Using Twitter to build your brand

twitter logo

As anyone with a product to sell or brand to build will know, getting your name known ‘out there’ is the hardest job of all. Whether you’re an author, painter, carpenter, website builder, yoga teacher, or armadillo trainer, getting known, for yourself as well as your product/service is a thankless and laborious task. Unless you have pots of money to give to a marketing firm who will do the work while you sit back and sip your latte, you will have to spend some regular time using the internet.

The operative word here is use. I don’t mean surf, I mean use, make use of. There is a difference. Unfortunately that difference means some time on your ass, typing, but it will be worth it.  For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to concentrate on Twitter as it’s the most intensively used social media for branding, as far as I can tell from daily observation anyway.

I’m going to take it as given that you have a Twitter account that you use regularly and some followers. You will also need a pro Hootsuite account. The pro version doesn’t cost much, less than $10 per month, but you can’t follow this method without it. If you don’t have both of these, go get them and come back here.

One thing worth noting here. I’m not saying that what follows is the best way to approach branding on Twitter, or the only way. It’s my way and I’ve found it less time consuming than other ideas I’ve been told about, and far less expensive.

The secret is CONTENT.

Let’s break things down to simple terms. I want you to do three things. Know my name, know my product, and want to try my product. In order to do this, a lot of people on twitter simply flood their feed with demands to “buy my shit, it’s better than anyone else’s shit.” Of course we all know their shit is probably not better than anyone else’s, and the terse way they bombard us with demands that we buy their shit, puts us off doing so. This type of ‘call to action’ marketing is seldom successful and pisses everyone off no end.

No, what I have to do is let you know I exist first, in a non confrontational way without asking you to do anything for me. I want you to know I’m a nice person, witty, clever, helpful, and have a great sense of humour. It’s the kind of thing you do on a first date. In order to give you the chance to get to know me as a person, I fill my Twitter feed with all sorts of stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with my product. These tweets are known as ‘content.’

You will see this content on your feed, if you are one of my followers, and will hopefully find it interesting, thought provoking, and sometimes funny. You will think, “she’s cool, she’s into the same stuff as me.” Or you might think, “her funny memes are awesome, I think I’ll retweet them.” Then again you might think, “that article she linked to was just what I needed to sort out that problem I was struggling with.” Do you see what’s happening here? You’re beginning to think I’m the dogs bollocks. Because you like me now, you will be more willing to retweet my tweets, and when you finally see one that pertains to my product, a book link, you are less likely to scroll on past.

That is how content works, in a nutshell. So how do we do it? It’s easy really but there is an outlay of work at the beginning, and regular upkeep each week. There are four basic steps.

Compiling your list of content from around the internet.

Making your blocks of tweets.

Producing a csv file in Excel.

Upload the finished csv file to Hootsuite.

The first step is by far and away the most work. It involves trawling the internet for articles, videos, meme’s, blogs, lists, anything you want to include in your content.  It is important to keep your content relevant to your product. If you are a carpenter, you don’t want to post recipes or cute kitties, unless of course they have a funny ‘woodworking’ angle. As a science fiction author, my content is outer space, science fiction, NASA, writing, and everything relevant to my subject. You want to attract people who are interested in the broad subject within which your product lies, so this will help you target your content.

Step two is making up blocks of tweets. I do blocks of six, but you can have any number you like. I would say that four or five is probably as low as you should go. My blocks consist of an article, a list, a video, a quote, a funny meme, and a book link, in that order. These blocks of six are repeated throughout my entire content list. Notice that only one in every six tweets are about my product, my books. This means that my followers can get to know me without the hard sell and when a book tweet comes along, they don’t mind because they know I give them lots of other interesting stuff too.

Next you need to build your csv file in Excel. You will be scheduling your content via Hootsuite, which demands a csv file so there is no choice here. Fortunately it’s easy, just filling in two columns of a spreadsheet in Excel.

