12 tips for making the most of Twitter

Keep your content fresh, time retweets, and send out busy signals. These techniques and more will make for an interesting and successful feed.

Being named to the Nifty 50 Women on Twitter got me thinking about what’s important as an active member of the Twitter community.

Twitter is the quintessential social media vehicle. It allows one-to-many, one-to-one and many-to-many communications. That said, as a social media platform, Twitter is difficult. You can’t just jump into the conversation and figure it out by the seat of your pants. You need to learn the secret language, build your tribe, and be a committed participant. On Twitter, the focal point is the community—it’s about all of us, not just one person or organization.

Whether you’re new to Twitter or have been active for a while, here are 12 tips to help you improve your interactions:

1. Feed your community. This means finding and sharing interesting information for your followers. Just as people get tired of eating the same thing every day, mix up the information you share so your followers won’t have to read the same content every day. Use different sources and content formats.

2. Add a touch of personality to your tweets. This makes your tweets stand out. Include a short, useful comment to guide followers. Edit post titles to shorten them while keeping the original meaning. Acknowledge authorship.

3. Check tweets and links before sharing or retweeting. People often retweet incorrect URLs without realizing it, because they never clicked the link. In a similar vein, many people retweet strong titles without ever reading the article.

4. Add creativity by using Twitter bait. Think about how to get others to tweet the same words. (For example, #UsGuys uses #RingTheTribalBell to welcome new members.) This tactic is particularly useful for talks and conferences.

5. Don’t just retweet well-known folks or publications. Check the content to see whether you want your name associated with it. Tweeting or retweeting highly tweeted sources may not get you recognized. Instead, look for less-popular content to share and stand out.

6. Time your retweets. Don’t just hit the retweet button; change the timing by an hour or more to broaden the information’s audience. This is important if your followers overlap or if you’re using the same hashtag. It’s acceptable practice to use a Twitter application to schedule your tweets.

7. Expand your read beyond your followers. Use relevant hashtags to distribute your tweets more broadly. Consider whether you want to link your tweets to other social media platforms and/or include a Twitter feed on your blog or website.

8. Send your audience a busy signal. Let followers know when you will have more activity than usual, such as participating in a Twitter chat or live tweeting at an event.

9. Don’t clog followers’ or a hashtag’s tweet stream. Space out your tweets rather than sending a bunch in a short time period. One exception is the method employed by Christopher Penn, who selects five things worth sharing each morning and calls it “The Five” (#the5).

10. Don’t repeat other people’s tweets just to see your name again. This happens a lot for Follow Friday (#FF) and Marketer Monday (#MM) lists. Give someone recognition with a unique call-out that explains why others should follow them, but don’t include someone’s Twitter handle in your tweet just to get their attention. That can backfire and make them angry.

11. Be human, but skip the minutia. Showing that you have real life feelings and relationships makes you more approachable and enables people to relate to you, but don’t tweet your every action; even your mother doesn’t want to know that much about you. Your followers don’t need to know about every Foursquare check-in.

12. Show that you care. Include some small talk in your Twitter communications, but don’t over-share. Twitter can be a great way to build relationships. A great forum for Twitter conversation is #UsGuys. (Please join our 24/7 conversation.)

Twitter is a great social media forum for communicating and sharing information. The challenge is learning the ropes to become an insider. Though it’s important to be human, restrain yourself from over-sharing or over-promoting.

What recommendations would you add to this list?

Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @heidicohen.

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