You're Doing it Wrong: What's the Right Way to Use Twitter?
January 10, 2014 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I've abandoned tweeting multiple times. I've heard that many people "use twitter wrong" and I suspect that I'm one of them. What's the right way to use it?

I get that you are using it wrong if you're just tweeting what you had for lunch, etc. But if I'm transitioning into the marketing field in partifcular, and/or am a comedy/art/design/writing/popculture nerd in general--what is the "right" way to use it? How do I become like those who tweet multiple times a day, seemingly with enjoyment?
posted by oceanview to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
There's no way to "use twitter wrong" - everyone has a slightly different use for it. For me, it's most useful when I'm getting a variety of links and information from a wide variety of sources. I'm really into basketball, data analysis, and information security so I follow people who tweet about those things (as well as some local news feeds). My recommendation is to follow a few hundred people who tweet regularly whose feeds you find funny/relevant/insightful - maybe follow your favorite comedians (everyone on twitter is an amateur comedian), writers, actors, pop culture commentators etc. and pay attention to their tone and style. It took me several months to understand and enjoy twitter, and now it's somewhat indispensable for staying on top of breaking stories relating to my various interests.
posted by antonymous at 2:47 PM on January 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I dont have a complete answer but here is one technique. There are tweet scheduling services (I like hootsuite, buffer is another) . With these you can craft 10 tweets in a sitting and schedule them out over a week. That doesn't put you in "the conversation" but it does give you baseline of talkativeness.
posted by jander03 at 2:47 PM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you enjoy reading what other people have to say on Twitter? Perhaps you should follow the model of the Tweeps that you like best.

Almost all of my tweets are reactions to someone else's Tweet—either a reply or a retweet. It's much more often that I want to react than to post new material to Twitter myself.
posted by grouse at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Those who enjoy tweeting several times a day simply schedule their day's worth at a sitting or two or three. I will tweet about hourly for an embarrassingly long day, using Hootsuite as a scheduling tool. (Others are Tweetdeck and Buffer.)

If you are transitioning into marketing, invest the time to understand twitter - it is easy to be confused by it - but pays handsome rewards.

As true for any media, it's all driven by content. I myself use Twitter mainly as a web-content discovery tool, many times simply re-tweeting links that others have shared. Other times I'll tweet out links I've discovered myself. And occasionally there will be interactivity which can be fun, but of course that means in real-time, and it can be a genuine time-sink.

The benefit is that you can become one of the most knowledgeable people in your chosen field, by just paying attention to a well-curated Twitter feed.
posted by scooterdog at 2:56 PM on January 10, 2014

From a professional standpoint, I think a lot of sportwriters make efficient use of Twitter. From a government standpoint, I follow a NY State Thruway account that simply tweets accidents and then when they are cleared. Very effective for what it is trying to achieve. I follow a bunch of mefites and I can say that @bitteroldpunk is very effective from both an interesting perspective on many issues and from a humor perspective. Some of the folks I follow just link to decent content. I rarely tweet, but I usually am sarcastic when I do. Or, I retweet and maybe add a comment to that.

My point is that the best way to Tweet is to figure out your goal and then work backwards. Is it to convey specific information about your company? Is it to entertain? To break news? To be witty and pithy with family and friends?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:00 PM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

In general, if you are going to ever do "what I had for dinner" or "here's a funny thing" tweets, you have to either accept that you'll have very few followers or make those types of tweets a significant minority of your activity on the site.

I think the key is two things:

Content Creation - adding something to twitter people will actually want to engage with

Sharing Content - being a vector for people to find new content you didn't explicitly create

Very few people are going to see "what I had for dinner" fall under Content Creation, unless they are celebrities or like REALLY fucking creative and hilarious when it comes to that sort of thing. And you have virtually no chance of other people sharing that sort of stuff out into their networks.
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Best" and "worst" are all relative on Twitter, but the people I find worth following have a clear voice and a definitive persona with a specific set of interests or outlook. Make a list of the types of things you feel like are worth writing about or "covering," then whenever one of those things comes up, whether in the news or your personal experience, express your thoughts. It's sort of like covering a beat in journalism, only more immediate. Your Twitter feed can be a glorified RSS feed, just linking to new stuff you post elsewhere (on your own website, blog, or storefront, for instance). It can even be a substitute for a photo blog. But it's much more interesting when you have a personality and a purpose and engage with others.

