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11 Twitter Tips

Because I’m going to be teaching a class on Social Media at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto next month, I’ll be blogging more about social media in the coming weeks. Today: 10 Twitter Tips.

1. Choose a Twitter handle that people will remember. Whether it’s your name (@charliesheen, @meghancward), a cute nickname (@ Mc_Huge, @iamnatedavis), or something else altogether (@BookBuzzr, @LaughingSquid), make your handle easy to remember. What’s great is that, unlike on Facebook, you can CHANGE your handle without losing your followers. Just click on your settings.

2. Have a focus to your tweets. You could be the funny guy (@shitmydadsays) or you could tweet about wine (@jorgrama), or you could be famous and tweet about anything and everything (@susanorlean).

3. Tweet often. It’s possible, but difficult, to tweet too often. If someone is tweeting every five minutes and clogging up my whole stream à la @guykawasaki, I’ll unfollow them. But if someone is tweeting every hour, sometimes more frequently when they are online and at-replying people, that’s okay. That’s what Twitter is for.

4. Your tweets should be 90 percent interesting (links, funny observations, insights, etc.) and 10 percent promotional. Don’t tweet only when you have something to advertise, or you will quickly lose followers.

5. If you don’t have a lot of time to tweet, try this strategy that @sinandsyntax suggested: every day send one tweet, one at-reply, and one retweet. Twitter, like blogging and Facebook, is all about building community. You need to interact with other tweeters (Twitterers?) by at-replying, retweeting and follow-Friday-ing them. (On Friday, type the Follow Friday hashtag #ff followed by one or more people you suggest your followers follow. For example: #ff @sierragodfrey, @annerallen, @klipmart)

6. Follow people. There are three reasons to follow people.

One is to build community. At-reply them, retweet them, DM them if they’re following you back, and make friends.

Two is to find interesting links and information to retweet. This can be a great source of material for your own tweets as well as your blog. Just make sure to give the original tweeter credit by retweeting them.

Three is to get followers. About a third of the people you follow will follow you back. You can increase that percentage by paying attention to how many people those people are following. If someone has 1,000,000 followers and is following 6 people, chances are, she won’t follow you back. If your goal is to keep track of what an agent is doing, to entertain yourself, or to mine Twitter for interesting articles to blog about and retweet, you don’t care whether people follow you back. If your goal is to get followers (and my suggestion is that your goal be BOTH of these things), you may want to focus on following the people who tend to follow their followers back. @sfgrotto, for example, has a policy to follow its followers back unless they look spammy. We don’t want a feed filled with ads for remodeling your bathroom.

7. Follow people back. Some people will unfollow people who don’t follow them back within a few days. If you want to keep your followers, it’s a good idea to check them every couple of days and follow back the ones who interest you. I don’t follow everyone back, but I do tend to follow back writers and editors and publishing people who tweet interesting observations and links.

8. Use Mashable’s Twitter lists, WeFollow, Twitter’s “Who To Follow” suggestions, and Twitter Lists to find people to follow. Another way to find people to follow is to look at the lists of other people you follow. You can follow the whole list or just the people who interest you. You can also Google phrases like “best writers to follow on Twitter” and you’ll find articles about interesting people to follow.

9. Link Twitter to Facebook with caution. It’s convenient to link Twitter to Facebook because then when you want to announce that $5 million movie deal to all your friends and followers, you can type it just once and it will post to both. But use a service like or the Facebook app Selective Tweets, which send only tweets with the hashtag #fb to your Facebook account. Otherwise what happens is either you’re not tweeting frequently enough (less than a couple of times a day) or you’re inundating your Facebook friends with tweets, which will quickly lead to their hiding your feed. One rule I’ve heard is to post no more than three times a day to Facebook.

10. Use hashtags. This is something I always forget to do. All you have to do is put #writetip, #pubtip, #amwriting, or whatever else you want somewhere in your tweet and then that tweet will show up when someone searches that hashtag. For popular hashtags, you can look up what’s trending on both Twitter and Mashable. If you know any other good writing/editing/publishing hashtags, let me know!

11. Let people know you’re on Twitter. Put a Twitter button on your blog, add your name to WeFollow, put your Twitter ID on your business card and at the bottom of your e-mails (Hey, I should do that!). One popular tweeter, @danegolden, suggested putting your Twitter ID at the bottom of publications. “Meghan Ward can be followed on Twitter @meghancward” for example.

What about you? Do you have any Twitter tips? I’d love to hear them!

19 comments to 11 Twitter Tips

  • Oh, goody. I love being made an example of. And these are excellent guidelines, Meghan.

    I recently unfollowed a few tweeters for garrulousness and inexcusable self-promoting and in one case, too much religious fervor. Oh, and also, I unfollowed a few folks because they never tweeted anything at all, which I can't figure out. I've been on Twitter about a year now, and I've noticed a pattern wherein people will join, tweet a bunch and then sort of taper off to nothing. Hopefully they haven't all fallen down wells wherever they live.

    I try to tweet a few times a day and then respond to anyone who responds to my silliness with more silliness. I know I'm probably supposed to tweet the heck out of my blog posts, but I think I only will post links to my blog once or twice and that's it. I wouldn't say I'm the most comfortable person with this whole social media thing; I just kind of wing it based on what I think is fun and how much time I have. No need to freak out — just do what feels right for you.

  • I'm still fairly new to Twitter and have an embarassingly low number of followers. But, I'm learning each and every day (took me a while to figure out what the hashtags were for and how to use them properly) thanks to posts like this!

    Christi Corbett

  • Christi – Speaking of hashtags, I ALWAYS forget to use them! When you just mentioned that now, I thought, "Oh, shoot. Not only did I not mention hashtags in this post, I haven't put a hashtag (aside from #fb and #ff) on any of my tweets in months." Ugh.

