Twitter Essentials

I’m very excited to get started on this new series for Soaring. We’re taking a look at social media and what it can do for your writing career. Since it’s 2017, most people are online in one capacity or another.  This series is great for those of you who are still holding out on joining the party or for those who are online, but need some help using social media as a way to promote your writing and your brand.  In this post we’ll look at Facebook and go over some essentials for getting started and marketing ourselves as writers.

This series will lead up to the launch of our new Spalding MFA Alumni website. While we’ll go over the new website in more depth, for right now, I’ll tell you that the site will be a great resource and community for alums.

What you can look forward to in this series:

      1. Intro to Social Networking for Writers
      2. Facebook Page Essentials
      3. Twitter Essentials
      4. Instagram Essentials
      5. YouTube Essentials
      6. Pinterest Essentials
      7. Blogging Essentials
      8. Our New Alumni Website

Twitter is a micro-blogging site. You can write short, up to 140 character, updates called tweets. This is a great place to interact with many writers, readers, professionals in the writing industry, and other creatives. In this post, we’ll go over the basics of Twitter, including how to create an account, as well as how to make the most of your time on this platform to better your writing career. And while you’re on Twitter, make sure you follow Spalding MFA Alumni so you can keep up to date on our posts as well as interact with our community.

What Twitter can do for your writing career

  1. Twitter is a great networking tool for writers. One writer, Kelly Watson, says that Twitter is a great ice breaker. Writers tend to be introverted and Twitter can be a great way to start a conversation. Reaching out to a fellow writer or perspective agent can be as simple as liking a few Tweets or casually replying to their Tweets. When it’s time to reach out to them later, you can mention following them on Twitter or mention a conversation you shared. It’s not much but it’s something to start with.
  2. You can find new business ventures. Many times agents, publishers, or other writers announce their projects on Twitter. Twitter is a great way to find these opportunities. There are also many contests or information chats. Sometimes literary agents will get together and chat about what they’re looking for in pitches. You can scout these pitches and look for what agents are looking for right this minute to better find a match for your work. Not being on Twitter means you miss out on some free information that might give you a leg up in your career.
  3. Twitter is also a great place to practice writing and editing. I’m not saying you’re going to become an amazing writer 140 characters at a time, but it’s a very fun and simple way to practice paring down your words and finding the best way to say things. We all know that the real writing comes out through the editing. If you only have 140 characters to say something, you have to be direct, to the point, and make every word count. This can be great practice for when you’re writing your novel or play. Like H.W. Fowler said, “Anyone who wishes to become a good writer should endeavor to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.”
  4. Like we’ve talked about before, you can always promote your achievements or publications. By sharing your blog posts, your career achievements or just information about your work, your followers are obviously better informed on what you’re doing.
  5. You can also create new followers and readers. By connecting with new users you can find people who might be interested in your work or who might already know you but might not know where to find your writing or buy your books.
  6. Possibly have leverage when pitching to agents and publishers. It’s never going to hurt you to have followers for your writing. Like with Facebook Likes, Twitter followers and interactions are a great way to show agents or publishers that people are already interested in you and that these already in place readers will make their job easier.


  1. There are 1.3 billion registered Twitter users.
  2. 67 million Americans are on Twitter
  3. 29% of Internet users with college degrees use Twitter, compared to 20% with high school degrees with less.
  4. 81% of millennials check Twitter at least once per day.
  5. Instagram receives the silver medal with 32% of users (After Facebook), Pinterest is in third with 31%, and Twitter at 29%.
  6. Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks than tweets without images.
  7. There are 400 million tweets sent per day.

