Twitter for Beginners: From Hashtags to Followers
I’m going to give you the secret of Twitter, my friends.
Are you ready for it?
Are you sure you can handle it?
The secret to Twittering well is that you have to be convinced that everyone cares about the tiniest minutiae of your life – and I mean be truly convinced.
Or, you can tweet like a boss and be convinced of that in a really lazy, tongue-in-cheek sort of way. Which is what I do.
Let’s talk basics after setting up your account.
The first this you need to know is this, the #, formerly known as the “pound” symbol. But if you say that to anyone under the age of 22, they will look at you as if you have lobsters clambering out of your ears and down tiny stepladders to snuggle in your purse. Literally.
Now, the # is known as “the hashtag” and can be either terribly useful or terribly ironic. Or just terribly used. It all depends. (I'm looking at you, parents of baby Hashtag.)
The # can be used to get your tweet seen by more people. For example, people are tweeting about what to say after sex. I didn’t know this was a big discussion point, but we’ll go with it.
If you want to make sure that your tweet is seen by a lot of people, you should include a # of what’s trending at the moment, if you can. It can be a really useful tool. For example:
I blogged today about objects being larger than they appear in mirrors. #WhatToSayAfterSex
That works. It’s gross. But it works. This, however, doesn’t:
I had a dog named Peanut Butter. He died from a peanut overdose. #WhatToSayAfterSex
Sure, people will read your tweet. But they’ll probably think of you as being either creepy, weird, or both and write you off. (Even most internet peeps have standards.) To create a hashtag, simply type #WhateverYouWantToSay, only make it whatever you want to say in your hashtag. (It has to be all one word, no spacing though. I learned that the hard way.)
So, it’s a good idea to look at what topics are trending and see if you can reach a wider audience. But if your topic isn’t trending, don’t let that stop you! You can make your own hashtags which, if clever, engaging, or odd enough, can trend! (This has never happened to me, but I did get close once with #30DaysOfThankfulness.)
This is where tagging comes in. If you tweet something, all of your followers will see it. But if you want to ensure that a certain person sees it, tag them. To tag someone, type @ and then their Twitter name.
It helps, when tagging, to be following that person/thing/group. It just makes it easier. Follow EVERYONE. Don’t be discouraged. I only have 294 followers, but I follow 1,258. Huge disparity? For now. I average 4 new followers a day thanks to my following connections. This is important. But there is etiquette involved.
If someone follows you and they are not a porn company or fake Twitter (And unlike Manti Te’o, you’ll be able to tell. Too soon? Too soon? Probably too soon.), you should follow them back. It’s called manners.
But what’s more important, it will expand your network and the people who can and will read your tweets.
Why does this matter? Because you’re doing something called platforming. If you don’t run or have a blog or business and just want to tweet to your hoodrat friends about how your dog ate your underwear, puked them up, and then re-ate the puke and underwear before you could get to him, then you only need to follow and be followed by your hoodrat friends.
But you, my dear bloggers, are not doing this. You are building a brand.
Note: Maybe you’re not. Maybe you just write your blog because you have things to say and it’s ok with you if only your close family and friends read it. But that’s where it will stay, most likely. If you want to build followers and notoriety, you have to do what’s called “branding.” That’s an
entirely different post, and if you want me to do it, I will.
To build your brand, you need to platform. I know that this is the word from which every writer runs screaming and hissing under the porch. Get over it. There’s nothing wrong with name recognition. Your potential publishers certainly don’t think so. The more of a “household name” you become, the more money you’ll make for them.
What to Tweet
Platforming is hard work, it involves a lot of shameless self-promotion. You will occasionally feel that you've sold your soul to the devil. You will occasionally feel a little bit like you’re prostituting your sweet little blog. But strap those big girl pants on and do it anyways.
Tweet every single blog post. Post your post on BlogHer or SheWrites and then tweet the link to that, including tags and hashtags to expand your little tweet’s readership.
How did I get discovered by HuffPost Live!? It wasn’t because I post every day or participated in countless NaBloPoMo’s. It wasn’t because I’m funny or because people like to read about my hostile uterus. (Though, let’s be honest – they totally do.)
HuffPost Live! found me because I tweet the shit out of them every. single. day.
Whenever I tweet a blog post, I tag the following people – ALWAYS:
Why? Because the BlogHer people are blogging goddesses. Plus, I like them. And I'm going to BlogHer this summer, so I may as well make friends now. Right? Right.
I also tweet to:
If it’s really funny, I tweet at @cracked , @jezebel , and any other funny people I think of. I tweet at CNN, The New York Times, and any of my friends who might be interested. Why? Refer backwards to the conversation about tagging. It's the way to ensure that those sites see my posts.
Is it a lot like whoring? Sure. But let’s look at The Bloggess. She has a vast Twitter Empire full of tweeting minions. But she worked hard to build it. Not only did she post her blogs to Twitter, but she also posted about funny things in her life and pop culture. She tweeted at people. She started the Ball of Twine Photo Challenge which has blown up, thanks in no small part to Wil Wheaton. (Damn you, Nathan Filion for taking yourself so seriously.) And now, all she has to do is tweet what she had for breakfast and at least 25% of her followers will retweet it. (And that's a conservative estimate.) It’s the easiest thing in the world.
This brings me to another etiquette point – unless you have a vast Twitter empire, if someone retweets you (RT in Twitter-speak), THANK THEM. Reply to their retweet. It shows that you’re gracious and grateful and they will be more likely to retweet you in the future, expanding that network just a little bit further. What’s more, if you want to be super awesome, you should retweet one of their tweets. You’ll endear yourself to them even more.
Etiquette is important and people remember it. Bloggers are more likely to comment on blogs where the blogger comments back, and more importantly, where that blogger returns the favor. Same goes for following. We don’t need to be whorish about it – just be polite and do it. The same goes for Twitter. People are more likely to retweet you if you pay it forward. Manners matter, my friends, even when virtually employed.
So what are the highlights?
1.#########! Hashtag! If you can’t find one that’s trending that jives with you, make one up. I hashtag everything (or I do when I remember. This is a lesson for me too, friends.) For example:
You can use hashtags to be funny, ironic, or catch people’s attention. Some of the funniest tweets I’ve read have been made so funny by the hashtags.
2.TAG PEOPLE. Don’t be shy!
Tweet to your friends, tweet to your favorite comedians! (But switch up your wording or the Twitter gods will think you’re a spambot and suspend your account).
3.Tweet your life. All of it. People like reality and in our modern times, people also like instant gratification. People WILL retweet funny posts that appeal to them or meet them at the level where they are.
4.Be gracious. Tweet others the way you would like to be tweeted.
5.Don’t be a dick. There are people who have made their fame and fortunes being dicks. And I know that snark is king. But snark won't be forever. People who are genuinely funny, however, will be. I’m not saying censor yourself – I would never say that. But don’t go out of your way to be incendiary. Just be honest and the followers shall come.
6. You only get 140 characters per tweet. Economy is important. That's why you should get an account with bitly: http://bitly.com/. This site will shorten your blog link URLs to tiny little links so that they take up less space. Plus, it keeps track of how many clicks your link generates so you can see how big your internet presence is. Do it. Do it now.
There you have it. I know that it’s a little scattered, but Twitter is a little scattered. C’est la vie, right? If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email or leave the question in the comment box. I’ve done lots of Twitter research and while I don’t know everything by any stretch, I do know some amazingly helpful tips.
So tweet away, kittens! Tweet away!
And follow me at @NestedBlog.
Seriously. Follow me. I believe in follow-backsies. And retweets. We can practice our mad, new Twitter skills together! Happy tweeting, y'all!