Twitter for Dummies – part 5: 10 tips for effective tweeting
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 http://bit.ly/141hnZ #aid
… and even better: include the source of the link
BBC: ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka http://bit.ly/141hnZ #aid
ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #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) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #aid
Will – by default- be retweetable as:
RT @TheRoadTo ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #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 http://bit.ly/141hnZ
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 http://bit.ly/141hnZ
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) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #aid via @breadcrumb12
MT ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #aid -Tnx @breadcrumb12
Some use an even shorter version:
MT ICRC scaling back significantly in Sri Lanka (BBC) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #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) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #aid [ed: leaves room for ethnic cleansing?]
Leaves room for ethnic cleansing? RT @breadcrumb12 ICRC scales back in Sri Lanka (BBC) http://bit.ly/141hnZ #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 http://twitpic.com/9rxn6
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.
Cartoon courtesy Geek and Poke