How long have you been on Twitter?

I’ve been on Twitter for, well, going on four years now. From the beginning, I sensed the enormous marketing potential with the platform, and that has only grown over the years.

In the last two years, I’ve published three books and started my own social media and author marketing consultancy. Being on Twitter for not only myself, but also marketing authors who hire me, has given me quite a bit of insight in what to do, and what not to do. Tweeps can be a finicky lot, so here are some insider do’s and don’ts.

Let’s deconstruct some tips and tricks.

WHAT TO DO

1. Why are you there? To connect, engage, interact, learn stuff, support others and yes, promote your product/service. Those are the most successful tweeps – the people who are generously supporting others. This is especially important to remember when someone says something inflammatory — unless you’re on Twitter to incite a flame war, walk away. Block. Move on. Remember, it’s just Twitter.

2. Be active. I use Hootsuite to schedule my tweets (and Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn) in addition to actively interacting with everyone on my stream. I balance my own promotion (of my books and my services here) with an enormous amount of information regarding topics I write about or am interested in: social media, books, book publishing, marketing, and reviews.

In addition, I promote other authors multiple times throughout the day. Finally, I provide tons of tips and tricks I’ve learned about social media and book marketing, particularly branding and Amazon.

Besides, accounts marked as inactive (usually if you haven’t tweeted in 30 days or more) will show up as inactive on Twitter following/unfollowing services like ManageFlitter or Tweepi, and you’ll start losing followers. At the bare minimum, tweet at least once per day.

3. Targeting: I share my own experiences but also what I’ve learned from others, promote others, share info and resources, and funny quips. And of course, links to my own stuff (or at least mentions with or without links). By searching for, following, and interacting with people with similar experiences or interest, you form a common bond. For example, a friend just asked me to help her find people who tweet about autism. Using Search and Advanced Search are the best starting points.

It’s easy to get into that trap of constant promotion of your own work, since Twitter is a free platform (except for the amount of time you spend on it, of course). Think about it like karma: you get what you give, and you give what you get. And when it comes to targeting, who is seeing your message?

4. Keywords: What are your main topics of interest? Then tweet about those. Get Google Alerts on them. Add extensions to your toolbar to share articles from your favorite sites. This is how you attract different types of people, all of whom are potential readers. And most importantly, provide a consistent presence that’s not solid links to your own stuff. Or check out services like Sprout Social, Pluggio, or Buffer which helps in adding dripfeeds of relevant content.

5. Links: We can look at your profile and see your website link. Add in a second link in the 160 characters you have (to your book or service. I recommend using bitly to shorten, customize and track it). Twitter has made any link in your bio a hyperlink. That way there’s no need for you to always be linking to your own work.

WHAT NOT TO DO

1. Reciprocity: Don’t fall into the reciprocity trap. Lots of people will ask you for favors in return for something. The ‘good ole boy’ dictum. The issue here is that, just like in real life, you get more rewards by giving than by getting. Share because you want to, not because you’ll receive something in return.

Same goes with asking others. If you’re going to ask for a RT, do it privately in DM and don’t abuse the privilege.

2. Spam: Twitter defines spam as If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates; if you send large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions; or if you send large numbers of unsolicited @replies or mentions in an attempt to spam a service or link.

In an informal Twitter poll on my author stream, 90% of respondents said they not only are annoyed by spam, but will also immediately unfollow. If you are one of those people who does the ‘Thank you for following me. Please go buy my book/like my Facebook page link link link’ autoDM, just stop now.

It’s important to point this out because many new authors or businesses start Twitter not sure what to tweet about, so they repeatedly spam people to read, review, buy their book. Don’t. People will report you for spam and you will be suspended. I’ve seen it happen.

Mix it up! It’s fine to promo your own blog posts (one reason why I started #MondayBlogs – promote your latest post, and retweet others for good karma), books, or service; just not all the time, in every tweet.

3. Long tweets. For the best results, meaning retweets (which count more with Google ranking than amount of followers do, by the way), keep characters to 120 total. I find it easier to pick a topic and then write it in the Hootsuite window – which counts the characters — and then schedule it. Longer tweets are rarely retweeted and only a very small percentage will click on the tweet to read the whole thing.

4. Incest: Obviously, I’m not talking about families, cause that would be icky and weird. No, what I mean here is don’t only follow people in the same industry or area of interest. Yes, include them but not at the exclusion of everyone else.

For example, many authors only follow other authors. But how about readers? Book bloggers? Reviewers? Book clubs? Use Twitter search or even their advanced search to find readers or users of your service.

My final point: Twitter is a community. Approach it as you would any new community you want to be a part of: respect the rules, find others you have something in common, and be polite.

That’s it for today. Hopefully I’ve taught you one or two things you may not have known. What else do you do that might be helpful for other folks learning Twitter? Please share below.