If Twitter has so far passed you by, congratulations – you’re probably more productive than the rest of us. But you’re missing out if you think it’s just about Lady Gaga’s latest selfie or what a stranger’s had for dinner. Here’s why the micro-blogging site is so popular with editors around the world.
1. You can learn new things
Hands up who reads The Bookseller every week. Thought not. But you can easily keep up with industry news by reading tweets from @TheBookseller and other publishing organisations such as @SYP_UK, @PublishersAssoc and, of course, @TheSfEP. If a headline grabs your attention, simply click through to the website. That way, you absorb the information that you want to – or need to – know, without it feeling like hard work.
People use Twitter because they have something to share. You can learn a lot if you follow the right users – those who do what you do, those who are influential in areas you’re interested in: publishers, agents, authors, potential clients, and yes, even celebrities (or at least those with opinions worth discussing). I’ve learnt a lot about publishing, marketing, language and linguistics that I never would have found out any other way.
2. You can market yourself – painlessly
Many editors, shy and introverted types that we tend to be, find the idea of networking intimidating. But with Twitter it’s easy to get out there and get known. Chatting to people on social media isn’t like trying to explain to your local accountant at a business breakfast what a proofreader does.
You can follow any account that takes your fancy, and you can also start or join conversations with anyone you like, without them thinking you’re odd (although that, of course, depends on what you say).
As with all marketing, it’s helpful to have an objective. For example, if you want to find work with businesses near you, most counties and regions have a dedicated Twitter networking time and hashtag (a label to identify it) to help you jump into the fray easily – mine is #Norfolkhour but there are many others.
I can’t claim to have actually got any work as a direct result of Twitter, but many editors have. I’ve certainly raised my profile and got to know many other small businesses nearby.
The only proviso, if you’re running a company, is to stay away from controversy. You might have heard about some high profile corporate Twitter embarrassments – one thoughtless comment could destroy your reputation. But then, that could happen when you’re talking to an accountant at a business breakfast too.
3. You can get to know other editors and proofreaders
Editing can be a lonely job and it’s easy to go feral when you’ve not seen anyone all day. But there’s a whole online community of people like you. Just as many of us share our experiences on the SfEP forums, social media provides an opportunity to chat to others who share your pain about hyphenated adverbs and comma splices.
There’s nothing competitive about building relationships with people who do what you do. They might be looking for the same type of work but they can also be partners, supporters, sharers, colleagues. You might not be able to do a job for a new client but perhaps you know someone who can. And then they return the favour. It makes business sense.
A good place to start is @TheSfEP list of members and associates who tweet. And when you finally meet them in person at the SfEP Conference, you’ll find you have readymade friends.
4. You can practise your editorial skills
Tweets are 140 characters. That’s not much. Putting your message across focuses your thoughts and hones your editorial skills.
That was only 126 characters, by the way.
5. You can win books
Still not convinced? This is the clincher. I’ve won around 100 books on Twitter, mostly in publishers’ prize draws, simply by retweeting their post or answering a simple question. Once I won a beautiful book on the history of home décor by tweeting a photo of my ugly bathroom. My husband would prefer me to win holidays and cars but, hey, I work in publishing. I like books.
So yes, Twitter is educational, sociable and sometimes lucrative – but most of all it’s fun. It opens your eyes to how fascinating and diverse and creative people can be. And that can’t be a bad thing can it?
If you’d like some guidance on the technicalities of starting up your Twitter account, join me at the SfEP Conference, where I’ll be holding a ‘something for everyone’ session called Twitter for Beginners.
And when you do take the plunge, follow me @JuliaWordFire and introduce yourself. I look forward to tweeting with you.
Julia Sandford-Cooke of WordFire Communications has more than 15 years’ experience of publishing and marketing. When she’s not on Twitter or contributing to the SfEP’s Facebook page, she authors and edits textbooks, writes digital copy for a pub chain, proofreads anything that’s put in front of her and posts short, grumpy book reviews on her blog, Ju’s Reviews.