Open a blank Excel sheet. You will be using the first two columns only. In column A, you will be putting the date and time of each tweet. In column B goes the tweet itself. The tweet needs to include a link to the article, video, meme, or whatever, and for this you will need to use a link shortener. There are loads to choose from on the internet, but I find it quicker and easier to use Hootsuite’s own.

hootsuite link shortener

If you’ve not used Hootsuite before, above is a screenshot of the tweet input box. Notice I’ve put a URL in the long narrow bit at the bottom? Click ‘Shorten’ and you end up with a nice short link that won’t take up all of your 140 characters.

hootsuite link shortened

You can also add hashtags to your tweets if you wish. Many people on twitter search by using hashtags, so they are useful if you want your tweets to get noticed by people who don’t (yet) follow you. Make them relevant to the tweet itself or you will quickly receive angry tweets from several thousand irate twitterers. Believe me, I know. There is a very useful tool you can use when compiling tweets with hashtags. If you go here you can type in a word and get a readout that tells you how many people use that hashtag.

Excel looks like this:

excel sheet example

I’ve put a block of six example tweets to illustrate how the list is built. Continue building your blocks of tweets, making sure only one tweet per block is about your product/service.

Next you need to decide how often you want your tweets to go out. I do one every thirty minutes throughout three quarters of the day. My tweeting day starts at 10:30am and goes right through to 5am the following morning. I’m in England, so I make sure I catch the folks who stay up late in the USA before breaking it off. We’re 5 or 6 hours ahead here, depending on whether it’s summer saving time or not, so my tweets go out until midnight in the USA and start again at 5am their time.

Build your time preferences into your list. You don’t have to take a break each day, I do because Hootsuite will only schedule a maximum 350 tweets at a time so I can do a week at a time. It also means I can use those tweets in busier parts of the day when more people will see them.

Back to Excel to do column A with your dates and times. This is the part that will require the regular maintenance I spoke of earlier. This is another reason I schedule a week at a time. It cuts down the time spent editing the dates in my spreadsheet.

You have a choice of two date input types. You can either have mm/dd/yy or dd/mm/yy. Whichever type you choose, input your dates and times with date first, followed by time. See my examples in the screenshot above. I’m English so I use dd/mm/yy and mine go like this:

01/01/2016 02:00

Once you have your list, with enough tweets going out at your chosen time interval, for the period of time you want, save the spreadsheet as a csv file. You will notice that there are two choices of csv file, macintosh and MS Dos. I use MS Dos and have never had a problem. I assume that the other one is for Mac users (?). You will get a box pop up asking you if you’re sure you want to save as a csv and saying some features might not work etc etc blah blah blah, click yes. When you go to close Excel, the same box will pop up, click ‘don’t save’ this second time.

Now to upload your file to Hootsuite for scheduling. On the far left side of your hootsuite dashboard, click on the icon that looks like a paper aeroplane. This is Publisher and the place for scheduling tweets ahead of time. Down the page a bit, click on ‘Bulk Message Upload.’ A box will pop up.

hootsuite upload box

Choose your file, click on the date input type and ‘submit.’ Then pray. If there are any problems, they will be listed at the bottom of the box. Basically, it won’t allow more than 350 tweets, duplicate tweets, or tweets that are not scheduled for at least ten minutes ahead. If you get any, go back and check your date and time input, it’s easy to make mistakes in Excel especially when updating week after week.

Make sure every tweet is different, it won’t allow duplicates. This will probably only apply to those tweets pertaining to your product. I have twelve books out, and making forty to fifty different tweets for each one is a huge pain the rectum, believe me. If you want, you can change a full stop for a comma, change a comma for a full stop etc, or change a word or two to make it different, I did this when compiling my lists. Once you’ve corrected any mistakes, your tweets will be scheduled and will go to your twitter as per your instructions.

It is then time to go back into your Excel spreadsheet and edit your dates so that you can reschedule the list. I have three lists of 264 tweets each, which means that apart from my book tweets, all the others are unique and different. My followers don’t see the same tweet for three weeks. Personally, I feel that less than a week between repeats is pushing people’s attention span and patience.

To edit your Excel list, click on the entries in column A and edit them in the edit box. If you look at the example of my Excel sheet, you will notice I’ve highlighted one entry in column A, which has been copied to the edit window right in the middle of the photo.  It’s next to the funny shaped F. Edit your entries in there, click return and it will automatically go to the next one in the column.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Remember to resist the temptation to fill your list with hundreds of “Buy my shit NOW” demands. Keep those to one per block of five or six. Your followers will thank you for it and you will quickly see retweets in your notifications. You will find people add you to their lists, comment on some of your content tweets, laugh at the meme’s. Your followers will get to know you without feeling you’re pressuring them to buy. If they like your content, they might decide to try your product one day.

