10 Guidelines for Sparkling Twitter Conversation
Twitter is hot, but it can seem like a foreign language at first. This is the reason why many people join Twitter and stop using it after a very short period of time. Unfortunately Twitter is not very intuitive and takes some time to understand. The average person is not used to reading and writing messages in 140 character chunks and not used to following a message stream that passes by in a somewhat arbitrary order. While Twitter can transmit photographs and other media formats, it’s mainly a text-based communication channel that provides for many-to-many, one-to-many, and one-to-one interactions.
Basic Twitter Translations
Here are some basic definitions to give a jumpstart to the novice. Once you’re an experienced Twitter user these will become second nature.
- Tweet. A 140 Character message sent using Twitter or a related application. Tweets are broadcasted to your followers and the public at large. These messages can be sent in real time or scheduled for future delivery using an application like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
- Twitter handle is your name and/or identity on Twitter. It starts with an @ symbol. When creating your Twitter handle, minimize the number of characters you use. This is because the characters in your handle are counted against your 140 limit. Keep your Twitter handle similar to your brand or company’s real or nick name or company. For example, my Twitter handle is @HeidiCohen. This doesn’t mean that people can’t hijack a brand with an account featuring a derivative name such as the spoof @BPGlobalPR with over 186,000 followers versus18,000 followers for the official BP_America Twitter handle.
- RT is a retweet. This means that you’re repeating someone’s message. It’s a public message that you rebroadcast to all of your followers.
- DM is a direct message. This is a private communication between you and another person. To use this function, both parties must be following each other. This is why you should follow people back who follow you.
- Hashtag (#) is an agreed upon keyword for a topic or event. Using Twitter hashtags spreads your tweets to a broader audience searching for those words and/or abbreviations. Two of the popular ones are #SocialMedia and #sm. Users prefer short abbreviations because they allow more room for their message.
- URL Shortener is a web service that condenses a long URL into a much smaller number of characters so you can say more about the link in your tweet. There’re a wide variety of options such as Bit.ly. These shortened URLs have the advantage of tracking tweets and views.
10 Guidelines for Sparkling Twitter Conversation
Now that you know the basic language of Twitter, what do you do with your new knowledge? Twitter is like a large dinner party where sometimes you want to say something to a group of people, sometimes you want to talk to one person, and sometimes you want to pick up on something another person is saying. Since Twitter is a communications tool at its core, think about your Tweets as your contribution to an extended conversation that people join and leave. Remember people may read your tweets in real time or pick them up later via various searches or miss them altogether. To navigate Twitter’s informational waters quicker, here’re ten easy steps to help you make your content more Twitter-friendly.
- Source and provide links to interesting information. Change titles to attract participants’ attention. This may differ from the column’s title. Remember, that by posting a title on Twitter, you’re taking it out of context.
- Include the author and blog or publication’s name. A good way to accomplish this is to use the word “via”. Bloggers and other writers like to be recognized so include their Twitter handle.
- Acknowledge an idea’s originator through the use of retweets rather than acting like it was yours. It’s good practice and shows that you’re part of the community. Contrary to what you may think, this helps build your credibility.
- Be retweet-friendly. To this end, keep your tweets well under 140 characters.
- Use accepted abbreviations. Twitter shorthand is similar to texting and it’s a good idea to use it to reduce the number of characters in your tweets wherever possible. For example, use 2 instead of to, too and two and 4 instead of for and four; also use be4 and gr8.
- Break information into bite size chunks. Focus your tweets on one thought at a time. Create a series of related tweets, each with a unique thought.
- Add comments to your retweets. This shows that you’re thinking about what you’re sharing, rather than just passing everything along
- Don’t over share personal information. Remember that Twitter is part of the Internet, so your communications are public and permanent. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. [For more on this, check Social Media’s Social Responsibility.]
- Participate regularly. This way people get to know who you are. Followers are happier when you spread your tweets over the course of a day rather than sending them out in a big lump so that your name dominates someone’s Tweet feed. You can set up your desired Tweet delivery timing by using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
- Don’t just talk about yourself. No one wants to listen to the person who says me, me, me all of the time. Therefore, consider a one to ten ratio of information. Share useful content from others ten times for every time you promote your own content. Exceptions to this rule are special Twitter accounts companies set up specifically to distribute a well-defined steam of content. For example, Target’s Daily Deal.
While Twitter may require a little time to learn the lingo and understand how to contribute effectively to the conversation, it provides value that is well worth the investment.
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Please read more about Twitter’s influence.
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