Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some Twitter Advice for Newbies, Pt. 3

So, to recap, I posted some Tweets on Sunday morning on Twitter use and was encouraged to compile them in a blog entry. Being an academic, of course, it got expanded into three blog posts. 

The first was Finding people to follow: It's who you follow, not who follows you; the second was How do I get followed? Share, care and be yourself. This last post will just wrap up with some extra thoughts.

Dos & Don'ts: Some tips on best usage of Twitter
  • Do carefully select who you want to converse with.
Unless you are a business who is interested in contacting as many people as possible, carefully choose the people you want to follow. Although there is no right and wrong way to use Twitter, it's greatest use for an individual is to create lasting personal or professional relationships. 

To do that, you can't just Tweet, you need to read other people's Tweets as well. So, pick people who you find interesting! Think of it this way, if you were on Lost and you could pick 100, 500, or 1,000 other people to populate the island, who would they be? 
  • Don't Auto-Follow for the wrong reasons
Auto-Following is a fine philosophy
  1. if you are just starting out (say, 100 followers or less) and are trying to build your account so you have some people to talk to, or 
  2. if you have a huge account (20,000+ followers) and do not have the time to individually check out your new followers. If your account is this big, you don't have time to read the Tweets in your Tweetstream anyway and you are probably just reading @Replies and Direct Messages sent specifically to you.
Mutual, reciprocal relationships are what social networking is all about. But automatically following everyone who follows you is like throwing open your front door and saying, "Anyone who is out on the street at this moment is welcome to come in!" 

You'll get some neighbors popping by but you are also likely to get the lady who picks up aluminum cans for recycling and the guy who wants you to change your account to Verizon. You can also find that person with Chinese restaurant menus coming into your home along with a guy trying to get you to refinance your house.

Being discriminating isn't elitist, your time and attention is limited and you should only follow people who you'd invite in to your Open House: people who you find interesting or entertaining, who you'd like to get to know better or who live in your neighborhood (for me, New Jersey), who are old friends or new friends, or with whom you share common interests (kids, work, hobbies).
  • Do respond to people's messages
You should both respond to direct replies and direct messages as well as go out and comment on other people's Tweets. Otherwise, it's like you're at your Open House, standing in a corner and talking to yourself. This is also known as "broadcasting" which means you are just sending out messages about yourself ("I'm eating dinner", "I'm watching 'Heroes'", "I hate my job") as if you were a TV or radio broadcast. It's also been called being a bulletin board because you are only posting messages. You can use Twitter as a personal diary but why not just use a blog for that?

Social networks are about making connections which means that unless you are some mega celebrity, ignoring people's messages to you is rude. It's like someone putting out their hand to shake yours and you're holding your hand back at your side. Do it repeatedly and you'll probably be unfollowed.
  • Don't pester famous people
It can be tempting to send messages to prominent people on Twitter. It would be flattering to get a response and be acknowledged and sometimes a mention by a celebrity can result in lots of new people checking out your account. But these people can get hundreds of Tweets an hour...there's a chance you might get a reply but if you send a lot of messages repeatedly to celebrity Twitterers the people who follow your account might view you as a little desperate for attention.
  • Do find the best day and time to Tweet
Twitter is a 24/7 social network but the people who are online vary depending on how much time they have to Tweet, their life schedules, and where they live. The people you'll encounter on Twitter at 11 pm on a Friday night (U.S. East Coast time) will be different than the group of people sending messages at 8:30 am on Saturday morning. People also Tweet differently if they are posting from their job than after hours when they are at home in bed with their laptop or on a Blackberry at a restaurant. 

If you are primarily interested in business-oriented Tweets, you will most likely find themposted  during standard working hours. If you are trying to get to know the personal side of some high profile Twitterer, read what they're up to on the weekend.

You can also connect with people in different countries if you Tweet during the times when they are most likely to be active. Since I'm often up very early in the morning, I converse with a lot of Australians because it's evening there. If I only Tweeted in the afternoon, I'd miss them completely. Be aware of the fact that Twitter is a global social network and that different groups of people Tweet on different days and different times of the day/night.
  • Don't Tweet drunk
This was a big issue in Summer 2008 but can also happen these days with people who Tweet from conferences, birthday parties, TweetUps, etc. Drunk Tweeting is very entertaining to those people who read your Tweets but you'll probably be embarassed by it the day after and it can haunt you. Even if you go and delete the Tweets, they are still available for people to see via Search.Twitter. 

