A little over a month ago, I began this blog by explaining that as a 23-year veteran of communications and marketing, it was about time for me to wrap my head around social media. Along the way, I would share what I learned on this journey.

I started with a Twitter account. No one followed me, and I followed no one. My last entry talked about how to properly set up a Twitter account, how to listen to the Twitter stream, and how to Tweet. This post builds on that information.

Anatomy of a Good Tweet

We all want to be popular. We all want to be influential. We all want to have followers. On Twitter, the key to all these things is to write good tweets. A good tweet stands out in the stream. Step one in learning to write a good tweet is to listen to the Twitter stream, and pay attention to the tweets that appeal to you. Here are some additional suggestions to help you write good tweets.

  • write a good headline or hook
  • provide valuable content
  • be helpful
  • include a call to action
  • don’t blatantly self-promote
  • use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • don’t use nonstandard abbreviations
  • don’t overuse abbreviations
  • add a link to useful information (but check to ensure the link works before you send your tweet)
  • don’t exceed 120 characters (unless you do not want your followers to retweet it to their followers)
  • don’t ask for a retweet
  • give credit to your source, if any (This is particularly true if you used a link shortening service as the link will no longer give any indication of its source.)
  • don’t use profanity
  • don’t exhibit bias or hatred
  • give your perspective
  • be polite
  • let your personality show
  • include one or two hashtags (see below)

How to Get Retweeted

  1. Tweet an interesting quote. Quotes are the most shared content on Twitter.
  2. Tie your tweet to a trending topic.
  3. Write a good tweet. (See Anatomy of a Good Tweet above for help.)
  4. Retweet other people.
  5. Thank the people who retweet  you, and try to reciprocate.

Retweeting—How to Share Someone Else’s Tweet

  • Copy the original tweet.
  • Shorten any links, making sure the tweet still gives some indication of what the link is about.
  • Add your comment to the front.
  • Follow your comment with RT @handleofpersonyouareretweeting OR end the tweet with via @handleofpersonyouareretweeting.
  • To make room for (1) your own comment and (2) identification of the original tweeter, you may need to shorten any links contained in the tweet using a link shortening service. I have been using http://bit.ly. As a shortened link will no longer give any indication of its original source, make sure the tweet credits the source of the link in some way.
  • You can also just hit the retweet button. The resulting tweet will be identified as having been retweeted by you.

Set Up Notifications

If you do just one thing today to improve your Twitter performance, go to settings and make sure you have asked to have Notifications sent by e-mail when:

  1. you receive a Direct Message
  2. you receive a Reply
  3. someone Mentions you
  4. someone new Follows you
  5. someone Retweets one of your Tweets
  6. someone Favorites one of your Tweets

You want to be notified when these things happen, because they require a response.

Thank New Followers

Use a direct message to thank a new follower.  You can use a standard message like “D @handle Thanks for following me, Pat” or you can personalize a message to someone with whom you are already acquainted or based on their profile and tweets.

TIP: You can only direct message people who are following you, so if Twitter won’t let you send a direct message to that new follower, it means they have already unfollowed you.

Thank People Who Retweet Your Tweets

Every day or so, send out a tweet thanking the people who have retweeted you, naming them by their Twitter handles.

Thank People Who Make Positive Comments on a Tweet and People Who Mention You

This goes without saying. Make sure to use their Twitter handles.

Favoriting

Twitter gives you the option of marking a tweet as a favorite. While using the term “favorite” would seem to imply you “like” a particular tweet, similar to the way you “like” something on Facebook, most users mark a tweet as a favorite so that they can go back and find it later when they have time to read an interesting link. In other words, they use it as a form of bookmarking. So in my opinion, there is no need to thank someone for favoriting your tweet, but I stand to be corrected.

How to Get More Followers

Your Twitter stream will often include Tweets that offer ways to add 5,000 followers instantly, or something along that line. Don’t be fooled. These followers will artificially swell your number of followers. They will have little or nothing of value to share with you, and they are highly unlikely to be interested in what you have to share.

