To get followed on Twitter, be funny or informative or both.
That was the opening advice from Daphne Gray-Grant in “Becoming a Better Tweditor, One Tweet at a Time,” an introduction to Twitter for those who are not using it yet at Editing in the Age of E-Everthing, the 2011 conference of the Editors’ Association of Canada.
There is an important difference, Gray-Grant stressed, between having a Twitter account and using it. When you decide to use Twitter with more in mind than saying, “yes, I’m on Twitter,” you have to provide tweets that will make readers want to retweet.
“The retweet is what makes Twitter powerful,” Gray-Grant said.
A Fast Course in Tweeting from an Expert on “Fast”
An expert on packing a lot into a little time (she grew up in a newsroom, is the mother of teenaged triplets, and runs a successful business), Gray-Grant offered the following tips to new Twitter users:
- Get a Twitter dashboard (he uses TweetDeck; another one is Hootsuite), which allows you to see your tweets, tweets of those you follow, who’s mentioned you in their tweets, direct messages between those you follow and who follow you, and what topics are trending at a glance.
- Follow hashtags. Anyone can create a topic for people to follow and add to simply by using a hashtag in front of a couple of words (such as #eac2011 for the EAC conference). Search for hashtags to see how often they’re updated and contribute to interesting threads.
- Convey personality by using a photo of yourself rather than a logo, and have it taken against a brightly coloured background to stand out.
- Edit before retweeting to put the tweeter at the end of the tweet and the interesting stuff at the beginning, as in a news story.
- Choose your tweet topics and don’t step outside those areas. Gray-Grant tweets about writing—books about writing, grammar tips, and quotes about writing. Find people on your topic who have interesting things to retweet (she follows @elizabethscraig on writing).
- Set aside a time to write tweets and schedule them to appear throughout the day. Gray-Grant spends 20 minutes in the morning on this using Twuffer (Hootsuite includes this feature), and three minutes in the afternoon posting thanks (e.g., to those who retweet and new followers).
- Use Twitoria. It allows you to see people you’re following whom you haven’t retweeted in a while. “It’s a good way to cut people that you don’t want to follow anymore,” Gray-Grant says (they’re not notified). She never follows more than 100 people at a time, as it becomes too time-consuming.
- Watch out for FF—Follow Fridays—when tweeters recommend people they like to follow.
“Twitter is like a virtual watercooler,” Gray-Grant says. It can help you meet people, network, ask for advice, promote, sell, or simply drive people to any web page you want. As one participant said, “I can tell who has come to my blog through retweets.”
But while Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool, and a fun way to take a five-minute break from your workday, said Gray-Grant, tweeting can also use up a lot of time. Setting basic boundaries and being clear about your goals in tweeting can ensure that you use Twitter to your best business advantage.
[NB: This is the second in a series of five posts showing what a scribe does with conference-style note-taking. The other four include: “In the Age of E-Everything, Editors More Needed than Ever,” “E-Books Offer Exciting Opportunities for Editors,” and “Writing and Editing for the Web: Not for Arachnophobics,”and “Reinventing Yourself: Scary but Exciting.”