Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So You Think You Can Tweet

Let me begin by saying that I'm by no means an expert in the world of Twitter.  There are people that have been doing it longer and more successfully than I have.  However, I think I've got a good handle (haha) on it and have had some great success in using it.  I've had a few people ask me for Twitter pointers lately or for help in getting started with it so I thought I'd just compile all my tips and throw them onto this blog post.  Again, I'm no pro so take it or leave it.  But know that I've met some wonderful people and have won quite a bit of shit by using Twitter effectively, so I can't be all wrong! :)  Oh, and this was a brain dump I did over lunch so if I babbled or make no sense I'm sorry!

So you want to use Twitter? Okay, but it's not for everyone!  I tried it once for the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 and fizzled out afterward because I just didn't see a benefit.  I tried a year later and took a different approach and now I'm an addict. Here are some tips that might help as you venture into the Wild West that is Twitter.

  1. Decide in advance what your purpose for using Twitter will be.  Are you trying to reach consumers?  Trying to build a professional network?  Want to be clued in on social and entertainment events in your community?  Want another way to keep in touch with friends?  All of the above?  Knowing your target audience will help a lot.  Generally speaking, it's a good idea to keep your social Twitter side separate from your business side, unless they are tightly coupled.  For example, your customers probably don't want to see your tweets from the Santa bar crawl you were on over the weekend.  Unless, of course, your business is a bar. This is just a guideline.  Obviously, you know your customers best (hopefully) and will know what they can tolerate.  Just keep it in mind.  Also, while you're at it, decide if you want a public or private account.  Having a private account can greatly reduce the number of interactions you have because if you dont approve them to follow you then you don't exist to them.  Nothing wrong with having two Twitter accounts to keep business and personal separate.  In fact, most smartphone Twitter clients support having multiple accounts making it easy to keep up and tweet from both.
  2. Put some thought into your name. It can be tempting to just make something up really fast with the idea that you can always change it later. This is true, but once you have a name and people get used to it it can be confusing for followers. Especially if your followers ever manually type your name instead of letting an app or website populate it for them.  If you do change it, your followers will remain and you won't have to refollow people either.  
  3. Also related to choosing a name, make sure your name is short and sweet if possible.  Remember, tweets are limited to 140 characters.  So, if someone wants to retweet something you've posted but wishes to include a comment they'll have less space to do so if your name is super long.  For example, if your Twitter name is @somehandle, to retweet you, people may append "RT @somehandle your awesome tweet here."  That means that your tweet can only be 126 characters to be fully retweeted.  People may end up modifying your tweets to fit the 140 characters if they have to.  The native Twitter RT function makes this a non-issue by simply reposting the Tweet you wanted to RT with a special notation that it's a RT without you having to actually type RT, but both work.  Also, a pain for those people that type names manually (however rare they may be).  Make it easy for people.  
  4. Twitter will seem pointless and dull to you until you follow some people and start interacting with followers of your own.  Finding your community can be hard.  I suggest that you start by seeking out the Twitter accounts of people, businesses, etc that you enjoy and that are related to the identity you wish to have on Twitter.  Follow those people.  Also, look at who they follow and follow some of them too, if applicable.  When watching tweets from these people come across your timeline, notice who they tweet at and explore their profiles.  If they're interesting, follow them.  Interact with the people you follow and your followers but don't barrage them with tweets.  Keep it relevant and interesting.  You don't want to come across as a spammer.  Once you find a few people that you click with you'll start expanding your network simply by association.  One thing to note, just because you follow someone doesn't mean they have to follow you back.  Some people have a "follow back" rule.  I personally don't feel the need to follow back unless I know their content will interest me.  Otherwise, it's just timeline clutter.  
  5. Learn the jargon.  RT, MT, CC, OH, WTF?  Of course, texting type shorthand also applies such as "LOL,WTF and OMG" but there are some very specific Twitter acronyms and abbreviations that will help as you read the tweets coming across your timeline. The following are only a few, but they'll come in handy.  Google is always available to help you decipher others you may come across.
    • RT - Retweet. This is a way to promote someone else's tweet. Most Twitter clients have a built in RT function. You can choose to simply RT someone's tweet as is or you can choose to add commentary.  Depending on the Twitter client you're using, your ability to tweet with commentary may be limited.  
