So you’ve been on Twitter for a while, and you’re ready to start tweeting. Click on the little blue square at the upper right-hand corner of your page, and a box will pop up with a 140-character countdown ready for you to fill.
With … what?
There are almost as many different styles of tweeting as there are people using Twitter, so in one sense there’s no “wrong” way to do it — whatever you end up doing will appeal to some people and not others. My best advice is to be yourself: write the kinds of tweets you enjoy reading, and you’ll find yourself in mini-communities of like-minded people.
There are a few general categories of tweets — you’ll be doing several of these as you develop your own distinctive Twitter style.
- The quintessential self-contained tweet is the quip of a comedian or writer. Not that witty? Don’t worry, most of us aren’t. Think of these as the pleasantries and observations you exchange as you’re making small talk at a party.
- You’ll see one-liners, funny or otherwise, during events that are being “live-tweeted” as they unfold. If you’re online (or on your phone) while watching a presidential debate, the Oscars, the Super Bowl, or Downton Abbey, you’ll find other people are as well, and tweeting about it in real time. Tweet along with your own commentary, with or without a hashtag. (We’ll talk about them in a future post — for now, just know that it’s a keyword preceded by a #).
- As Marlene Dietrich said, “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.” If you’ve got something to say but are worried it’s too banal, find a quote that expresses the sentiment. Instead of “Hey! It’s snowing!,” you can tweet “ ‘A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.’ ~Carl Reiner.” I found these two quotes at www.quotegarden.com, which organizes quotations by topic and lets you cut and paste without a bunch of extra coding.
- If you want to get into the habit of regular tweeting, but are nervous about coming up with something to say, pick a daily theme. For a while I was doing #WOTD (Word of the Day) tweets with fun or unusual etymologies. You can also do “today’s birthday” or “on this day in history” (both listed daily on a link on Wikipedia’s homepage). Make sure you pick something that others will find interesting — your horoscope, for instance, isn’t.
Tweets with links
- Share fun and interesting articles, blog posts, and websites by providing links. Each should have an explanation, description, or tease as to what the link goes to. (You wouldn’t go to a link to an unknown destination and risk getting infected with malware, right? Neither would anyone else with any sense.)
- If you got the link from someone with a Twitter account but create your own tweet about it, it’s considered polite to add “via @soandso” to acknowledge that, if you’ve got room.
- The link usually goes at the end of your post.
- Share links to your own work if it’s posted online. No, it’s not bragging or being obnoxious, it’s letting people who have chosen to follow you know what you’re up to.
- Many websites now offer a “Tweet this!” option at the bottom of their posts and pages. Clicking on one of these buttons will present you with a prewritten tweet with link. You can either use their wording or edit the tweet into your own words before sending.
- If you’ve got a photo or other jpeg you’d like to share, click on the camera icon at the bottom left of the tweet pop-up, which will take you to the photos on your computer. Find the photo you want and click on it; it will load as a link. You can then add an explanation for the picture.
- You can also upload photos through twitpic.com, Instagram, and Pinterest.
- Twitter will automatically shorten your links. If you want (or need) to keep track of how many people click on your links, you can use a link shortener that will monitor how much usage the links get, from where, etc. I use bitly.com, but there are other services available as well.
That’s enough to get you started — I’ll cover retweets (RTs) and one-on-one tweets in my next post.