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A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Basics


I’ve gotten several requests for a down-and-dirty guide to Twitter for someone who is new to this platform. While this post may not help everyone, we were all new once, so it is important to pass on this information to others. If you’re a Twitter newbie, feel free to ask questions in the comments, and if you’re a Twitter vet, please consider answering some of these questions if you see them before I do or posting some tips that you use when on Twitter.

Twitter Lingo

To use Twitter effectively, you have to know the lingo. I remember being super confused when I first signed up and tried to figure out what people were saying on Twitter! There are three many terms that are most important for you to understand:

@ Reply: If you see an @ (that isn’t part of an email address) on Twitter, it is typically followed by someone’s screen name. It’s a way to hold a public conversation with that person.

DM: DM stands for direct message. It’s a way to hold a private conversation with another Twitter user, but you can only DM people who are already following you.

RT: RT stands for retweet. If you like what someone says on twitter, You can retweet it to spread the message to your followers as well.

Other lingo that may come in useful to know:

Hashtag (#): If you see the pound symbol (#) before a word or phrase, it is essentially a keyword tag for the tweet so that others can find it more easily. On Twitter, this is called a hashtag, and they can be serious, to help people search for your tweet (like #advice or #blogging) or funny (like #ImSoDarnTired). Not every tweet needs hashtags. Basically, it’s a way to follow the stream of everyone talking about a specific subject.

OH: Overheard – usually this is something funny or profound that someone overheard while going about their daily tasks.

FF: Usually written with a hashtag, (#FF), this stands for Follow Friday. Every Friday, users recommend other people to follow to spread the Twitter love. I wrote about Follow Friday here a few months ago, so if you’re interested in participating, that’s a great post to check out before you do.

Twitter Chat: A Twitter chat happens when several people get on Twitter at once to share ideas with one another. They do this by using a specific hashtag. For example, every Sunday, bloggers participate in #blogchat. I wrote about Twitter chats as well, so check out that post to learn more.

Lists: Once you start following lots of people, you can put them in different lists to keep them more organized. People can also add you to their lists to keep their own streams organized. Lists can be public or private.

Favorite: If you want to save a Tweet for later, you can favorite it.

Where to Use Twitter

When you sign up to use Twitter, you do so on Twitter’s website, but you aren’t limited to using this website to log into your account and read/post updates. In fact, most bloggers find Twitter’s website to be unorganized and limiting, so many use desktop clients instead.

My favorite tool for using Twitter is TweetDeck, which runs on your desktop even if you aren’t on the Internet. HootSuite is also extremely popular, though I personally don’t like this option as much as I like TweetDeck. With a service like TweetDeck or HootSuite, you can also link other profiles (like Facebook) to post status updates across multiple platforms at once.

You can also download and use a Twitter app if you have a smartphone. I use Plume for Android, but there are multiple apps for every OS, with most of them being free. Twitter even has an official app that you can use.

If you’re following a fast-moving hashtag (i.e., people are using that keyword a lot), you can use a service like TweetGrid or TweetChat to keep up and post at the same time. These are especially useful if you are participating in a Twitter chat like #blogchat.

Twitterfeed and Related Services

If you’re a blogger, Twitterfeed is something you likely want to use to link your blog to Twitter. Twitterfeed uses your RSS url to post your links directly to Twitter on your account. You can choose to post just the title, or the title and a description (basically, it will pull the first several words from your post).

With Twitterfeed, you can also include something before or after the title/description/link. For example, you can have it automatically tweet “My latest blog post:” before or “via my blog” after. I recommend writing something before or after the title/desctiption/link to make it apparent that this is a link to one of your blog posts.

Along with using Twitterfeed, there are services you can use that tweet out your link multiple times after it is posted, rather than just once. You can also use an “old tweet” service to pull a post at random from your site daily (or more often) to tweet out. This is a way to get some traffic to your posts.

