Saturday, May 23, 2009

Twitter Tips

One of the things I love about Twitter is that it is up to us to decide how we want to use it. I want to share with you a variety of different tips. All of these are based on how I use Twitter. Hopefully you'll discover at least one new thing & find it worth sharing with your own followers.

Replies on Twitter

About 10 days ago Twitter made a change in how replies are handled. Replies are tweets that start with @username. Previously you had the options (via your settings) whether or not you wanted to see replies your followers make to those you are not following or not. Now you can only see replies your followers make to those you are also following. 

Twitter claims that only 3% of users had this feature enabled. Personally, I think that those 3% were likely amongst the most active users. In any event, being able to see @replies was great for those of us who are looking to expand our network, find more like-minded people and to be able to find others to engage with. As my own follower base grew, I know that it helped a lot of my own followers connect with others. Now when I have an exchange with someone that I think may interest other followers, I will RT their tweet and respond to that or I will reply and put a "." in front of their user name.

The change in replies has made #followfriday a bit of a mess. Even though we've now had our second Friday since the change, many of the more active users don't understand how making recommendations to others is almost pointless if they start with @username. The reason is that only that person, those following that person already and anyone else mentioned in the tweet will see the recommendation. A way around it is to start off with anything other than @username.

Retweet is King

Aside from exchanges on Twitter, one of the great things about it is the ability to share information. Retweeting is used to pass along useful things you see your own followers tweet.

If you are a follower of mine, you'll see that I do a considerable number of retweets each day. I do it not just to pass along information to others but also so that my own followers can find other people that share useful information on Twitter.

I don't suggest going retweet crazy but try and take the time to share information you think others may be interested in. The benefit of retweeting others is that your own followers will see you do it and you just may find your own tweets get retweeted more often.

There are 2 ways to handle retweets:

RT @username [Tweet]

[Tweet] via @username

In both cases, make sure to include a space before the @username so that the person you are retweeting will see it (and it will also make their profile clickable for your followers).

I personally prefer using the second method. This makes it easier for tweets I pass along to catch the eye of those following me.

Always Acknowledge

If you see someone tweet a link, piece of info or something else, remember to acknowledge the source (via retweet examples above).  Remember the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want others to credit you as a source, be sure to acknowledge sources yourself.

Look in Stream 

Some days I get 500-1500 mentions. This is a lot to deal with on it's own. But I do try and take the time at least several times a day to look at my "home" page and see where:

A. I can help someone that is in need
B. I see information I can share with my own followers
C. Someone I may not have had previous exchanges with seems to be sharing a common interest
D. Something I can comment on or contribute to


New Followers

Even though I use autofollow most of the time, I DO look at each new follower - even if it is a couple of weeks behind. When I do this, I go through the same A-D I mention above. This helps build a connection with new followers and I think much better than just a simple thanks for following me.

Using DMs

Avoid auto-dms. They are a headache and in the world of Social Media are definitely not going to enhance your credibility in any way. 

Requests/Favors

Unless you have a connection established with someone already, don't DM or tweet them asking for a retweet, to look at a site or something else. Those of us with higher usage of Twitter get inundated with requests like this. It's not that we don't want to help people, it's a matter of mutual respect. On an average day I get 50 or more retweet requests. Unless I have had personal contact with the person, these DM's get deleted. It will also make me less likely to retweet something of that person I may have otherwise done.

The best thing to do - retweet and share info of others before you need their help. It will make people more responsive when you do need assistance.

Using Protected Posts

Many of my followers use protected posts. Unfortunately most of the time due to tweet volume, I need to use Twitter search to respond to tweets. This means I now miss many protected tweets since they do not show up in Twitter search. If you run into the same boat - needing to use Twitter search for responding to Tweets - keep this in mind.

When you get behind on Tweets

During the week, I often get behind with reading/responding to mentions. I go to Twitter search and will do an advanced search on tweets referencing sharonhayes AND set the parameters to a specific date. I do the date filtering because it helps me limit the tweets in my search and because Twitter search only displays 75 pages of tweets.  The nice thing with Twitter search is that you can see conversation threads so you can easily spot those tweets you didn't respond to.

Keeping your following list clean

Every few days I find out one of my followers accidentally unfollowed me because of using a tool like FriendorFollow. Many of these kinds of tools make mistakes and will show people are not following you that are. It seems to be more of an issue with those that have larger followings or who have empty pages in their following list (like I do). If you do use one of these tools to clean up who you are following, I suggest double checking before unfollowing.

Personally, I prefer just scrolling through my following pages. Here's an easy way to do it: take the number of people you are following and divide it by 20. That will tell you how many pages worth of people you are following. Click on the link on your profile page for "following". Go to previous page. In the URL bar of your browser, you'll see http://twitter.com/friends?page=2 . Change the 2 to the number of pages you need to go back. You can then scroll through the pages and unfollow those you see who aren't following back who you may want to unfollow. Your following pages are in chronological order so on the very last page are the first people you followed. On the first page are the latest you followed.

