Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How To Look Like You Know What You're Doing On Twitter

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(This is the second installment in my new series Sometimes on Wednesdays I Like To Talk About Blogging.  Except I'm not actually talking about blogging this time.)(LASH ME WITH NOODLES) 

(Part 1, This Is Me, Taking Back All Of That Stuff I Said About Twitter, can be found here.)

(Oh, and if you're on Twitter, feel free to leave your twitter name in the comments so we can all follow each other.)

If you decide to Tweet...

So you've decided to tweet, you have an account, and you understand the basics (put an "@" before someone's twitter name to talk directly to them, put a "d " before someone's twitter name to send them a private (direct) message, and start your tweet with "RT" to re-post something someone else has already said.).  

Now what?

First, upload a picture
There is nothing worse than talking back and forth with the Evil Faceless Bluebird icon.  I'm sure you are a very nice person underneath your pastel birdy mask, but HOW DO WE KNOW?  You could be a serial killer or a robot.  Make yourself seem more like a person and less like a spam-bot by uploading a profile picture so that others have a smiling face to remember you by, instead of the default twitter bluebird pic. And make sure your twitter handle is something that makes sense in conjunction with your blog name/handle, and is something easy to remember, not just 42TWEETIE9388.

Follow a bunch of people
If the point of Twitter is to network and connect with other bloggers (and your mileage may vary on that point), then you need people to connect WITH, including brand spanking new bloggers who you'd like to get to know.

Not sure who to follow?  Find someone you like on Twitter, and check out who THEY follow.  Some of them have whole lists of people you can follow, like "funny bloggers" or "clever tweeps."

Oh, and by the way - you don't have to know someone to follow them. If someone is on Twitter and they're not protecting their tweets from non-approved followers, then they expect (and often even hope) that people will follow them and respond to their tweets.

Use hashtags when appropriate
If you're tweeting about a particular topic, you can include a hashtag (#) to make sure your tweet is seen by people who share your interests and who might be searching for related items.

For example, when I tweet a giveaway, I include the hashtag #giveaway, and subsequently, any Twitter user who searches for "giveaway" will see my tweet. You don't have to use hashtags every time (I rarely do), but when it's appropriate, using a hashtag will make sure interested eyes see your tweets.
You can also use hashtags to find people who are interested in the same things you are (like #LOST or #ROLLERBLADING or #HORRIBLEWAYSTODIE) and follow them. 

Hashtags are also used in Twitter "parties" - where scads of people "meet" at a particular time to tweet about a particular subject, using a specific hashtag.  I tried my first party last night, and frankly, it was sort of like a bad high school flashback - the room was full of people I didn't know, nobody talked to me, and I had no idea what to say to get invested in the conversation. AWKWARD.  (But I probably need to try it again once or twice before calling it.)

Do As I Say, Not As I Do...

I may or may not have broken each and every one of these guidelines at various points in my very short Twitter career.  And some of them I still ignore. Sue me.

Don't use Twitter exclusively to spam people with your personal links
I made this mistake at first, only jumping on Twitter to post links to my latest post or links to my giveaways, and the result was a collective yawn. Nobody cared. 

It's like walking into a stranger's living room and announcing that you'd like to read them a little something from your blog. If you're a virtual stranger, the reception will probably be extremely awkward silence and/or the twitter equivalent of a police escort - UNFOLLOW. But if your followers see you now and then, if they're used to seeing your smiling face, used to seeing you participate, have seen a few thoughtful/useful/silly tweets from you in the past - well then sure, they might take a look at your blog link.

Be sure to occasionally RT other people's tweets, and to tweet other people's blog content
If you are using Twitter solely to self-promote, people catch on pretty quick.  Twitter is a community, so contribute to the community as a whole and not just to yourself - by retweeting items you think are of value. 

Try not to monopolize the conversation...
(...she said, blushing.) Sometimes I get on twitter and my friends are there, and I start jabbering away, tweety-tweet-tweet.  I forget that not everyone who follows me wants to see The Sue Show complete with 500 Tweets O' Nonsense, all in a 60 second period, so that it is impossible to see anything else in their tweet stream. I may be chortling to myself on my end of the keyboard, but other people - maybe not so much.

Sometimes those conversations are best taken to DM (direct message - a way to privately tweet back and forth).  I also try to remember to use a DM when all I have to say in my reply is something that doesn't really stand alone as a tweet, like "thanks!"

(Oh, and by the way, you can only Direct Message people who are following you. Try not to be offended if you find out they aren't. Sometimes they don't even realize they aren't following you, especially if you've just been chatting.) 

Some people frown on using Twitter as a chat room
Not ME, but Some People. Those folks would probably also tell you to TRY not to tweet something in pieces - first 140 characters of your thought, next 140 characters of your thought.  They feel each thought/tweet should be stand-alone and separate, so that someone doesn't have to scroll back through the entire conversation to understand what you're talking about. Personally? I think These People should probably relax.

