Why textbook & academic authors should make time for Twitter

Twitter birdOf the major social media platforms, Twitter is, in my opinion, the most effective for wordsmiths like textbook and academic authors. The 140-character constraint on tweets—the messages one posts on Twitter—turns out to be rather freeing: the site rewards concision and encourages straightforwardness.

Specialists like textbook and academic authors can and should use Twitter for professional marketing purposes—to demonstrate their know-how, interface with other experts, reach readers, generate leads, generate publicity for their work, and make professional connections. All of these aims can be furthered with Twitter—it’s just a matter of tweeting intentionally.

The homepage one sees upon logging in is like a news ticker, an up-to-the-minute chronicle of hot takes, punchy repartee, and even sustained conversation threads of a complex and technical nature.

Experts and literati congregate on Twitter; thus, one of the first things new users should do is search for and follow the accounts of luminaries in their fields of interest. But once you’re a follower, all set up to receive transmissions from the best and the brightest, how do you become a transmitter? What kinds of messages do you release into the wild?

Generally, tweets fall into four categories:

1) Original content (mostly text, but also images and videos)
2) Retweets (forwarding other users’ tweets)
3) Resource sharing (linking to material available elsewhere)
4) Direct discourse (so-called @-mentions directed at other users)

A good mix of all four types of tweets would be ideal, but every user will have a unique formula. Someone who really likes to get into the mix may devote energy to @-mentions, engaging other users directly; someone who keeps very current with a field may find that sharing links, along with brief framing language, is a natural mode.

Content for all types of tweets derives from work, life, and, of course, other Twitter chatter. Eavesdrop for a bit; respond to other users’ tweets. Once you are comfortable, describe your own research, post a photo that gives a small window into your life, share good news, ask a question, invite interaction, pass on a bit of advice or a rich resource.

As with most things, the more you put into Twitter, the more you will get out of it as a marketing and networking tool. A few last tips: stick to your core topics, make sure to link to your other social media, such as blogs and websites, and have fun!


Katie Van HeestThrough her practice, Tweed Editing, Katie Van Heest refines scholarship so that research makes its mark within the academy and beyond. Her services are retained by professors, independent researchers, and advanced graduate students, and she edits for university presses, research centers, and scholarly societies. Follow Katie on Twitter @TweedEditing