In the last week I have learned a great deal about Twitter. I have had a Twitter account for a while now but I didn’t use it. In the last week, I have started to use Twitter on almost a daily basis.
As a newbie, here are 20 things I have learned so far.
- Just start: You can not learn Twitter by reading about it, studying the “how to get started” guides, or lurking on sidelines. You must use Twitter, to learn about it.
- Sign up with a short, simple name: 140 characters is not much real estate so keeping your user name short is brilliant.
- Go public: I can’t follow you if I don’t know that you are on Twitter. I know it is scary. Believe me, I was not public for a while because I didn’t want reveal my ignorance about the medium. I soon lost my reticence. Many Twitter users do stupid things on Twitter. Since I have a bit of common sense, unless I’m very sleep deprived, I know I won’t look too foolish. Well, maybe.
- Use a real photo, please! Within a day of going public on Twitter, the bots found me. You know, those creepy, crawly automated pieces of code that wander around the Internet finding unsuspecting users and then automatically follow them. Ugg. I thought I might have left spam behind in email. Not so. Since I am a human and not a bot, I am smart enough to know that “newsinfo9567” is probably a bot user name. But I must say the photo of money flowing out of a wallet was dead givaway. No surprise that I blocked them. I considered reporting them as spam but the evidence was thin for making my case. I’m using a really nice head shot photo in my profile and I appreciate it when others reciprocate by posting a photo of themselves. I give bonus points to those users that switch up their photo once in a while, too.
- Fill in the biography section: When I am thinking about following someone, I want to know who they are, what they are interested in and why are they using Twitter. There is only 160 characters, including the spaces, so again the real estate is small. However, users become really clever and descriptive. It is quite magical.
- Include a location: I don’t need to know your exact street address or exactly where you are going every minute of the day. Please don’t tweet your location every 5 minutes. I just like to know your general locale so I know if you are in my city, province, country or else where. It provides a bit of an orientation and it’s interesting too.
- Include your website or FaceBook page link: I know there are other social sites as well. I belong to LinkedIn, too. It is just another way to know that you are real. Mind you, if these links take me to sales landing page or the FaceBook page is full of cow webs and dust bunnies, I going figure out you are not worth following. That would be a big black X beside your user name, by the way.
- Follow about 75 people maximum: I don’t know about you, but I can’t follow, at least with any kind of sincerity, 168,355 people. Remember, I’m human. So I only follow about 75 people give or take a few. It only took me a week to figure that out.
- Only follow folks that add value: I’m all for using Twitter for business or to show case the latest and greatest gadget, but I also want information, ideas, and inspiration. One of the tricks I learned quickly early, is to follow only one or two really good Twitter users in a particular area or niche. They retweet everyone else’s good stuff and become your filter and triage coordinator. Very cool. So you don’t have to follow 168,355 people to learn about good stuff.
- Don’t follow everyone in return: Remember those bots from lesson number 4 above. Funny thing happens when you get your first ”follower.” The fake follower seems to stick around for a while but if you don’t follow them in return, within a few days they suddenly unfollow you. Poof! When I get a notice that someone is following me, I look at their profile. I check for all the things I’m mentioned above (photo, website link, biography, and location), but I also look at the Twitter timeline: full of promotional stuff; always seem to retweet the same source (@mashable for example); not one original tweet in the bunch? Sorry, I’m not interested. I know that it is suppose to be good etiquette in the twitterverse to follow in return, but much like I select my friends on Facebook and in real life, I’m not going to follow you if the conversation is only about how smart, brilliant, or tired you are. The worst kind of friendship: all you want me around for is to spend money on you. Sorry, not interested.
- Tweet, but not too much: There is such a thing as too much information. I don’t just mean the really personal stuff. I also don’t need to know that you got out of bed this morning (good for you), that you had an awesome coffee at the local coffee house (good for you), or that you are tucking yourself into bed at this very moment (good for you). All it does is clutter up my Twitter timeline. What I am interested in hearing about is that you are following the latest political brouhaha in our provincial legislature and have an opinion about it. Or you just saw the movie The King’s Speech and want to critique its historical accuracy. Or perhaps you read the latest discussions on the demise of blogs and believe it is all hogwash. Excellent. That kind of tweet starts a conversation and a conversation is exactly what I want to have through Twitter.