Keep in mind that it isn't email
People don't always read every tweet sent in their direction, and people don't respond to every tweet.  YOU don’t have to read every tweet. If I tweet at someone and they don't respond, I just assume they're not online.  Or they're online but otherwise occupied. No biggie. If I really need to talk to them, I send them an email.  Twitter isn't like with blogs, where there is all of this assumed reciprocal commenting obligation. Jump on Twitter when you feel like it, and jump OFF Twitter when you feel like it. No need to say "Good night Twitter."  Although many of us (yes, that includes me) just CANNOT HELP OURSELVES. See?

No one asked me to write this, no one paid me to write this. Twitter is my shiny new toy, so I feel like bringing it out for Show and Tell, even though I'm still learning to use it.  That said, I don't particularly care if you use Twitter or not (other than being happy to have new tweeps). Use Twitter, don't use Twitter - that's your deal - so please, no comments about whether or not I've convinced you.  I'm not trying to convince you.  I'm writing this mostly because I wish someone would've pulled ME aside a few months ago, and really explained Twitter to me back when I was all Scoffity McScofferson.

I often hear people explain Twitter by saying it's for giving status updates that are too short for your blog, and sure, that's a possible use, but that is NOT THE POINT OF TWITTER.  Twitter is a great networking tool. People talk on Twitter.  People plan things on Twitter.  People get introduced to each other on Twitter. It's starting to heavily influence what goes on in the blog world - it's even starting to replace comments (someone posts a link to their post, people on Twitter read it and they respond ON TWITTER).

Put simply, I'll quote Gigamom: "If you're not tweeting, you're missing half the conversation."  Whether or not you care about that? Is totally up to you.

OK more experienced Twitter friends - what did I leave out?  

PS:  Don't forget to leave your Twitter name in the comments, if you have one, so that I (and others) can follow you.  Mine is @suelikestoblog
PPS:  My blogroll is temporarily down but will be up again in a few days, all re-jiggered-like.


  1. @jet_set

    One thing people don't understand in the beginning: Twitter is a current conversation, it's happening right now.

    DON'T TALK about things that have yet to happen in other time zones, LIKE TV SHOWS. I hate when I go to Twitter and people spoil my favorite shows by spilling everything that happened. Not cool. A good rule is don't spill specifics until 24 hours after air, UNLESS you've warned people and include "SPOILER" at the beginning of your tweet. Be cool. OK?

    Otherwise, Twitter is awesome. It's like a huge party. Don't forget that people can hear you, it's a huge party where you can hear everyone and they can all hear you. Act accordingly.

  2. Hey, I didn't know about the "d" for a direct message. I've been trying to figure that out forever. Thanks!

  3. You lost me in the first couple sentences with the # and RT and d, but I kept reading and I think I'm catching on. (I'm such a twitter baby.) I really do appreciate your explanations...

    I tried to figure out what my "handle" is. I'm familiar with the love type of handle, but the tweet one, well, like I said, I'm rather naive. I THINK this is it: @mamasminutia but I could be oh-so-wrong. (Now I'm feeling dumb AND shy.)

  4. Oh, thanks for posting this. I've just joined the tweeting world and I'm out there talking to myself. I didn't understand those #hashtags thinks at all.

    My twitter handle is sweettealady. I feel like I sure add "breaker, breaker, good buddy."

  5. Jennifer - That's exactly it. I think I'll change the reference to a handle. (I don't think "handle" is even a Twitter term.)

  6. I'm a newbie at this whole Twitter thing too. For the a long time I swore I would never have a Twitter account, and when I first tried it out I did not understand why on earth everyone though it was so great. Now that I'm getting the hang of it, it's fun! :) Thanks for the tutorial!


  7. Twitter is the bomb diggity! Some days I think that's all I do... others I miss the whole conversation! I like one explanation of twitter calling it a "global conversation" which I totally agree with!


  8. Twitter is fun! Yay, more time-suckage down the internet drain. I love it partly because I can take my friends with me in my pocket (via my smartphone)

    geek out!


  9. I'm @sothethingis

    However, having just realized that I have committed every faux pas on your list --some just today --I am now going to sit in the corner and whimper and NOT tweet.

    No wonder I write in an undiscovered vacuum.

  10. I don't like it. Still. I joined, I tried. Maybe I'm still in my "scoffity mcscofferson" days and I haven't tried hard enough, but I kind of hate that it's a global conversation, and that everyone sees what you say all the time and you can see what everyone else is saying all the time. Do I REALLY need a written record of all that crap?

    Why is it called a hashtag and not a number sign or pound sign? I think that's stupid. Hey twitter peeps - Just say pound, don't make up new phrasology just to be different. Maybe my ignorance is showing.