Here are some suggestions for growing your followers organically, which in my opinion is the best way to build a genuine community on Twitter.

  • Retweet people, either by simply sending it on or by sending it on with your added comments.
  • Comment on other people’s tweets.
  • Reply to people’s tweets when you have something to add to the conversation.
  • Congratulate people on their accomplishments.

#Hashtags

Hashtags are a way of helping people quickly identify the topic of your tweet. Using #hashtags also helps your tweets show up in Twitter search. Hashtags go before the keyword. There is no space between the hashtag and the keyword. You can put a #hashtag anywhere in a #tweet.

When you click on a hashtag in a tweet, Twitter will show you all other tweets containing that hashtag—sort of a “more like this” function. If you have a public Twitter account, using a hashtag in a tweet allows anyone in the Twitterverse who searches on that hashtag to see your tweet—not just your users.

Trending topics, which I talk about more later on, are often marked with hashtags. If they didn’t start out that way, they frequently end up as hashtags.

A couple of cautions: (1) If you use a hashtag in a tweet, it should accurately reflect the topic of your tweet and (2) using more than two hashtags in a tweet can be considered spamming.

#ff (Follow Friday) is the hashtag associated with a unique Twitter practice. Users who choose to participate in Follow Friday tweet the Twitter handlers of followers they recommend. Usual #FF tweets look something like this:

#FF @judymsnow @2ndhandle @3rdhandle @4thhandle

I have seen people allocate a full tweet to recommending a single follower, and I think that’s a much better approach. This is how that would look:

#FF @judymsnow tweets about #publicrelations, #marketing, #socialmedia. Blogs at https://ishouldhavedonethisyesterday.wordpress.com.

Twitter itself recommends http://www.hashtags.org as a source about common hashtags. I don’t find it particularly helpful. Suggestions for something better would be truly welcome.

Andrew M. Scott @PRMillennial has some good suggestions regarding hashtags for PR pros to follow http://mrpublicrelations.blogspot.ca/2010/11/35-big-twitter-hashtags-for-pr-pros.html.

Anyone can create a hashtag. If you want to introduce a new hashtag, try searching on it first to ensure it isn’t already being used for something completely different. For example, #NL represents Newfoundland and Labrador, where I live, and The Netherlands.  Given that an entire tweet has at most 140 characters, it’s a good idea if you’re creating a new hashtag to keep it short.

Like all language, twitter speak evolves. Increasingly you will see people add hashtags to tweets to reflect tone such as #justkidding  or #lol. Sometimes this use of hashtags is ironic—the equivalent of #justkidding #NOT!

You will also see hashtags used occasionally for emphasis.

Trending Topics

Twitter uses an algorithm to determine trending topics in major cities. Whether or not Twitter produces trending topics for where you live is based on the volume of Twitter traffic your geographic community generates. I live in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which has a population of 530,000, yet despite the fact that an insanely high percentage of people here use Twitter, Twitter does not track trending topics for my area. The geographically closest city for which I can get trending topics is Toronto.

Trending topics show up in something close to real time and can change several times during a twenty-four hour period. The algorithm takes into account not only how many tweets are about a topic, but how many users are tweeting about the topic. Twitter also looks for variety of discussion about the topic.

Trending topics show up on the left-hand side of your Twitter home page. You can reset the location for any area in the world where Twitter tracks trending topics. Some trending topics have hashtags, while others do not.

Some users try to tie their tweets to trending topics by inserting them into their tweets. It is considered spamming to use a trending topic in a tweet that is actually about a different topic, particularly if that different topic is a sales pitch of some kind.

For various reasons, some users want to be responsible for creating a trending topic. Best strategies for doing this utilize a unique hashtag, the cooperation of multiple users with many followers, the support of one of more influential users, and a good variety of tweets on the topic. In other words, you need a plan:)

Common Twitter Jargon

Most of this discussion of twitter jargon is based on Sprout Social’s @SproutSocial “Twitter Terms Defined” http://sproutsocial.com/insights/2011/03/twitter-term-definitions/.