If someone is following you back, it will show a "Direct Message" link below their user name. If they are not following you back, you will not see this.

It really doesn't take that long to do. I go through my entire list every 4-6 weeks. The last time I did it (with around 25,000 following), it took me around 2 hours around doing other things. So maybe an hour of actual time.  Note for techies: I did try to do it once by backing up both my following and follower list then comparing the two. It actually took me longer this way since I'm fast on the computer than to manually do it. If you are slower on the computer, comparing backups may save you time and be more reliable.

Please remember to give people time to follow back before you unfollow them. Not everyone checks their new followers daily. I suggest a minimum of 3-4 days, preferably a week.

There are a few different websites that will tell you the last time people tweeted. The idea being that this can help see who you should unfollow. *Many* people I do business with via Twitter are not actively tweeting but they do send DMs and read tweets. I have some people who have followed me for months that I actively engage with privately who have never tweeted at all. From a business perspective, I don't consider the idea of unfollowing someone based on their last tweet date to be a sound one.


Following Limits

For the Twitter pros, this is old news, but since I have at least one person a day asking me about this, I thought it was worth explaining.

Twitter allows you to follow up to 2000 people without restrictions. Once you hit 2000 following, you can only follow 10% more than are following you. If you find yourself stuck at the 2000 limit, you may want to look at the followbacks and unfollow some of those not returning the follow.

Recently Twitter imposed an additional restriction: you can only have 1000 follow actions per day. This includes unfollows. If you hit this limit, you need to wait for the 24 hour period to be up to follow more people. Note: there are no limits on unfollows, but when you unfollow, it reduces how many you can follow.

Being Unfollowed/Unfollowing

I think that on Twitter, friendships can develop much faster than in the offline world. At the same time, friendships can cycle through quickly. The inevitable will happen to each of you - people that you have exchanged tweets with and you may have liked - for whatever reason, unfollow you. Don't take this personally. Just as in the offline world, friends come in and out of your life. Are you still friends with everyone you talked with in elementary school, high school, college, etc? 

There are also a lot of people that game Twitter - I've blogged about this previously. To circumvent the follow limits and build their following base faster, they will unfollow people that have followed them. Some of these people appear to be legitimate users too and keep their following/follower numbers in balance. Again, don't take it personally. When I come across people that are gaming and who have unfollowed me, I simply block them when I unfollow them to stop them from refollowing again.

Deciding when to follow back

There are many different approaches people take about following others back. What you decide to do should be based on your own usage of Twitter. My own rule of thumb is that I follow everyone back. Although my tweets are not self-promoting or about my own business activities, I do generate a lot of business from Twitter. I don't want to close doors by not following someone back.

One interesting thing here to consider: many of the most valuable business contacts I have made have had NO tweets and follow very few people. Consequently if you are using Twitter for business, you may want to consider the reasons why someone with no/few tweets may have chosen to follow you & if they are worth a followback. From a strictly business side, if I were to limit who I follow back, I would definitely follow someone with no tweets before someone tweeting a bunch of garbage.

I hope that you found these tips useful.  :)


Thanks to Joshua Denney for input.

6 comments:

Retnev said...

Wow! Thank you! Some more useful tips. I don't use autofollow and usually follow back. I use FriendorFollow but also make sure with DoesFollow before I unfollow somebody. Most of the people that I unfollow are people that followed me first and then unfollow as soon as I follow back. I also use FriendorFollow to see who is following me that I don't follow back. Will try you method.

Thank you again, you are wonderful and I always learn something new from you.

DagmarBleasdale said...

Thank you for all of these great tips! I am still learning about all the things I can do with Twitter, and your article was so informative! I hope to get the same number of followers to read my mommy/personal blog as you have on Twitter.

Best,
Dagmar

john.bottom said...

I thought I knew all the Twitter tips, but there's some really good info here. Personally, my approach is to follow everyone who follows me (apart from the obvious 'gamers') and then only unfollow if they unfollow me, or if their content proves to be rubbish. I like to think I'm building a list of quality over quantity. Nice summary, Sharon.

Carissa(GoodnCrazy) said...

Hey oh my heck! the hack for going thru your list of who YOU follow to see if they are following you is brilliant, can't believe I didn't know about that! both the number in url and the DM tip...thanks.

So do you have a similar trick for going thru new following you?

You use autofollow but how? Which service?

SharonTucci said...

I actually disabled autofollow. The reason being that Twitter cap of 1000 follows/unfollows per day plus the massive issues with Spammers meant I wasn't able to follow legitimate people back. So I'm back to the old fashioned way of going through new follower emails manually again. I had been using Socialtoo.

Russ said...

This post is VERY HELPFUL.Ü I wish a lot of Twitter users get to read this. Thanks sooo much!