Social media is important to your career as a writer, but it doesn’t have to rule your life! Time and time again, I hear complaints about how people don’t want to join Twitter because they’ve heard that it takes up so much time. It depends how you use it. It doesn’t rule you–you rule it. So let’s talk budgeting your time.

Before you start, decide how much time you want to spend per day or per week on Twitter. Maybe you want to do 15 minutes per day, maybe an hour per week. You can always adjust your budget later on. Let’s talk about what you can do to use this time most efficiently.

Sign up for a free service that allows you to use Twitter and monitor your progress at the same time. I like http://hootsuite.com because of the owl. No, really, though, it’s a powerful tool that allows you to post your tweets; schedule tweets for the future; manage multiple accounts at the same time; read tweets based on who you follow, search words, twitter lists, and more. It also allows you to shrink URLs, which then allows you to see how many people have clicked on each of your links. It takes this data and breaks it into graphs for you based on location as well.

Break up your time as follows:
1. Post original material
2. Interact
3. Monitor

1. Post original material
Make it personal (show off your personality), make it interactive, make it fun, make it relevant (nobody wants to know what kind of cereal you had for breakfast). Write about the writing process. Are you having trouble with character development? Did you just turn in your manuscript? Is the publisher trying to change your title? Did the book just go to press? Is it on sale today? Let us know! Also include links to reviews, interviews, and free stuff. Don’t forget to link back to your website or blog frequently. I’ll post more about Twitter content in another post.

2. Interact
Read what other people are writing. Re-tweet the stuff you like and things you think your readers will be interested in too. The original tweeter will see that you retweeted and may return the favor.

See what other people are talking about. Follow the people who are in your genre, other writers, people in the writing industry, people involved with the concept of your book. Start conversations with them. They might introduce you to other influential tweeters.

FollowFriday is a meme that’s debatable as far as impact goes. It’s a polite way of saying that you like someone’s tweets and think others should follow them. They will often FF you back. You do this on Fridays by writing “#ff# and then listing people’s screen names with the @ symbol in front of each one.

Do searches for topics that you’re interested in now, either with or without the hash tag. You can run these searches right from the front page of Twitter. If your favorite Barnes and Noble is closing and you want to see who is talking about it, search “Barnes and Noble,” “B&N,” “#BN,” etc. and start talking with people about it.

3. Monitor
Real quick, before you sign off for the day, click the owl in the upper left. Choose Stats and Summary. It will tell you how many clicks you’ve gotten each day of the week. You can also view which links are getting the clicks. This will help you become better at writing intriguing links.

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