Creating Your Account

Step by step:

  1. Go to
  2. Choose “Sign Up” at the top right corner
  3. Enter your Name, Email, and choose a Password as instructed.
  4. Click Sign up
  5. You can choose to enter your phone number, or click the small “Skip” under the big “Next” bar.
  6. Choose a user name. This can be a variation of your name, or your blog name. But like I’ve suggested previously, keep it simple and keep it similar to your other social media profiles. Click Next
  7. Click “Let’s Go!”
  8. Choose some of the suggested interests that apply to you, or search for some of your own. Click Continue.
  9. You can choose to import contacts from Gmail or Outlook, to better, or choose “No Thanks.” Importing contacts will help you get started on finding people you know who have connected to Twitter with an email in your contact list. This can be a quick way to start your followers.
  10. Choose some users to follow. Twitter will give you a list of users to follow based on the interests you chose earlier. You can choose to follow all of them or pick and choose your favorites. You can also search users by name to add them to your list. You will have plenty of time to search for people later so don’t get too caught up in this step. Then press “Follow & Continue”
  11. You’ve now entered your homepage and timeline and are officially on Twitter. But we desperately need to customize our Profile.
  12. Set a profile picture. You can do this by clicking on the camera in the small square near your name and username.
  13. Set a background image. Do this by clicking on the larger rectangle behind your profile image.
  14. Write your bio. Tell users who you are and what you do. Try to keep this pretty consistent across social media platforms so you’re easier to remember.
  15. Add your location. Give followers a better sense of who you are by telling them where you reside.
  16. Writer your first tweet!

App Features


On your homepage you have your timeline where you can see everyone’s tweets that you follow. You can scroll through here to interact with other users and see their tweets.

Top left hand corner is an icon of a person, with a plus sign. Click here to connect with other users. This is a suggestion of users who you may know or who you might have similar interests.

Top Right hand corner is an icon of a quill pen. This is where you compose your tweets, probably the most important part of the app.

Bottom Row:

Home- Obviously this is your home button. This will take you back to your homepage timeline from wherever you are.

Explore- This is where you can search twitter for hashtags, users, or just words you’re interested in.

Notifications– This is where you can see your, you guessed it, notifications.

Messages- You can send and receive messages from users on twitter.

Me- This is your profile. You can see what you’ve tweeted, your likes, and your media.


Posting on Twitter

When you post on twitter, you are “tweeting.” A Post is a “Tweet.” Pretty easy. Twitter is definitely the most lax as far as what’s expected of you. Try to give a good mix of your inner life, your writing life, and sharing other’s work.

Etiquette and tips

  1. Post frequently– Some sources say there is no maximum number of times you should post of twitter. There are so many tweets sent every minute, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, so keep posting away.
  2. Don’t spam. While there is definitely less rules with twitter than with other platforms, and you can post very frequently, there is always a limit. If you constantly share a link to your post, it will be annoying and spammy. No one wants to see the same post 10 times in a row.
  3. Mention and tag those you’re talking to. @mention people to get their attention or start a conversation.
  4. Use hashtags. Hashtags will help to boost your tweet and have it seen by more people than those that follow you. Hashtags connect Tweets that talk about the same thing in one place. By using hashtags in your tweets, they will be seen more than by just those who follow you.
  5. Shorten links when posting. Buffer and Hootsuite, if you choose to automate your tweets, all have link shorteners built in. You can also use to shorten your links. This is necessary both because twitter limits your tweets to 140 characters, and because full links look clumsy in tweets and can be overlooked.
  6. Be You. Twitter is the one place that’s great to be informal. Twitter users want to see who the “real you” is. Remove a little of the barrier that’s holding you back from saying what you want. People love seeing others as human instead of a business.
  7. Don’t go overboard. While you can loosen your collar a little on twitter you need to still stay professional. It’s one thing to go on a rant about your wifi not working- that’s relatable and could be funny- it’s not great to go on a rant about how your writing group doesn’t understand how great you are. Some things will rub users the wrong way and will make them lose interest or actually start to dislike you.


Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Hootsuite and Buffer are the top tools for automation. They can be used to share posts for the future so you can spend less time online. However, twitter is the essence of social and shouldn’t be totally scheduled and forgotten. A rule that’s good to go by is scheduling a post or two a day, to make sure that you’re staying active and getting links and photos out there, but to actively go on Twitter once a day to reply to people, retweet new posts, and generally seem engaged and like a real person to your audience.