Some Etiquette for Twitter Users

To close this post, I wanted to list some etiquette rules for using Twitter. These are definitely not hard and fast rules, but some you should consider to create a great experience for yourself and your followers:

  • When retweeting, add your own comments before the RT’ed message so it is apparent what you are saying versus what the other person has said. For example, you could tweet: “Me too! RT @allison_boyer I love blogging”. I’ve seen some people do it this way instead: “RT @allison_boyer I love blogging <<< Me too!” or “RT @allison_boyer I love blogging (me too!)” but I personally find those methods more confusing. Most people add their own comments before the RT. In any case, if you do add your own comments, make sure it is apparent that they are yours.
  • Never ask someone for a favor publicly with an @ reply. It’s ok to ask a question (such as “Do you know of a good Italian restaurant in New York?”), but if it would be something rude to ask someone in person in front of a group of people, don’t put them on the spot on Twitter either. For example, “Can you write a guest post for my blog?” is a better question to DM someone.
  • Don’t send automated DMs. Some people still do this and it makes me pull out my hair. There are services where you can automatically DM someone when they follow you – most people DM with something like, “Thanks for the follow. Check out my blog at http://www.imannoyingontwitter.com”. It is the equivalent to Twitter spam, and a lot of people will unfollow you if you send these automated messages, because it seems like you’re trying to sell them something.
  • Remember that you are on a public forum. Don’t share something about another tweeter that they might want to keep private and don’t make people uncomfortable with TMI tweets.
  • If you use an affiliate link on Twitter, tweet something sponsored, or link to an ad, make sure you note that in the tweet. Don’t try to deceive followers into clicking on something so you potentially make money.

Ok, over to you – what questions to you have about using Twitter? Or, if you’re a long-time Twitter user, what tips do you have to share?

Twitter Content That Doesn’t Suck


Twitter is undoubtedly one of the best places to promote the blog posts you write. It can also be pretty fickle. The problem with Twitter is that content flies past users at an extremely fast rate, and for every awesome post being tweeted, there are ten (probably more, really) ridiculous retweets that aren’t interesting or helpful. In other words, there’s a lot of crap on Twitter, and your posts can easily be lost in the shuffle.

I don’t like people who write link bait for the sake of driving traffic. It should go without saying that you need quality content. Otherwise, any content that you drive to your blog won’t stick. People won’t trust you and likely won’t come back again.

But beyond writing great content, what can you do to increase the chance that your post will gain a little traction on Twitter or even go viral? Here are a few tips you can keep in mind:

  • Write a bangin’ headline.

This seems like a no-brainer, but keep in mind that your headline doens’t have to be something super shocking. It just has to be something that people want to share. In addition to writing a good headline, keep in mind that Twitter has a character limit. People forget this so often! Keep your titles on the shorter side so that people can add their own comments when retweeting. Remember, your initial tweet should be well under 140 characters so people can edit easily.

  • Reference people on Twitter within your post.

People like to share content when they’re involved. One of the things I do every week is attend #blogchat and discuss two or three of my favorite tweets made during that group discussion. Afterward, the people who I’ve mentioned in my posts always retweet the link, and most have friends who retweet it as well. You don’t have to specifically discuss things that have been said on Twitter, though. You can also just discuss general things a person has said on his or her blog or via a comment, forum post, etc. When you send out the tweet about your post, make sure to @ reply the person/people so they know they’ve been mentioned.

  • Create Tweet-able quotes.

I find it to be an ultimate success not when someone retweets one of my links but when they actually pull a quote from the post and tweet that with a link back. Good content should automatically create tweetable quotes, right? Not necessarily. The character limit comes into play, and if there’s not a definitive one-sentence statement that makes someone shout, “YES! EXACTLY!” when they read it, you aren’t writing a tweet-able post. It could be the most amazing post in the world, but that doesn’t mean there are tweet-able quotes in it.

  • Highlight interaction opportunities.

Twitter is all about interaction, so posts where this is highlighted tend to do better than non-interactive posts. Of course, every blog post is interactive (assuming you have comments turned on), but for example, if you ask for opinions from readers, like I’m about to do, it entices people to get involved, which is the spirit of Twitter in the first place. Strong opinion pieces do the same. If the post doesn’t lend itself well to comments, it likely won’t lend itself well to Twitter either, though this does vary depending on niche.

  • Be emotional.

Twitter posts that are extremely personal and emotion always spread well. That doesn’t mean you need to make your readers cry every time they log online. Hell, look at this post. I think it’s a pretty useful topic with a good headline, but it isn’t emotional. That’s okay. Sprinkling in emotional posts, however, is a great way to get a little Twitter love. Don’t be afraid to bare your soul, at least a little, when writing a post. Also, keep in mind that “emotional” doesn’t just mean sad. It could be heart-warming in a happy or funny way instead.

Before I turn the floor over to you guys for your best Twitter content-writing tips, I wanted to mention a few ways that I do think content can suck for Twitter. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad posts – they just are less likely to get Twitter traction. As you’re determining your editorial calendar or deciding what to write for the day, think about how you’re mixing in these types of posts.

