Top 10 Twitter 101 tips & tricks

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Recently I’ve had quite a few friends ask me how to get started on Twitter.  Below is a list of basic Twitter tips and tricks that I use:

1. Build an audience: Follow People

It’s not fun talking to yourself … the good news is that building an audience on Twitter is pretty straight-forward: be relevant, focus on specific topics, but most importantly follow other people.

Typically, if you follow someone on Twitter, they will follow you back. Not always, but typically.  This is a quick way to build an audience and Twitter makes it really easy to decide who to follow by making suggestions:

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The recommendations get better as Twitter learns more about the type of people you typically follow and the topics you tweet about.

2. Organize people into Lists

As the number of people you follow grows you will quickly find it unmanageable to read everyone’s updates.  Twitter provides a concept called a List that you can add people to.  Rather than reading everyone, you can use lists to read only those people who you are really interested in.

For example, you could create a list called Customers and add people that you do business with.

Lists can be public or private.  People can view and follow your public lists, but private lists are only available to you.

Example uses: I have lists for analysts and competitors — yes, I follow them too.  This way I can quickly see a focused group of people to see what they are talking about:

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Competitors, Industry Analysts and Telligent Customers are all marked as private – only I can see the members.  Telligent is a public list managed by Rich Mercer that I, or anyone else can, follow.

3. Tweet like a pro – Hootsuite and other tools

How do you manage all of the updates if you are following thousands of people?  Short answer is: you don’t.  Instead you use specialized software that allows you to better manage lists and the people you follow.

I use Hootsuite, but there are many great options (including those integrated with your iOS device):

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For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on Hootsuite, which is what I usually recommend. With Hootsuite you can manage multiple Twitter accounts as well as other social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, create different views and filters for content as well as a number of other tools for controlling how you consume the Tweet-stream.

One of my favorite features about Hootsuite?  Scheduled updates: the ability to schedule when your tweet gets published:

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You can see that the original link to the post (http://grokable.com/2012/01/top-10-twitter-tips-tricks/) was converted to (http://ow.ly/gA2gp).  This does a couple of things and is covered in tip #8. Hootsuite does this link shortening for you automatically.  Just paste your link into the link box and click the “Shrink” button.

4. Re-tweeting and Commenting

Re-tweeting content is one of the ways that Twitter enables information to spread quickly.  A re-tweet is simply you rebroadcasting someone else’s message to the people that follow you.

For example, you see a tweet by someone you follow and you can re-tweet it on Twitter.com by simply clicking the “Retweet” link:

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you can re-tweet that:

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A couple of things happen here:

  1. @Sitecore gets a notification that they have been re-tweeted - People like to know they are being read and their information is being valued.
  2. You are expanding the audience of the content - When you re-tweet someone you are essentially re-broadcasting what they said to your followers.

Re-tweeting is an important component of Twitter as you can also re-tweet people that you don’t necessarily follow or that don’t necessarily follow you.

In addition to re-tweeting, you should also add commentary on other people’s tweets.  For example:

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This is important because @rkoplowitz will get notified that you mentioned him, similar to a re-tweet.

5. Repeat yourself

Twitter content is in-the-moment and people typically aren’t going back in time to see what you’ve posted.  For important content I will tweet a message multiple times at different times of the day.  For example:

  • 4-6 AM CST to target Europe
  • 10-12 AM to target East/Central timezones
  • 4-6 PM to target West coast timezones

I will not repeat content the same day but will spread it out over a week or two.

Again, tools such as Hootsuite, makes this really easy as it allows you to schedule tweets.  I’ll spend an hour each week scheduling out tweets over the upcoming weeks.

6. Help your content get found: Hashtags (2012 Word of the Year)

From Wikipedia:

A hashtag is a tag embedded in a message posted on the Twitter microblogging service, consisting of a word within the message prefixed with a hash sign.

A hashtag is nothing more than a topic that people are talking about.  When a portion of text is pre-pended with a #, such as #SocialMedia, you can follow that topic:

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When you tweet something your effective reach is your follower list.  If you use a hashtag (the right ones) you are broadening the scope of who sees your content.

For example, let’s say you are in the marketing industry.  People in this industry may use the hashtag #marketing in their tweets.  People will follow this hashtags much like they follow a person.  You can also use hashtags to find new people to follow that are talking about topics you are interested in.

7. Less is more

Twitter posts can be up to 140 characters, but if someone re-tweets you it adds the text “RT ” plus their Twitter handle.

For example this Tweet is 136 characters:

“Telligent’s social business platform helps customers build world class communities to better support their customers http://ow.ly/8EKC3

If someone re-tweeted it, the end gets cut off:

“RT @robhoward Telligent’s social business platform helps customers build world class communities to better support their customers http://ow

This would have been a better tweet using only 94 characters:

“Telligent’s #socbiz platform helps customers build world class communities http://ow.ly/8EKC3

Always try and write tweets like headlines: small, compact, and designed so that someone can re-tweet the full content.  Typically I try to use ~90 characters to make room for re-tweets.

Why is this important?  I’ll find interesting stuff that I want to re-tweet and very often I either have to edit down the original message (not ideal) or I don’t re-tweet the content because the original message can’t be condensed.

8. URL shortening

As it relates to shortening your content there are a number of great utilities (this is built in to most Twitter tools) that will shorten a URL.

For example, the URL to a recent article I wrote for CMSWire is way too long:

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/the-community-is-correct-91-of-the-time-013714.php

Using a URL shortener this becomes something like:

http://ow.ly/8EKC3

If you don’t use Hootsuite, there are plenty of other URL shorteners.  The one that I use is bit.ly (shown below), but there is also tinyurl.com which precedes Twitter.

Just paste any URL into bit.ly, such as:

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/top-three-weekend-reads-the-digital-business-of-2013-018981.php

 

And it shortens it down for you:

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URL shortening serves another purpose too: it allow for tracking the number of clicks.  Bit.ly does an especially nice job at this.  Just add a + at the end of any bit.ly URL, e.g. https://bitly.com/TOsXvn+, and you’ll get a page chock full of stats:

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9. Format your tweets

This is more personal preference, but I believe that if you want people to click on links (drive behavior) you have to make it as easy as possible.

My tweets always follow the same format: [Content] [Hashtags] [Link]:

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Content is always first and the link is always last.

Why? I don’t want people to have to work to find the URL – which is what I want people to click on.  The hashtags exist specifically to help get the content discovered.

10. Have a message / focus

Probably the most obvious tip, but its important to be focused. 95% of what I tweet about is technology related, sometimes about Telligent, sometimes not.

Of that 95% I try and tweet mostly about industry related topics followed by Telligent specific information. The remaining 5% is personal-stuff (just for some added flavor) and that typically is reserved for weekends.

Happy tweeting!


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