Building your brand isn’t about getting rich quick. It’s about building your name and brand on firm foundations that will last and grow.


Answering questions and that maddening lack of understanding


I’m having one of those, ‘WTF’ days.

What TF does it take to get my books noticed by the masses?

Where TF should I got to find the ‘perfect’ place to advertise/promo?

How TF am I supposed to get people willing to read my books?

Why TF am I and my work ignored?

and finally,

Why TF don’t I just stop cos I’m obviously wasting my time?

I find this last one is a common occurrence just after I release a novel. It’s a kind of post publishing syndrome I have to go through. There is so much that I see and experience that seems to be telling me to give up, I mean like every day something will happen that makes me realise, ‘yep, I’m wasting my time.’

I’ve seen other writers on facebook talking about their ‘Street Teams’ and what they’re doing for them and how useful and wonderful and incredible they are. Great idea, if you can find people willing to be on your street team. I can’t, of course. No one is interested in being on my Street Team. I tried to get one, I really did. No idea why the lack of interest.

I see people, not always writers, posting about this or that person’s book and how you really ought to read this fantastic book by this fantastic author because your life really won’t be worth living if you don’t. Nobody posts about my books like that. Nobody says that about me or my work. I have several hundred people connected to me on facebook and just shy of four thousand on Twitter, but I never get an embarrassingly sweet repost or mention. I do get one or two, (I really do mean one or two btw) people who repost my cover photo (thank you Theresa and Tiffani and Rebekkah) and I’m hugely grateful for that but it’s a bit like spitting into the wind really. I’ve no idea how to get people to crow unashamedly about me or my work. I’ve no idea how the other writers achieve this. Common sense tells me they pay for it, or the people are family members. I have neither family nor the money to pay people. I guess therefore that this will never happen.

I must interject here because I know people will be saying, “oh well dear,” (really, don’t call me dear, it just makes you look like a poisonous self righteous twat), “if your book is good enough people will shout about it.”

No dear, they won’t. They especially won’t if it is wonderful. If it can ever be considered a rival to their own shit, not only will they not crow about it, they will endeavour to keep it down by any means possible. People won’t read my books, so no one can say they are bad. In order to know whether a work is good or bad, you have to read it first. Just simply being technically brilliant won’t automatically bring readers like some magical force conjured up by a bearded and be-robed Gandalf lookylikey. As usual, you’re argument is totally invalid.

I’ve blogged about the lack of money to advertise several times, so I won’t go there again here.  Suffice it to say that I still have no money to pay for advertising, nor the qualifying number of reviews. I therefore continue to assume that this is not going to happen either.

As I do not know why all of the above is as it is, I have only conjecture on which to base an opinion. There are a couple of possible reasons.

Sheer bad luck.

A personal campaign.


I am willing to accept that much of the reason I spend my life smeared in shit is down to sheer bad luck. Scientists have done experiments about luck and they have found that some people actually ‘attract’ bad luck. I am that soldier, on steroids.

I know and will admit, that there are people within the so called, ‘writer’s community,’ (community? What fucking community?) who hate me, personally and with a passion. I know this is true. You can’t please everyone all of the time. There are some people who will just automatically hate you the moment they set eyes on you. There are people on facebook who I  have pissed off because I tell the truth and don’t subscribe to their imaginary world where they are the best thing since soft loo roll and the bringer of all that is right and good with the world.  I don’t and will never suck your dick or lick your arse unless I genuinely feel you deserve it. Just so we’re clear, I’m 53 and so far nobody has deserved it so the chances of you deserving it are slim in the extreme. Don’t hold your breath love. People hate this about me and hate the truth even more. I can say with complete honesty that I’ve been ‘deleted’ by a lot of facebook folks. They talk to other facebook folks. They pass on their opinions. This goes on. I know it, I’m not stupid.

