Susan Orlean: Queen of Twitter
Susan Orlean: Queen of Twitter
The Boston author community Grub Street’s lecture series Publish it Forward recently gave us Susan Orlean who spoke about Twitter. She currently has over 227 thousand followers on Twitter. Susan Orlean is a New Yorker staff writer and author of many books. Most recent, Rin Tin Tin about the German Sheppard actor dog and most popular, The Orchid Theif where Susan followed around an eccentric orchid fanatic and three Seminole Indians into the Florida swamps for two years. What ensued was a controversy the included environmentalist, Native American activists, and devoted orchid collectors. How cool. I like this chick. For more about Susan check out her website- http://susanorlean.com/
With pretty red hair, sparkling earrings and a funky multi layered skirt, Susan began with a simple explanation of Twitter; it’s you and me in a room having a conversation. Twitter is just another way people interact with each other. Susan gets asked, “How do you do Twitter?” Well you just did, she would reply. You just spoke to me in a sentence with less than 140 characters, that’s a Tweet. Twitter topics can go viral fast. One time Susan tweeted about the book she just finished, The Assassination of Jesse James with the hash tag #BooksThatChangedMyWorld and people started tweeting about books that meant a lot to them with the same hash tag and before long people all over the world were sharing on this topic. This became the most popular Twitter topic for a day or so, a proud twitter moment for Susan.
Let me explain how the hash tag thing works. You can search the hash tag and get all of the tweets that included that same hash tag. I often search #Author or #Indie to find Tweets about being an Independent Author. I also make myself more discoverable by including a relevant hash tag in my tweet. Events have hash tags too, for example you can search #pubitforward and see all of the tweets about Susan Orleans lecture. I didn’t just sit there and listen to Susan, I tweeted about it with the hash tag #pubitforward and interacted in the event. Not only is interacting in an event with Twitter wicked fun, you get to make new connections, see what other people are getting out of the event, and feel like your really a part of it. Do it once and I promise that your first question at every future event will be ‘what’s the hash tag?’
When Susan first began on Twitter, she didn’t have a plan and didn’t relate Twitter to a way to increase her brand, she was just curious. There are people who launch campaigns to gather followers. She recommends that anyone new to Twitter “embrace the pure innocence”. Just write Tweets and the followers will come. This has been my experience as well. In the beginning I would follow any author that tweeted something interesting and many followed me back, but after my first fifty or so followers I just focused on Tweeting interesting author relevant stuff and the followers just keep coming.
Twitter is like a cocktail party that you happen to walk by and wonder in. You listen to conversations and maybe eventually you have something to add. You gravitate towards groups of people who have things in common with you. You don’t want to be the guy who barges into the cocktail party and taking over every conversation and giving everybody his business card- that person will soon be considered a jerk. In making social media work Susan said it perfectly, “Authenticity is the essence of everything we do.” Twitter is not going to sell your books or pack a room for your lecture. Susan unfollows authors who constantly tweet about their book, book giveaways, and free days. So if you are doing that, stop it. It doesn’t work anyways. What Twitter will do is introduce you to interesting people, help you build your brand, and give you name recognition. It also can be great free entertainment. But remember, the most important thing with all social networking- be real, be authentic.
What has your experience been with Twitter? Any blunders or positive experiences to share?