Friday, June 18, 2010

Saying The T-Word (Yes. Twitter.)

@Hank_Phillippi: Just seeing my name that way--you know what this is about! Are you a Twitter-pro? Or a Twitter-um, con? Beforey ou dismiss the whole thing as so much cyber noise, just listen to twittter-guru Krista Davis. Er--

@KristaDavis Before my first book came out, everyone said MySpace was the place to be. It was all the rage. I dutifully churned my way through the instructions and started my own MySpace page.

Less than a year later, before the release of my second book, the word on the cyber street was that all authors should join Facebook. I couldn’t be left out, so I learned the ropes at Facebook. I collected a few friends, but the majority were other writers whom I already knew. What was the point of that, I wondered?

So with two not very active social networks that I was supposed to be cultivating, I was as horrified as everyone else when news spread about Twitter. Not another one! Not another learning curve. Not another place where the same bunch of writers would waste time making contact.

Nevertheless, in a weak moment, probably when I should have been writing and didn’t feel like it, I joined Twitter. http:// After all, people were beginning to use those cute little
blue birds on their blogs and websites. Joining wasn’t hard.

Hurrah! To my complete surprise, people began to follow me.

Strangers! It wasn’t the same old group. But then tweets (messages) came to my Twitter page fast and thick.

“Standing in the line for the ladies’ room.”
(Way too much information, thank you.)

“At the airport, waiting for my flight.”
(Your mother might be interested, but you’re clearly just bored.)

“Wherever you are -- be there.”

Dozens of disjointed, uninteresting tweets flowed onto my Twitter page and they kept coming! Forget that! I didn’t have the time, and I was supposed to be working on a book. But people kept talking about Twitter, and eventually, when I should have been writing but was
looking for a reason not to, I went back. Two things intrigued me.

1) The tweets kept coming, yet I felt certain that no one could possibly be spending the day watching tweets roll by.

2) Some people were following 47,000 other people. There’s no way they could read that many tweets.

So if no one was reading the tweets, what was the point?

Then someone mentioned TweetDeck ( and the picture began to fall into place. I was right. No one was reading all the tweets. But then why did anyone bother? The clue was in those little # signs you see in some tweets. They’re called hashtags and they denote a subject. I finally realized that people only read the tweets of interest to them. When you have TweetDeck you can follow the tweets on the subjects you choose. Twitter calls popular topics “trending” and you can find them on the right side of your Twitter page. As I write this, #worldcup and #booksthatchangedmyworld (note there are no spaces) are hot subjects.

What that means for us is our tweets can be seen by people who don’t know us, a crucial element for expanding readership. We simply have to find the correct hashtags to use in our tweets. I write the domestic diva mysteries, so I often tweet about my blog, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. I include hashtags like #recipes, #vegetarians, #baking, and other domestic type words to expand the reach of my messages.

There are lots of hashtags that deal with books, such as #books, #writing, #amwriting, #writers, and #reading. Those are only the beginning. There are widely used hashtags for different genres, and writing conventions, and well, just about everything. You can try them out on TweetDeck to see which ones have impact and which ones are duds.

You can also include hashtags for particular cities. Enhance the power of a signing announcement through the use of hashtags.

#Author @HankPhillippi will be signing at Borders in #Boston on Sunday at three!

To explore hashtags and learn about more of them, visit What The Hashtag? or iHashtag

Want to know what a particular hashtag means? Try Tagdef.

You can also follow the tweets of certain people on TweetDeck. Agents have embraced Twitter in a big way. I follow my agent @BookendsJessica. I include her Twitter address in a tweet that I think might interest her. And because she’s a lovely agent, she usually re-tweets it, sending it to her followers. One of her followers might re-tweet it, too, sending it to a whole new group of people. This is where Twitter differs so much from Facebook. Because of the re-tweet feature, messages can spread exponentially through the world. Of course, that means sending tweets that are worth sharing, but that’s a whole other blog.

The irony in fear of Twitter (Twitterphobia?) is that it may be the very best vehicle for writers to spread news about their books.

Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so even if you fuss over your tweet, you really can’t waste too much time writing it. The same goes for reading tweets. It only takes a few minutes to read them and catch up. Of course, the most important feature is the retweet that has the potential to spread a message to hundreds, even thousands of potential readers.

I should warn you that I have a new book coming out in December. That can only mean there’s a new social network on the horizon. Beware!

@Hank_Phillippi: Thanks, Krista! I must say, Tweetdeck is a life-changing thing. Barbara Vey taught me--i mean, @Barbara Vey. There's Hootsuite, too. What's that?

