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
- Tweet an interesting quote. Quotes are the most shared content on Twitter.
- Tie your tweet to a trending topic.
- Write a good tweet. (See Anatomy of a Good Tweet above for help.)
- Retweet other people.
- 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:
- you receive a Direct Message
- you receive a Reply
- someone Mentions you
- someone new Follows you
- someone Retweets one of your Tweets
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.