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 book reviewer

Shapiro, the Washington, D.C., librarian, is busy working on a book about the playful side of Twitter. “You want to find a way to bring value to other people on the site,” he says. “If something funny pops up on the screen, they laugh a little bit, and that’s value. You can be playful and reveal your personality in your playfulness.”

He notes that putting one’s foot in one’s mouth is almost inevitable when learning a new form of social media. For instance, he often direct-messages some of his followers with book suggestions and requests to retweet an under-represented author’s posts. This frustrated one follower in particular, who asked him to stop messaging her. (Note that many Twitter users find direct messaging troublesome; tagging someone with the @-symbol is less problematic.)

“But don’t beat yourself up too bad if you make a mistake,” Shapiro says. “What you want to do is become a better human being – you know, to be able to say, ‘Every week, I’m making fewer mistakes.’”

He’s adept at packing information into both his Twitter profile and the tweet he’s pinned at the top of his feed, which he uses as an extension of his profile. On his pinned tweet, he’s got links to his writing from the New York Times, his music on public radio, and his library dance videos and book reviews. “I’m using all the characters in that pinned tweet to tell a lot about myself,” he says.

He suggests that writers search out other like-minded creatives on Twitter and find out which specific individuals they’re retweeting, to build up a fan club of sorts. “It does require effort,” he notes. 

For Shapiro, the time spent in social media research pays off. He adores Twitter as a tool that allows him to amplify the voices of other authors, educators, and musicians. As well, he regards it as a powerful way to foster positive connections with people.

“If you’re smart in using Twitter, you’ll find new friendships and partnerships with people in other states and countries,” he says. “They’re digital friendships, which can be both professional and personal.”