Followers or tweeps—You follow someone on Twitter, you are their follower. Someone follows you, they are your follower. Followers are occasionally referred to as tweeps.

Tweet—Both a noun and a verb. A Twitter message is called a Tweet. You also tweet a message on Twitter.

Retweet—Forwarding someone else’s tweet along to your followers.

Mention—Integrating another user’s Twitter handle in your tweet. When you insert someone’s Twitter handle at the beginning of a tweet, the tweet goes to the followers you have in common with each other. It will also show up in the @Mentions section of that person’s Twitter account. When you insert someone’s Twitter handle elsewhere in a tweet, it goes to all your followers.

Direct Message (DM)—A private tweet. You can only send a direct message to someone who is following you. DMs are also limited to 140 characters.

Engagement—Conversing back and forth with your followers and those you follow in a way that leads to establishing a relationship. This term is most commonly used in discussions about how to establish a Twitter community and how to use Twitter for public relations and marketing.

Feed or Stream—List of tweets, usually organized from most recent to oldest. Your home page lists tweets from the people you follow. Your profile page is a feed of your own tweets, while Twitter’s search results are a stream of tweets containing the terms you searched for.

Twitter Chat—A meeting or gathering of Twitter users on Twitter. A Twitter Chat is often moderated and usually has an established agenda. It has a set beginning and end time. Participants can listen or participate. Participants incorporate the hashtag associated with name of the Twitter Chat to identify their tweets as part of the conversation. There are a number of tools available to help filter out the noise of the Twitter stream to allow participants to concentrate on their chat.

Twitter Chats for PR Pros—Petya N. Georgieve @pgeorgieve has some good recommendations http://higher-and-higher.com/2010/12/07/13-twitter-chats-for-pr-pros/ .

Tweet Up—A Tweet Up is a face-to-face gathering of Twitter users, most often social, organized via Twitter.

And the Best Time to Tweet is . . .

People seem to pay the most attention to the Twitter stream at the beginning and end of the work day. Users are most likely to click on Twitter links at the end of the week and on weekends—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Pay attention to the time zones where your followers are located, bearing in mind that some 80 per cent of North Americans live in the Eastern and Central time zones. Generally speaking, you should send 5 or 6 tweets a day, weighted toward the beginning and end of the work day, seven days a week. You can gain an appreciation of the best time to engage with your followers by monitoring your own followers to see when they tweet. There are a variety of apps that can do this analysis for you.  Matthew Royse @mattroyse is my source for much of this information. He also provides a very good overview of tools that will help you figure out the best time to tweet and that will allow you to schedule your tweets http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/The_best_times_to_tweet_an_essential_guide_44617.aspx.

Status Update

As of today, I am following 973, I have 465 followers, and I have sent 426 tweets. To date I have had very little success with being retweeted. That is my next goal.

A rough analysis of my first 250 tweets showed that 10 per cent were original content, 20 per cent were responses to other people’s tweets, 35 per cent were retweets with comments, and 35 per cent were straight retweets.

Topics of my first 250 tweets included politics, social media, public relations, marketing, the media, contests, help, congrats, business, language, music, women, the Titanic, icebergs, music, cool stuff, quotes, and the weird.

Next Time

How to write a good headline, 20 words least likely to be retweeted, 20 words and phrases most likely to be retweeted, and organizing your tweeps into lists.

I’ll Research and Answer Your Questions

Have a question about Twitter? I’ll research and answer any questions with the help of my tweeps.

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When I started this blog, I thought I’d be pumping out entries left, right, and centre. Then I fell for the siren call of Twitter. After several interesting weeks, I’m back at my blog. And at least now I can claim to have something to say about Twitter.

Be warned—I love puns. The worse they are, the more I like them. So it’s inevitable that I’d start by saying something like this—what’s all the Twitter about? Well, on March 21, 2012, Twitter’s 6th birthday, it had 140 million active users who were sending 340 million tweets a day. Clearly Twitter is a force to be reckoned with, particularly for those of us who work in public relations or marketing.