    KLM – I only tweet each blog post once. Do other people tweet theirs more than once? I haven't noticed that. And I think you're right – like with blogging, a lot of people tweet a lot and then fall down wells. I guess "Pace Yourself" is another good tip.

  • P.S. I updated this post to include hashtags. There are now 11 Twitter Tips!

  • I always forget the hashtags too. Great tips. And thanks for including me as one of your #ff examples. I tweet writing tips, mostly. And I'll follow you back if you're a writer or blogger.

    And today, I actually got quoted by @Quotes4Writers: "I'm a novelist. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a work of fiction." –Anne R. Allen. First time I've been deemed quotable. Having a tweet immortalized is as exciting as publishing a short story.

  • Oh yeah, it's DEFINITELY possible to tweet too much. If there's one person constantly clogging up my Twitter stream, and they're not *wildly* entertaining, they're toast. (An interim step is to not follow their RTs, but that's not always enough.)

    Then again, I think my Twitter Tolerance is low.

    Because of that, however, I *try* not to over-tweet myself. I really like #5 as a guideline/suggestion.

  • Kristan – How do you not follow someone's RTs but still follow their tweets? I've never heard of that. I also just thought of another tip I forgot to include: to use a Twitter client. I'm going to update it to 12 Twitter Tips! And speaking of which – which Twitter client do you guys use? I use HootSuite.

  • Hey Meghan, thanks for including me in tip #11. Hooray!

    BTW, Dane Golden can be found @danegolden on Twitter. Or just Google the word "Hey" and you'll find me. How's that for branding?

  • Dane – ha! Thanks for stopping by! There will be a twelfth tip soon …

  • Always love to see myself mentioned 🙂 And so do Kristen Lippert-Martin and Anne Allen, clearly, who must have huge heads by now! (kidding ladies. sort of. kidding! Not really.)

    And how weird…I think I know/ knew Dane Golden in a former life actually. I shall go look him up and see.

    I use Tweetdeck, I love it.

  • That is an excellently written post.

    I have a slightly different approach to following though. I follow interesting people and if they follow me back, all the better.

    I keep a much closer eye on the people who follow me. Every night I check who they are and over half of them I block or block and report spam immediately. I follow about 40% of the people who follow me and do nothing with the remaining 10%.

    If someone who is in real estate wants to follow me, I ask the question, "Why?". If they are following 600 people and have 200 followers…I BLOCK…if they have 5000 followers and are listed 100 times (it means people don't really care what they tweet)…I BLOCK…if all their tweets are promotional…they get the boot. If someone has in their bio (If you follow me, I will follow you back), I gag, then block them. If they don't have any tweets, follow 1200 people, have 153 followers, and their avatar is an incredibly sexy woman…I pause…then block.

    Why am I such a zealot? I want to know how many real followers I have, not just a big number. I know almost all of the 900 plus people who follow me, some better than others, but I know them.

    Social Media is about being social. Some people think it is a video game, where the goal is to get as many followers as possible. It isn't.

    That is my two cents worth. If anyone wants to follow my drivel, you are welcome to try, but I may block you.

    Sorry to go on such a rant.


    Brian Meeks

  • Great tips, Meghan! Very helpful as I also preparing for a workshop here in Banff for non-profits. A lot of people aren't aware of these rules of thumb and it is easy to pick a newby out of the crowd. I once heard a 4:1 ratio – after 4 contributions to the community (RTs, mentions, etc.) then you can do 1 update about your own activity. Lately I've been trying to figure out if my handle (@yaheweha) is memorable enough. I think it's recognizable…at least, that's the impression I got at the last tweet up. But people never know how to pronounce it. Perhaps that makes it memorable, though. Anyways, great post! I'll definitely be referring people to it!

  • Brian, I think that's WONDERFUL that you know all 900+ people who follow you! I agree 100% that social media is about being social. I'm a little confused about this part of the real estate analogy: "if they have 5000 followers and are listed 100 times (it means people don’t really care what they tweet)…I BLOCK" – the rest I agree with, but what's wrong with having 5000 followers and being listed 100 times? I've never blocked anyone. I pay close attention to whom I'm following, but not so close to who is following me. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Great article Meghan!

    I always forget about the #hashtags. After reading your article, I plan on incorporating them a little more in my Tweets. I also really enjoyed the information you provided about following back your followers. It makes a lot of sense to follow those (as long as they're people whom you want to target) who follow you.

  • Meghan – I like yaheweha, but the Alan Rinzler article ( says you should use your real name as your handle. Ours (@meghanward) is taken by someone who never tweets, but it looks like @meghanjward and @meghanjoyward are available if you ever wanted to switch.

  • Ugh. I need threaded comments!

    Kathleen – Like I said, I always forget hashtags, too. And one article I read on Mashable warns not to overuse them, so I guess that's something to beware of, too. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Really great Twitter tips! I haven't been tweeting nearly as much lately. Just don't have the time, but I always try to reply when someone tweets at me. I never remember to use hashtags either!

  • Great information, Meghan. I need to work on Twitter, esp. now that my book cover's done. There's still a lot that confuses me. I've read that if you're a published writer, you should use your author name. Put it everywhere!! You gotta squash that shyness. You gotta get your name and face Out There.

    I still don't completely understand hashtags. Gotta look into that again, too. Not enough time in a day!!

  • Carolina, Well, it's tough to find time to tweet when you're off gettings agents and the like!

    Ann – I've also read (since I wrote this post) that you should use your real name and not a nickname. I think that's ideal, but if it's not available or if you have a really common name, I think it's best to use something memorable.