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Monday, December 22, 2008

How to User Twitter: 10 Things For All Beginners

...or how to not be annoying on Twitter!

Twitter isn't only a quick-blogging utility, but a social network that connects people all across the net, and even connects bloggers to their readers. That last bit is important, because for some reason folks are much more willing to communicate with you on Twitter than they are on your blog. Perhaps it's because Twitter is easy to use, or perhaps it's because when you're on Twitter you're talking about other stuff and it's an opportunity for readers to get to know you a little better. Whatever the reason, whether your followers or the people you want to follow you are readers, bloggers, random Interwebs people, family, or friends, you need to understand how to use Twitter properly so you don't become one of those folks that just about everyone ignores. The following are some good pointers you should follow when starting your Twitter account:
  1. Don't pick a name that is impossible to remember.
    Sdooiuv2407asdlj is not a good choice for a Twitter name. Seriously. It might have some sort of ridiculous significance to you (or not, if you're a bot), but to the rest of it is says "hey, I don't care that my Twitter makes me look like a poorly coded piece of computer software." Pick a name that allows people to identify with you. Mine is my actual name and others I know use their online aliases or even silly names that are at least readable.
  2. Post before you do anything else.
    Unless you were asked specifically to join Twitter from someone you know, and thus want to follow the person who referred you, do not go around following people on Twitter if you haven't posted. Most people with some sort of common sense will ignore you. You may very well be someone really interesting and worthy of their attention, but think of it like a job interview. If you show up to the interview wearing cheap cologne, a wife-beater, and moldy Dockers, do you really have to wonder why you didn't get the job? You've called and called for two weeks, but nobody has called you back. Why you?
    First order of the day is to post a bit.
  3. Post useful stuff.
    This is a difficult concept, I know, but important nonetheless. While you might read #2 and think, "Well, if I just post ten posts about how I don't understand Twitter, that will count," most people will take that to mean that you either don't care or have nothing interesting to say. The vast majority of us, including myself, started using Twitter without any idea what we were doing. It's okay. But don't expect people to follow you if all you post is annoying "I'm confused" stuff.
    Additionally, when you do start posting more, shall we say, thoughtfully, you should try to make those posts interesting somehow. If you're a funny person, maybe tell a quick joke. If not, talk about something that might be interesting to fellow Twitter users.
  4. Connect your Twitter to your blog.
    This is built into Twitter, which is quite awesome. Do it if you have a blog. It's a great way to get a boost in traffic and to start short conversations through the Twitter network! But make sure to post other things as mentioned in #3.
  5. Do not post loads and loads of links.
    Don't. Period. It's okay to connect your Twitter to your blog (as in #4), but if all you do is post links to things, particularly the same thing, then expect people to avoid you like the plague. It's annoying and probably should be illegal. If you want to spam, fine, but leave all of us alone with it.
  6. Do not repeat yourself over and over and over.
    Yes, you can say things a few times, but if all you do is repeat yourself like a parrot repeats a dying man's final words, then expect people to become annoyed with you as quickly as America gets fed up with its B-list celebrities. Offering the same content repeatedly does not work in the same way as brainwashing. If we didn't like it the first dozen times, we're probably not going to like it the next ten thousand times you try shoving it down our throats.
  7. Follow people with similar interests or people you know first.
    It's best to follow folks you know first (even if it's an Internet acquaintance) and then start looking for folks within your niche. You don't have to follow this one, but I find that following folks you know first proves beneficial for increasing your follower count.
    Additionally, following folks within your niche (whatever that niche may be) produces a lot of dialogue and introduces you to new faces. You don't have to follow a lot of them, which will be discussed shortly, but getting to know folks within your field of interest is a great way of finding people who aren't necessarily interested in the same thing, but share other interests. Such folks can also have nothing to do with your niche, but prove interesting anyway.
  8. Don't blanket-follow on Twitter or anything similar.
    By "blanket-follow" I mean following mass quantities of people all across the Twitter-verse. While it's great to go around finding new friends, it isn't necessarily a good thing. Think of Twitter as being a new form of instant messaging. If you randomly start messaging people, they're not very likely to listen to you and probably will block you, right? Well, same basic concept. Take it easy. Add a few people here or there, but don't add dozens and dozens of them every day. This doesn't apply to people who follow you first.
  9. Learn the lingo.
    Each individual post is a "tweet" and, depending on who you're talking to, Twitter users are known as "Twits." That last one is not an insult, so don't be afraid to use it. There are bound to be all sorts of slang terms I don't even know, and likely new ones will arise in the future. The big ones, however, are the ones you'll see all the time: "tweet" and "Twits." Don't sound like one of those old guys who has no clue what the on-button on a computer is.
  10. Twitter is about dialogue.
    True, Twitter may have been created as a way for folks to post short blurbs about their lives, but it's become much more than that now. The entire point of Twitter is to provide a different way for folks to communicate with one another. If you want to be successful on Twitter, even moderately so, then you need to be active and engaging in conversation. Don't be a social hermit. If you want to be a social hermit, stop coming on the Internet. There's no such thing as privacy on here anyway...
There you have it. Anything you think I should have put on here instead of something else?

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  1. An amazing number of people do 2. I give them the benefit of the doubt and check back a few days later... I'm sure many others just assume they're spammers and never recheck.

    Even a "Hi, I'm new to Twitter and I collect dried poptarts" would be better than nothing.

  2. The problem for me is that I have a terrible memory and telling myself "hey, I'll check them out later" won't work.

    And yes, even saying you collect dried poptarts is better than nothing and much more likely to get me to follow you! Cause that's ridiculous! Dried poptarts? Really?