Thursday, July 26, 2012

Twitter Tips

Smarter, more savvy Twitter users than I have already addressed this topic. Nathan Bransford, for example, wrote a post a year and a half ago about How to Use Twitter. Some of his tips are outdated (Twitter now shortens URL's all by itself), but most of it is still very sound. I especially like his advice on how to start an @ reply tweet: if you want it to go to all your followers, you need at least a period before the @.

For example:
@Robin_Weeks--haha I can't believe you said that!
Will only broadcast to your followers who also follow me.

.@Robin_Weeks--haha I can't believe you said that!
Will broadcast to everyone who follows you.

Did you know that? Well, I didn't before I read Nathan's post. :)

Anyway, I just have a few tips for using Twitter that have really helped me enjoy it and make the most of my time there. If you've been using Twitter for any length of time, you might know these tips already. If not, read on.

On Getting and Keeping Followers
There are these incredible apps you can use to generate thousands of followers fast. They work on the "follow back" premise--that most people you follow will automatically follow you back. These engines will search out people with similar interests and follow them. Then you can just unfollow those who don't follow you, so your following/followers numbers don't get too pathetic. I've seen accounts with literally tens of thousands of followers and they've only tweeted a few hundred times. These accounts and the engines which drive followers to them are also known as SPAM. They must constantly switch techniques to avoid getting shut down by Twitter. They are not interesting and they do not add to the conversation. They are interested in the numbers, not in talking to me. DO NOT DO THIS.

Instead (wait for it)--just follow people you like. Authors, writers, librarians, rock stars you can't help but like. The famous people probably won't follow back unless you actually know them in real life. But really, we don't usually follow famous people because we want them to talk to us (though that is awesome when it happens) or because we think they'll enjoy reading our own Twitter feed (though we can dream). We follow some people because we're voyeurs. We want to see what they say.

Most of the people we follow, though, will want to follow us, too, if we really do have common interests. If they don't follow back automatically, try saying hello. Reply to one of their tweets. Start up a conversation (TWITTER'S MAIN PURPOSE IS TO HAVE A CONVERSATION).

When I first started out, I scoured my friends' twitter friends and followed the ones I also thought were interesting. Today, I'm following almost 400 more people than I have followers. And that's okay.


  • Auto-Direct-Message new followers with a link to your blog or an impersonal welcome message. That's extremely annoying and some people will unfollow you just for that. They followed you because they thought you were unique or interesting... now they know you're not.
  • Dump people who don't follow back. Did you follow them to increase your numbers or did you follow them because you thought they were interesting? Are they less interesting because they take a few days to decide if they want to follow you? Nothing is more annoying than getting a new follower notice, then, a few days later when I have time to see who they are, find that they're not following me anymore. 
  • Worry about who is following you. Just don't. You'll give yourself a complex and that's not interesting.
  • Exclusively use your feed to plug your books, or your blog, or your whatever-else-it-is. That's like asking people to sign up to watch a commercial. Would YOU volunteer to watch commercials? You'll want to plug your stuff, of course, but use care. Twitter shows the most recent three tweets to most people who click on your profile name. If all three are about what they can purchase from you, they'll run away. Make sure at least one (better if it's two) of your last three tweets is something real. A witty observation. A book recommendation (not yours, not a good friend's, just a book you really enjoyed). Something to prove you're a real person and not a spam-bot.
On Lists
If you haven't experienced the joys of lists, do yourself a favor and start now. Following 1500+ people gets to be a lot like trying to pick gems out of a rushing river. Lists help filter the river down to a very manageable stream. You don't have to make your list public. No one has to know who is on what list--or even that you HAVE lists.

That said, I have a couple private lists that I urge you to create for yourselves:
  • Favorite Writer People: These are the people in the writing world whose tweets I don't want to miss. They aren't the thousand people who I followed because they're writers or because I stumbled on their blog. These are people I regularly talk to, or who I've found tweet things that make me laugh. People I'd love to be friends with in real life. I'm VERY selective about who goes in this list so that I don't have to be selective about who I follow. 
  • Favorite Writers: These people I'd still love to be friends with, but I follow them because I love their books. If they never follow me back or even reply to me, that's okay. I just like to know what they're up to.
This is a program you download to your computer that holds all your lists, your contacts, and your direct messages for you. You get to have your lists side-by-side with your regular stream, DM's, and you get to pick which ones are on which screen. You can even have a column with a favorite hashtag, like #YALitChat or #askagent.