  • News – Unless it’s breaking, people have probably already passed it around Twitter from larger sources, like the Huffington Post or TMZ. Even if you put your own spin on it by adding opinion, it’s hard for bloggers to get attention with a news story on Twitter.
  • Popular Topics – Twitter is all about sharing things that are original. If your blog post is about a topic that is super popular, it’s likely going to get lost in the conversation unless you’re saying something that is really unique. If your post is about a popular topic, put some extra oomph into creating an awesome headline that will attract clicks.
  • Scam-Related Topics – Now I know that no one here would ever scam their readers, but there are some pretty shady people on Twitter. I see a lot of “Gain 10,000 Twitter Followers Today!” and “The Easy Way to Make Six Figures With Your Blog!” going on. It’s become white noise for me somewhat. If you’re going to make a big claim and back it up with awesome content, that’s something I definitely want to read – but be careful with how you promote it. You want to stand out from the crowds of people making ridiculous claims that lead to posts full of BS.

A few other things I hate to see on Twitter:

  • “Please Retweet” with every single post (have a good reason if you ask for retweets)
  • Tweeting the same post over and over again throughout the day (two or three times is fine, but don’t clog my Twitter stream otherwise unless you have a really good reason)
  • Mentioning me or DMing me links even when the post has no more relevance to me than normal (if you mention me in it or write something similar to what I’ve recently written, great – otherwise, trust me to be a subscriber if I want notices when you post something new)

And of course, it bears saying it again: content that doesn’t deliver. Write awesome content. That always needs to be #1.

Your turn – what have you done to create content to specifically catch the eye of those on Twitter? What posts do you find to be hard to promote on Twitter? What things do you hate seeing on Twitter?

14 Reasons People are Ignoring Your Tweets (part 2)


Earlier today, I gave you the first seven reasons people are ignoring your tweets. The title promises 14 tips though, so here’s the other half of the list. This half is just as important as the first half, so make sure you read both posts!

  1. You tweet too much. There’s nothing wrong with tweeting often. Heavens knows that I send out dozens of tweets some days. But you don’t have to tweet every single time something happens in your life. Tweet stuff that’s important or interesting. If you’re just a constant stream of “Going to the library. At the library. Looking for books at the library. Man, the library sure is quiet. I shouldn’t be tweeting from the library. Oh, finally found my book at the library. The librarian checking me out is very nice. I should come to the library more often. Time to walk home from the library. Home from the library. That was a nice trip to the library…” people start to tune you out because you’re boring them to death.
  2. You said something offensive recently. Twitter is a great place to speak your mind, but at the same time, just because you’re on the Internet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have any kind of filter at all. Say your piece, but always have class.
  3. You have a really varied following. It’s cool to have lots of interests, but it pays to have followers interested in your blog’s niche making up the bulk of your followers. If you run two blogs in vastly different niches, you might want consider having two different Twitter accounts. People interested in your sports blog aren’t going to retweet links to your fashion blog in most cases.
  4. The tweets you’re sending aren’t high-quality. Are your blog posts high-quality? Sadly, many times I’ll click links people are tweeting and their blogs just…aren’t that great. Boring. Full of errors. Hard to read. Old news. If you’re going to tweet about it, it better be good. Otherwise, that’s the last time I’ll care about a link you tweet.
  5. You tweet at weird times. If you’re tweeting when most of your readers are sleeping, you won’t get as many retweets or replies. That’s just a fact of life. While I personally don’t like scheduling tweets, it is an option.
  6. Your tweets are hard to read. You should make amble use of hashtags and @, and I even understand using Internet language (leetspeak like “u” instead of “you” for example) to keep your tweets under the Twitter character count. Just keep in mind that readability of your tweet matters. Sometimes. I have to read a tweet two or three times to understand what the person it trying to say.
  7. You ignore people. I understand that it is difficult to keep up with every single follower, but when someone directly talks to you through a DM or @ reply, don’t ignore them. Not every message needs a reply, but make an effort to respond to people when appropriate.

Because I made you wait for the second half, here’s a bonus twitter tip for you: If you want people to retweet your links, be approachable. In my opinion, the number one way to ensure this happens is to avoid using Twitter as your personal outlet for complaining. When someone is always in a bad mood on Twitter, constantly complaining or being negative, it makes me less likely to interact with that person. Be happy! Be positive! If you’re a likable, approachable person on Twitter, people will want to be your friend, and they’ll want to retweet everything you say.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She’s currently twoting all over the place. Don’t you twitter-stand?

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