Promoting books in 140 characters or less
by Charlotte Abbott -- Publishers Weekly, 3/30/2009
By now, you may have heard that Twitter's 6.1 million unique monthly visitors make it the third most popular social network, compared to Facebook's 78.5 million users and MySpace's 65.7 million users, according to Quantcast.
But as more authors, publishers, booksellers, retailers and book reviewers log on to use Twitter as a promotional and professional tool, there's also plenty of skepticism.
Is it worth the time commitment involved? What benefits have industry users found?
To answer these questions, PW attended last month's O'Reilly's Tools of Change conference, talked with early adopters and plunged directly into the Twitter experience (follow PW at www.twitter.com/publisherswkly).
How Twitter Works
Twitter basics are simple. A tweet is a message of no more than 140 characters, often composed with a bit of shorthand and the help of Web URL-shrinking programs.
A retweet (or RT) is when you repeat someone else's tweet to your followers. Followers are those who see your tweets. You can follow anyone, and anyone can follow you, unless you choose to lock your account and approve your followers. But following someone isn't the same as being friends—the person you're following won't see your tweets unless you address them directly or they have chosen to follow you.
The number of followers you have is a measure of success, “but quality counts, too,” cautions Kelly Leonard, Hachette's director of online marketing. “Some bloggers have exponential influence when they retweet your messages.”
The biggest mistake corporate users make on Twitter is using it as a one-way megaphone for their marketing messages. Practiced users say it's better to build two-way communication by following those who follow you. “Twitter is like a bank account: you have to put in more deposits than withdrawals,” explains Leonard. “A post about my author appearing on The Today Show is a withdrawal, because it's not 100% for the community. Deposits are about direct engagement with your audience and providing valuable information that's retweeted.”
Why Users Like Twitter
Power users like Kelly Leonard and Richard Nash, marketing and editorial consultant and former editorial director of Soft Skull/Counterpoint, cite five key benefits of Twitter:
Info filtering: Twitter is a fast way to find out what people who share your interests are thinking, reading and blogging about, 24/7.
Targeted networking: It's easy to find smart, likeminded people and jump into a conversation; some of Twitter's biggest names will answer back, too.
Direct engagement: What better way to explore reader attitudes and feedback, and to spot new trends, than by talking directly with your customers?
Amplification: Retweeted messages are a powerful way to drive Web traffic.
Opt in or out: You can tweet as much as you want or lurk without comment, though consistent tweeting and audience engagement are key to attracting and keeping followers.
But even enthusiasts admit that it takes two to three weeks to gain confidence with Twitter, and several months to achieve proficiency. That's partly because of the 140-character message limit, and partly because it takes some observation to learn what makes for a good tweet.
Read the full piece at PW online.
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