Twitter is a fabulous, sparkly beast, full of wonderful conversations and intelligent people. It’s a great place to spend a lazy evening, from getting distracted by all sorts of hilarious celebrity ramblings to following the minute-by-minute reactions from people all over the world to the climax of the latest Game of Thrones episode.
But the Twitter beast has claws; it is also an excellent place for meeting likeminded writerly types and ‘network’. Really, ‘networking’, especially in the creative world, is just a fancy business term for ‘making friendships that can lead to great creative things’. Through networking, you can meet your next writing buddy, people who will want to share your stuff because their audience will love it, or even find that person who might know what the best next step for your career is.
Getting Started: Follows
For a long time, I didn’t even realise writers centres existed, let alone literary collectives and experimental writing festivals and zines and indie basement journals. I didn’t even know there was a writing community I could belong to. So, if all of these magnificent future-friends are out there, how do you reach them?
Find the awesome things you already know about! Follow the magazines, organisations and people who make the stuff you love, and then go through who runs them, and who they follow. If you read blogs or mags, look for the writers of the content that you love, and then go through their networks. This network-stealing trick is a great way to build a brain-map of your niche (and every time I do it, I find awesome indie journals which I’ll submit to one day).
If you’ve got no idea where to get started, this might take a little bit of digging. Hunt for arts organisations in your area, or historical societies, or whatever floats your niche, and look for their Twitters. Search for blogs, journals or magazines in your niche (trust me, they exist), or even a subreddit. You can also go through hash tags! #amwriting, #writing, and #amreading are all popular for general reading/writing, and there are plenty of other niche hashtags.
Getting Strategic: Lists
Once you’ve followed a lot of people, you need a way to cut out the noise. Whether your Twitter is brand new or 5 years old, your feed is likely to need some cleaning up. Lists are a great way to keep track of the people in your niche, and the people you want to chat to, without getting bogged down in the rest of your feed. Choose a combination of people who have different amounts of followers—some around the same as you, some a bit more, and some with lots.
Creating these lists can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I like to split mine between ‘Friends’, for the people I know; ‘Future Friends’, for the people I want to reach out to; and ‘Opportunities’, for the magazines, journals, organisations and other collectives I want to keep track of. Then, once a month or so, I go through all the new things I’ve followed and add them to my lists.
Getting Markety: Your Profile
Think about your Twitter profile (as well as any other online dwelling) as your own little corner of the internet. It’s the place where you get to dazzle everyone who passes by, but it also will affect whether other people reach out to you. If your posts are old and outdated, they might assume they can’t reach you through that platform, and if it’s not clear what you’re passionate about, they might not even think you have anything in common.
This is where social media is fun and creative. Write yourself a bio: sum up the things you love in 10 words or less. Draw something or get a talented friend to create you a header, and make sure your picture looks enticing. And post! Whenever you find things that excite you, share them with your followers. The more things you post, the more chances you give other people to interact with you.
If you have a niche, try to make a good percentage of your posts related to it, but it can never hurt to sprinkle other bits of your personality through your feed. Attend online events and twitter chats, comment on any current events, share cool articles and online finds, and do promote yourself, but never too much. There are lots of theories about the right ratio, but a good rule of thumb (and karma-grabbing) is to share other people’s content at least as much as you share your own. Use a tool like Buffer to schedule and plan your posts.
Getting Social: Reach Out
Now that you’ve identified the people you want to reach out to, and you’ve jazzed up your profile, it’s time to talk to other people. An easy way to do this is to share great content the people you admire create; this is a win-win: your followers get to experience their fabulous content, you get to flesh out your social media feed, AND the creator-human gets the warm fuzzy feeling that someone loves their content.
But there are other ways to do this too. Log in regularly, even if it’s only for 5 minutes at a time, and see what the people on your lists are getting up to. Is there a comment you can reply to or something you can ask to stir up a conversation? It’s like smalltalk, but much easier because it doesn’t involve actual human contact.
Try to reach out at least 5 times a day, especially to people you’d like to collaborate with or have share your content. Don’t be scared to do this—don’t you love it when you get a surprise message from someone? Most people do! And the worst thing that can happen is that your comment goes unanswered.