One of the biggest complaints I hear from new Indie Authors just arriving on Twitter is "It takes so much time! I don't have hours a day to spend tweeting!" to which I say "You're wasting good writing time if you're spending hours a day. Don't let your time slide over that slippery slope of the Twitterverse."
Today I'm going to discuss how I, personally, approach and manage my Twitter activites and offer some suggestions on how you can improve your Twitter time-management. Then I'll go through the basic steps it takes to automate my process, using a tool called Hootsuite.
Note, I work a day job, have no spouse to help out with the housework/life errands and have committed to publishing this blog 4 days a week--and this is all in addition to working on 3 novels (okay, I'm only currently working on 2 at a time) but I still get a lot done. Here's how.
Webbiegrrl Time Management
In fact, I try to spend no more than 10-15 min. at a time on my Twitter activities and I sometimes spend as little as 5 min once a day (when I'm #workingthedayjob, forex). I log in once in the morning, once in the evening and I'm done. I stay logged in while I'm blogging but generally don't tweet while blogging. If I'm in need of a pickmeup while #workingthedayjob or have posted something particularly exciting, I'll use my phone to check my stream at lunchtime. I can get fired for using my phone at the day job (except when I clock out) and I won't use it while in the car (I spend 1.5-2 hrs a day commuting) so I don't have a heck of a lot of time to spare. I have to be efficient with my time or it'll slip right over that cliff.
If you add up my numbers, you'll see I'm typically spending 4 or 5 hrs weekly not daily and I do it in little bite-sized pieces of minutes not hours. How do I do this? For one thing, I'm very organized. It's a personality trait. I'm a Type A personality and I've had a lot of years to find and hone my personal time-management skills into second-nature habits. I'm 50 years old. When I was 25, I was not this organized (though I was a bit more controlling. The older I get, the less I care *haha*)
Organization for the Disorganized
If you're a disorganized person, that's not necessarily a flaw, but it will be a big obstacle that you're going to have to overcome if you want to effectively use your Twitter time to market your books--and still have time to write the books! There are organizational tools you can use to help focus yourself into a more organized pattern of activity. Regardless of any other tools you might try, I strongly suggest scheduling your day--by the minute--or at least 15 or 30 minute chunks. Don't leave any question (for yourself or others in your household) as to what you're "supposed to be doing" at any given moment. Don't forget to schedule time to eat and sleep. I am not kidding.
People who are disorganized really seem to do best when they have a specific time for a specific activity and they do not deviate from the schedule. This is especially true for people who live with others who make unscheduled demands on your time. If your schedule is mounted on the wall--for everyone to see--it's pretty clear where and when you might have time to give up.
A disorganized person who deviates from scheduled activities ends up getting distracted, side-tracked and bogged down in side activities and eventually just feels overwhelmed with the number of "relevant" tasks they've let slide or sit unfinished. My favorite "how to" on setting priorities is Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Make sure you know what's "important" and ignore those "urgent" needs that are not important.
Lastly, more importantly, don't torture yourself with guilt. Just set yourself a schedule and claim your time as your own. Don't schedule an hour. Schedule a half hour--or 15 minutes. Whatever the activity is (other than writing), just schedule it. Set a kitchen timer with a bell to ring to tell you when to stop. After 2 or 3 days, you'll get a feel for how to get more done in 15 minutes than you ever did before. How? Your backbrain will know you only have 15 minutes. Try it.
Click through the jump-break for more.
Planning Ahead is Key
Because my free time (when I am able to schedule those 15-min chunks) and when Twitter "events" (like #WW and #FollowFriday or promo'ing the Freebie Friday blog post) occur don't always coincide, I have to plan ahead. I have to work on things like tweeting when I have time to do it--not when the rest of the world "urgently" needs or wants my attention.
Automation is the Secret Weapon
In 15 min. of composition work, I can generate a week's worth of tweets (repeating some daily or dividing up a scene into #teaserlines for a #SampleSunday or #ThrillerThursday), then Hootsuite manages sending them for me so I don't have to think about it again for another week. I set aside my 15-30 min one day a week for manually entering tweets into Hootsuite and then I'm done. I can spend the rest of my 15 min chunks of time all week just reading conversations and joining in. Engaging with actual people :)
Cheap is Good--Free is Better
I've discussed Hootsuite before (see the Twitter Series entry @Toonopolis Shares His Secrets for Success). I've never gotten into the automated features until now. I don't have money to spare so I haven't paid for the "pro" version which allows for full automation, but the free version of Hootsuite lets me automate part of the process.
You might find it helpful to open the following image in a new window for easier reference (right-click on Windows machines). If you haven't already setup your Hootsuite account, please refer to my Hootsuite Fly-Through on setting up the basics.
Step 1: From the left-side menu, choose Publisher.
Step 2: Select a profile (Twitter ID) from which you want to tweet.
Step 3: Compose your tweet (regular 140 character or less tweet).
Step 4: Instead of sending, click on the little calendar icon--as Jeremy said, it looks a lot like a little TV set with a number on it. When you click on it, the scheduler will open like in the following image:
Step 5: Choose your date--you can schedule days, weeks or even months in advance--by clicking on the date on the calendar. The date you've selected will be highlighted with a little yellow square (in the picture it's got Sep. 30th highlighted) and the date will display above the time.
Step 6: Set the time. Be very careful here. Consider time zones and set the time required to reach all of your intended audience. Some people (yes, @KreelanWarrior, I am talking to you) actually advise tweeting once an hour. I disagree. Once an hour feels more like spamming to me--at least if all the tweets have links and promote something. Jeremy (@toonopolis) advised tweeting a mixture of content tweets (something without any links, just chatting to/with your tweeps) and promo tweets (something with a link). He suggested calculating a ratio to keep your promo tweets down as compared to your content tweets.
Me? I schedule promo tweets and "live tweet" the rest. I need to start scheduling content tweets, too. Once you have your tweet all composed and scheduled, click the schedule button at the bottom of the scheduler (next to that disk icon) and voila, your tweet will show up on the main screen of the "scheduled area" (see first image above where I had 2 tweets set for my Freebie Friday promo when I took the screen shots).
If you decide on the fly (while or after composing a tweet) that you want to wait to post it, you can always access the Scheduler directly by clicking the little calendar icon at the bottom of the tweet composition area, as shown in this image below. I hovered over the calendar icon so the word "Scheduler" would appear:
There are two things I haven't done yet. One, I need to save promo tweets I want to repeat. Currently, once I get a tweet the way I want it, I copy/paste it into the Scheduler to post several times over the next few days or week, but I need to actually save the text in a text file and then easily retrieve it later. Second, I want to click that disk icon and find out if Hootsuite will save my tweets for me :-)
I should note that TweetAdder, another automation tool, has a facility (which I also have not yet investigated) to import and/or export tweet files so I suspect saving and retrieving tweets will become a writing activity unto itself. TweetAdder also has a Tweet Generator, which so far appears to be useless crap, but it's a great idea. Maybe the nice folks at Hootsuite will incorporate a Tweet Generator into the Pro version of Hootsuite (hint hint hint!)
Normally, I'd be telling you what's coming up on this week's Freebie Friday but guess what? This Friday/Saturday is Yom HaKippurim which is the #1 single-most holy of holiest Holy Days for the Jewish people. Even for those like me, who don't observe many religious activities the rest of the year, Yom HaKippurim is different. So I'll be "shutting down the blog" so to speak, in honor of the Hag (Holy Day).
For those of you not observing the Jewish High Holy days (and still wanting your freebie weekend reads, please visit the Smashwords catalog or get some great suggestions of free and bargain buys from Pixel of Ink.