    But I don't WANT to chat with strangers about whatever, and I don't WANT them to see everything I say, constantly. Call me lame (or whatever the twitter equivalent to "lame" is), I can handle it.

  11. Hey! I think you covered it! I'm so one of those that jumps in a conversation at half-time and expect to play! Lol!

    But great post and I approve it!


  12. Thanks for the Twitter course. You told me things I didn't know and wasn't sure where to learn!

    I think we're already Twitter followers of each other, but for anyone else...


  13. Wiz - I don't think it's lame. It's how you feel about it. I'm being all Let's Get Serious About Blogging these days, and Twitter is an important part of that.

    "I don't WANT them to see everything I say, constantly."

    They only see what you want them to see. That's it. I actually rarely post anything like "I'm eating noodles now." When I tweet, I am usually responding to something somebody said. Most people aren't tweeting about what they had for breakfast. They're talking to each other.

  14. Nice post, I didn't know all of that :) Especially the bit about hashtags was useful to me ^^


  15. @natthefatrat

    And I feel like I break all of the above rules on a nightly basis.


  16. I have to admit, this is making me more interesting in starting to use The Twitter.


  17. @ambrosiat

    I am so glad you posted this. I needed a hand hold as I get used to this whole twitter thing.

    One thing I would add is if you are in need of some serious virtual hugs, twitter friends are AWESOME at that. I hope that makes sense. (Story: last week I found out my little baby has RSV. icky. So, I tweeted it. Immediately my twitter friends were reaching out and giving comfort. Very nice for a mom who is unreasonably anxious. That would be me.)

    Like Nat, I'm sure I break all the rules in one sitting.

  18. Amber and Nat - Me too. I SCOFF AT THE RULES. But also - I realize they exist. :)

    Kristina - GOOD. Because you would be like Twitter fairy dust.

  19. Okay, I signed up because you told me I should. But now I can't figure out how to follow anyone. Betcha didn't think you needed to include THAT in your tutorial, eh? I need the remedial course.


  20. I signed up for Twitter months ago but then no one I knew was using it and I wasn't sure how to find anyone interesting to follow (I have no interest in hearing John Mayer's every thought). So I stopped. But your post last week renewed my interest and I've found some really interesting people since then. Now I just need to work on something interesting to say back. When I do it will be @CherishCoco1981

  21. I've been on twitter awhile now but NOW I get it. Thanks Sue!

  22. I feel like a good portion of that was in Chinese! I'm not a Tweeter. Or Twitterer. Or Twert. Or whatever it's called. IN fact, I just did a post on how I just don't get it. But now you've pointed out a lot of really useful things about Twitter and I'm starting to wonder how long it will be before I'm going to have to eat my words. ACK.

  23. I feel like a good portion of that was in Chinese! I'm not a Tweeter. Or Twitterer. Or Twert. Or whatever it's called. IN fact, I just did a post on how I just don't get it. But now you've pointed out a lot of really useful things about Twitter and I'm starting to wonder how long it will be before I'm going to have to eat my words. ACK.

  24. The first 5 times I logged onto twitter, I had absolutely no idea what was going on and ran screaming for the door (maybe yelling. It was a manly 'YALP'. Yeaaahhh). But after someone explained to me that you have to follow the people the people you follow are talking to to have any idea what they are talking about, it all started to make a lot more sense.


  25. Sue me.


    I know this is juvenile of me, but I find it totally funny when you say that. But only you.

  26. I really enjoy twitter! About to go follow you!


  27. I'm a stay at home mum and spend a good part of the day on twitter facebook and blogging. Pathetic, really. It's not like I have any laundry or cooking to do.

    I have yet to use twitter properly so I think you for your tutorial!

    Oh! My twitter "handle" is mamashake.

  28. I'm on twitter! @rachael1013

    I have been on there more lately and may be becoming more addicted...

  29. All right, I have decided to get my butt in gear and sign up. Oh Twitter, you were once my nemesis, but can we be friends now? Yes?


  30. Anonymous3:05 PM

    So, um, that whispered comment of mine up there is getting in the way of my self-image as a nice and easygoing person. Please ignore my dour grouchiness, brilliant Twitter friends and hashtag humorists.

    (And here's my handle: @imaginaryzina )

  31. Kelly - if you are using straight twitter, you can:

    - Click on the Find People feature up at the top of the twitter page and then click on Find Friends. I would definitely start here.

    - Use the search box on the right hand side to type in their name. Once you find them, click follow.

    - enter to go to their page. Once you see them on the screen, click follow.

  32. Perfect. Like you said it's the ultimate in eavesdropping heaven.

    I'm @mrsorganic.

