2. Don't take the update question literally!
Even though the main update box asks "What are you doing?" you don't need to answer that directly. Twitter started as a service in which people kept a few friends up to date with their activities. But its usage has continually evolved, and now a lot of Twitter users, including me, prefer to answer this question:
What can you share that might interest others?
You could provide a thought, a quote, an article, a provocative question, a video, a picture, a funny turn of phrase -- or just "retweet" what someone else has shared (see below). The best way to have a great experience on Twitter is to figure out your own way of giving your followers and potential folllowers something they'll like. (By the way, that rules out product pitches and charmless self-promotion.)
3. No need to Tweet all the time
Once you've signed up an account it's easy to worry that you have to tweet (ie submit a message) every hour. Don't. No one's counting. Once people follow you, they're unlikely to unfollow you unless you annoy them. So it's fine to tweet only when you have something interesting to share. Once a day, once a week, once a month... it doesn't matter. The whole Twitter world will be grateful for less noise, more signal! Speaking of which...
4. Less is More
The ridiculously short character limit seems like a pain, but is actually the key to Twitter's success. Apart from the fact that it makes updates over SMS text-messages possible, it forces people to be disciplined and creative. To phrase things in a way that cuts to the core. And if there are times when you absolutely need to share something longer, you can try what I've done here - set up an account on a blogging service, create your longer post, and then link to it from Twitter. (Posterous is super-easy, by the way. You literally just email them some text or pics, and they auto-post.)
5. Shorten web addresses
And when it comes to linking, the limited character count means you'll need to use a service that shortens any web addresses you refer people to. Try http://bit.ly It has the additional benefit of tracking how many people click on the links you send round.
6. Help spread the good stuff by ReTweeting (RT)
Information can spread across Twitter like wildfire. It happens because if people see something they like, they ReTweet it. Here's how to do it: And here are 3 reasons why you should:
- You're helping spread the word about things you care about.
- You're being generous to the Twitter user(s) you're retweeting. They will notice.
- You're giving your followers great content without having to write it from scratch!
7. Twitter is NOT great for conducting a conversation. Don't overdo.
You can reply to someone else's tweet by clicking the reply arrow, but bear in mind that :
- some of your followers may also see the reply (namely those that are also following the person you're replying to)
- anyone who clicks on your user name will see your full stream of tweets including public replies.
- in Twitter's current incarnation, it's hard for other users to follow a conversation, either because you're just looking at one side of it, or because question and answer are often separated by numerous other tweets. You prob don't want your tweet feed looking like this all the time:
My conclusion: Don't let replies become more than a small part of what you tweet. Direct Messaging, IM or email are much better tools for conversations, though I understand Twitter is working on features to make conversations better.
8. Understand the realities of Twitter numbers
Twitter has enjoyed explosive growth. Some people are following hundreds or even thousands of others. But no one has figured out how to fit more than 24 hours in a day. So most Twitterers can respond to only a tiny fraction of the tweets from the people they're following. In fact most tweets are probably not even seen by more than 10% of that tweeter's followers, because either the followers are not online at the time of the tweet, or it gets drowned out by the deluge of other messages. Also a lot of Twitter accounts are dormant. So tweet with confidence... but don't be disappointed if the response is sometimes less than you hoped.
9. Now read a REAL Twitter guide
Here are the best I found:
Oh, and finally...
...if you're unfamiliar with TED, the non-profit organization I run, it's all about "ideas worth spreading". We put online short videos of talks on all subjects given by amazing people. Try these first. There are hundreds more at http://ted.com. But look out... they're addictive!