15 Things I Learned From My First Year on Twitter

"Twitter Bird in Read Life" by Scott Hampson, Flickr Creative Commons
“Twitter Bird in Read Life” by Scott Hampson, Flickr Creative Commons

I recently reached 200+ followers after a year on Twitter. I’m not sure what grade I’d get for that. (Solid C, perhaps?) To be honest, there’s still a good deal I don’t understand about Twitter and how other people use it.

All I can tell you is how I’ve used it and what I’ve learned, in case you’re also interested in taking it for a test flight.

Have anything to add? Still thoroughly confused? Let me know, and I’ll re-tweak (not to be confused with retweet).

15 Things I Learned From My First Year on Twitter

1. Why even do it?

A variety of reasons:

  • To network.
  • To follow news or topics relevant to your industry.
  • To meet people with similar interests outside of your circle of friends.
  • To have direct communication with experts, stars, icons, etc.

Basically, to become more connected (despite the common misconception of social media to the contrary).

2. You, too, can crack the code.

Don’t be intimidated by what might look like a secret code language. It’s like playing cards: jump in and learn as you go.

The basics are:

  • A # before a word makes it a searchable keyword.
  • A @ before a name sends notice to that person that you’re “talking” to or about them.
  • The weird-looking links are shortened versions to fit Twitter’s 140-character limit. (I use bit.ly to condense links when I tweet them. It’s free.)

3. Why whisper when you can yell?

If the first word of your Tweet is @[name], then that message will show up only for them, not your whole Twitter feed. You can get around this by embedding the @[name] in your comment, or worse case scenario, adding a period before it.

For instance, this:

There is nothing about @jenandkerry that I want to punch in the face. They’re book gods!

Or the “cheater” way, as I call it:

.@everywhereist is geek-astic and possibly even a superhero.

4. Beware the #.

I’m starting to think the whole # thing may actually be a secret handshake to distinguish the vets from the noobs. That doesn’t stop me from using it though. #irrational

Here’s a good rule of thumb in life, as with # key words: less is more.

5. Sometimes less is less.

Condensing a message to 140 characters is a lesson in good writing for some and poor grammar for most.

6. WTF is an RT.

A retweet (RT) repeats someone else’s tweet word for word. If you want to add your own comment, it goes before the RT, which is then followed by the user name of the person would said it and what they said in its entirety (perhaps minus any # keywords at the end, if you’re running out of room). For example:

Amen! RT @MyCastleHeart I can’t wait for the next Dragon Age. Seriously. I can’t wait. Release it already.

You may also see an MT in place of an RT. That means “modified tweet,” I guess, which is generally less fishy than it sounds. It basically retweets what someone has said with a few edits, I assume for length (and not malice).

8. Sip, don’t binge.

Be one with the fact that, as with life, you will never know everything there is to know. Get out of it what you can, when you can. Take it easy. Sample. Enjoy.

9. Talk to strangers.

Contrary to what I expected, it can be fun to meet and share knowledge with interesting strangers from the comfort (and safety) of one’s own computer. Case in point: Bonnie Burton, Keryn Means, and Debbie Reber.

10. Talk back.

You wouldn’t ignore a comment addressed to you face to face. Same holds true on Twitter. As in real life, if you ignore someone, you look rude. Be friendly, and 9 times out of 10, people will be friendly back (versus Halo multiplayer, for instance).

11. Give gold stars.

People love compliments and recognition. Don’t be dishonest about it, but don’t be shy either. Give credit where credit is due.

12. Let the buggy birds buzz off.

Some people are aggressive about getting you to follow them. “I followed you, so now follow me back!” At first I was intimidated into submission, but now I silently give these bullies the cold shoulder.

13. Useless name dropping is just as annoying here as in real life.

There are people who do compilation postings like this: “In this issue of [random subject, presumably a newsletter name of sorts?] @[name], @[name], @[name], @[name], @[name] [link].” Then you go to the link, and there’s nothing even about those people on the page, or there was something a minute ago, but now it’s been changed, buried, or removed.

As far as I can tell they’re Twitter’s equivalent of spammers. Ignore them. Unless you like that sort of thing.

14. Make it manageable.

For example, when I see a Tweet I like, I e-mail it to myself. Then when I have time, I go through a batch and write my retweets, replies, and comments. I simply don’t have time to check Twitter constantly all day. This way. it’s a weekly task instead of a minute-by-minute distraction to my life as mom, wife, friend, and writer.

But that’s just what works for me. Find what works for you.

15. Get help (technological, not psychological).

There are many free tools online, and if you’re a busy (who isn’t?), use them.

I use HootSuite. It allows me to schedule posts, so I can space out topics and reach a wider variety of readers at different times throughout the day. Some people might be turned off by the tactical nature of this approach. Again, with all I have to juggle, I see it as necessary time management.

Most of all, have fun with it! Use it as an entertaining way to meet new people and learn new things. And if you feel overwhelmed, that’s the beauty of technology: you can always turn it off.

Follow me on Google+

5 thoughts on “15 Things I Learned From My First Year on Twitter

  1. I would also add: Follow Back. It’s polite and a good way to increase your followers. Nothing looks douchier than a twitter account with thousands of followers who’s only following a handful of people.

    1. Yes! Great point, Christa. That is super lame. I also forgot to mention that I try to limit my Tweets to 18 less than the character count. Why 18? Because “RT @MyCastleHeart ” adds up to 18 characters, and that way if someone retweets me, I know none of the message will be cut off. S-M-R-T, as Homer Simpson would say.

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