So with all the buzz about Twitter, from its use in Iran during the elections to our own political class using it from the floor of congress, you’ve started your own account. After playing with it awhile you’ve found some people to follow, interacted with others using the “@” and Direct Message (DM) functions, and have generally started to get into the swing of things. [If not, check out this short video, Twitter in Plain English, by the folks at CommonCraft, for a quick, plain-English introduction to Twitter.]
I wanted to share with you five helpful twitter tips that my own clients often appreciate learning. While nothing can substitute for genuine engagement and interesting content, these little tidbits should help you get some extra Twitter mileage without rubbing your followers the wrong way.
- “@replies” are tweets that start with an @ and then a username. What many Twitter users don’t know is that when you begin a tweet with an @reply to someone, only the people following both you and whomever you’re @replying to will see it in their streams. Just because you tweet an @reply, doesn’t mean all your Twitter followers will see it. However, if the @reply is within the tweet, but not at the beginning, all of your followers will see it. This is why you may notice a period at the beginning of an @reply. That’s a one-character fix-it to ensure all your followers see an @reply, even if they are not following the person replied to. You can also start the tweet with a word other than “@random_twitter_handle” to achieve the same effect. For example, “Hey @socialgumbo, will you write about this?” can be seen by the original poster, by @socialgumbo (me), and by the original poster’s followers.
- If you want to get retweeted more often, try leaving some space at the end of your tweet, rather than using the whole 140 characters. If you leave enough room for your tweet and “RT @YourHandle” you’ll notice your retweets increase. I find that most Twitter users won’t take the time to edit your tweet down enough for that attribution, and you will lose opportunities for retweets.
- Auto-DMs are bad. Very bad. I know it may seem like a great idea to have a private message automatically go to a new follower, but it isn’t. Automatic DM’s are by nature canned and impersonal; and that is not the impression you want to give a new follower. As a matter of fact, when the subject of auto-DMs comes up on twitter the responses usually range from “hate them” and “spam” to other more extreme responses inappropriate for publishing on this blog. Just say no.
- Don’t be a narcissist. If you tweet only about yourself, and most of the links you share are to your own content, your followers will lose interest rapidly. Provide value, be entertaining and share other people’s content. I generally advise shining a light on other people a minimum of six times for every one instance of self-promotion.
- Engage. This is highly important. Don’t just lurk — interact. Ask questions, @reply to interesting tweets, retweet others, etc. You will find that your network of friends and followers will grow organically if you engage with them. Think of it as a digital cocktail party. You’ll wander from chit-chat to involved interactions that often move to a longer form platform such as Facebook or email. Twitter is a lot of small interactions, whose value is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Bonus Notes for Brands using Twitter: Check out the findings from the new 360i white paper on the customer-marketer dynamic. The report emphasizes step five above — engagement:
Companies tend to talk at people – not with them. The opportunity for marketers to become part of the conversation remains vast. For example, many brands use the channel to pass along information, but fail to capitalize on opportunities to truly connect with consumers via two-way conversations.
Here’s a summary of the data from a 360i presentation:
George "Loki" Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.