If you're trying to use Twitter to build a professional reputation and network with people in your field, for instance, you might write about your take on events in or as they relate to it, and/or respond to people you follow in the field with your take on their thoughts. But your perspective doesn't have to be a strictly human one, either. If you're a house ghost on Twitter, for instance, you'd make jokes and respond to current events from the perspective of, well, a ghost floating around a house. If you're a cat, you'd say cat things.

My perspective on Twitter is a human one, but over time, I've kind of developed categories of things I'll post, sort of running miniseries—every dream I manage to remember, every interesting phrase I catch myself misreading (under the header "Misread"), occasional examples of online publishing screwups (under the hashtag #whyqamattersonline) and/or making fun of other publications and PR people (I work in publishing), entertaining things people email me ("Spam subject line of the day" or "PR spam subject line of the day"), free ideas, phrases that Google has yet to capture, verbal snapshots of things I see and overhear in public... I made a list at one point of my favorite types of tweets: "hyperbole, disinformation, mondegreens, small schemes, tiny truths/fictions, epigrams, speculative Google searches, unspoken conversations, notes on why QA matters online."

You don't have to be consistent, but it can definitely be more fun that way.
posted by limeonaire at 4:28 PM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

A cocktail party is a useful metaphor. Hopefully there are some people you know at the party. Follow them. And then follow some people you want to know or even celebrity types. And some news sources if you're into that.

So now you have metaphorically sidled up to (followed) people who seem to be having an interesting conversation. Now, just like at a cocktail party, listen to their conversation, use your people skills to note what they're talking about and how they're talking about it, and then jump in to that conversation.

Then when one of your friends makes a funny joke, respond. Tweet some links to stuff you read that you found interesting. Retweet or favorite some other people's tweets that you find interesting or funny. Reply to a remark with a comment of your own.

Conversations on Twitter are weird and stop and start and go off into jokes and 1:1 tangents and it's hard to have a conversation with more than 2-3 people at once. Go with that. Nothing's wrong. Repeat as necessary. Follow some of your friends' friends and you'll start to see their chitchat too.

Just like at a party or networking event, don't be that person that is always trying to hand out your card or sell Amway or something as an opening gambit. That's obnoxious online or offline. Talk first like a human being.

Boom. You're having a good cocktail party time on Twitter.
posted by troyer at 4:31 PM on January 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm a professional Tweeter. My tweets only relate to my work - and they're a very important aspect of my work and my professional conversation. I have a focused use, and I recommend a focused use of this service. Here are my rules:

Follow very, very few people. Only people you find really interesting and significant - and ideally, people who post the most links to things - larger discussions - you find really interesting.

Don't follow more people than you can digest in a half-hour's worth of scanning your feed.

If they never seem to post anything that makes you want to respond, retweet, or clickthrough, stop following them.

Let as many people as you want follow you. Your followers are where you build your importance on Twitter. Put your handle on your business cards and in your email sig.

Retweet rarely - maybe once a day, a few times a week. Make sure it's something you think is really valuable to people in your line of work or field of taste, something that's going to be important in the ongoing development of that field. Be a very discriminating curator of what you tweet.

Don't read your feed more than once or maybe twice a day.
posted by Miko at 6:16 PM on January 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have two Twitter accounts and I use them differently, in terms of both what I post and what I subscribe to. One is dedicated to a single interest of mine (photography). Everything I post there is related to photography, and I subscribe to hundreds of other photo-related accounts so I get a feed filled with that kind of stuff.

The drawback is that once you follow more than, say, fifty different Twitter feeds, you can't guarantee that you'll see everything posted by each of them. So I maintain a separate Twitter account just for friends and family. I post whatever I might feel like—something related to my job, personal stuff, reactions to sports, etc—but more importantly, I only subscribe to feeds of people I know. That way, I don't miss my actual friends' tweets in a deluge of strangers and news sources.

