Tweeting 101: A Twitter Cheat Sheet

34 Comments

I put together the following “Twitter Cheat Sheet” for a client, and thought it might be also helpful for others who are still struggling with how to get started with Twitter. It provides some gentle guidelines that should help to keep emerging best practices in mind.

Why Use Twitter

There are many reasons to use Twitter, but here are my top three.

  • Branding. The more others refer to you or “retweet” what you tweet, the greater your reach. Extend your brand by tweeting “retweetable” tweets.
  • Communications. Twitter can be a powerful communications tool, particularly because of its potential to reach not just your own followers, but your followers’ followers and so on. Google (s goog)  and other search engines are also including tweets in search results now.
  • Community. By engaging your followers, you can begin to build a following, and join in conversations in meaningful ways.

How to Use Twitter

When you first open up Twitter each day, here are a few key things you’ll want to do to make the most of your “tweeting time.”

  1. Check @ messages. First check to see who has publicly referenced you in their tweets and acknowledge, answer or respond.
  2. Check DMs. Next check your direct messages (DMs) from people who have messaged you privately. Note that you don’t need to respond to auto-responders that say things like “Hey, thanks for following me! Can’t wait to learn more about you.” Responding to those is not expected.
  3. Check your Twitterstream. Read through the first few pages or screenfuls of tweets to see what the people you are following are saying, and to see where there might be appropriate opportunities to retweet, respond or reference them.
  4. Check Searches. You save searches for terms such as your brand name, product names, and keywords pertaining to your business or industry. These can be good sources of additional tweet fodder.

How to Make Your Tweets “Retweetable”

Twitter limits the length of tweets to 140 characters. In order to make your tweets “retweetable” (to make it possible for others to retweet you without having to edit the tweet), you need to reduce the the maximum length even further. Add five to the number of letters in your Twittername, then subtract that from 140. So, for example, there are 12 letters in “alizasherman” — adding five to that is 17. So I subtract 17 from 140, which equals 123. That is the maximum length of my “retweetable” tweet.

How to Retweet

There are two standard ways to retweet – adding “RT @Twittername” at the start of the tweet,  and adding “via @Twittername” at the end of the tweet. Either is acceptable, but the latter takes up more valuable “character real estate” — it’s longer, so you can fit less into the retweet. It is acceptable to change spellings of words to make a retweet fit the character limit.

You can also use Twitter’s built-in retweet button, but this is a newer feature has not been adopted by everyone,  and it’s not the ideal way to retweet as it seems less “personal.” You can personalize retweets by adding a comment at the beginning or end.

Here’s a screenshot showing all three types of retweet:

Types of Tweets

There are many ways to tweet. Here are a few examples of different types of tweets to give you some ideas.

  1. Informative with a link
  2. Provocative or timely statement or quote

  3. Questions to start conversations
  4. Referring to someone with an @
  5. Response to an @ message
  6. Retweet
  7. Promotional (with a link or link to image)

How to Use Hashtags

Hashtags are simply words prefixed with a hash sign (#) added to your tweet. Hashtags provide ways to group and find topically-related or conversationally related tweets — readers can click the hashtag in your tweet to find related discussions on the same topic. For example, if you tweet about wine, the best hashtag for wine discussion is “#wine.” By using it strategically, you could attract more followers.

Here are some example tweets using the #wine hashtag:

#FollowFriday or #FF

There is an organic Twitter-wide event called “Follow Friday” where people recognize their favorite Twitterers by referencing them in a list and then adding the hashtag “#followfriday” or “#ff.” Note that you should make sure your Follow Friday list is retweetable.

Follow Friday is a great way to give kudos, help others discover new and relevant Twitterers and to attract the attention of people you follow who may not follow you back yet.

It’s a good idea to thank people when they give you kudos or list you in a Follow Friday tweet, but don’t thank everyone one by one as this can be annoying to your followers.

What are some of your favorite Twitter tips?

Photo by Flickr user Mr_Stein,  licensed under Creative Commons

34 Comments

Demetria

I have a question… how do you get the shortened hyperlinks??? for your twitter stat?

http://twitter.com/PrayMaddyMcCann

The important thing is to follow people who have the same interests as you!
If they re quality followers they should follow you because they share your interests this will enable other people who follow them to find you and follow you too!