That's all for now. Do you have any favorite Twitter Tips you want to share? What bothers you about Twitter (or about the Tweeps on Twitter)? Do you use it or are you still resisting?


  1. I just broke down and signed up for twitter a couple of weeks ago. And I have no clue what I am doing. Moreover, I'm not sure if I want to figure it out. :-) So far I must admit, I'm not really sure what all the hype is about. Love your list suggestion though! I'm going to try that out.

    1. Lindzee: the hype is you can connect with ANYONE, whether they follow you or not. Something fun: turn on the TV to your favorite show (say for example: Project Runway which airs tonight on Lifetime). In the search box on twitter type #ProjectRunway. Now you can see every message anyone on twitter is saying about Project Runway, live as it happens! This is really fun with reality shows and event TV like the Oscars. You can also select a view that only shows top posts about Project Runway or just comments about that from people you already follow. You can do this with any subject as long as you put the # in front of the word.

      Some popular writing tags are #yalit #kidlit #amwriting #pubwrite and #MyWANA which is My We Are Not Alone (as writers) which stems from Kristen Lamb's fantastic blog. You can search any of those topics OR you can add your own tweet with one of those tags. example: "I just finished Mockingjay -- still Team Peeta! #yalit" Not only will your followers see it, but anyone searching the #yalit tag will find it. This is how you connect.

      Lastly, as I take up all the comment space, maybe you ask WHY is this worth it? I've gotten a writing job from twitter, met up with writers at a book event based on twitter and even joined SCBWI and a local writing group because of people I've met on twitter. I reconnected with an old acquaintence who I found out had snagged a literary agent -- I didn't even know she wrote YA books!

      Best of luck; and definitely check out Kristen Lamb's blog, she has lots of helpful hints on twitter.

    2. Couldn't have said it better myself. :)

  2. I love twitter; it's a welcome respite from facebook (in my eyes; though for me they serve different purposes). I really like tweetdeck but it ALWAYS crashes on my phone. Will have to try it out on my laptop; for some reason I never have, I just use regular twitter online.

    1. I didn't even know that TweetDeck was available on the phone. My Android has a twitter app, but I can only see one list at a time. :)

  3. Sometime I'm going to take the time to sort out my folks on more discrete lists, so I can follow them better on Tweetdeck. I've got it but rarely use it, and I need to. But right now on regular twitter, I'm getting feeds from just too many people. And to be honest, most of them I neither know nor have an interest in at this point.

    Am I bad?

    1. You can't possibly be interested in that many people at once. I keep following and occasionally will watch my main feed, but so many people are all about self-promotion. So boring.

  4. Wow! I've had twitter for awhile now and I still feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. These tips were great. I didn't know the whole period before the @ thing. And lists? I've been wishing there was a way to do that. Turns out there is and I'm just dumb hahaha Thanks for these!

    1. Lists will save your life. :) You're very welcome.

  5. Great post! I've recently just realized that more writers are on Twitter than I thought. Is it bad if Twitter scares me? ;) I'll definitely have to use your tips when I get over my fear though!

    1. The great thing about Twitter is that you can ignore it as much as you like and it's still there when you're ready for it. Also, you can lurk until you see something worth responding to and no one knows all the comments you deemed unworthy. Very freeing.

  6. Thanks for these tips! I haven't been on Twitter too long and although I enjoy stalking certain people, I'm not quite sure how to use it. I do despise those auto message!

    1. Twitter is easy.
      Step 1: Follow interesting people.
      Step 2: Read the feed.
      Step 3: Use @ reply (don't forget the period) when you see something funny or interesting.
      Step 4: Tweet something interesting yourself. Or something inane. Or something funny. Or inspirational. Or just say #amwriting.
      Step 5: Make friends.

      See? Simple.