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Twitter for Dummies – part 5: 10 tips for effective tweeting

Posted on Jul 13th, 2009 by

Twitter sex hash cartoon

You have successfully created your Twitter account. Through part 1 of this series you got some pretty good idea what you will use Twitter for. You understand the importance of building social communities, and which Twitter tools can help you with those tasks. Part 4 in this series taught you the basic syntax of a tweet.

Now it is time to concentrate on how to tweet effectively, in 10 practical tips.

1. Use hash tags (sparingly)

Hash tags, keywords prefixed by “#”, beef up a tweet. They can emphasize a word, “classify” a tweet to a particular subject and make it easily searchable.


“Meeting urgent hunger needs is a long term investment…in stability and world peace”

… might be nice, but better to beef it up:

“Meeting urgent hunger needs is a long term investment…in stability and world peace” #g8 #foodaid

The hash tags in this example identified the tweet with the G8 meeting and “food aid” as a subject.

Technically, there is no particular place to put hash tags, although most people put them at the end of their Tweet, to enhance the readability. You can integrate hash tags within a tweet to save space without taking away readability of a tweet:

Record level of hunger and poverty looms on #G8 agenda

2. Use links effectively

Plain vanilla tweets are ok as a statement, an intermezzo, but not to drive a message through:

ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka #aid

… would be more effective with the link:

ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka #aid

… and even better: include the source of the link

BBC: ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka #aid


ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid

For the nerds amongst you: As Google page ranks all Twitter pages, some people think including a link to their blog or website in a tweet will count as a valid back link, popping up their website’s pagerank. This is bollocks, as Twitter uses the “rel=nofollow” attribute for all links…

3. Make it easy for others to retweet you

The power of Twitter lays in how your tweet propagates through the tweet-o-sphere. Retweets are Twitter’s trade currency.
When someone retweets you, they give you a ‘vote of confidence’ by re-broadcasting your tweet to their own social community. Not only will a retweet re-broadcast your message but it will also propagate your Twitter-handle beyond your own social community so you can get ‘discovered’ by new potential followers.

In case you did not get the message yet: retweets are important. So, make it easy to be retweeted: Don’t use your full 140 characters for your tweet. When others want to retweet you, they need space to prefix “RT @yourhandle “ to your original tweet.

In the case of my private Twitter account “@TheRoadTo”, I know I can use 140 – 14 = 126 characters maximum for my tweets:

ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid

Will – by default- be retweetable as:

RT @TheRoadTo ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid

4. Don’t be scared to retweet.

The people I follow on Twitter, have interesting stuff to say. I retweet actively what I think is relevant, cool, funny, or controversial.

Don’t be a leech, though. When someone tweets a good link, give them credit by including their Twitter handle, and by making it clear you are retweeting rather than claiming this is YOUR original find.

Distinguish between plain vanilla retweets and edited retweets by changing the format of the retweet.
For instance, when my friend @breadcrumb12 tweeted:

BBC said that the International Committee of Red Cross will be scaling back significantly in North Sri Lanka

A plain vanilla retweet would run over the 140 characters limit:

RT @breadcrumb12 BBC said that International Committee of Red Cross will be scaling back significantly in North Sri Lanka

Another variant: What if, I did not like the way this tweet was formatted, but still like to re-use the tweet and the link, while giving due credit to @breadcrumb12? Then I use “MT” instead of “RT”. “MT” stands for “Modified Tweet”: A retweet with modified content.

MT ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid via @breadcrumb12


MT ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid -Tnx @breadcrumb12

Some use an even shorter version:

MT ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid @breadcrumb12

If you want to retweet something literally, but want to include a comment of my own, try this:

RT @breadcrumb12 ICRC scales back in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid [ed: leaves room for ethnic cleansing?]


Leaves room for ethnic cleansing? RT @breadcrumb12 ICRC scales back in Sri Lanka (BBC) #aid

5. Put some spank in your life tweets

If you use Twitter for your non-profit organisation, put some funny stuff or a personal message in between your ‘business tweets’.. It gives more of a personal twist to your tweets. There is nothing wrong with tweeting:

A busy day at work, working on a funding proposal for Zimbabwe school feeding.

Don’t hesitate to put a joke in the middle of serious business

On mission in Kampala. Next time, I’ll have to come outside of the rainy season.

Or a picture of what you are doing at the moment:

Yesterday’s sunset view from our office

Life is too short for business only. Put a bit of spank in your tweets. Your followers will love you for it, and it will show there is an actual person behind that Twitter-machine!

6. Interact with your followers

Twitter is all about social communities, so don’t use it to merely broadcast. Interact! Commend people on good tweets

@fighthunger nice find!


@fighthunger thanks for your retweet!

And when people send you a direct message or a reply, respond! Nothing is as bad as to give people the impression you are a Twitter machine.

7. Ration your tweets

Twitter users who tweet continuously are seen as ‘noisy’, and often loose followers. Spread your tweets over time. Don’t overdo the amount of tweets you are broadcasting. Remember: quality masters over quantity.

8. Know when to tweet

Scheduling your tweets effectively is important. When you have important messages to tweet, make sure you tweet them, or re-broadcast them at peak times.
The most busy (and fertile) times on Twitter is when people arrive in the office between 8 and 10 am. As the main Twitter population lives in Europe and in the States, send out your important Tweets during those times, for the different time zones.

Weekends have low Twitter traffic. Statistics show there is a very low chance your important tweets will be picked up during the weekend.

9. Don’t just tweet links to your own website

Yes, Twitter can drive traffic to your website, and yes, I do tweet links to my own blogs actively. But I also tweet links to other websites and blogs I am reading. The world does not evolve around your blog or website alone!

Include links to interesting reads, controversial topics, and if you are tweeting on behalf of a non-profit organisation, also retweet what other organisations are tweeting. You will see that as time goes by, they will also retweet your tweets… After all, in the non-profit sector, we’re all in this together…

10. 140 characters of quality

Before you send out a tweet, re-read it. Check your spelling. Check the readability. Check the syntax. You are broadcasting newspaper headlines, so you have 140 characters to make mistakes. You have a space of 140 characters to show sloppiness or to show quality

In the next post, we tackle the most frequently asked questions when introducing Twitter in your organisation.

Additional reading:

- What makes people follow you on Twitter?
- How to Re-Tweet
- 5 Steps for Better Tweeting

Cartoon courtesy Geek and Poke

10 Comments to “Twitter for Dummies – part 5: 10 tips for effective tweeting”

  1. teratips says:

    very thankful tips i found about tweeting, thanks

  2. Good article. perhaps we can lok forward to some videos in the future? :)

  3. admin says:


    if only I had time! ;-)


  4. funnyandweirdthings says:

    These tips are great. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Attractions in Ontario says:

    Very helpful for the new tweeter. I appreciate all of the examples of how to effectively accomplish a number of tasks. Thanks.

  6. Alessandra says:

    This is a great beginners guide to tweeting. If you do not understand the concept, twitter can be quite complicated and foreign. Along with just the basics of tweeting and using twitter, I recently wrote a blog post about the art of the tweet, and how people build huge following. You can read it here:

  7. Laurie says:

    Great suggestions and some that I have not seen elsewhere! Thanks for your clarity.

  8. As I am a new user of twitter this blog post has been invaluable! Thanks so much

  9. Edem Kingsley-Amoah says:

    The twitter tutorials are very useful. Thanks and Keep up with the good work!

  10. Stacy says:

    Thanks for the info. I was wondering if Twitter hand some “unspoken etiquette rules.”

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