If you’d like to follow me I follow back pretty fast and have just over 28,340 followers!
I’m:

http://twitter.com/PrayMaddyMcCann

Raising Awareness for Madeleine McCann!
Thanks alot! Good luck on Twitter and don’t forget it really is about quality followers and not the amount you can accumulate.

Laine D

Finally someone who will explain it in simple terms! Every other “how to” I read said: Join, follow, tweet, retweet aagh!
When eating an elephant it is really good to know which end to start.
Thanks

Siddhartha

I appreciate you breaking it down Gilligan style for us. Mostly a review, as others have said, but always good to refresh the basics.

A good tool too for taking to the front office when they want to know what you do with Twitter, etc.

I hope you post a follow up with more advanced tips.

Rob Powell

Thanks, Aliza. Very helpful info for a newbie. Do you happen to know of any resources for non-profits to help manage their social network activities (free or heavily discounted)?

Gary G

This is awesome! Also thanks to Dana for listing 2 popular platforms to use with Twitter — TweetDeck and HootSuite. I’m curious to see who people say their favorite Tweeple that really do a good job of leveraging Twitter so we can see even more examples :)

Paula

Thanks for packaging these nicely. Twitter is an important tool for us and posts like these make it easier to cope in the social media craze.

Heidi Richards Mooney

What a concise and easy to understand Twitter Tutorial. Thanks so much! I am sharing it on Twitter @heidirichards as well as on my Women in Ecommerce Group on LinkedIn.

Great job!

Heidi Richards Mooney, Author
Quirky Marketing Calendar

Linda Sherman

Nice post Aliza. I like the organization and illustrations.

I get my newbie clients started on the Hootsuite Twitter platform fairly quickly. It’s actually simpler to use than native twitter.

Next step is to have them to set up a couple of Twitter lists and load them into columns on their Hootsuite so that they can filter their Twitter stream.

JMS

Wow, really? I literally was going to sit down and do this for my coworkers this weekend. Seriously. So, thanks…I’ll be using this extensively over the next few days (with plenty of credit to you; I won’t just rip it off).

Aislinn O'Connor

Thanking people for RTs, #Follow recommendations, listings, etc. doesn’t NEED to be annoying to your followers – as long as you don’t put anything ahead of the “@” name you’re replying to, your tweet doesn’t need to go to your entire Twitter timeline. Also, if you thank about 4 of your followers in 1 tweet, it cuts down the number of messages you’re going to have to send.

Very useful article.

Karthik Prabhu

Nice post.. Really informative..:).. Helps people who are really new to twitter..

Codrut Turcanu

How to Make Your Tweets “Retweetable” is really a little-known tip. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Hashtags? Wow… it seems Twitter lingo enlarges regularly.

P.S. Yes, I’m having a question…

For how long have you been using Twitter and what results did you get so far in terms of clicks and leads? I’m mainly interested in the conversion ratio

I know that social media is the place to talk with friends, and not attract clients, but some entrepreneurs still don’t get it.

Dana Sheehan

Twitter can be a good place to find new clients. The trick is to put good information in front of them on a regular basis in whatever your field of expertise it. For example, if you own a restaurant you want to send out your specials, coupons, when you’re mentioned in the media and answer questions. When you interact with people then they develop an emotional attachment to you. The next item they need your services (in this example, they want to go out to eat), they’re more likely to choose you.

As for conversion rates, they’re harder to track. It’s more about the interaction and making a connection. Someone else may be able to give you more insight on conversion ratios, but I personally don’t track it. I do track clicks, mentions and retweets using Hootsuite.

sadiebelle

Nice summary, although nothing new it is a brilliant cheat sheet to share with newbies. To think people charge naive business owners a lot of money to learn this…

Dana Sheehan

Great tips! I’m definitely going to share this.

My best tip (not mentioned, that is) is to use a good tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck (I like HootSuite because it’s web-based and I can access it from anywhere).

Another good tip is to use Twitter Apps to enhance Twitter’s usability. A good source is http://www.oneforty.com.

And my third tip is to include your Twitter Steam on your website. I use Twitter’s (found in Goodies) because it allows me to customize the colors to my brand and has some other display options that I like.

Laura

GREAT post. Even though I knew a lot of this, it really helped to revisit it and absorb how accessible and simple it can be!

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