Here’s a load of more general twitter tips, based on my observation of what goes on on there, and in no small part based on the things I’ve got wrong, and the twittering faux-pas I still make, but designed to help us use Twitter as part of a well-managed information filter… (I’ll blog about something other than twitter later, just wanted to tidy this one up for now.)
#1 keep if fluid – it seems the best way to work with Twitter is not to see subbing to or unsubbing from a particular feed as a big deal. It’s not like adding someone as a friend on Facebook where it’s likely to lead to a flurry of interaction. They’ll get a notice that you’re following them, but they won’t that you’ve unfollowed, and no-one seems to get hung up on that anyway. Especially not if they post a lot. I post very regularly, and there are bound to be people who find it clutters their twitter stream to the point where it’s not desirable to have there. So they unsub, no biggie. I’m not offended, they aren’t overwhelmed and my twitter page is still there if they want to check out what I’m up to at any point…
#2 beware of too much IM style usage – this is only an issue if you WANT people to follow you – if you’re just using it to interact with people you know, this isn’t a problem at all. But if you’re trying to build a core group of followers, the feeling that you’re listening to one side of a conversation in moon language is really off-putting (I have been guilty of this, for sure!) – here are a couple of tips to get round that – firstly, use the ‘@’ reply protocol, so that at least there’s a link to the person whose post you’re replying to. (on the twitter.com page, it links to the nearest-in-date post in the person’s twitter-stream that you’re replying to) Secondly, if you’re replying to a post with a link in it, re-tweet the link to give context. thirdly, break up the flow of interaction with some stand-alone inspiration or information – make a point of having at least every 3 or 4th tweet be a non-reply – a question, a cool link, a thought about something, a gig date, a suggestion, a status update…
#3 don’t use text speak but do edit. SMS-style abbreviations are a) not understood by everybody, and b) annoy a lot of people. So instead, just think about how you can reword your tweet to fit into the 140 characters and still say what needs to be said in english (or your tweet language of choice!)
#4 don’t get stuck sounding like a series of adverts – if yours is an info-only twitter feed, then go with information, not hyperbole. This is just an observation, but it really doesn’t seem to work. Twittists seem to be up for info-feeds, or opinion feeds, but I’ve not seen much traffic around ones that sound like mini-commercials. So either post stuff with an opinion that’s personalised, or just provide the info…
#5 go with a regular syntax structure – again, most important for news/info style feeds. Are you putting the date first, or the link ,or a category (either in square brackets, or using hashtags.) It’ll make it easier to spot your posts in a stream, and also to extract the right info from it (see my To The Left Of The Mainstream music recommendation account for an example).
#6 work out what time of day you want to post a particular bit of info. Lots of people don’t go back and read tweets they missed – so if you’re writing something for Americans but you’re in the UK, don’t post it before about 2pm, or most of them will miss it. And vice versa. Know your timezones!
#7 don’t finish a twit-sesh on a weird post. Especially if you use the twitter-widgets, you don’t really want to leave a bizarre or insulting tweet up there for two long… follow it up with a ‘goodnight all’ tweet to tidy things up. Assume that anything and anyone you tweet about will be read by the person you’d least like to have reading it. Then you’re safe.
#8 have fun! web interaction at its best is about relearning how to ‘play’ – it’s a big game, and the more you interact with it as an adventure, as fun, as something to be discovered rather than something to be conquered, the more the time you spend on it will be open to the possibility of creative reimagining. It may be that twitter is just for posting gig dates and album news for you. That’s fine. It may be that you just answer Twitter’s expressed question – ‘What are you doing?’ a couple of times a day. That too is obviously fine. However, it may be that you discover a way of using it that no-one else has thought of. Hurrah. Seeing it as play leaves you open to the possibility of these and more. (I’ll write more soon about the play thing.)
For those of you doing music, Twitter is a great sand-box in which to experiment with your online persona. It gives you space to step out of the 3rd-person big-record-label-clone website that you’ve had since the late 90s when we all thought that was the way to go. It’s a way to add a little box of personal stuff to your site and let people know you’re human. Chances are it’ll get more interest than the flash-driven corporate looking static website, and will be a stepping stone into turning your website into a blog-style interactive space, or at least doing what I’ve done, which is have the blog updates as the main content on your site front page.
Get out there, get interactive, and use twitter to save on time and energy in that engagement. Enjoy!by