I had a Twitter account long before I started this blog; but I was following no one, and no one was following me. Just as well as I was neither tweeting nor listening to other people’s tweets. And yes, I said listening. Following the Twitter stream is a great way to find out what’s on people’s minds; and it that’s not listening, I don’t know what is.

Roughly a month in as an active Twitter user, and I now proudly follow 765, and 287 follow me. To date, I have sent 265 tweets.

Based on my own experience, this is how I recommend you approach using Twitter.

1.  Get a Decent Headshot

If you’re going to take part in the world of social media, and that includes twitter, get a decent headshot. And if any of your social media accounts are going to have any relationship to work, dress in a way that best reflects your professional self. Not a glamor shot, but not too stodgy either

Why is it so important to have a decent headshot? Well on most social media, and especially on Twitter, we’re limited to the sense of sight. People can read our words and see our pictures, but they can’t hear our voices or read our facial expressions or our body language. So it’s important to take full advantage of what there is. And one of those things is your own sweet mug. Here’s mine:)

What about using your company logo or wordmark instead of a head shot? If your logo or wordmark is very well known, you might choose to use it. I’ve come across a few people who have chosen to hedge their bets by combining a headshot with a logo or workmark; however, in my opinion the image as it appears in the Twitter stream is too small to do this successfully.

In the Twitterverse, the avatar that appears next to each tweet you send is about the size of a postage stamp when displayed on a notebook, tablet, or desktop, or the size of a pencil eraser when viewed on a mobile, so it’s important that your headshot look good small. There is a caveat, however; if someone chooses to click through to look at your profile, your headshot will appear approximately four times as large, so the resolution needs to be reasonable.

2.  Choose a Name that Reflects Your Brand

Once you have a headshot, sign yourself up. If you can at all, use the name you’re known by or your company name as your user name or handle. It will make it easier for people to find you; and for those of you who are concerned about branding, it maintains a level of consistency with your brand.

Then before you do anything else, upload your headshot. If you don’t, your avatar will appear as an egg. Many people assume the account attached to an egg is a Spam Bot—not a real person—and no one wants to follow or be followed by a Spam Bot. Users are much more likely to engage with another person. We know what people do with eggs:)

3.  Create a Stellar Profile

Next, and this is really important, fill out your profile. Many people base their decision to follow someone on their profile, so make sure yours gives a clear indication of your interests on Twitter and hints at your personality. You can also choose to add your location to your profile. Usually, sharing your location helps people put you in context; however, if you do business globally there are instances where you might be better off omitting your location. If you have an employer, and this is your personal Twitter account, you need to make it clear in your profile that the opinions expressed are your own not you employer’s, or you may run into trouble at work. Your profile is also the place to direct people to your blog, website, tumblr account, and facebook page. Make sure, however, that these things line up. If you’re tweeting professionally, you may not want to share a facebook page that focuses on kids, puppy dogs, and Farmville with your followers.

This is what my Twitter profile says:

Public relations and marketing veteran, advertising junkie, and mother of teenagers.
NL, Canada • www.ishouldhavedonethisyesterday.wordpress.com

Don’t link your Twitter account to your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts because

  • Many of the things you Tweet don’t make sense out of the context of the Twitter stream.
  • Even if your Tweet can stand by itself, the subject might not be suited to your Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections.
  • While the subject of your tweet might be suited to your Facebook and LinkedIn audiences, the tone that’s suited to Twitter isn’t likely to work on Facebook on LinkedIn.
  • If you’re a frequent tweeter, all those messages are just going to piss off your Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections, who are not accustomed to being inundated.
4.  Start Following People

I started by following reporters, professional associations, news outlets, good causes, people who blog about public relations, marketing, and social media, some of the better known social media gurus (the good ones almost all seem to hate being called that), and a couple of celebrities.

