Last week, I talked about a couple of ways you can use Twitter in growing your readership, and a number of people mentioned they just weren’t sure how to use Twitter in general. Personally, I love Twitter, but it’s not everyone’s thing, and that’s ok! You will get a lot more out of it if you actually enjoy it. But you definitely have to give it some time before you see the benefits — it’s really more fun when you’ve had a chance to connect with people and follow people who are sharing interesting things. Here are some things I’ve learned that helped Twitter become my favorite social media platform.
Follow people you like
This seems kind of obvious, but hear me out. I think when you first join Twitter, it’s tempting to follow every single person who follows you — after all, you’re excited to have a new follower, and you know how it feels when someone doesn’t follow you back. But Twitter is one place where following people who don’t provide some kind of value to you can get annoying really quickly, and once your feed is overrun with tweets that are annoying, you aren’t going to want to spend time there.
If you feel really bad about not following for follow, or you have a lot of people you want to follow but only a few that you want to check in with regularly, take advantage of lists. There’s a little button in every person’s profile that looks like a little person, next to the follow button, and you can add them to and create new lists from there. Then you can go to your Me tab and access your lists from there, which will pull tweets just from those people. Or, you can use TweetDeck or HootSuite to create columns for those lists (more on that later). Personally, I like the simplicity of Twitter’s site and don’t like the extra steps to access lists, so I’m just more careful about who I follow. I use lists to remember specific groups of people, like fellow bloggers in Oklahoma.
Learn to love mentions, hashtags, and retweets
I think this is where people get super confused when it comes to Twitter. Mentions are how you say hello to people — it’s @MyAwesomeTwitterFriend. If you want to speak directly to someone, start your tweet with @MyAwesomeTwitterFriend. If you want to make sure they see your tweet but also want the people that follow you to see it, put something in front of the mention — it can be as simple as a period, for example, “.@MyAwesomeTwitterFriend shared this great post: http://linkhere.com.” Jessica Hische breaks this down further at Mom This is How Twitter Works (I promise not to judge you if you check it out).
Hashtags, well, I think it’s all about using them carefully, to find information or to make a point. I personally hate to see tweets that are shared links with several topic hashtags — it looks spammy, and do you really talk like that? Think of hashtags as a way of connecting with like-minded people. If you see a hashtag popping up regularly, there’s probably a story behind it — click and find out! Same if you see someone repeatedly using the same hashtag, they are probably participating in a Twitter chat. Hashtags are also the sarcasm font/punch line of Twitter — turn phrases into hashtags for emphasis (this is where things get really funny). Again, more examples on Mom This is How Twitter Works.
Retweets are how you share someone else’s tweet with your followers. I usually like to add my own comments to a retweet to start a conversation, but Twitter unfortunately doesn’t make it easy to do this, at least not on the web. On the iPhone app, you simply hit retweet, then quote tweet, and you can add your own comments. On the web, you will either need to copy the person’s tweet into a new tweet and add your comments followed by RT in front, or use an app like TweetDeck or HootSuite. You will probably need to edit down the original tweet to add your comments, but make sure people understand the basic meaning of the original tweet.
Tweet like you talk, and don’t be afraid to jump in
Twitter is really conversational, and people expect to hear from people they don’t know — this is a place where it’s ok to talk to strangers. If you have something to say, don’t be afraid to say it! Whether you agree with what someone said or want them to know you like the work they’re doing, people on Twitter like to know that they aren’t just shooting things into the air, so respond, and start conversations. Twitter is also a great place for random thoughts you have that show your personality but may not fit on your blog. I mean, I just had a conversation on Twitter about the multi-million dollar homes my grandma and I were plotting to buy in Hawaii, and I’ve had some particularly hilarious conversations about road rage and glamping. A lot of those people are now people I talk to regularly because of those random conversations.
That said, keep in mind you still have to edit. Personally, if I can’t say it in 140 characters, I don’t say it, unless it’s really that important to break up into multiple tweets. And let’s stop with the texting-type tweets, ok? If you spend a few extra seconds before hitting send, you can probably find a way to word your tweets without “u” and “ur.” Also, what you put out there stays out there forever, and while I won’t say you have to be positive 100% of the time, you do have to be mindful not to be too negative. If you’re going to complain about something, keep it relatable and conversation-starting, not woe is me, let’s throw a pity party, and don’t make it a regular thing.
Get organized with apps
Like I said, I usually prefer Twitter’s site and iPhone app, but sometimes you need a little more. I use TweetDeck to keep up with Twitter chats — then I can have columns for my regular feed, mentions, and the hashtag in one place. HootSuite works in a similar manner but also allows you to manage other social media accounts. I’ve also heard great things about Echofon but have never used it. It doesn’t hurt to try them out and see if they work for you!
This goes against popular opinion, but I actually like to schedule tweets for my blog. I think the biggest complaint people have with scheduled tweets is they often come from people who aren’t otherwise on Twitter, so it becomes spammy. I wouldn’t recommend scheduling tweets if you’re still figuring things out, but personally, I’m on Twitter enough that I won’t miss a response, and I have plenty of unscheduled tweets to balance out the scheduled ones. I use Buffer to schedule my tweets — you can set a schedule, queue up a number of tweets, and Buffer will tweet them out in order, so you aren’t constantly entering dates and times (though I do recommend changing up your schedule every once in a while!).
On the other side of apps, many apps and other social media networks let you create your account through Twitter, then they’ll auto-post your updates from that app to Twitter, so check your settings to make sure you aren’t auto tweeting from those. Most people don’t like to see multiple updates from other platforms, especially if they’re already following you there — it feels very spammy. It’s ok to tweet out a Facebook update or pin every so often to remind people they can follow you there as well, but nobody likes to see their Twitter feed taken over by a pinning spree.
There are so many ways you can use Twitter — it’s really all about trying things out and joining the conversation. What are some ways you like to use Twitter?