The advent of social networking as a communication tool was at least as revolutionary as the invention of the telephone or e-mail. I started out on MySpace getting in touch with people I hadn’t talked to since high school. When I finally switched over to Facebook, I got in touch and kept in touch with even more people. Now, with Twitter, I’m even starting to make new friends. Despite my preference for Twitter, it seems like a lot of my friends are reluctant to use it or don’t understand how it works. So here is a whole post about why I like Twitter and how you can like it, too.
My History with Twitter
Before I started writing this blog, I had a Twitter account that I hardly ever used. I followed two or three of my friends and a few celebrities, and I kept wondering why everyone was putting “#” in front of everything they tweeted about. I didn’t really understand the appeal; Facebook was so much more intuitive, and it was easier to keep in touch with people that way.
However, when I started this blog, I read a few articles on how to gain readers, and one of the common denominators in these articles was to have a Twitter account. I logged on to my neglected Twitter and started tweeting a link every time I made a new blog post. Not long after, I linked my Facebook page so whenever I tweeted, it went to Facebook, and whenever I posted to Facebook, it went to Twitter. Now that I have the hang of social networking, I have disabled this feature.
Now that I have the hang of it, I have a decent interactive group of friends, writers, bloggers, and a few publishers that I interact with regularly. I have almost 40 followers, which isn’t much yet, but I have been gaining them steadily over the past few weeks. Personally, I am more interested in the people I follow and the followers who tweet to me than I am in my number of followers.
The Right Way to Use Twitter
Having a personal Twitter account is a great way to keep in touch with friends or keep up on news relating to your interests. For people who are trying to maintain a network of professional contacts, Twitter is indispensable. By not having a Twitter account, you’re shunning a vast network of potential friends and contacts.
- Set up your account. I recommend picking a @username that is close to your real name or the site/organization you want to represent so it will be recognizable. For your profile picture, use a logo or a head shot that will show up when it’s shrunken down to icon size. Fill out the bio with information that will appeal to the crowd of followers you want to attract. As my focus has changed, I have made adjustments to this bio information, and you should do the same.
- Follow some tweeters. Twitter will make suggestions based on your interests. I started with a whole bunch of these, but I have since unfollowed most of them. The more focused your follows are, the more useful your Twitter feed will be to you. Look for your personal friends and follow them. If you regularly visit a blog or website, look for a Twitter link and follow it. Find subjects that interest you and follow the people who tweet about it. If you have a celebrity idols, you can follow them as well. Once you start getting tweets in your feed, if you don’t like them, you can always unfollow.
- Build a following. After you follow some tweeters, some of them will begin to follow you back. Let your other audiences know that you have a Twitter account by providing links to your Twitter account on your blog or website, and if you use other social networking sites like Facebook or tumblr, provide your @username somewhere in your bio page or contact information.
- Keep your followers engaged. Once the word is out, the best way to get even more followers on Twitter is to provide good content and to be interactive. Your tweets should include humor, links, photos, and/or updates that will be of interest to your target audience. Interact by retweeting tweets that will interest your followers, replying to tweets that interest you, or mentioning other tweeters in tweets that are relevant to them and/or your followers. Sometimes, using hash tags (#) will help other tweeters find your tweets as well.
As you continue to interact, you’ll gain followers who will also interact with you, and before long, not only will you have a constant stream of interesting content, but you’ll also have friends you’ve never met.
How Not to Use Twitter
Here are some really great ways to alienate followers:
- Linking your Twitter account to other social networks–At first this may seem really efficient, but the fact is, it’s better to tailor your posts for each social network. You’ll attract different crowds on different social networks, and in many cases, they don’t mix with your other audiences. Facebook is more visual and viral than Twitter, and it doesn’t have the character limit, so Facebook posts don’t translate well as tweets. Twitter’s character limits, hash tags, and mentions don’t translate to Facebook at all, and often confuse Facebook users. Other annoyances include check-ins from Four Square, updates from linked smart phone apps, and game updates.
- Tweeting about things that don’t interest your audience–I made the mistake of appearing as a wholesome family man in my original Twitter bio. After I tweeted a few drinking stories, boob jokes, and other not-so-wholesome content, I noticed that I kept losing my new followers. I made a few adjustments to my bio, and since then I’ve had no trouble keeping followers.
- Spamming your followers with advertisements–If your Twitter account is for a business, nothing turns followers away faster than constantly begging them to spend money on your product. If you do have something to advertise, it’s fine to mention it occasionally. Try to fit it in with something relevant, and make sure it’s of interest to your followers. In between your personal plugs, however, you need to provide other links and content that keeps their interest. And remember: be interactive!
- #fuhbooking–Fuhbooking is how one of my friends describes making up ridiculous hash tags to follow your tweets. Sometimes they’re alright, and even funny, but other times they’re ridiculous. Usually, if I try to use a hash tag, I do a search to see if anyone else is using it. If you have enough followers, sometimes you can make up your own to improve interactions.
- Being an obnoxious troll–Same as everywhere else on the internet, it’s just bad netiquette to start a flame war or send hate mail. If someone pisses you off, either let it go, politely and intelligently express your point of view, or unfollow.
If you want to join me in the Twitter fun, you can follow @TheRealTonyBird. Are there any other Twitter junkies out there? Leave a comment!