Signing up for a new Twitter account is a sort of funny experience. After being asked to import contacts from Gmail and follow a bunch of people from a randomly generated list, you’re presented with nothing but a 140-character text box. Ok… so I’m supposed to say… what exactly?
You’d think writing 140 characters wouldn’t be so hard. On one hand, you’re thinking about Twitter as a micro-blog, so you must need to fit some serious insightfulness into a sentence or two. Or, you’re wondering if you should write updates about your daily life, and thinking “but do people really care if I’m watching TV? Making a sandwich? Doing laundry?”
All twitterers are different, so there’s no definite guide or formula to follow. But you should keep in mind what other people on Twitter want to read about. You want to provide them with valuable content and somehow engage them in conversation. Here are some ideas to help you start tweeting:
Most tweets I see contain links. If you see something interesting online, whether it’s a funny article, industry news, or advice your followers might find useful, share the link. Also share links to your own new blog posts. Use a link shortening service like SnipURL so you have room for some brief commentary.
The news of terrorist attacks in Mumbai broke on Twitter before CNN. That’s how fast things happen on Twitter. Although it’s unlikely (usually fortunately so) that you’d be on the scene to deliver the story on Twitter first, if you read breaking news on CNN (TV or website), tweet about it. If you see some new gossip about a celebrity of interest, tweet about it. You get the idea. You follows will learn to pay attention to you as a source of new information.
Tweet about events
I use “events” broadly… this could range from going to a conference, to watching a sports event, to watching a popular TV show. Use hashtags to categorize your posts and make it easy for others to find. For example, I’ve most recently tweeted about #superbowlads and #LOST. You can do a twitter search to see what # people are already using, or make up your own. Once people with similar interests follow you, they’ll be interested in your opinion.
Sharing your opinion is the best way to spark conversation because everyone else has their own opinion, and most people are more than willing to share it. Obviously, this could be anything under the sun, but you can look up what topics are hot on Twitter for ideas. For example, I could say, “I think Google Latitude is a tool for stalkers, I’d never sign up. What’s the benefit, anyway?” As long as I have a lot of followers who are interested in web tools, I’ll probably get a response.
Engage your followers directly by asking them questions. It could be to ask for an opinion, a recommendation, a fact you can’t find by basic Google search, or in reply to one of your follower’s tweets. It’s been shown that prefacing your question with “help” and “please” could get your more retweets and responses.
People like to laugh. If you’re the witty or sarcastic type, let your sense of humor show in your tweets.
Be a critic
If you just read a book, watched a movie, ate at a famous restaurant, went on vacation etc., let your followers know what you thought. Don’t drone on and on in multiple tweets. But cultural references plus your opinion is the perfect way to write a valuable tweet.
If one of your followers tweets something valuable, feel free to retweet it. If you’re new to the Twitter game, a retweet looks like this: “RT @username whatever the quote or link is.” Desktop clients like Tweetdeck make it easy to retweet with the click of a button. Calling out the follower by @username will get their attention, so this is also a good way to get influential tweeple to follow you back. Also, the more you help others, the more likely they will be to retweet for you.
Send a Direct Message
Not all of your tweets need to be public, so if you have a question or want to say hello to a particular follower, send them a direct message. You can have a longer conversation this way without having to fill up the rest of your followers’ twitter streams. It’s also a good idea to thank people for following you with a direct message.
There’s no limit to the types of conversations that go on in the Twittersphere, but these are some ideas to get you started. Tweet a variety of these, not just retweets, or just links. And remember, there is no one secret formula. Just relax and be you, and tweet away! And you can follow me at @dianafreedman, if you’d like.
What do you use Twitter for? How do you communicate with your followers?