Here are some suggestions from those I follow:

@PRSA @IABC @PRDaily @OnlinePrMedia @AdWeek @MrMediaTraining @helpareporter @prconversations @MarkRaganCEO @socialmediaclub @jeffbullas @SocialMedia411 (Social Media Insider) @SocialMedia Rvl @SocialNetDaily @PamMktgNut @BlogHer @WmJHartman @Reuters @AP @TheCdnPress @tw_top_news @NewsHour (PBS) @washingtonpost @TIME @nytimes @cnnbrk @guardian @NewYorker @Tweet_Leap @TweetSmarter @HuffingtonPost @historyweird @AncientProverbs @BillGates @Oprah @DalaiLama @ladygaga

You can use the search feature in Twitter to find people. You can sign up to follow many bloggers from their blogs and many companies from their blogs or websites. More and more, people are adding their Twitter handle to their e-mail signatures. Furthermore, when you are on your Twitter homepage, there is a suggested list of people to follow, some of whom are sponsored (i.e. they are paying to be promoted in this way).

And of course you can follow me @judymsnow.

When you are thinking about following someone, clicking on that user’s name will allow you to see their profile, number of tweets sent, number of people they follow, number of people who follow them, and their tweets. General wisdom is that you don’t want to follow someone who has no avatar, who has not tweeted, or who has no follower, although sometimes this may just mean they are new to Twitter—perhaps you can start your journey together. When a Twitter egg is attached to an account that tweets a lot, follows lots of people, and has next to no followers, it is safe to assume you have found the account of a Spam Bot, so don’t follow it.

Not everyone you follow will choose to follow you back, so don’t take offence. The Dalai Lama has more than 4 million followers, but follows no one. When you are notified that someone is following you, check out that person’s profile. You can choose to ignore them, follow them, or if they make you uncomfortable, block them.

Bear in mind that everyone can see who you follow and who follows you, and you may be judged by the company you keep.

5.  Start Tweeting

It is important to get a few tweets under your belt fairly quickly so that people who look at your account can tell that it is active and get some kind sense of the kind of content you share. What to do?

You can start by using the built-in retweet function to retweet a tweet that you like. You can also tweet a favorite quote. (FYI, quotes are the most popular content on Twitter.) Or you can just tweet your own comments—something interesting that you’re doing, or the topic du jour. You do not have to be 100% consistent in the kind of content you tweet, although received wisdom is that you’re more likely to be followed, to retain your followers, and to have your tweets shared if you’re not all over the place. I’ll talk more about that later.

Keep it short! Your tweets cannot exceed 140 characters, including spaces. Twitter will tell you when you go over. Tell free to use commonplace abbreviations to get your count down. Most experienced Twitter users try to keep their character count down to 120 or less, because it allows people to add a little something if they decide to retweet.

Be careful what you say about your employer, clients, and customers. If you wouldn’t want it published on the front page of your community daily, don’t say it on twitter.

Most people who are actively engaged in social media are happy to have you share their content; however, be sure to give credit where credit is due by adding RT @twitterhandle or via @twitterhandle to your tweet

6.  Mind Your Manners

Unless you are never going to need a job, a client, or a customer, you need to mind your manners on Twitter and present yourself professionally as realistically speaking your tweets are available for all to see, not just those you choose to see them. (More on this later.)

Next Time

Next time I’ll talk about Twitter trends, #hashtags, basic Twitter jargon, writing an effective Tweet, how to get retweeted, growing your number of followers, and the best times and days to Tweet.


As a 51 year old who has worked in communications and marketing for 23 years, I am ashamed to admit how little I know about social media. And it is cold comfort to know I am not the only communications professional to find herself in this boat.

I am one of those PR/marketing types who subscribes to the school of “everything is marketing,” from the sign outside your shop to the way you answer the phone to your YellowPages listing (snicker). So for me to lack a command of social media is embarrassing, to say the least. Career limiting, you might say. Clearly, this has to change.

So this is where I am right now.