Even those who seem to be accepting soon prove themselves to be like the rest. They make overtures of help, advice, constructive criticism and when you venture a little further, you hit their brick wall of indifference. For instance, I joined a facebook group where everyone writes little shorts and crits each others work. I have found over the time I’ve been a member that I only ever get a couple of comments, whereas everyone else gets twenty to thirty. I have assumed this is down to some crazy kind of hazing rights of passage probationary shoolyard mindset thing and have put up with it with a smile and gushings of praise to everyone else even when they don’t deserve it (and shit, that has been painful, believe me.) I did however, take the few crits very seriously and re-wrote one of my shorts, after being assured that ‘they’ would “love to see what you’ve done with it,” and compare it with the first version.

Yep, you’ve guessed right (give that person a five pound note and a packet of cornflakes), it has been totally ignored. I mean totally. Not one single like, not a comment, not a ‘fuck you asshole. Nothing, nada, zip.

This kind of thing happens, not only to me but to many other autistic people. It’s the kind of ‘ism we live with every day.

I have a firm belief in destiny and of all three possible reasons, this is the one that has the loudest ring of truth. The universe might just have it in for me. There may be nothing I can do to get my name out of that little black book of ‘people to fuck with for shits and giggles.’ Yes, even the powers that run the universe have their own twisted sense of humour and they have a list of souls whom they use as ‘fuckabout fodder.’ I think I’m at the top of that list.

In all probability, it’s most likely to be a mix of all three. I can do nothing about any of them. I have control of neither luck nor destiny and people will be what they wish to be. If they wish to have a campaign, they will do and I can do nought to change that. I still refuse to buy reviews. I still refuse to bribe people with money and gifts. Don’t wait around here for the chance to win a free kindle honey, you’re wasting your time.

The only thing I can control is what I do and it comes down to one thing in the end.

Do I enjoy what I do?

I enjoy writing. The process of creation gives me much that is and has always been, missing from my life. As an abused child and an autistic adult, my imaginary world makes me feel better and more powerful than this one of yours ever has done and ever will.

I don’t enjoy publishing. I don’t enjoy it because it has proved to be unsuccessful and therefore, a waste of time. People are choosing not to read my books, for whatever reason and this is unlikely to change all the time I refuse to pay them to do so.

The sensible thing to do would be to do what I enjoy and stop doing what I don’t enjoy.

Cyber Abuse – why does it happen and what do we do about it?


The internet is a wonderful tool in so many ways, and there is no doubt that it largely enhances our lives.  From online shopping which makes daily life for the disabled or isolated, much easier, to educational information available to everyone, to online business opportunities, it opens life up to us in ways we never realised were closed before.

As with most things in life however, there is a darker side to the internet, and it seems to be gaining in strength.  There have been several high profile instances of cyber bullying and general aggressiveness, the latest of which is the abuse suffered by Stan Collymore, the retired English football player.  He has been on the receiving end of racial abuse, mainly via twitter, which has escalated into death threats and all sorts of other horrors.

There are two questions that spring to mind immediately.  Why do people do this and what can we do about it?

The first of these questions is multi-faceted, but simple to answer – because it’s anonymous.  You don’t have to identify yourself truthfully anywhere on the internet, and this allows you the safety to behave in ways you would never dream of otherwise.  You can call yourself any name you can think of, you can put any random photo on your profile, and no one need know who you really are.  This is extremely empowering, especially for those people who are socially introverted, and/or too afraid to take part in what used to be called ‘normal social situations.’

Suddenly, we can now spit forth all of the darkest horrors that dwell deep within the most animalistic region of our minds, and which we tend to keep locked away when we have to physically interact with people.  No one in their right mind would walk down the street, see a black skinned ex footballer, and yell the N word at the top of their voice.  The chances are that the aforementioned would come over and nut you one if you did.  We all know this, and, not wishing to invite fisticuffs with another person who might hurt us far more than we are able to hurt him/her, we keep our mouths shut and our kneecaps intact.

Get on the internet however, and suddenly those risks are not there anymore.  We no longer have to risk getting a black eye or broken nose, we can be as horrible as we like and be totally confident that we will always get away with it.  That gives us all a lot of power, but it is a power that causes nothing but pain.