- Don’t do a hard sell: I’m following some really interesting folks at the moment who have an expertise or business in social media. However, they are starting to annoy me with their incessant tweeting of their latest blog posting or latest product offering, or latest effort to organize a real-life meeting. These type of promotional (and some of the them are pretty blatant) tweets are also cluttering up my Twitter timeline. I know it is a repeat when they say ”in case you missed it.” Come on people. The reason I probably missed it that you keep tweeting about it twenty times a day! Okay maybe you don’t tweet it yourself, but some automatic tweeter is doing it for you. Stop! I mean it. Or else I’m going to unfollow you.
- Retweet: I have come to know that the “retweet” is the Twitter version of “I love you.” You scratch my back by retweeting my stuff and I’ll scratch yours by retweeting your stuff. Perfect. As long as your stuff is interesting and original or it is someone else’s interesting and original stuff, I’m all for it. I guess, I better hold up my end of the bargain and tweet good stuff too.
- Don’t automate: An interesting thing happens on the way to trying to follow 168,355 people or if those same 168,355 people start to follow you. You need to start automating a few things like messages. I have already received a couple of automatic direct messages when I started to follow someone. It was fine. It was nice to have an acknowledgment but it was kind of insincere too. If there had been anything like “see you are interested in chow chows, I love huskies” in the message, I would have felt a connection. I’m not sending automatic direct messages at this point. I don’t think I ever will.
- Links are a beautiful thing especially when shortened: I have all but eliminated my RSS feeds and email newsletters because most people I want to follow will tweet when their latest post or newsletter is out. I click in the provided link and, voila, I’m taken to their blog post, website or newsletter. One stop shopping. Twitter also seems know when you want to shorten a link. As long as those I follow don’t tweet the link 20 times, it’s golden.
- Learn the lingo: I’ve tried to avoid Twitter lingo or jargon in this post. There is an entire glossary if you want to know what something means. Due to the restriction in the size of the tweets, it does become necessary to abbreviate. Good thing Twitter has a way for users to find out what some of the gobbledygook means. I’m just beginning to use the lingo and it is kind of fun. Does that make me a Twitter geek?
- Hash tags are a great invention: I have explored more interests and found more interesting people through the hash tag protocol. There is even a glossary for hash tags. Excellent innovation. I have had the most utility with hash tags in following current events. There is a great deal of fluff in the hash tag world too, but I don’t have click on a fluffy hash tag link and read about it. Unless I’m bored, of course.
- Lists: I’ve already mentioned that I love lists, but I love the lists feature in Twitter for two reasons. I can follow a particular topic area easily without slugging through my main timeline of tweets. I can also see which one or two people to follow that give me the most bang for my Twitter buck. There is an added bonus, if a person makes their lists public, I can have a look around those lists as well. I find more interesting people based on a topic of interest that way. It is kind of like snooping through their reference files. Hummm.
- Limit your tweets to a few really good ones: Similar to number 11 above, I think there is an optimal number of times to tweet in a day. I think one or two maximum is sufficient especially if the tweets are all about me. However, there are times when there is a great deal of exciting stuff happening on Twitter. You want to share it with your peeps! Okay, retweet once. Yes, I’ve only been at this for one week, but I’ve seen surges in some topics already and I feel compelled to share. Maybe there is an optimal number of ”me tweets” to “retweets.” I think 1:4 is about right.
- Twitter has its place: Maybe I’m in the honeymoon phase but I do see the promise of Twitter. However, it really is only one tool in the tool kit. Twitter can be used for good or evil. I want to use it for good and I hope others do too. Limiting its use to once a day at most for about 30 minutes is also a good idea. Twitter can be a big waste of time. If you have things to do, places to see, people to meet, don’t get held up by Twitter. Besides, what are you going to tweet about if you are not living an interesting life?
So here are the twenty lessons I’ve learned about Twitter in a week’s worth of use. I think it is a reasonable list. If you have any additions or suggestions to make, let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I’m off to check my Twitter timeline.
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volume 1, issue 6