Like--my name is too many characters. So I could either be HankPRyan, or Hank_Phillippi. I thought HankPRyan was the obvious choice, even though it's not intuitive and not necessarily good.

But someone told me as soon as someone typed H-A-N-K, my name would come up. Then, he said, in my tweets, just add Ryan after the @Hank_Phillippi So my tweets would say @Hank_Phillippi Ryan Huh. How about that?

Any other questions? Oh, Krista, would you say: never tweet without some kind of hashtag?

National bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. Her first book, The Diva Runs Out of Thyme was nominated for an Agatha award. Her most recent release is The Diva Paints the Town.

The Diva Cooks A Goose will be in bookstores in December. Learn more about Krista's books at
and visit her at, where she blogs on Saturdays. Follow her on Twitter at @KristaDavis. She promises to follow you back!


  1. Oh my gosh, can I send you roses? A cake? A box of chocolates? Thank you, thank you for answering the questions I felt too embarrassed to ask. I figured everyone in the whole writer's community knew how to tweet except me. But now, thanks to your post, I know--FINALLY--about hashtags.
    Thank you again, oh wise Yoda-one.

  2. I know one day this may mean something to me, and I may be raving about it, but right now my little brain can't take any more social networking. I don't know anyone whose activities I'd want to monitor on that regular a basis and if anyone wanted to know what I was doing 24/7 I'd call the cops.

  3. Hank, why not increase the power of your tweet by using a hashtag each time? But don't overdo it. In

    @KristaDavis #blogs #about #Twitter

    the hashtags are just noise.

    Rebbie, I'm already enjoying the cyber chocolates. Thanks! I'm so glad you found the blog helpful!

    Hi, Rosemary. I think a lot of people feel the way you do. The funny thing is that Twitter may have the greatest reach and most certainly involves the least amount of time!

  4. OH, perfect, Krista! Going to tweet about you right now!

  5. This is by far one of the best pieces I have read about using Twitter. Thank you, thank you.

  6. Thanks, Krista! I'd been resisting Twitter for a long time, until I attended Janet Reid's Social Networking session at the Pennwriter's Conference in May. When she explained how beneficial it could be to a writer, I took the plunge. I like it a lot so far. I'm still learning, so your info on hashtags was very helpful!

    Heading to Twitter to follow you now...


  7. Thanks, Hank! I retweeted your tweet and saw that some other people did, too.

    Maryann, I'm so glad I could shed some light on Twitter.

    Joyce, that must have been some talk Janet gave. I know a lot of people who decided to take the plunge after hearing her speak!

  8. I've been tweeting into the dark. Who knew? It's taken me years to discover where the @sign is on my computer. Now I'll have to learned how to hit the #.
    Thanks for enlightening us, Krista

  9. Krista, "I should warn you that I have a new book coming out in December. That can only mean there’s a new social network on the horizon. Beware!"

    Please, NO! Thanks for those awesome hashtag links. The ones I use aren't defined. Am I brave enough to define them??

    BTW, I saw this on twitter. :)

  10. Krista, you're a genius. But like Ro, I'm still not quite ready to take the plunge. though I do have an address and every once in a while get notification that someone is following me. At least I'm not overwhelming them with reading!

    I have a feeling I'm a monogamous social networker. Like I have a myspace account, but I haven't looked at it since joining facebook. In fact i've long since forgotten the password:).

    I think I'll wait for your next book and see what's new at that point--then I'm following you no matter what it takes!

  11. Rhys, your followers have been seeing your tweets, so it hasn't completely dark! But with a well-chosen hashtag, you can expand your audience.

    Kaye, I'm sure you're not alone in hoping we've seen the end of the social networks.

    OTOH, Roberta, look at it this way -- if a new social network does pop up, you won't have wasted a lot of time on the previous ones!

  12. HI, all! Back from my story for today..and glad to see you all chatting!

    I heard on the radio that the World Cup has engendered more tweets than ever--when Japan made a goal the other day, Twitter hit 2227 tweets A SECOND!

    (Or something amazing like that.)

    So someone is sure out there..

  13. #worldcup has been the hot hashtag! Wow. That's some serious tweeting!

  14. Loved this post, passing along to my students (again! another JR post for the students!) -- and woke up thinking how fun a word "hashtag" is. Like some swear word Mork would have said on Mork and Mindy.

  15. Susannah--or like, a sneeze.
    Bless you!

    See you all tomroow for a lovely father's day tribute..come meet our dads?!

    And yes, @kristadavis, we'll be tweeting about it! You're amazing, and we are really grateful...come back when the book comes out, okay?