I think there are several underlying causes of this upswing in anonymous aggression.  Firstly, our societies are terribly over populated and our territorial boundaries are being invaded every day as more and more housing goes up, gardens get smaller and more people are being housed in apartments without even a balcony, let alone a garden.  We now have more neighbours, far more closer to us than ever before and we are forced to live in far too close a proximity to everyone else.  Everyone likes their own space, but when your own space is not much bigger than your own footprint, it has a detrimental psychological effect, so much so that there is now a new educational discipline called Environmental Psychology.  People can now study the effects of overcrowding and the way it affects us.

This enforced crowding, leads me to the second reason.  The closer we are forced to live with our neighbours, and the less personal space we are allowed, makes us withdraw from social interaction more than we would have done fifty years ago, in order to try to get some time away from all these people so close around.  This withdrawal does nothing to enhance or develop our social or interpersonal skills, and subsequent generations are much less effective at what I call, compassionate social interaction than people of my parents’ generation was.

Given our dwindling ability to interact in a compassionate way, the dwindling of our personal space, and the enforced ‘close proximity living’ we are all experiencing, the type of interaction offered us by the internet, with it’s anonymity, makes cyber abuse bound to happen.  We now have a platform on which to vent all of the pent up feelings our lives cause us, and knowing that we can say whatever we want without anyone having to know who we are, the temptation to vent forth with our most vicious feelings is too strong for many to resist.

So what can we do about it?

This is a hard one, and one that does not have a simple answer.  We should encourage our younger generation to interact physically more than they do, limit their time on the internet so that real interaction becomes the norm for them, and give them other opportunities to vent their feelings in a way that does not involve hurting anyone else.  Ideally we would all have the opportunity to live in slightly larger personal spaces than we now do, but unless there happens to be a sudden pandemic anytime soon, we are doomed to live shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours.  Education is very important and often overlooked in this particular arena.  Those who have spent many years being educated to a high standard, have not only showed that they have high self discipline, necessary for study, but they often have life goals that involve getting out into the world and doing something with their time and skills.  Under educated inner city no-go area housing estates are often filled with people who have not had such a good education and who have practically no job prospects.  They have more free time in which to sit around and get bored, due to not having a high standard of living, and the temptation to spend hours daily on the internet, and using it as an outlet for all of their woes, is very high.

We need to be teaching the younger generation how to be a compassionate social person in a high density society.  This is where we can blame the parents – us, for not having done our job properly.  Human nature is naturally compassionate, to a degree, but we are also naturally competitive and want to be better than the next guy.  We are capable of great violence and as kids, we need to be taught how to control our selfish urges and live in harmony with others.  With all the educational, racial, cultural and religious differences between us and our neighbours in our new borderless societies, we need to learn how to live and let live.  It doesn’t come naturally, it needs to be learned and we haven’t taught this to our kids.

When it comes to social media, those in charge of these sites need to jump on any wrong doing quickly and deal with it, and this is where they are falling behind.  In all of the recent high profile cases, the social media site(s) involved have done nothing about the abuse.  This needs to change, especially as there have been several suicides resulting from cyber abuse.  The problem for us as users is that we are almost totally powerless to force their hands.  We can email, tweet, post etc demanding they toughen up, but 99% of people, while agreeing, won’t bother to get involved, (another demonstration of today’s lack of compassion for others).

I’ve had a few nasty comments on facebook over the years I’ve been involved with it, and my response is always to go public with it.  I copy and paste the comment, with the person’s name, and let all my followers see it.  I respond not with aggression, but with honesty and openness and show the world who this person is.  Hopefully the ensuing embarrassment will help them to decide not to do it again.  If I get a reputation for always showing the world what you’ve said to me, the chances are you will try to make sure what you say to me is not abusive.  That’s my opinion anyway, and however flawed it may be, it works for me.

I hope Stan Collymore gets the result he deserves, and I hope the twitter bigwigs get off their fat asses and tighten up their response to such crap.  In an ideal world this shit would not happen, but this is not an ideal world, because people live on it.

Twitter & Maurits Escher – Why they are related

It occurred to me that twitter is like one of those Maurits Escher paintings.



