Welcome to another installment of “You’ve Got Questions…”.
Originally, I thought I would switch back and forth between serious answers (you know, helpful stuff) and the sillier ones. But, as the questions rolled in on the blog, Twitter, and other forums, it became clear that for a lot of people, Twitter is a big question mark. The biggest question mark of all seems to be: How do I keep track of it all?
Now, if you are reading this as someone who doesn’t use Twitter to build an audience, that question may seem silly. How hard is it to scan through the tweets of the handful of friends and celebs I follow?
The thing is, when building a brand, some people end up with lists that have hundreds, even thousands of people they follow. How can anyone find anything important in all of that noise?
At least, not if you aren’t utilizing certain tools Twitter offers.
First off, I highly recommend that you use a Twitter app, not just Twitter itself, to properly manage everything. Currently, I use Tweetdeck (although I am loving my test of Bottlenose.com) on my computer, and Hootsuite on my phone. Try them out and see which one suits you best.
Now, let’s get started.
Your Kiss is On My List
Lists are a great way to make sure you are seeing the tweets you really want to see. You know, the handful of people who make you laugh, or the ones that always seem to have interesting links to share.
Personally, I have a list for people who I interact with often, celebs whose tweets I love, and few other categories. I’m about as far from Type A as you can be, so I haven’t invested a lot of organizing into my lists yet, but I highly recommend it.
For writers, you might consider separating your lists into genre categories if you follow mostly writers and don’t want to end up with one enormous list of writers. Or maybe there are people you follow for research purposes. Put them in a “research list”
By dividing people into categories, or “lists”, you can then create columns in Tweetdeck and streams in Hootsuite. These columns/streams allow you to view only those in the list in that particular column. So, when you sit down for your 30 minutes of social media in the morning, you can easily scan the columns that are most important to you.
Keep in mind, lists can be designated as private or public. A public list can be shared, which is why you may find yourself being followed by people who you’ve never crossed paths with before. They may have spotted you in a friend’s “list of awesome” and followed you based solely on that fact. If you prefer that others didn’t know what list they are in (especially important if you prioritize lists in the titles) be sure to mark them private.
Hashtags are the method of organization I use most. If I see a conversation going on, say, people discussing why bacon should be its own food group with the tag #baconisking, I can click on that tag to watch all the associated tweets in that conversation. If that tag is associated with a group that I always want to follow, then I can easily add that tag as its own column.
Tags are a great way to get involved with scheduled chats, meet others with similar interests, or just check out conversations that are trending.
For more on Hashtags and how to use them, check out this post.
There is a lot of debate on whether you should automatically follow every person who follows you. While I understand the arguments made for either side, I personally don’t follow every account that follows me.
When I receive a new follow, I read the profile. If there is something about the profile that grabs me right away, I’ll follow back. If not, I won’t. I’ve seen some Tweeps send out a message after an influx of new followers letting everyone know that they don’t auto follow, but will follow those who interact. I think that is a lovely practice.
Now, even though I don’t auto follow, some seem very concerned with numbers, and feel that following everyone is what builds those figures quickly. If that’s what you are looking to do, then for the love of Pete, learn to use lists and hashtags. Immediately. Following 10,000 people is going to be useless if you don’t use lists and hashtags.
So here you are. You have your followers separated into lists, you are following your favorite hashtags, and now Twitter is starting to seem more useful and slightly less noisy.
What should you say?
A lot of people reading this are on Twitter to build an audience for their blogs and/or books, so there are a lot of links flying around. These tweets are referred to as non-interactive.
And that’s okay. If that isn’t the only thing you tweet all day.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind when tweeting:
Don’t post the same link OVER and OVER within short period of time. I know, you want to get everyone to read your brilliant post. That is going to require some repetition. But if that is all you tweet every hour (or every day for the last month) you are going to lose followers, not gain readers.
Don’t ask for follows. If you saw someone at a party that went up to everyone asking “do you want to be my friend? Be my friend, please, I’m an awesome friend and you should totally hang out with me” what would be your reaction? Uh, yeah. That is what you sound like when you ask for follows. People will follow you if you say things worth following.
Only on the rare occasion should you ask for the RT. If you end every tweet, or ever link, with “please RT” guess what I won’t be doing? That’s right. Again, let people retweet your content on its own merit. On occasion, if you have something really important to convey, then bust out the “please RT”. People will recognize that you don’t ask often, and will see that tweet as something important. (I generally reserve mine for charitable causes – but to each his own.)
Be interesting and engage. That is pretty broad, I know, but talk about something more than just your latest blog post or book. Interact with other tweeters. Jump into a geeky conversation, or share something of interest outside of your usual topic of conversation. You’ll find yourself meeting new people that way. Which brings me to…
Widen out! Remember that part about hashtags? I just gave you about a bazillion writer tags. And that is all well and good. We love our writerly friends. BUT, guess who you need to be talking to if you ever want to sell books? Readers!
So, get involved in non-writer discussions. Maybe you write sci-fic – find tags that would attract people with similar interests, the same people that may one day buy your book, and get involved. And don’t you dare go in there “links a-blazing”. Have a conversation.
The final piece of the puzzle that seems to have a lot of users stumped is time management. This can be especially troubling with all this talk of engaging and having conversations.
Time management is a pretty personal thing. Every one has different demands on their schedule, so here’s the thing: Figure out what works for you.
Are you a slow start in the morning? Maybe a little tweeting and chatting first thing is what your brain needs to jumpstart it. Or do you need to accomplish the necessities first? Then schedule your Twitter time for later in the day. If you have a mobile device, installing your Twitter app will allow you to squeeze in extra time when your stuck in a waiting room or need a little break (just no tweeting while you drive or the kid is in the tub, k?).
The key is not getting sucked in. If you need to, set yourself a timer. When your time is up, whether it be minutes or hours, walk away.
If you are setting a specific time of day to tweet, you might consider determining the time of day that most of your followers are active. Services like Tweriod will tell you when the bulk of your followers are busy on Twitter. Can’t be online during those hours? Considering scheduling some of your tweets for that time. (But not too many – remember, you want to be around to engage people.)
Learning how to properly use Twitter is what changes it from just another online time suck to a fantastic tool (probably my favorite) for building an audience and engaging others. So, get to it!
Now it’s your turn. Any tips/tricks you want to share? Favorite hashtags? Favorite Twitter apps? Time management tricks? Share them all in the comments.
[I tried to cover the wide variety of Twitter related concerns/questions in this post, but please let me know in the comments if there is a piece of the puzzle that's still missing for you!]