Thursday, April 16, 2009

How, when, why to Tweet on Twitter


I've been on Twitter for about three weeks now and while I am by no means an expert, here is what I've learned.

People use Twitter for various reasons.
(1)To stay in touch with friends/family, (2) To make new friends/find dates,
(3) To promote themselves (e.g.: celebrities),
(4) To promote a viewpoint (e.g. pro-lifers), and
(5) To promote a company that sells wares or services.
I may have left out some groups and if so, I will revise this later. Eat some cookies while you wait. But before we continue, please understand that I am not saying any of these reasons is right or wrong, but each could involve a more effective approach than the one you are using.

How, when and why you "tweet" (post a one-line message), what you tweet about, whom you follow or unfollow depends on why you are there.


If you are connecting with friends and family, you can pretty much do whatever you. You might consider locking your account for privacy. If you are using it as a dating network, make damn sure your profile is witty, your photo is good and you give your location. If you have a cherished moral or political view you're obsessed with, consider using an icon instead of a photo. If you're a celebrity, run the account yourself or don't freaking bother; we can tell if it's you or not. Now on to the last group--promoting your company--because that is my focus and who is writing this thing, anyway? You or me? We'll decide that later.

I'm a sole proprietor of a yarn design business. I sell what I make, but 95% of what I sell is what artists and crafters use to make what THEY sell. I call myself a craft enabler. You may call me something else. Go ahead...Is that the best ya got? Heh. I've been called worse. ...Well, as a business owner, I have noted specific things that other Tweeters do that attract or repel me. Just in case you are a business owner, I share those thoughts now for your benefit. If you do not run a business, you may as well move on to the next post.

First of all, try not to be obsessed with the number of followers you have. It makes you look desperate. You don't need me. I need you. Take that attitude and be confident and make me want to read what you write.

Even more pertinent, there is no reason to freak or get mad if someone specific stops following you. As someone who sometimes "unfollows," I can give you many reasons why this may happen. Mostly it is because I have limited time for Twitter and I am selective. It's nothing personal against you. I have not yet unfollowed anyone because they made me angry. I unfollowed one artist whose very frequent references to her sexual activities bored me. I unfollowed a couple of people who spammed endlessly and never wrote any non-spam. And I unfollowed a couple of people who never responded to my messages to them, which is okay if it happens a few times, but when it hits a high number, the follower must ask him/herself, "Is this person's posts so great that I am willing to follow anyway?" Often the answer is Yes. Sometimes No.

If your posts are mainly written to connect with your former co-workers or your high school pals, your Tweets are probably just fine for them but not for me. I may remove you. Again, it's nothing wrong with you. It only means my criteria is different from that of your buddies. I may choose to follow your blog instead of your tweets. Or I may follow the goings-on in your Etsy shop instead. So puh-leeeeeze don't launch an anti-djrunnels campaign. I'm still recovering from the previous ones! Here, look at my neck. Did I get all the tar and feathers off?

I tend to follow marketing, advertising, online retail gurus and I wouldn't rant at you if you quit following them. They may not interest you at all. This obvious premise brings me to the lunacy of Follow Friday, wherein people on Twitter post recommendations to others on Twitter. How can you recommend someone for me to follow unless you know what criteria I follow? The answer is: you can't. Just because I like following you doesn't mean I will like following your friends. On the other hand, if you do make recommendations, that doesn't annoy me and I will not unfollow you for it. And if you recommend me, I will beam happily. But here is a better method: I click on the profile of someone whom I have enjoyed following and see who they follow. Then I click on those profiles. If the profile sounds halfway interesting, I will follow them for a week or two or longer. If they continue to pique my interest, I keep them on the list. If they do not pique my interest, I remove them and again, it isn't personal. They just do not meet my criteria.

So, are you with me so far? If you are a business twitterer (versus someone tweeting your bff) I recommend that you
decide why you are on Twitter (see list above) and then set some criteria for:
(1) the type of person you wish to attract and
(2) the type of person you wish to follow. And some of these latter people may be, as they say, off-topic. Just because I sell fiber art supplies doesn't mean I cannot follow CNN. You can get a smidgen of a clue about these people by checking out their profile.