Interacting on Twitter

Like most of social media, you can reply, like or share other’s posts. The only difference on twitter is what these actions are called and how you actually go about them.

ReplyScreen Shot 2017-04-12 at 9.58.22 PMJust like on facebook, you can reply to someone’s tweet. The only difference is instead of it just showing up on their profile or their individual tweet, it is actually a completely new tweet by you. It will be displayed on your homepage and the only difference is that when clicking on the tweet it will open up a

Like  Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 9.58.38 PM– You can also like someone else’s tweet, just as you would on Facebook or another social media platform.

Share Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 9.58.32 PM– Sharing someone else’s tweet on twitter is actually called “retweet” which actually makes a lot of sense. These show up in your timeline along with your other tweets.

Twitter Glossary

Follow– A follow is exactly as it sounds: someone following you or you following them. This lets you see their tweets in your timeline just as it would when you follow someone on Facebook.

Hashtag- a hashtag is a word or phrase immediately following the # symbol. When you click on a hastag you can see other Tweets containing the same keyword or topic. This is a great way to connect with users who do not follow you.

@- The @ sign is used to call out usernames in tweets. If you want to mention Spalding MFA Alumni on twitter, you can @ them like this: “Hey, @spaldingmfaalum” and continue your tweet.

Mention: Mentioning other accounts in your Tweet is exactly what we just talked about. Using the @ symbol you can connect with other users and this is called a mention. You can also check your mentions in your profile.

Geolocation, geotagging– Adding a location to your Tweet (a geolocation or geotag) tells those who see your Tweet where you were when you posted that Tweet.

Home– Your Home timeline displays a stream of Tweets from accounts you have chosen to follow on Twitter.

List– From your account, you can create a group list of other Twitter accounts by topic or interest.

Notifications– The notifications timeline displays your interactions with other Twitter accounts, like mentions, likes, Retweets and who has recently followed you.

Pinned Tweets– You can pin a Tweet to the top of your profile page to keep something important to you- or your followers- above the flow of time-ordered Tweets.

Timeline– a timeline is a real-time stream of Tweets. Your Home timeline is where you see all the Tweets shared by your friends and other people you follow.

Twitter Polls– These polls allow you to weigh in on questions posed by other people on Twitter. You can also easily create your own poll and see the results. This is a fun way to get interactions from followers.

Twitter Chat– a Twitter Chat is something a company or user sets up. They usually have a set of 5 to 10 questions they’ll ask every few minutes. You reply to the question giving your answer. This is a great way to interact with new people who are usually interested in the same thing as you. Search online for relevant chats and find our when they’re being run.

Finding Followers and Improving Engagement

Twitter is the essence of social media. You won’t succeed if you aren’t social, interacting with others users, and coming across as a real person.


  1. Share Other users’ Content
  2. Include Hashtags, especially ones for events you’re attending (like residencies or homecoming)
  3. Retweet
  4. Share a poll
  5. Answer questions or give advice
  6. Mention your location
  7. Participate in Twitter Chats
  8. Host a Twitter Chat
  9. Share your Twitter name on other social media and your blog

Popular Writer Twitter Accounts

John Green
J.K. Rowling
Judy Blume
Margaret Atwood
Diana Gabaldon
Maureen Johnson
Jane Espenson
Stephen King
Philip Pullman

Additional Resources

Social Media Marketing Statistics
Beginners Guide to Twitter
20 Literary Twitter Feeds to Follow
7 Ways I Accidentally Got Twitter Followers and 7 Ways you Can on Purpose

I’m looking for contributors for the following posts:

DEAR SOARING!: Send me your questions to be featured on the blog. Other alumni will help in answering your questions.

Where in the World: Where have you gone recently? Send me a picture with information on your trip and any writing you may have done about the trip.

Awards and Accolades of Alumni: Time to brag! What have you accomplished recently? I want to help spread the word and show just how great our alumni really are.

Email me at to be featured.

Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, and puppy. She has way too many books, more cameras than she knows how to properly use, and a never ending need to keep moving. She write about her life and adventures at home and around the world at A Wandering Scribbler.

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