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13 Tips for Twitter Effectiveness

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Photo by cobalt123 on flickr.

This time last year, I was a Twitter skeptic.  How do you find the time to tweet?  Who cares what you ate for dinner?  I don’t care what you are watching on TV.

What I knew of the service was limited because I wasn’t a participant.  My judgment of Twitter was like watching a show from the obstructed view section, then trying to rate the performance.

I finally joined Twitter and sent my first tweet on November 16, 2011.  A month later, I was fully “Twidicted.”  I launched a blog and one of my first posts was Why You Shouldn’t Avoid Twitter Any Longer.

As I started to gain followers, I learned a great deal from them.  Here are some of my Twitter tips and common mistakes (yes, many of which I proudly made personally).

Tip 1:  Learn from role models.

Once I joined, I jumped right in.  Watching others, reading articles, and asking questions was all part of the fun.  Peppering my celebrity and non-celebrity friends alike about how they use the service made an interesting subject.

The Twitter community is made up of people happy to help, who love the service, and have information to share.  Ask away.

For me, the key question was:  How do I use this social media tool effectively?

Tip 2:  Start with purpose.

You need to start with purpose.  Understand your goal for using Twitter.  And gaining Twitter followers is not a purpose, it’s an outcome.

Ask yourself:  What am I trying to do?

I decided my purpose on Twitter was to share “ideas, insights and inspiration” and thisLeadership Insights blog follows that purpose as well.  That means I mostly share thoughtful articles, blog posts, success tips or inspirational quotes.

Also, I wanted to learn from others, read a wide variety of viewpoints and subjects, and engage in an active community.  Just as I don’t agree with every featured person on this blog, I also don’t need to agree with every person I follow.  In fact, I think it’s important to follow others specifically to keep an open mind.

Tip 3:  Make your bio impactful.

Your bio statement speaks to who you are AND why you are on Twitter.  Personally, I don’t find it helpful to have a listing of generic titles such as “father, brother, son, uncle, nephew….”  Does that make me more likely to hit “follow”?  Does it tell me really anything about you?

Better to share your purpose in your description.  If you don’t have one, add a description to your profile.  Who are you?  What are you about?  It’s important for people to understand you.  Fill in the blank:  Follow me for _____________________ .

Tip 4:  Upload a picture.

If you don’t, you have opted for the default picture of an egghead.  And you wonder why more people don’t follow you?  Seriously, if I’m following people back, I tend to hesitate before clicking “follow” if the person hasn’t uploaded a picture.

Tip 5:  Create a brand.

Everything you do online is creating a brand whether you are doing it consciously or not.  Think before you tweet.  We’ve all made mistakes.

13 Tips for Twitter Effectiveness

1:  Learn from role models.

2:  Start with purpose.

3:  Make your bio impactful.

4:  Upload a picture.

5:  Create a brand.

6:  Don’t lock your account.

7:  Don’t use TrueTwit.

8:  Use hashtags.

9:  Participate in discussions. 

10:  Use the @ Reply.

11:  Don’t retweet and start with the @ symbol.

12:  Turn off automatic responses.

13:  Use selected services.

Tip 6:  Don’t lock your account.

I have never locked my account, so I’m not judging those who do.  But if you wonder why people aren’t following you, it may be because your account is locked.

Tip 7:  Don’t use TrueTwit.

This service makes no sense to me.  In order to prevent people from following you who are ‘spammers’, you make each new follower go to a webpage and enter a code.  And you wonder why people don’t follow you?  Why make it hard?  If a spammer is following you, who cares?  You don’t need to follow that person back.

Tip 8:  Use hashtags.

You can search Twitter and find interesting subjects by using hashtags.  Your tweets show up in different places, allowing others to follow you if they enjoy your tweets.  Overusing hashtags (#) is counterproductive and makes you look ridiculous.  Yes, I definitely overused them when I started.

Tip 9:  Participate in discussions. 

You can join discussions on almost any topic by following a hashtag.  It also allows you to tweet at conferences and see what everyone is saying.

Tip 10:  Use the @ Reply.

This is a common mistake.  I get a random note without the original.  “We should try that sometime in our organization!”  What?  Was the person replying to something I sent on Twitter?  I have no idea.  If you just hit reply, I will know what you are referring to.  Other users can see the conversation.

Tip 11:  Don’t retweet and start with the @ symbol.

This is the single biggest mistake I’ve seen on Twitter.  If you start a tweet with the @ symbol, do you know who gets it?  The person you sent it to.  And anyone who follows BOTH the person you sent it to and you.  No one else sees it.  I can’t tell you how many times I see this “@SkipPrichard RT…”  The user wanted to retweet something, but instead only sent my message back to me.  Savvy tweets will start with a quotation mark (“) or even just a period (.)

Tip 12:  Turn off automatic responses.

Automated direct messages (DMs) are very annoying—at least to me.  You know what’s the worst?  Follow someone and get an automated DM asking a question.  You respond with a direct message and get an error message.  Why?  Because they don’t follow you, and you can’t direct message someone who doesn’t follow you.   Not a good first impression.  Likely, you will find people dropping you.  Especially irritating are the constant stream of spam and other messages playing to people’s fears.  Here’s a tip:  no, you weren’t in a video.  No, there is no one “LOL” about a picture of you on Facebook.  And, if there was, you wouldn’t first hear about it in a direct message from a stranger you just met on a social network.  These are messages designed to get you to click to see what it’s all about.  (I clicked on a different version of one when I started and my computer picked up a virus.)

Tip 13:  Use selected services.

There are so many services you can use from Hoot Suite, SocialOomph and TweetDeck to Buffer.  Many are free services, but most have some free and some paid services.  Explore options and ask others for recommendations if you want to try one.  If you have a service you like, share it in the comments.