So you might consider doing something similar: if there are different, incompatible ways you'd like to use Twitter, you can.
posted by cribcage at 6:21 PM on January 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

This thread is a great example of why you should get over trying to do Twitter the "right" way. That's what makes Twitter both maddening and marvelous. I'm also a "professional" Tweeter, but I actually do Twitter very differently than a lot of the advice given here in this thread -- I follow thousands of people, I retweet all the time, I never schedule tweets, etc. You have to figure out what works for you, your community, and your goals.

Twitter is like swimming in that way. It's pretty experiential. All the thinking about it before you try it is pretty meaningless until you jump in and start splashing.
posted by troyer at 6:55 PM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love Twitter. But the main reason I love Twitter because of the professional network I've developed over the last few years. I am a high school English teacher, and I primarily use Twitter to meet other teachers. The number of smart, connected, generous teachers I've met through Twitter is staggering. Hell, I met my best friend on Twitter. The people I talk to most often are all people I met on Twitter. I'm going to hang out with someone I met on Twitter tomorrow.

I don't know that I use Twitter "the right way" but I have a reasonable number of followers and moderate a popular education chat, so I sort of know what I'm talking about, at least on my corner of Twitter. What I did when I started was finding people who were into the same sorts of educational models I support (flipped learning, or #flipclass, was where I started) and then just kept interacting with people who seemed intelligent and who would respond. And slowly, Twitter became more and more part of my social and professional life. I actually find a ton of value there - things that make my life better. It took about five months of daily tweeting (with almost no tweets the first month, rising to several tweets an hour eventually) to get to that point.

If you can't find something about Twitter that makes your life better then I don't know why you'd use it. But for me, the people I'm connected with now make it worth all the time I invested at the start.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:13 PM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Tweet about cool birds and big dogs, mostly. Soon you'll find other bird and dog fans. Win win!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:23 PM on January 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

There is no wrong way to use Twitter - only ways that work or that don't work for you. Try out a few different tactics from the answers people have given, and see what you like and what you don't, then build on that. Just be patient - it can take a long time of following and unfollowing people until you have a good curated feed of things that you find interesting, and an even longer time to build an audience.

A few thoughts:
- I usually check the timelines of anyone I am thinking of following, to see their frequency of posting. If they post more than 8-10 times a day, I usually pass - that's my way to cut down on volume.
- Learn to use lists for people that have interesting things to say, but that you might not want to hear their every thought. I have a few lists that I can look at when I get a chance - so I don't miss anything good, but it's easier to just skim the list once or twice a day, without having them clutter up your normal feed.
- Don't be afraid to unfollow people that aren't' meeting your needs or that you don't find engaging.
- If there is someone you like in particular, look at that person's follows/followers - it's how I found a lot of my favorite posters.

I also have two personal accounts. One is my locked, private account. On this account I only follow my friends and family, a few breaking news sources, and a few interesting celebrities/comedians. This is my main account, where I tweet a few times a day with random thoughts, post links I think my friends would like, or have conversations that are too ephemeral for Facebook. It's not overwhelming in volume, but still I will generally catch anything important (breaking news, etc.) pretty quickly.

I also have a public account, which I originally started so I could interact with people who didn't follow my locked account. That's morphed into being mostly focused on information security and my sports teams. I follow a bunch of security researchers, along with my favorite sports stars and sports writers. I primarily use it to tweet/retweet good security links and to have conversations about hockey and baseball.* But in the course of using this account, I have made a few Twitter-only friends, so I'll sometimes tweet things that I think they would enjoy as well.

In addition, I manage a few accounts for work, which are your normal corporate-type accounts. I tweet links, post stories that mentions my organization, and have some conversations with people in my community. These are much less chatty and more "all business," and I follow exclusively work-related accounts. I only look at those timelines maybe once a day, though, and only tweet a few times a day.

To keep up with everything, I use Tweetdeck, which makes it easy to track mentions and conversations for each individual account, and to keep track of all the timelines and lists, and to post the same tweet on both of my personal accounts at the same time (the follower lists are almost exclusive). It would be almost impossible to keep up without Tweetdeck.

In all, I find Twitter to be highly flexible and a very useful way to interact with people, and it becomes what you make of it. Good luck!

*Often while games are going on and I'm watching them live or on TV - it's a fun way to experience games with other people through hashtags/convos.
posted by gemmy at 11:29 PM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

« Older Quirky, vintage tap shoes on the brain   |   Listening to Podcasts on a PC Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.