    • MT - Modified Tweet.  If you want to retweet something but want to cut off or modify part of it you can use the MT instead of RT.  This one isn't as widespread, but it's a nice way to show that what you're tweeting isn't an exact quote.  
    • DM - Direct Message.  If you type "d somehandle" it will send a private message to @somehandle that only they can see.  If you're having a back and forth conversation on Twitter it may be best to move it to a DM. You cannot DM a person unless they follow you. 
    • OH - Overheard.  This is used to capture (usually humorous or insightful) one liners that people hear in real life and want to share on Twitter without attributing an author.  For example, "OH: I can't stop touching these balls!".  Likely, it means something like fuzzy Santa hat cotton balls, but it's funny when taken out of context, so it's quoted.  The point is not to give any indication who said it and to just let your followers figure it out.
    • CC - Carbon Copy.  This functions just like email.  You can use CC in a tweet to make sure it goes to people that might be interested.  It's not necessary, however.  You could just include their handle.
    • #FF - Follow Friday.  On Fridays, you'll see a ton of tweets with a list of twitter handles and a #FF.  This is the hash tag for "Follow Fridays" which is basically a way to tell the world who you think would be good to follow.  This is a good way for you to find new people to follow as you're building your Twitter identity.
  6. Speaking of hash tags, a hash tag is a way to label your tweet so that it can grouped with other tweets about the same thing.  Of course, this requires that you either pick a hash tag out of a list that your client provides of currently active tags, or that you use the exact same tag as someone else.  That's the only way it'll be effective.  For example, most TV shows now have Twitter hash tags to give their fans a way to tweet about the show and be hopefully noticed by other fans and people affiliated with the show.  #Glee is the hash tag you'd use if you wanted to tweet about the show Glee (i.e. "#Glee is amazing this week!" or "I really need this plot line to end. #Glee").  The hash tag doesn't need to be incorporated into the tweet as in the first example, it can be added after as a simple label of sorts. If a hash tag is used by many people you can set up a search filter on most Twitter clients to display a special timeline of only tweets with that hash tag whether you follow the people tweeting them or not. Again, it's a good way to find people with common interests.  This feature is also very handy for festivals or concerts where you want to see what people are saying about it.  Hash tags are an imperfect thing. Not all of them are useful.  You'll notice many tweets that just have random hash tags that may or may not be used by anyone else.  For example, "This class is never going to end. #killmenow".  
  7. Replying to someone on Twitter is easy, but it can confuse people sometimes.  To reply to a person or send them a public message, you simply have to use their handle with the @ symbol.  Replying to a user using their handle ensures that they see the tweets you write to or about them.  Please note that if you start a tweet with a user's handle, it will only show up in the timeline for people that follow you both.  So, if you tweet "@myfriend That show was amazing!", it will only show up in the timeline for users that follow both you and @myfriend.  However, if you tweet, "That show was amazing, @myfriend." The tweet will show up for anyone that's following you whether they follow @myfriend or not.  So, if you want to keep a conversation or tweets out of the timeline of people that don't know or care about @myfriend it's polite to include the recipient's handle as the first thing in your tweet.  Please note, just because the tweet doesn't show up in all of your followers' timelines if they don't follow @myfriend doesn't mean they can't see it.  If they go and look at your overall timeline it will still be visible.  If you want the message to be private, use DM.  
  8. Spam is a pain in the ass.  Sometimes, simply posting a tweet with a particular word can cause a flood of spambot tweets to come your way.  For example, if you tweet something with the word "diet" you're almost guaranteed to get spam reply tweets related to weight loss gimmicks.  When you see a tweet that's sent to you using your handle, it's best not to click on links as they can lead to sites that will give you viruses, phish your twitter account, etc.  A quick way to know if the account is spammy is to look at their followers.  Do they have any? If they have none or just a couple and the tweet smells spammy, block the account and report it as spam.  EVERY time.  If you don't report it you're dooming others to your same fate.  
  9. People post pictures to Twitter all the time.  Recently Twitter built in default support for uploading pictures so no special accounts are needed.  Some clients have support built in for other twitter photo sharing tools as well.  Just play with it and see what happens.
  10. Shortening your tweets can be hard.  140 characters really isn't much, especially when you include a link.  Using a link shortener like bit.ly can help a lot.  Again, many Twitter clients have some sort of link shortener built in.

So, now that you've read all that, if you're not totally scared get out there and make an account!  Oh, and follow me. I'm @yogagirl.  :)


Chung-Ah said...

Thanks for the tips! I'm new to the twitter world and I'm still learning the abbreviations.

yogagirl said...


I'm glad I could help a little. You'll get used to the crazy world of Twitter, it just takes time! :)