  33. @bohemiantweeter

    Would be honored to have The One True Sue follow me on Twitter!! :D

    At first Twitter kind of didn't make sense to me, but now that I've been on there awhile it's kinda cool. Now I like hearing the little blurbs from people.

  34. @emihill

    Love Twitter though it can be a time suck. If you tend to get hooked easily, set aside a certain amount of time every day for tweeting. Also, unless your sending a DM (direct message), your convos are public. Plan on people eavesdropping--I do it all the time!

    Join the conversation, don't just tweet about yourself, your posts, your latest Flickr upload. When I go to follow someone and see all they're doing is tweeting their own interests and not replying/tweeting with others/retweeting, I tend not to follow them in the end.

    Love your posts! Very helpful for newbies!

  35. @suedonym

    What Azucar said.

  36. I have made some excellent contact with some pretty amazing brands via Twitter.

    With my niche being special needs it is hard to get the attention of the big boys. It's been much easier on Twitter.

    Hope to be able to meet at CBC!

    Tammy and Parker
    @ParkerMama on Twitter

  37. @clisty

    I read more news on Twitter, so much that I no longer watch the evening news.

  38. I have NO idea how to tweet....NEVER ever have.
    The only time I tweet is "in the shower when perhaps drunk"

    less complicated

  39. Thanks... this is the first time I've been here and this is great! :D I'm glad I found you!

  40. I am horrible at switching over to DM, usually only do it if it is too identifiable information.


  41. Fantabulous. I'm directing a few of my newbie twitter friends this direction! Great overview.

  42. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Great post! I'm just getting the hang of Twitter, which of course means that tomorrow they'll go and change how it works!

    Much appreciated!


  43. Pretty great list. I think one main thing to remember for everyone is that Twitter is what you make of it. If you just want to tweet about Twinkies all day have at it. I may unfollow you but only because I don't like Twinkies. There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter... Everyone just enjoy... and definitely don't get offended. My own brother in law stopped following me. But I can't really blame him. He doesn't want to hear about me takin the nair to my lady bits. And with that... I will end.

  44. Thanks for the info. I usually feel like I'm missing "it" with twitter, but I'll keep trying. ;o)


  45. ". . . blogs, where there is all of this assumed reciprocal commenting obligation."

    Really? Much as I covet comments, the idea of obligatory commenting has always made me cringe. Like when friends apologize effusively for never calling -- and I'm all, Huh, I thought we were still great friends whether or not you ever called.

  46. Hi, I'm @cuteculturechic, and I'm a Twitterholic.

    Great tips! This would have been nice to read when I hopped on Twitter a year and a half ago. I recently posted a list of some of the Twitter "lingo" on my blog, including some very LDS-specific Twitter terms:

    Here's more info for the Twitter impaired:

    Tweeps: Peeps, people, generally a Tweeter that you follow, and they follow you

    Twitterverse: All the Tweeps who Tweet on the interwebs

    Twinteraction: social interaction through Twitter

    Twitterhood/Twitterville: local tweeps, usually found via #hashtag

    Tweet-up: when Twitterers arrange to meet face-to-face. Good for lonely hearts, travellers, sociable types.

    Twitpic: one of many applications that enable you to take a picture on your mobile then zip it straight to all your followers via Twitter

    Twinsomnia: Insomnia sparked by getting too involved in tweeting late at night

    Twirting: Flirting via Twitter

    Twabstinence: Giving up Twitter because it takes up too much time

    Twunkie: A Twitter Junkie

  47. @theMomBabe

    I think you covered it. Of course, I'll probably think of something AFTER I hit publish. (such is life)

  48. You inspired me to sign up for a Twitter account. Of course I am completely lost! I read all of this and still feel lost, lol! I'm sure it will just take a little time :)

  49. Okay, I know I should read this post really carefully and start tweeting now that there's finally a legible explanation of it that could possibly make sense to me, but I can't. I don't know why. I think my tweeter is broken. But I'm filing this post away in my crowded mind so that Someday I can be one of your students and find twitter success.

  50. I'm FULLY with The Wiz on this... but if I ever change my mind and want to be part of the 'global conversation', I'll start by revisiting this post.

  51. cassie11:30 AM

    Feel like I have to get into it, for work, but having only 2 followers is probably not helping me "dive in". Thanks for the info.


  52. is it bad that just the thought of all this makes my heartrate go up? methinks i'll tweetnot.

  53. Hilarious - and I'm going to go follow you now (thanks for RT'ing Amber's tweet about my guest post there. (That was convoluted.)) (Also, I like to do parentheses within parentheses. I have problems.)

    And I have actually been chastised by "Those People" for my Twitter usage. Dude - I am NOT on there as much as Some People. (Not naming Twitter names.)

    (Except for mine: CodeNameMama)

    p.s. Loved your post about Mormons on Sunday, even though I'm not Mormon. I did kiss one once, though.