5 Twitter Tips I Don't Like (and 2 I Do)

I have kind of a love-hate thing with Twitter. On the one hand, I've gotten to know some awesome people because of it. Because of my random comments to people, I've found crit partners and even read a soon-to-be published trilogy.

On the other hand, it's too much. Too many people to follow. Too many links to click. Too many tips to "maximize" Twitter. With that, I give you FIVE TWITTER TIPS I DON'T LIKE:

1) When someone follows you, follow them back. An effective way to boost your numbers, but I don't know if it's the best way to use Twitter. When I see someone is following 1,000+ people, I wonder what their "follow" means (aside from, "Please follow me back so I can look more popular").

At some point, all those people you follow become just white noise. I realize there are lists to manage the tweets you keep up with, but eventually your "All Friends" list becomes meaningless because you're only listening to the lists you've made yourself.

2) Stop following inactive accounts. Apparently there are tools for this, but I don't care if someone I follow isn't active. I'm almost grateful! The folks I unfollow are the ones who clog my Twitter stream with tweet after tweet that I don't want to read.

3) Join Twitter chats. I was on IRC back when the internet was just a baby, and while I met some interesting people and learned interesting things, I also wasted a lot of time. Chat rooms--even useful, focused ones like #yalitchat--are attention suckers (and that's without the complex processing required to figure out who is responding to what). I say: "Use, but use with caution."

4) Personalize your Twitter background. Honestly, I don't even notice what people's backgrounds are. When I decide to follow someone, I look at what they're saying and what they add to my Twitter stream.

5) You have to interact with people. It's called "social media" for a reason, right? Well, yes and no. I love having conversations with people, but I'd hate to think people were unfollowing me just because I didn't talk to them (I'm trying to manage life too, you know?). Some people don't use Twitter for conversation at all, it turns out. They use it for (gasp!) news and information. Who knew?

I think I'm just rebelling against the idea that you "have to" do anything on Twitter. None of these are bad things, and they'll definitely get you followers. But followers are not readers. Though to be fair, here are 2 TIPS I'M A FAN OF:

1)  Be interesting and/or funny. It's cool with me if you just listen on Twitter, but if you're going to speak, try to write something people want to read (even if it's just a couple people--that's cool, too). Helpful tip: A list of random people with an #FF or #WW tag is not interesting.

2) Learn to do the previous tip in 140 characters. This is more of a writing tip than anything. When I started trying to write things for Thaumatrope, I discovered all kinds of words and characters I didn't need. You don't have to abbreviate, or use 'u' instead of 'you' (in fact, I wish you wouldn't). You just have to use the same economy of language you're supposed to have in a novel.

Also, Twitter is a great place to craft that one-sentence pitch of your story. If you can tweet it, you can promote it!

Enough out of me. How do you use Twitter? What tips have you found useful (or not)?


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

My twitter etiquette keeps evolving, mostly based on how much time I have to invest in it. I'm definitely leaning toward more news/link usage (both reading and tweeting). I like the idea that Twitter is a Wild West of sorts, and new things pop up all the time. By this I mean REAL new things, not a different flavor of fruit loops for breakfast. For example, I recently stumbled on #FridayReads - you post what you're reading on Friday and they collect the twitter responses into a Top10. Kind of a cool totally-non-scientific pulse-of-the-moment. Which could be a definition of Twitter in the first place.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm rarely on there. I do have fun with it on occasion, but I'm not sure I really get it.

Ken Lindsey said...

I have yet to dip my toes into the Twit-pool, but I feel it coming on soon. Thanks for the tips in advance :)

Myrna Foster said...

I'm not on Twitter, but a lot of those tips could be applied (or not applied) to blogging as well. I don't follow people just for following me, and I certainly don't expect people I follow to follow me. I'm more interested in useful information and constructive interaction.

Adam Heine said...

@Susan: I like that way of looking at Twitter. My use keeps evolving too, as I try to figure out how to fit hundreds of bite-sized updates into my already full infostream.

@Matthew: Most of the time, I feel like I use it differently from everyone else (living on the other side of the world doesn't help). But every once in a while I make a new and awesome friend, and that makes it worth it.

@Ken: Remember, don't do it if you don't enjoy it. There are too many demands on our time for that!

@Myrna: I agree, these mostly apply to blogging as well (or any social media).

Brenda Kezar said...

I love all the info I can find on Twitter, but I've stumbled across two BIG personal pet peeves contrary to the "You should follow back" rule:

1)The follow-me people. Originally, anyone who followed me got followed back (unless they were obvious spammers). I just thought it was a polite rule. But now I check the Twitter feed, and if your Twitter feed is nothing but "Hey follow these people" and "Follow me" and "Team I follow as many people as I can because I never got over high school," then I'm not following back. I need some real "stuff" in your feed (info, snarky comments, quotes, anything)!

2) If you follow me and you've got your Twitter feed locked (private), I'm not following you back. I understand the need for privacy, but if I can't tell what your feed is full of (rants about alien probing, threats against the great chestnut conspiracy, porn?), I'm not following you.

Anything with "social" in the label is going to have rules and norms, but just like I break some of the norms in real life, I'm going to break some in social media. :)

Jenny Hansen said...

Great post, Adam!

I love Twitter (I'm on as jhansenwrites) and as a software trainer, I immediately had to do two things:

- figure out how to save time (for me that answer is Social Oomph and TweetDeck, in that order)
- write how-to guides on the subject. I can't help it...I'm a trainer.

I've been on two months and traffic to our blog has jumped by almost 500%. Plus, I've learned so much and found lots of writing support. In short, I fall on the "Go Twitter" team. :-)

Adam Heine said...

@Brenda: I'm with you on those pet peeves. I can only follow so many people, so I want to know it's going to be worth doing, aye?

@Jenny: I've done the same kinds of things. About half my blog traffic comes from Twitter now.

Andrew Culture said...

Like all new web tech big numbers (followers, friends, hits, whatever) look good at first because we don't know how else to gauge success, but with large follower numbers it's just not possible to interact properly. Therefore when someone new follows me and I see their follow counts is huge I discount them, before I've read them, which is sad.

Adam Heine said...

@Andrew: I think you're right about why we think followers matters (at first). I don't discount folks with a high Follows count immediately, but I admit it colors my view of their Tweeting behavior.

fairyhedgehog said...

I pretty much agree!

I do try to think of how my tweets appear to other people, which is probably why I don't say much!

Adam Heine said...

@fairy: It's probably better to say less and say it well than to overload your tweets with boring stuff. Though it always depends who's following you :-)