craven sees Twitter as an opportunity to be of service, whether it’s helping to make a video game accessible or inspiring someone to smile about a cute dog photo. “It’s so easy to complain on Twitter, but make that not your first instinct,” they say. “Make it a nice place, because there are enough people who make it horrible. If people know you’re a source, they can come to for something that’s going to make them smile, that will build your audience. We all want something to look forward to; give people that.”