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I’m always a little torn when it comes to Twitter.
On the one hand I think it’s been bad for blogging because it has taken conversation away from blogs and into a 140 character format that is pretty useless for critical thought. On the other hand, Twitter not only provides one of the best syndication options around, particularly in a post-Google-Reader world, but also is an amazing tool for meeting other bloggers, staying on top of industry news, and (gasp) making friends.
At the end of the day, if you’re not hanging out on social media you’re missing a lot of fun. So below is some advice I have for new bloggers who are just getting started on Twitter. Let me emphasize that this is stuff that works for me, but your social media is all about you. Do what feels right, man.
1) Announce your creative efforts on Twitter. Twice even!
Sometimes people worry about promoting their own work. Maybe they’re shy, or they don’t want to seem conceited. Perhaps they’re worried about being seen as a term I absolutely loathe, an “attention whore”.
Whatever! If I follow you on Twitter and you have a blog (or podcast or YouTube channel or whatever), I want to hear when you post something new. Sing it, my creative friends. And if you create something you’re really proud of or posted about it at a weird time, retweet it the next morning or later in the day.
2) Follow people.
Unless someone’s account is protected, everyone is on Twitter to meet people, have conversations, and earn followers. Sometimes I get weird about following someone who is “popular” or particularly cool, and that’s just silly. That is why they’re on Twitter!
Once or twice a month I make an effort to find some new folks to follow, whether it’s taking people up on their Follow Friday suggestions or snooping on a friend’s following list (I have totally done this to both Syl and Belghast) and adding anyone who looks cool. Find a new blog you like? Follow them on Twitter right away!
Internet math shows that the more people you follow, the more people will follow you, but that’s not really the point. The point is getting the most out of Twitter — seeing the most conversations, the most news, the most opinions. Meeting as many people as possible.
3) Talk to people.
You’re following a ton of people. Now what?
When I first started hanging around Twitter I would just kind of post a few things a day and then sit back to see what happened. While this was fine, it didn’t really encourage interaction and Twitter never really clicked for me. Nowadays over half of my tweets each day are directed to specific recipients, and I retweet and favorite other people’s stuff a lot more. You can’t just wait for people to interact with you — get out there and start chatting!
Even if you’re not interacting directly with someone, it’s great for newbie bloggers in particular and the community in general to tweet links to other people’s content. For what it’s worth, “science” has determined that people get the best response on Twitter if they make 8-20 public posts a day. I certainly am not saying that you need to stick to that, but it just goes to show that you can tweet quite a bit in a day without irritating folks. (I used to be paranoid about tweeting more than twice a day, seriously.)
3b) Don’t be afraid to unfollow.
It’s Twitter. You’re following someone, you’re not married to them. (Probably. Unless you are married to them in which case ignore this point.) If someone stops interesting you, or changes their subject matter, or says something you find unreasonably jerky, just unfollow them. It’s okay. It’s your feed, and you can curate it as you want.
4) Try to avoid being relentlessly negative.
So this one is kind of a personal opinion, but I find it exhausting when a twitter person is negative the vast majority of the time. You know the type — everything from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night is a slap in the face! That video game change is stupid. This game is for idiots. That platform is bringing down the industry and oh my god free to play makes me want to hate vomit ALL OVER EVERYONE ALL THE TIME.
Everyone has bad days and I’m not saying you have to be a Stepford Tweeter. And if there’s something that is offensive, then by all means talk about it! But I enjoy a Twitter-er more if they, overall, talk about stuff they like rather than stuff they hate.
5) Be consistent with your subject matter, particularly early on.
This one is tough because we are all diverse people with hopefully diverse interests. For example, I obviously like MMOs, but that’s not my one all-consuming hobby. I also like to learn new recipes. I have seen just about every horror movie ever. Lately I’m really into bicycling, and doing a lot of reading on bike repair and working on improving my distances.
That being said, by far the primary focus of my public tweets are related to games. It’s just kind of easier to have an identity if you focus on one interest, and your followers generally know what to expect, too.