How to Tweet

It’s obvious, right? You are limited to 140 characters, you can add links and images (now at no cost in characters), what more do you need to know? Well, it turns out, quite a lot!

First of all, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you have something to tell people about. It may be a product or a service or perhaps just a blog post. Whatever it is, you’ll probably want to attract people and not to turn them off. You’ll also want to reach as many people as possible. If you already have 100,000 Twitter followers just hitting the tweet button may be enough. Otherwise, you’ll need some other strategies to get your tweet seen.

Use hashtags

They have fast become a popular culture cliche – (hashtag-fail and so on) but, in fact, hashtags have a surprisingly long history. Long before Twitter, before even the World Wide Web, geeks hung out and chewed the breeze on Internet Relay Chat (they still do). If you use Slack to talk to friends and co-workers then you already have a good grasp on the way that it worked. An IRC server manages a set of channels – each named with a leading # character. Broadly speaking, there is nothing to stop an IRC user from creating a new channel just by joining one that does not yet exist. To help other people find these channels their names are often descriptive. This is more or less the way that hashtags work on Twitter. Although there is no special ‘room’ or ‘channel’ managed by a hashtag, users can find hashtagged tweets using Twitter’s search function. Also, tools such as Twitter’s own Tweetdeck can create channel-like columns based on hashtags.

So how can you tell what hashtag you should use for your tweet? You could simply make one up, of course, but you’re more likely to pick up traffic if you use a tag which is already well known. You could simply type a tag into the search box in the Twitter web app, of course, and that will give you some idea of what is popular. If you want to get a bit more scientific about your marketing, though, you might try one of the great tools out there. RiteTag, for example, will show you a list of hashtags related to a search term with useful statistics including the number of tweets and retweets per hour. Or, if you prefer your information presented in a more visual and organic format, try hashtagify.me which shows similar information but as a graphical mind map that illustrates the correlations between tags.

Don’t spam but use repetition sparingly

Sometimes it seems as if there is something more than a little spammy about social networks. We’re all trying to get eyeballs all the time. And tools like Buffer and Tweetdeck (and, yes, Pressmonkey) make it easy to take the brute force approach. Just pick a message and send it over and over again. Surely that will work? Well, not so much, in fact. One of the reasons for the rise of the click-bait article is the fact that people are very good at tuning out noise. If you send out the same message over and over again it will very quickly become just that. Oh, and people will think the less of you.

Having said that, Twitter does warrant a certain amount of repetition. There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quality to the network with tweets flying by at an enormous rate. Also, we’re catering to potential readers across the world – many of whom will be asleep or otherwise engaged when your tweet hits their stream. So you may want to send a key tweet out a few times in the first day or two. If the content you’re promoting is evergreen, then you can schedule a varied menu of tweets into the future too.

However you plan your schedule, your best strategy is to mix up your tweets and to make sure that each one provides value.

Say something

Well, obviously – you can’t really send a tweet without saying something after all. So let’s extend that. Say something useful, interesting, informative or entertaining. No pressure. You don’t have to craft a masterpiece, but try to avoid the kind of boilerplate promotion that can make a Twitter stream so tedious.

If you’re promoting a blog post, for example, you might extract a number of pull quotes for your campaign. If you’re using Pressmonkey you can do this as part of your authoring process rather than as an afterthought. Each tweet should provide interest in its own right and do double duty by promising more at the end of a link.

You know the secret to winning friends and influencing people, right? It’s talking about them rather than yourself. If you have something to say or sell, then go for it — but a feed that only focusses on yourself will end up seeming dull and repetitive. Talk about other people – talk to other people.

Mentions

Reaching out to relevant and influential people is part and parcel of marketing. If you’ve linked to someone in a post, a mention to the author is a good way to help your work get traction. You do this by including her handle in your tweet – preceded, of course, by the all-important @ symbol. Your tweet will then appear in her notification list, so it’s a good way of ensuring visibility without being intrusive. Of course, you have to start by finding the handles of your prospective mentionees. Often you’ll find the author’s Twitter handle on the source article’s web page. Failing that, a search on the author’s name will often yield the Twitter handle you’re looking for. Do remember to cross check the Twitter bio against what you know of the post author – mistaken identity mentions can be embarrassing.

Twitter handle discovery is one of Pressmonkey’s candidate features. Sign up to our list to learn about our plots and plans and to tell us what you need!

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Don’t be a dick…

Perhaps you didn’t use your real name when you signed up for your account. So that frees you up to be as mean as you want, right? Well, there are two problems with that. Firstly, you’d be surprised how easy it is for people to work out who you are if they really want to – and even on Twitter where you can delete your tweets, bad behaviour often sticks around for a long time. Secondly… why would you want to be mean, anyway? You’re hurting real people. Listen to this fantastic segment from This American Life in which Lindy West confronts one of her trolls and challenges him with the consequences of his abuse.

…But be yourself

Feel free to let your personality show through. There’s a lot of bland copy out there, and a bit of colour can only help. Of course, we must all decide where to draw our lines. If you’re promoting a product or a service you may think that sweary political tweets will alienate potential customers or champions. For that reason, I’m unlikely to veer into politics on the @pressmonkey_io account. On the other hand, I run an account related to culture and fiction, and I’m more relaxed about what I’ll say in that guise. For some people, being sweary or opinionated is simply part of the deal. Chuck Wendig’s fun and foul-mouthed writing blog and Twitter account are good cases in point.

Picture credit: Claudio Toledo / Creative Commons

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