Getting the most out of Twitter

In which I explain the mysteries of Twitter and why it’s fun.

Don’t believe me? You will, but be warned. Olive eating is involved.

The idea for this post came from Maria Zannini who, apart from being a wonderful person and a talented author, is a perfect genius at blogging and marketing in general. I’ve watched her self-publishing journey with awe. Maria suggested I put together a course on using Twitter — since it’s rather obvious that I’m totally in love with this form of social media, but other people haven’t succumbed to its magic.

First up, the thing to remember with Twitter is that size really does matter. With only 140 characters to play with, smaller is better — but it’s all in how you use it 😉

The joy of Twitter is that it’s an open conversation. As long as you’re respectful, you’re allowed to crash the party. Heck, you’re invited!

And now we come to the olives.

For many, many years I hated olives. The taste! Ugh. Salty and oily and just awful. Then *cue the angelic choirs* I heard a wonderful piece of advice on the radio. It went something like this:

Just sit your butt in that chair and eat ten olives. One after the other. NO! You cannot leave the table till you’ve eaten all the olives. At the end of this torture, you’ll have acquired a taste for olives.

You know what? It worked.

Twitter is much like olives. Make a commitment. 30 minutes every day on Twitter for one month. At the end of the month, you’ll be addicted. But to make the experience fun, there are a few things you should consider.

Sign up for Tweetdeck and organise the people you follow on Twitter into lists so that you can follow groups of people and their conversations in a way that makes sense to you.

Remember to follow people on Twitter who interest you: Scientists, news feeds, archaeologists, celebrities like Stephen Fry, as well as people in your industry. I’m an author, so I follow lots of other authors (colleagues), editors (the big bosses) and reviewers (customer gurus).

Speak up. For myself I like meeting new people on Twitter (except spammers…hex to them), so if you have something to say, share it. Ordinary rules of decency apply. Remember, Twitter is being saved in the US Library of Congress. Your grandchildren will be able to read if you were an idiot.

Enjoy the experience. A lot of people (me included) use Twitter to share interesting articles and blog posts that they stumble across. Clicking those links and reading the articles definitely counts as part of your 30 minutes on Twitter (again, beware of spammers. Don’t click links where you don’t recognise the tweeter or where it just feels strange. Being hacked is no fun).

Not sure who to follow? You can follow other people’s Twitter lists. So for instance, if you’re interested in Steampunk, you can follow my list of Steampunkers on Twitter and join that conversation.

Finally there is the mystery of hashtags. #anything is how conversations are organised on Twitter. A conversation around a particular topic will often include a hashtag for it. If you search on that hashtag, you’ll see the whole conversation and by including the hashtag in your tweet, you’ll join the conversation.

Sometimes these hashtags are used casually. Other times with a purpose. So for instance, the #steampunkchat hashtag organises a weekly one hour chat on Fridays at 9 pm (New York time). A chat like this one can be followed via Twitter or Tweetdeck (or Hootsuite which is similar) or through a Tweetchat room which will automatically show all #steampunkchat tweets and include the hashtag #steampunkchat in your tweets. The Steampunkchat room is here, as an example.

There is lots more you can do with Twitter, but the place to start is to learn to enjoy it. You’ll often hear the news fastest via Twitter and you’ll find things you probably wouldn’t have dreamed of without it. See you on Twitter! 🙂



6 Replies to “Getting the most out of Twitter”

  1. Olives. :LOL: Not sure I can eat ten olives in a sitting, but I can probably do 30 minutes on Twitter (some days).

    A few questions though…

    • protocol: There are a few people whose tweets I adore, and we've had great conversations, but they stay on far longer than I can. Is it rude to drop a conversation after 30 minutes? Sometimes I have to run–like when I see one of my chickens taking a ride in a coyote's mouth.

    • What do you talk about? Is it always about writing? Do you talk about where you live or how?

    • Have you ever had a Twitter conversation with celebrities? Or do you just read their tweets?

    • When is the best time to tweet? One of the reasons I stopped tweeting is because everyone was pimping their books during the day (your middle of the night). A few of my friends had real conversations after 7pm my time, but that's usually when I'm busiest.

    These were terrific tips. If no one will get mad at me for doing a 30 minute tweet and dash, I can probably do that. I just have to find the time-sweet-spot to catch my favorite people.

    Thank you!

    1. Maria, for myself I've never noticed anyone minding that I'm a tweet-and-run twitterholic. Everyone's so busy, we accept sudden silences as normal.

      I tend to talk a lot about writing related things — so steampunk and the #amwriting hashtag and #editortips But I use Twitter to tweet articles I find interesting, and they can start interesting conversations.

      I've never ended up chatting with a huge celebrity — Stephen Fry will one day tweet with me! It's my Twitter ambition 🙂 But people interesting and informed in their fields are often happy to talk with strangers on Twitter and that can be fascinating.

      I think I read once that the best time to tweet for promo is about 8am to 9ish New York time. But I do the opposite (just cause of timezones) and find that a similar hour in the evening works well — and yeah, that's probably when you're thinking of evening chores.

  2. Love the olive analogy Jenny. I just can't get into olives despite the rest of my family being addicted. Might try your tip and see if anything changes. Love the twitter tips too. Thanks!