Websites. The grand-daddy of social media. Websites I get. I developed my first big website in 1996, and my second in 1999. Many more have followed. Websites are about words. They’re about logic. They’re about content and links to other, related content. With a few great pictures tossed in. And by 2001, I had even managed to grasp the [now] obvious benefits of advertising on other organizations’ websites—organizations that were popular with and followed by my audiences/publics/segments, whatever the hell you want to call ‘em. Thanks to my ex-husband, I developed a rudimentary understanding of SEO (aka search engine optimization for my fellow Ludites) early on. Just don’t ask me about Google Panda, ‘cause I got nothing to say. Yet.

E-mail. One of my true loves. Direct mail without all those envelopes, labels, and stamps to lick. Why god created Blackberries. That and texting, which I reserve for communicating with my teenagers [insert eyeroll here]. I am relieved to hear e-mail is alive and well as a marketing and communications tool. What I need to learn is how to tie it together with everything else.

Facebook. That’s where I go to share funny pictures, good jokes (especially jokes about language, pr, and marketing), and to comment on, and share, news stories I find interesting. With my FRIENDS. You know, people with whom I am well acquainted. But use it for work. Not a clue. This . . . must . . . change.

YouTube.  I really enjoy watching videos of animals doing ridiculous things. Yup. I’m one of THOSE people. Obviously, I do realize that businesses and causes exploit YouTube to great effect. Something else I need to get my head around.

LinkedIn. 64 connections and counting. Pretty good profile, if I do say so myself. Nice headshot. I do work in PR after all. Pretty soon I hope to start using it as something more than a place to park my cv.

Twitter. I know Lady Gaga (20+ million followers) and Justin Bieber (18+ million followers) are the people to beat! That’s the competitive, marketing type coming out in me. I’ve signed myself up for a twitter account. I follow a company, and I had (please notice the tense) a follower.  Years ago when I decided to set up a personal e-mail account, I used my somewhat unusual maiden name judy_cheater@yahoo.ca. This is the e-mail address I used for my twitter account. Based on my e-mail address (how do they do that?) I acquired my one-and-only follower @YouGotCheatedOn. Today I will start following people. Tomorrow, perhaps someone will follow me.

Pinterest. Got an account there, too. Figure I’m going to post the memes I like from www.icanhascheezburger.com on Pinterest. Duh. Thanks to my thirteen year old for explaining what a “meme” is. Suspect this will be the last tool I add to my professional kit.

And that leads me to blogs. I don’t blog. Even more embarrassing, I don’t read other people’s blogs with the exception of two great Newfoundland and Labrador blogs, “John Gushue Dot Dot Dot” (www.johngushue.typepad.com) and Ed Hollett’s “The Sir Robert Bond Papers” (www.bondpapers.blogspot.com). How old am I? I’m so old my second version of the CP Stylebook makes no reference to blogs. I read books and magazines (and not, for the most part, the serious variety that improve your mind). I watch and read and listen to news, mostly the real kind. I read all kinds of stuff about marketing and communications. I even read some websites. But  I don’t understand why people blog or why people read blogs. Now it looks like I’m going to have to eat those words – and post them. So here I am. And here you are.

As the 100th anniversary of the Titanic approaches (www.receivingtitanic.com),  I am determined not to go down with the ship. I figure I have at least 15 good years of work left in me, so would somebody please throw me a life buoy.

There’s the rub. Nobody’s going to throw me a life buoy.  Instead, I fear I’m going to have to build myself a nice, cushy social media raft.

So this blog is about that journey, a journey to discover how to master social media as a set of tools and integrate them with all the other marketing and communications tools in my possession. I’m hoping some of the old hands – the masters of these tools—will throw me an occasional lifeline. And I hope I can be of some help to others who relate all too well to my little diatribe, those who want and need to make this trip themselves, the trip to communications in the 21st century.

So from here on in I promise a lot less personal revelation and a lot more simple, concrete suggestions for how those of us with our feet stuck in the 20th century can sink our teeth into the 21st.