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I almost called this ‘I tweet, therefore I am’. But I didn’t. I believe Jeff Bullas cautions again using cliches when blogging. So I would never do that. ūüėČ (10 secrets of professional writers every blogger should know,¬†I believe it’s Point 1.¬†)

When I asked you what social media topics you wanted me to talk about a few weeks ago, my friend Annette (@antet) said¬†‘I’m certain that I’m only using Twitter in very basic way. What are your top tips for using it well?’ So I’m going to attempt to answer that. Or at least to tell you how I use it and what features I like.

(Both @therealwikiman and @philbradley have written really good posts on getting started with Twitter.)

Following good people

Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But you can prune and change the people you are following all the time. Who do you like? Who do you believe talks sense? Is there someone who you believe is credible and authoritative? (Do you always read their articles/blog posts/RTs?) Who do they retweet?¬†The only way to judge this and to¬†use Twitter effectively for current awareness,¬†is to go in regularly. The more often you go in, the more¬†likely¬†you are to have an opinion on the people you follow. This will form a base of people whose tweets you always read. You can’t really do this if you only go in once a month.

Information overload? 

One of the things I would say with Twitter is to let the information wash over you and don’t worry about missing stuff. It simply isn’t possible to read every tweet and your time management skills would be rubbish if you tried it, so don’t. I try and go in a couple of times a day and have a read for about 10 or 15 minutes. I check my mentions and if I’ve got any direct messages. Sometimes something is interesting and I might spend a little longer following a particular thread or joining in a discussion but that’s all. Yet I know that¬†if I wasn’t on Twitter then I wouldn’t know half the stuff I do now. and if something is really good, then it will be retweeted lots of times so the likelihood is that you will see it.¬†Once you have let go, then it’s not as overwhelming. So don’t sweat it. (Oops. That might have been another cliche.)

Twitter tools

I use Hootsuite. I like the fact that it sets out my home feed, mentions, direct messages and sent messages in columns so that I can see them at a glance. Tweetdeck does the same thing, only I never got on with it when I first tried it. I’ve no idea why – and am not convinced it was necessarily a rational thing anway. I don’t think I liked the colour. (and I’m sure you can change this now)

At one point I was tweeting for myself and 4 other services/organisations so Hootsuite allowed me to manage this nicely and was one of the best I’d tried for avoiding cock ups. I mean tweeting from the wrong account. It still possible to do, especially when using the mobile apps but I found it harder to randomly tweet at someone 4 times from 4 different accounts or to tweet about gin and kittens from a service account instead of my own personal account.

I also like the way that twitter tools allow you to modify your retweets. So whilst twitter will automatically retweet and post for you, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck will put the retweet back into the ‘composing’ box so that you can shorten something, ¬†correct a typo or URL error or simply comment on something you’ve read and liked. (In case you’ve been wondering, people who MT (modified tweet) aren’t using twitter proper unless they’ve copied and pasted and really, life’s too short for that kind of caper.)

I can also schedule tweets. So if I wanted to I could set up all of my tweets for a week. Now this is useful if you’re a service and there is no-one around to tweet for a week but I think that if you are scheduling tweets that there should at least sometime when you’re ‘live’ and able to engage with your tweeps. ( ūüėČ sorry)

You can now also autoshedule tweets with Hootsuite and the lovely Sue Lawson (@shedsue) explained that this is where hootsuite chooses to send your tweet at the most optiumum time, based on traffic and retweets you’ve received before.

(By the way, I’m sure there are tons of tools that you could use to access twitter, hootsuite and tweetdeck are just 2)

Using Real Twitter

So yes, the majority of time I’m using Hootsuite. I go back to Twitter though to check how many people are following me or see how many people I’m following. It’s also easier to follow people back on Twitter as you can see bios without an extra click. I also slightly prefer the way that lists are displayed on Twitter than to Hootsuite. This might be just idiosyncratic behaviour on my part though. Well the list one anyway.

Lists

Creating lists in twitter is good way of avoiding twitter information overload. So if you don’t want to overclutter your homefeed by following everyone back then you can create lists of twitterers. You don’t have to be following the people or organisations that you have in your lists so their tweets won’t appear in your homefeed. You can create subject lists and go and have a look once a week. For example I’ve created a Social Media list and you can also follow other people’s lists, amongst others, I follow Jeff Bullas’ list of Social Media Thinkers.

The Twitter help page on lists is pretty good:¬†https://support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics/topics/111-features/articles/76460-how-to-use-twitter-lists. The only thing I find slightly irritating when creating lists is that there isn’t a save button and somehow it feels like there should be.

Favourites

I often favourite articles to read later, if I don’t have time to read them there and then. I find this one of the most useful features of twitter. Especially since @CriticalSteph told me about Packrati.us …literally last week.¬†Packrati.us is simply marvellous. You can set it up so that it sends all your favourited and, if you wish, all of your retweeted links to the bookmarking tool of your choice. I use Pocket but you can save to Delicious, Diigo and a few others as well. Just so you know, a lot of the web curation sites out there can do similar sorts of stuff. ¬†(Zite, Flipboard etc. Have a look at Phil Bradley’s article on 20 Alternatives to Google Reader. It’s got¬†some good links to sites that can help you organise your news. (social media/rss)).

But I like Packrati.us. It’s got a picture of a rat.

Final thoughts…

So there we have it. Annette, I hope that this helps. ūüôā I don’t think I’m the most efficient user of twitter but I’m quite happy that the way I use it works for me and fits in with my workflow. I think that’s the main thing. It’s meant to be a tool you can use to help you not hinder you.

Other social media topics

Are there any other social media topics that you good people would like me to talk about? If so, let me know.

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