Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to be awesome on Twitter

A long time ago (okay, a year and a half), I started a Twitter account.  Tweetdom can be confusing at first, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. 

Now that I'm an experienced tweeter (and an admitted Twitter addict), I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience and knowledge.  After all, what good is this bevy of knowledge doing just sitting around in my brain?

I know, I know--I'm too kind.  If you want to send me chocolates or tea for my troubles, I've got a public Amazon wishlist waiting.

Let's get started!

First of all, to join in the fun, you have to make an account.

Crazy, I know.

When making a Twitter account, you're gonna want to make yourself look as appealing as possible.  This means two things:  1) pick a good picture and 2) write a good  bio.

Now, what constitutes a "good" bio depends on what you're going to be using your Twitter account for.  For example, here's what mine looks like:

I'll probably change my photo to something less fancy when awards season is over.

I like to use my Twitter to network with other bloggers and people in the entertainment industry.  Since I'm not famous, I have to tell people how talented I am.  If you're a famous person already, you can get away with no bio, like Jason Segel here:

Yeah Segel, we get it--you're friends with Kermit!  Stop bragging.  Jeesh.

If you're funny, write something funny or witty in your bio.  If you have an interesting job, tell people about it.  Make people want to follow you!

Don't underestimate the importance of a good profile picture--it shows up next to every tweet you make.  If you're attractive, show us!  If you aren't good-looking, that's okay.  Just put up a picture that says something about YOU.  Make people want to click on it.  Twitter is only fun if you have people reading what you say, and your first impression is paramount to collecting followers.

Next, you're gonna want to follow some people.  Don't know who to follow?

Start with a friend or a fellow blogger.

Follow some celebrities you like.

Are you interested in politics?  Follow CNN Politics or President Obama.

Big fan of 90s sitcoms?  Jodie Sweetin and Mark-Paul Gosselaar are on Twitter.

Follow people who do things that you're interested in.  I follow a lot of writers and directors because that's the field I want to be in.  I follow a lot of other bloggers because I'm a blogger.  See what I'm getting at here?  Twitter:  follow your interests.  It's not just a catchy slogan.

Now, TWEET!  Following some people?  Great!  Now, tweet!  It's amazing how many people miss this step.  If you want people to follow you on Twitter (and why wouldn't you?), then you're going to have to say stuff on Twitter.

Don't know what to say?  Respond to someone else's tweet.  Like this:

By responding to Kati's tweet, I started a conversation that went on for about thirty minutes, all about John Stamos.  It's like a chat room, only public, and since I tagged Stamos by putting an @ in front of his name, he was able to see that tweet as well.

Now, does John Stamos actually look at his @ mentions?  I couldn't say.  I do know that I tweet him all the time, and I've never gotten a response, but then again, I probably make him uncomfortable with my constant adoration and quasisexual innuendo.

That's not to say that celebrities won't respond.  One of the biggest draws of Twitter is that famous people interact with non-famous people all the time.  Observe:

See?  How fun is THAT?

Tagging the people you're talking about (as long as it's not mean) is always a good thing because it opens up the conversation to more people  Last week I tweeted about Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods.  Yesterday his assistant followed me because of that tweet, and today @AndrewZimmern himself started following me!  Yes, the guy who goes around the world eating disgusting local delicacies can now see when I tweet about how I cut my finger on a potato peeler.  How's that for bizarre?

After a while, you won't have any trouble finding things to tweet about.  In fact, you'll have a hard time keeping yourself from tweeting--or at least, that's been my own experience.  Every thought in my head goes through a filter now:  would it make a good tweet?  Usually the answer is no, but sometimes it's a yes, and then I'll tweet it. 

Another good tip:  tweet photos.  People like pictures, and Twitter was pretty much made for smart phones.  Why not take a picture of what you're doing at that very moment (if it's photo-worthy) and tweet it?  I had my landmark 5000th tweet the other night, and I couldn't think of anything profound to say, so instead, I tweeted this photo to commemorate it:

Silly?  Sure.  But it shows you that there is a real person behind the tweets, and that's fun.

Now that you know what to do on Twitter, here's a quick list of what NOT to do:

*Don't constantly tweet celebrities asking them to follow you or to re-tweet you.  It's annoying, not only to them, but also to your followers who follow those people as well.  It makes you look desperate.

*Don't overuse hashtags (#).  Hashtags are used on twitter to identify subjects that people want to talk about, or to get people started talking about something.  You can usually see a list of them on the right of your screen under "trending topics".  Like, right now #questionsIhatehearing is trending, so people are throwing in their two cents on that subject.  That's fine, whatever.  I use them sometimes if I run out of characters for my tweet and I have to squish a bunch of words together to make it fit.  What's REALLY annoying is when people write tweets that look like this:

 That is super-hard to read, and I hate that I even tweeted it.  It's even worse when there are lots of @ mentions and links in the tweet as well.  I usually skip reading those, so don't do that please.

*Don't spam.  Yes, Twitter is fast.  People may miss something you said or a link you put up to your blog.  It's okay to re-post it a few hours later or the next day, just in case.  What is NOT okay is posting the exact same link fourteen times in an hour.  Sometimes this is due to third-party applications auto-posting a link to someone's twitter feed, but sometimes people just REALLY want you to see the same picture of their cat over and over and over and over and over.  Enough!

*Don't #FF every single one of your followers.  #FF means Follow Friday, and it's a hashtag people use to tell other people who they ought to be following.  Some people will post SO many #FF tweets that I'm fairly certain they don't leave out even one of their followers.  Stop that!  It's spamming!

*Don't be mean.  This seems like a given, but a lot of people seem to forget that real humans are actually reading the tweets they send.  If you tweet to Alec Baldwin and tell him that he's got no talent and his kid is ugly, he's going to go ballistic on your ass.  I've seen it happen.  Yes, you may get a reply, but you'll also get flagged for abuse and very likely lose your Twitter account.  Don't be a douche.  Treat people on Twitter as you would treat them if they were standing in front of you.

*Don't be a porn bot.  Seriously, what's up with all the porn bots on Twitter? 

So, that should about cover it.  What are you all waiting for?  Get to Tweetin'!  Just try not to get addicted like I am.  It's becoming a problem.

In fact, maybe you should disregard everything I just said and stay off of Twitter altogether.  Yeah, never mind--save yourself while there's still time!

 (but if you don't, make sure and follow me @terilynnbrown)
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