So you’ve set up your Twitter account with attractive header and profile pics and an engaging bio. What now?
You need to follow people you can interact with in so that they can follow you back. People are unlikely to follow you unless you are actively tweeting, only then can they see who you are and what interests you.
And until you follow a few score people you will appreciate little of how Twitter works because you will see too few tweets.
Finding suitable people whose tweets you’d want to read:
- Twitter suggests people to follow on your Profile Page but check them out first (see ‘Checking’ below).
- Insert ‘hashtag + topic’ (e.g. #history #travel #memoir) in the search window to see who is tweeting on that topic; click on their Twitter handles and see who they are and the sort of tweets they send.
- Click Twitter’s ‘Who to follow’ buttons and check out any that look suitable.
- Go to an interesting Tweep’s Profile Page and click on ‘following’ in their profile to see who they are following, and pick some of those.
- Check out people that follow you and decide whether to follow back (avoid spammers offering ‘get hundreds of new followers’).
- Tweeps with roughly even numbers of ‘followers’ and ‘following’ are more likely to follow you back, but there are people whose tweets you might like to keep up with, even though they are unlikely to follow you in return.
Checking potential followers –
Click on @handles, and click again to get their full profile and timeline. Scroll through to see what they tweet. Click on their website (if they have one) and see if it interests you.
If you regret following someone, no problem, you can ‘unfollow’ at a click.
Seeing tweets you want to read –
The more people you follow, the greater number of tweets stream down your timeline and it is easy to miss ones you particularly want to see, especially if they are in a different time zone to you. You can pick up these tweets by creating a ‘List’ – click on your profile icon to get the drop-down menu and select ‘lists’. Then go to the Profile Page of a Tweep you want on your list, click the symbol on the right of the ‘Follow’ button and select ‘add to list’. All their tweets will appear in your list whenever you choose to look at it, without having to spend too long watching the main stream. You can list a Tweeter without actually following them, and construct as many lists as you wish.
Another time-management technique is to use the ‘Like’ button underneath a tweet. If you see a tweet you want to check later, a link you’d like to read another time, or a Tweep you want to keep note of, click on ‘Like’ and it will be saved in the ‘Likes’ heading of your Profile Page for as long as you wish. To delete it, click ‘Like’ again and it will disappear.
What to Tweet –
Take your time. Observe others for a few sessions and find your bearings. Until you tweet, no one knows you are there, watching and listening like a ghost at a cocktail party.
- You don’t have to tweet every day or make profound, earth-shattering statements in every tweet – you only have 140 characters anyway (now rolling out to 280), you can practise concise writing. Share snippets of information about your interests and comment on tweets you appreciate.
- Aim to balance giving helpful content and supporting others, with your own promotion e.g. tweeting links to your blog posts.
- A general rule of thumb is to work in thirds – a third of your tweets re-tweeting or passing on useful links or information, including links to your own blog; a third on comments/observations about your life, work, environment, or inspiring quotes that may be of general interest, and a third responding directly to other Tweeps (i.e. using their @handle) in brief chats, congratulation, encouragement; remember, you are ‘talking’ to real people with feelings and opinions.
- Re-tweeting (RT) another’s message is helpful to them. But make sure you understand what you are passing on, and always check a link before re-tweeting it, to make sure it works and contains information you would want your followers to read.
- You can RT by clicking the ‘retweet’ button beneath the tweet and add you own comment in the message box above, or be more interactive: click ‘reply’ and respond directly to the sender. This is more likely to generate responses and potentially interesting ‘conversations’.
- If people RT your messages, respond and thank them, or return the compliment.
- And remember to check your ‘Notification’ stream regularly to reply to those sending you @ messages or re-tweeting you.
Hash tags ( #) –
- Twitter gathers hash-tagged tweets and displays them in an additional separate stream. If you enter hashtag + topic in the ‘search’ window of your Profile Page, you see a list of recent tweets and people related to that topic, e.g. #amwriting #food #health. These are useful to attach to a tweet for which you want extra attention, because it will be seen by others who do not (yet) follow you, e.g. when promoting blog posts on my trip to Porto, I added #travel #Portugal
- Check out weekly ‘gatherings’ such as #MondayBlogs, #folklorethursday, #Sundayblogshare, #traveltuesday and contribute content, comments or retweets if appropriate (a useful source of potential new Tweeps too).
- Use hash-tags sparingly because they are ‘live’ in the message and come out paler, making it hard to differentiate from a web link: too many make the tweet hard to read.
Just as you would lock your car, not leave your purse on the shopping trolley while browsing in the supermarket, or accept sweets from strangers:-
- Create a strong password – at least 6 characters in a mix of upper and lower case and numbers – and change it from time to time.
- Always log-out before turning off (from the dropdown menu on your profile), so your portal into Twitter is not accessible to anyone else.
- Be careful how much personal information you reveal in tweets and images, remember not only your followers but anyone can see your tweets and corporations vacuum up data voraciously to sell you stuff later.
- Be wary of links tweeted directly (@) you from people not following anyone and/or displaying no profile pic or bio. These links are usually viruses, spam or otherwise objectionable and you can block the senders or report them for spam. It doesn’t happen often, but they tend to target new users.
- You can mute or block tweeters you don’t want following you by clicking on the symbol to the right of the ‘Follow’ button on their profile page and using the dropdown menu.
- Anyone you are following can send you a Direct Message (DM) which is ‘private’ (but never assume anything over the ether is truly private). This is useful for networking with Tweeps you have come to know and trust, or to exchange email addresses for further discussion.
- Some people never check their DMs, so if you need to send one, it is advisable to tweet the recipient that you are doing so.
- Don’t be tempted to send automated DMs to new followers – it’s annoying and the quickest way to be ‘unfollowed’.
These are a few suggestions to help you start. You will learn more by using Twitter and discovering what the different ‘buttons’ and short-cuts offer, along with a range of programmes and Apps that can help you manage your Twitter account. Read the small print and exercise the same caution in registering for these as you would for any other unfamiliar website.
This post has been adapted from Writing Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming An Author