If you want to announce to those following you that you are at a great party/bar/TweetUp and these cool people are there, either Tweet early in the evening (before you've had too much to drink) or just talk about it the day after. And while you're at it, you might be careful about camera phone photos that get posted via TwitPic. Once a photo of you is posted on the web, you have no control over where else it gets posted.
  • Do give Twitter a rest
I am an admitted Twitter addict and it is easy to get sucked into constant connectivity. But I've discovered that most people do not appreciate a blizzard of Tweets coming at them, especially if they receive messages on their cell phones. I've seen people who send out 2 Tweets a minute and it easily overwhelms your Tweetstream. I've also noticed, surprisingly, that more people will follow me after I stopped Tweeting for a few hours. I don't quite understand this phenomenon but for your family's sake, your job productivity, your sanity and that of your followers, moderate your usage of Twitter.
  • Don't overuse exclamation marks, smileys or obscenities
By overuse, I am talking multiple use in a single Tweet. Messages like, "Sunshine! I am SOOOO happy!!!!!!!!!" give the appearance that you are about 14 years old or on drugs. Even if you are an accomplished 50 year old publicist, over-the-top positivity ("giggle! giggle!") will result in people not taking you seriously. You don't sound like a professional, you sound like you're at a slumber party. Things that are cute for teenagers to say stop being cute after you've graduated from high school.

It's fine to show emotions, just remember that you are not sending out IMs to your BFF, you are sending out messages that are publicly accessible to anyone with a computer. The same could be share with swearing. An occasional "Shit! I just got a parking ticket!" is understandable. But Twitter's terms of service allow anyone who is 13 years old and older to have an account. It might not be a great idea for them and for any future employer who'll look at your account if it's just a long stream of "F-you!"s.
  • Do explore all of the Twitter clients, applications and tools available to you
Even before Twitter became so popular this year, there were hundreds of different clients available to receive and post Tweets, applications that ranked Twitterers or provided you with trending topics, let you manage your following lists, or let you "Tweet Chat" and see a real-time flow of Tweets on a topic so you didn't need to refresh your screen. A lot of people swear by Tweetdeck and Twhirl but still about a quarter of people use the standard web interface at Twitter.com. 

I'm not going to list recommendations here but I encourage you to try out both old and new Twitter applications that inventive programmers are coming up with. You'll probably find a few that greatly enhance your experience and help you manage the large amounts of Tweets that will soon be flowing in your direction. It is all too easy to find Twitter overwhelming and creative people have come up with clever and FREE ways to deal with that large amount of information sent to you.
  • Don't use an Auto-Follow bot or advertising on your Tweets
I don't know what else to say about this than if I see a message about Tweetergetter.com or Magpie in your Tweetstream, I will never follow you. It says to me that you are either trying to make money off of your Tweets (and I don't want to be a "customer") or you are trying to rapidly build up your follower list and you are basically following anyone with a pulse. The fact that you are following me is not because you've chosen to but because the auto-bot found my name on some following list. It just have easily been my cat's Twitter account.

If all I am is Follower #6285, I'm not interested in talking with you and if people take the time to look at your Tweets, many will come to the same conclusion.

I could come up with twice this many other pieces of advice but this Tweet is already three times longer than a standard blog entry. Please let me know if you found this information useful. Thans for taking the time to read it!


Alan said...

Hi Liz,
I'm still a twitter newbie but your 3 part series of articles was quite helpful and informative. I have a new appreciation and understanding of twitter and its many uses. Thanks so much!

Liz said...

Thanks for your compliment, Alan. I have to work on being more concise (academics tend to use 100 words when 10 would suffice!) but I'm glad you find the information useful.

Victoria Eve said...

Hello, Liz
Thank you, so much for the Newbie advice.

Psiplex said...

Good post! Still trying not to step on toes and get a feel for the community. Liked the advice!

lisa b. said...

Thank you Liz!
You advice makes is professional, practical, and easy to apply.
I will pass it along.