Everyone is so busy trying to sell their own shit that they can’t see anyone else is using the site.  They’re so blinkered into thinking they have to shout louder and more often than anyone else that no one actually sees or notices anyone else’s tweets.  Everyone is shouting and no one replies.  Just like in the Maurits Escher picture, everyone is in t heir own version of reality and totally unaware of anyone else on theirs and never the twain shall meet.

If people would just shut the fuck up and read a few tweets, reply to some now and again and even, heaven forbid, get a conversation going, people might start actually interacting.  Then you can start talking about your shit and listening to them talking about theirs and you might just both get a sale.

Everyone should meet on one staircase instead of running up and down their own.


The real face of twitter

I’ve been on twitter for around a year or so.  Not long by many people’s standards but before I published my books there was no real need for the extra burden of different social networking sites.  Actually I did get onto twitter before that but I quickly found it to be useless for actively engaging with anyone, so I stayed away and didn’t use my account until I started self publishing.

And there’s the rub.  Twitter is crap for conversation.  If it’s friends and happy conversation you’re after, stay away from twitter and stick with good old eff bee.  Twitter is for 3 things and 3 things only.

1.  Celebrities

2.  Fans

3.  Advertising your shit.

I’ll take each of these in turn.  Twitter is THE place for today’s celeb’s to let the rest of us plebs know that they are actually real live people and not some cgi invention.  They post their pictures and funny videos and tell us all about what they’re doing on set or in the studio and trade witty repartee with other celebs. They also plug their latest movie/album/book/tv show etc on twitter.  For celebs, twitter is an amazing free advertising bill board and they love it.

Hot on the heels of all the celeb twitterers come their fans – in their millions.  The fans come to twitter simply to try to get noticed by their idol (yes I’ve done that too and quickly realised I was on a hiding to nothing).  Every tweet by their favourite celeb is pounced on and the number of replies skyrockets quickly.    Each one hopes and prays their idol will reply to their tweet and some of them will tweet hundreds of times a day solely to try and get noticed by their idol.  What they don’t realise is that alot of the more major celebs on twitter will  have ‘staff’ doing their tweets, announcing the latest movie/album etc and posting photos ad nauseam.  The chances of getting a tweet by a major movie star on twitter is about the same as me walking outside of my house right now and slipping up in a heap of rocking horse shit..!

I used to be a fan of Dwayne The Rock Johnson and used to tweet hello to him and send him the digital artwork I did of him but I never got a response.  Seeing his tweets and his responses (on the rare occasions when he does actually respond) has put me off him as a person.  He’s beautiful to look at and is good at acting but as a person he sucks.  Thanks twitter, you took my idol from me..!

And then there’s advertising.  Twitter is heaving with people all trying to sell their shit (me included) and each one tweets endlessly about how wonderful their product is and why it’s better than everyone else’s.  That’s all well and good but you see dear, there are no actual customers on twitter, only other crazed sellers who have no intention whatsoever of ever buying your shit nor anyone else’s.  If you’re trying to sell your shit on twitter, you’re wasting your time because you’re not reaching actual customers there.  It took me ages to realise this (I can be thick sometimes) and I sat down and wondered what the heck I was doing flogging my guts retweeting other authors, when the effort doesn’t increase my book sales.

And hard work it is too.  It takes a serious amount of time out of your day using twitter.  You’re expected to retweet people so that they will retweet you back.  I say, supposed, because in practice it doesn’t happen that way.  I spent a couple of hours a day retweeting people and only ever got 3 or 4 retweets in return and half of those I did get were ones where I’d thanked someone for retweeting or said hello to a new follower – all carefully chosen by the retweeter so as not to include a link to my work.

I now go there for just a couple of minutes a day to check for new followers and direct messages but I no longer retweet people.  The number of retweets I got in no way made up for the time I spent or the numbers of tweets I retweeted.  I have my facebook author pages set up so everything I post there automatically goes to my twitter page too so I’m still sort of using it as free advertising.

I prefer to actually interact with people so I stay on facebook.  I have my personal page and my author page and I find it more pleasing to have actual conversations with people than simply dispense links that immediately get lost in the cess pool of other tweets, which no one reads or pays attention to.

Is is just me?  What do you think of twitter?