A lot of people have been asking me lately how to use Twitter. I admit that I’m probably addicted to Twitter, and need to learn how to let go of my phone. While I may be over the top about it, there is definitely value to the site. I’ve written about it before. And I’ve talked about it to my classes. But when people ask you how to use it, sometimes it’s hard to remember all the parts that go along with using Twitter. So, I created a best practice tip sheet for myself and thought it didn’t hurt to pass on to you. This post is a little long – longer than my usual posts – but I tried to cover everything. If you have anything to add to this list, please do so in the comments.
Your Twitter name will also take up characters in your tweets so short names are better. However, your name is also your brand so you want to make sure it represents you. For example, Maura Wall Hernandez, digital editor at the Chicago Tribune has her full name as her Twitter profile because that is her brand. In addition, you want it to be easily remembered – avoid underscores and numbers. Marivic Valencia, owner of Valencia PR owns TechPR twitter name – direct, concise and short.
People will look at your bio when deciding if they should follow you or even allow you to follow them. There is a lot of spam on Twitter so making your bio personalized helps other people to see that you are not spam. Make your bio interesting by adding personal tidbits. For example, I have coffee addict and Lucy the dog’s mom in my bio. It allows people to connect with me on a personal level. Add your website URL in your bio so people can move to another place to learn more about you.
Your avatar is your photo. Make sure it’s a photo of your face – people want to see and connect with a person.
Tweet about information – provide value to your followers. They follow you because they find you interesting and you provide them with value. But don’t just tweet information, also tweet about you. Show them there is a person behind the tweets. People want personality and connection. For example, I tweeted about ice cream:
Ice cream fixes everything. Or I should say Culvers custard does.
Your tweets should be a good mix of information and personality. Give them both. Information without personality is boring, and personality without information is not valuable. Also don’t just sell yourself all the time. Listen (read tweets) and comment. Create and participate in conversation.
Finding people to follow
For starters, follow friends. Then look at who follows them and who they follow. If you have similar interests, then follow them. You can also search www.wefollow.com for people. This site allows you to search by location or category. Make sure you have posted a handful of tweets before finding followers. This gives those people something to look at when deciding if they should follow you back. And it shows that you are not a spammer.
When people use your name in a tweet, that tweet will show up in your mention folder on Twitter. Check this often. And comment back to people who are talking to you. Also check the Retweets folder on your Twitter to see if anyone retweets your tweets. Then thank them for doing so.
You only get 140 characters to work with so it’s important you make the most of your space. There are many URL shorteners available that will take your link and shorten it down to fewer characters. These URL shorteners also provide analytics. I prefer bit.ly the best but there is also ow.ly, goo.gl and a few others. Create a profile on one of these sites so you can have all the analytics for all links posted to Twitter in one place.
You can also customize shortened links so they are easily remembered. For example, I have my website posted in my bio but I’ve used bit.ly so I can track how many people click on the link. And I customized it so people have an idea of where they are going by clicking on the link. So, if you click on http://bit.ly/MaureenAlley you will be directed to my website.
Pay attention to these numbers. Bit.ly shows you tweets, how many clicks, share, comments, likes, referrers. It can also show you what works and doesn’t work. For example, posts to RD+B’s account about tradeshows have done very well – many clicks and tweets. But posts about housing numbers don’t tend to get many clicks – if any. It shows you what your audience likes.
If you like something someone tweeted or think it would be helpful to your followers, you can retweet that tweet. There are two ways to do this. You can click the retweet button under the tweet or you can type “RT @” and the person’s Twitter name, and then their tweet. For example, I recently retweeted something Madison College tweeted:
RT @Madison_College Average Madison College student age: 29.
If I want to add commentary to the retweet, I do it before the “RT.” For example, I recently retweeted something Ryan Olson tweeted:
Ditto RT @redeyery It’s Monday – I’m not gonna lie – I hate you.
If you are going to automatically hit the retweet button, keep in mind that you don’t show up as the person who tweeted it – meaning the person with the original tweet will show up in your followers feed. It’s a brand issue. You want yourself to be in front of your followers so limit the amount of auto retweets and use the manual RT more often. You can also choose the auto tweet when you are limited with character space. So if there is a tweet that you want to retweet but won’t have enough space because you’d have to add RT and the person’s name to the beginning of the tweet, then hit the auto retweet button.
If you want to comment or reply to one of your followers, you type the @ symbol and then their Twitter name – then your message. Keep in mind that the only people who will see this tweet are the person you are replying to and common followers. By common followers, I mean people who follow both of you. In order for other people to see the tweet, add a character before the @ symbol like a period or quotation mark. For example, if I wanted everyone to see my response to Ryan’s tweet about Monday’s, I could type the following:
. @redeyery I hate Mondays too.
Hashtags were originally created as a search tool. You add the pound sign in front of a word and it becomes a searchable link. For example, #Madison. If I click on that in Twitter, it will populate every tweet with that term in it. Use the hahstag for anything that you think people will search for – cities, fields (journalism). But don’t use more than two or three in a tweet because it looks spammer-ish.
You can also find people to follow this way, or find what people are talking about regarding that term. Many companies have started doing Twitter chats which you need a hashtag for. By searching the hashtag set up for that chat, you follow the conversation. For example, AIA has a Twitter chat and they use #aiachat.
Hashtags have also morphed into a way to show sarcasm or be funny in your tweet. For example, I recently tweeted about Britney Spears new song and added a sarcastic hashtag to enhance my tweet:
I drop my head in shame but yes, I did just add “Hold it against me” by Britney to my favorites
on Grooveshark. #dontjudgeme
There are many photo tools out there that will automatically tweet a photo you upload from your PC or phone. Twitpic, Yfrog, Plixi, Twitgoo and a bunch of others are available. I’ve used Twitpic, Yfrog and Plixi. These also give you analytics for the photo – how many people viewed it, if it was retweeeted, etc.
There are many Twitter APIs – tools – that allow you to use Twitter instead of the web Twitter. For example there is TweetDeck, Hootsuite, Seesmic, etc. Some of these are operated in a web browser, others are desktop applications. I like Hootsuite better than TweetDeck but they are both good. I’ve never used Seesmic but it’s a popular one. These APIs also allow you to manage more than one acct at a time – plus Facebook – in one place. Hootsuite also has analytics in it so I can track links that way too but I’ve found that bit.ly works better for that. You can also schedule tweets with these APIs.
Twitter allows you to create lists and add people to these lists. I am on 46 lists which is a lot. Look at the lists you are added to and make sure it represents you. For example, I am on lists about teaching, housing/construction, Madison, and journalism. I also follow lists that I’m interested in which Twitter gives you the functionality of doing.
Linking with other platforms
You can set you other social media sites so your tweets automatically populate on them. These include LinkedIn and Facebook. Do not set up your accounts so every single tweet populates on Facebook or LinkedIn because these sites have a much different atmosphere. Twitter is constantly updated – and you should be updating Twitter at minimum three times a day to stay top-of-mind with people. Facebook and LinkedIn are not that constant. Posts once a day are about average for Facebook and maybe a few times a week for LinkedIn. If you post a lot to these sites you will turn people off and they will unfriend you. However, sometimes you post something on Twitter that will provide value to Facebook and/or LinkedIn. Set up your accounts so you decide when something goes to Facebook and/or LinkedIn. If I put #in in my tweet, then that tweet will automatically post to my LinkedIn profile. And if I use #fb in a tweet, that tweet will show up on my Facebook page.