One of the things that makes Twitter so great is that there’s always something new to learn.
As the platform expands and new people join and make their impression on others, attitudes shift and what we thought of as norms become relics and clichés. That’s both inevitable and healthy.
But some advice is still golden. Some tips are still wonderful, and some truisms are just kick-you-in-the-crotch and spit-on-your-neck fantastic. And at the very same time, some rules are meant to be broken. Everything is just a guideline. And there’s nothing more important than going it alone. The trick is blending all of that together.
Here are 40 tried and tested Twitter tips.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
- Don’t be intimated. Twitter’s learning curve can be a little steep at first but it essentially boils down to three things which you’ve been doing all of your life: reading, writing and sharing.
- Twitter isn’t Facebook. Twitter isn’t really anything, but whereas the public side of Facebook skews towards being friends with people you know in real life – which you might call ‘friends’ but they’re often, at best, almost-forgotten acquaintances – Twitter is more about making new connections, sharing information and riding the information curve. And after a while, those differences will become obvious.
- That said, everybody needs a mission statement. Why are you using Twitter? What are you hoping to accomplish? What could you accomplish?
- Twitter is a public network. The things you say are visible to all 200m+ users on Twitter (at least, theoretically) and are also tracked by Google and numerous other search engines and aggregators. So, be bold, and be brave, and be remarkable, but also be mindful about your online legacy, which has already started and is about to get monitored even more closely and likely be visible forever.
- All that said, relax. It’s meant to be fun.
- Use a photo of YOU as your avatar. Not a celebrity, not your pet, not your baby and not your partner. You. That’s who we came to see. And we don’t want a close-up of your eye, either. Also, your picture should get bigger when we click on it. Trust me: you’re a lot better looking than you think.
- A tailored background is nice, but not vital. Most people pay no attention and since Twitter changed the profile specs it’s finicky and less important. You can’t add any functionality and given the range of screen sizes out there (PC, Mac, netbook, laptop, iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia 3310) they tend to look like crap (or at least wrong) the majority of the time. Be unique if you can, but don’t sweat the details. A nice tile is good enough for 99.99% of users.
- Fill out your bio. It’s OK to be witty, but not at the expense of clarity. Leave the abstract, wacky bios for celebrities, attention-seekers and good, old fashioned weirdos. And if you want people to get in touch, include your email address.
- If you don’t have a website that you are proud to be associated with, don’t link to it. Avoid shortened links as they make people suspicious. And don’t link back to your Twitter profile – that’s several shades of pointless.
- The rest of your profile settings are personal preference, but I strongly recommend you don’t protect your tweets unless you really, really have somebody out there you don’t want seeing your stuff. And if you do, maybe a public network isn’t the best place to hang out.
- Be polite.
- Be useful.
- Be interesting.
- Be unique.
- Be yourself.
- You only have 140 characters, so make them count.
- Manual good, automatic bad. It’s OK to schedule tweets, but don’t automate anything.
- Despite what you think or other
lousy spellerspeople will tell you, you will be judged by your ability to write, which includes (but is not limited to) spelling, grammar and punctuation. Take a moment to write the perfect tweet. It’s always worth the effort.
- There’s an important difference between crediting others for their work (courtesy) and thanking for retweets (noise/egotism).
- Likewise, don’t be a metweeter.
- Engage, engage, engage. Repeat.
- Want to know how not to get somebody to follow you? Ask them.
- If you tweet it, they will come. Behave in the manner with which you wish to be noticed, and write about the subjects you wish to discuss. (Or do the opposite and crash and burn.)
- All the following systems, Twitter trains and that kind of thing are complete garbage. Don’t waste your time or (in some cases) money. However, mass following people does work. Assuming, that is, you’re happy with a large but empty network of eternal strangers, none of whom are paying the slightest bit of attention to you. Ever. Hey – at least you’re all like-minded.
- Strive for 100 true fans, and be remarkable. The rest will take care of itself.
- Avoid text speak – if you can’t squeeze a proper sentence into 140 characters (or, ideally, less), try, try again.
- Find the balance between being overly negative and happy clappy trappy. Neither camp is enormously popular except with others like them. Don’t be somebody you’re not, but if the real you is a jerk, a sap or a fraud, you should probably work on it.
- It goes without saying, but trolls, bullies, spammers and stalkers are not welcome. (Try MySpace.)
- Act as if.
- Don’t send people automated ‘welcome!’ direct messages when they start following you. We hate that stuff. Again, never automate anything.
YOUR TWEETS (PART 2)
- Become an authority in your niche. Everybody is an expert on something. (And if you’re not, read more.)
- People look for and value consistency. It’s OK to go crazy once in a while, but find out where your middle is. Middle doesn’t mean boring. It means balance.
- The same applies to how often you tweet. After a period of time (usually a few months) you’ll find a natural place where both you and your audience are comfortable with your daily number of tweets.
- You always have a choice in how you behave and react to others.
- Don’t shoot the messenger.
- Always, always, always use bit.ly to shorten your links. It comes with built-in stats (tip: add a + to the end of any bit.ly link to see anyone’s stats for that URL) which are great, but that’s not as important as the fact that bit.ly is trusted by the Twitter community.
- It’s OK to share your own stuff. In fact, I recommend you do it twice per day so you cover the major timezones. For example, I share my content mid-morning in the UK and also mid-morning (late afternoon UK) in the USA (ET).
- If you want to get retweeted, leave enough space.
- If you’re retweeting somebody else, always credit them. And by them I mean the original tweeter – don’t go mad trying to squeeze everybody and their uncle in.
- Even for the Twitter elite, the level of engagement measured by click-throughs and retweets is incredibly low. So relax, and remember it’s all about your long game.
FIVE (FREE) BONUSES
- There is no perfect Twitter client – whatever works for you works. (That said, I recommend HootSuite for your desktop and iPad and the official Twitter clients for everything else. I’m not an affiliate – these are, in my opinion, the best products.)
- Regularly monitor and clear out any dubious applications authorised in your Twitter profile. Don’t be that guy.
- Become a Twitter search kung fu master.
- Don’t be afraid to block people, doing so for the right reasons. But be aware that Twitter’s block is junk. Don’t rely on it to protect you.
- Make Twitter a part of your life, but don’t make your life a part of Twitter. You often do your best thinking offline.
Twitter is a work in progress, and that includes the platform itself and the way that we all use it. Everything is constantly changing. As I said above, there are no rules, and there is no spoon. Knock yourself out. But if using Twitter actively for more than three years has taught me anything, it’s that some things do matter. Some things do count. And some of this stuff is proven. Soak it up, suck it in and push on forward.
(Top image credit: mills21 via Shutterstock.)