As for whom to attract, what do you have to say that your desired followers will want to read? Someone on Twitter gave this bit of advice: write about what you know. That sounds like a good idea to me. Of course, I also know about archaeology and crinoid stems and some things that you may not want to read. Since I want to attract artisans, I make sure that a certain percentage of my posts point people to my wares on Etsy and Artfire shops, but if I post ads and nothing else, I will lose followers in droves. (Duh!) If I post about what I had for dinner, I will also lose people, not because it is wrong to write about what you had for dinner, but because I am not writing for my neighbor Cheryl. I am writing for creative people who need inspiration and supplies. I try to always think: what will creative people want to see? Also, since I am a member of Etsy street teams and Artfire guilds, I will sometimes post links for their wares, not just my own. It's part of my implicit arrangement wherein they scratch my back and I scratch theirs, plus some of my creative readers may want their wares.

I make a point of writing some creative grist for the mill on my blog and point followers here via a link. But I do not waste their time by linking to every blog post I create. Some posts will interest many people. Some will interest only a few. Some are perhaps best left unposted and I may delete them later.

I avoid writing vague Tweets. I will not Tweet something like, "Oh, I guess I'll post in my blog now." Big yawn. There goes ten seconds of your life that you will never get back. And when I do post a link to my blog, I give a rough idea about the topic so you can decide whether or not to read that post. Teasing you with a vague headline such as, "You guys have got to read my blog!" is the same as saying, "I just wrote something boring as hell and couldn't think of a good way to draw you in." I can't tell you not to do this, but it isn't effective.

Similarly, if I Tweet a link to something I sell, I will not coyly remark, "Look what I just listed! It's cool!" I will tell you whether it is a book or a garden stake or yarn or at least give you a hint that a buzzard is involved, just in case you are wild and wacky. And btw, I have always liked that side of you. I may even use exclamation points on Twitter, even though I do not use them in my writing much. They are amateurish, but on Twitter, we are there to have fun and be warm and engaging--even if we are there on business--and if I am on a roll and exchanging silliness with a friend, I will cut loose with my emotions.

What else turns me off on Twitter? You're still reading this, so you're either a glutton for punishment or you actually want my opinions, bless your heart. As I mentioned earlier, I may abandon you if I repeatedly Tweet you and you ignore me. Not right away. I give it time. But if I try to connect with you numerous times and get no response, it makes me feel as if you only want to talk about you and do not care about me. Maybe sometimes you have no response and that is okay. I will not take it personally. But if it keeps happening, I may wonder if you are reading me at all. I will feel unheard. Our relationship is on the rocks. Watch out for that jagged one over there.

Recently I tweeted that my nephew's body was found. I did not expect everyone to see it and respond. But when you have 120 followers and only one person comments on a rather shocking tweet, I see that as a red flag. On the other hand, the one person who did respond made a big impression on me. I remember her name and that she lives in Phoenix. I look at her Etsy store. I care. You can make this sort of impression on your followers, too, just by making a comment to them now and then. Later I learned to my embarrassment that people were, indeed, answering me but I was not finding their messages. I joined Tweetdeck and found the missing messages and wrote each of these people a warm thank you or an apology or both. If you are having similar problems or feel as if you are shouting in the dark and no one is listening, I urge you to consider Tweetdeck or a similar program. There are at least three or four out there.

Talking to yourself on Twitter, failing to answer messages, blurting endless quotes or spam, are misuses of the program. You will eventually feel unheard and give up, wondering what the heck you did wrong.

Other Tweeters I avoid: sometimes, despite your good intentions and whatever else you may have going for you, I may find that your Tweets make no sense to me. There are not a lot of people who lose me, but sometimes I will read a Tweeter's posts for days and days and realize, "I have no idea what she is talking about." Usually it is some political issue I have not been following.

A Tweet behavior that mystifies me is repetition of the same Tweet several times. I guess you feared I missed it the first time around, huh? I didn't. I read it and remembered it and now you are slinging it back to me and I have enough problems without you making me wonder if I am developing a premature case of Alzheimer's. Stop scaring me like that.

I WILL read your ads. But please don't promote similar wares one after another. I follow someone who will post a link for duck feathers that she has for sale... then another link for chicken feathers... then another link for goose feathers and so on, maybe six in a row. I get it. You sell feathers. If I need feathers, you will attract me with one link, not six.

Enough for now. Someone just tweeted that people on Twitter complain that others are "doing it wrong," so now, as the purple dinosaur toy said in Toy Story, "I have guilt." I am not trying to say that anyone is doing anything wrong. I am merely trying to say that your tweeting can be more effective if you tweet the most effective tweets to your target audience.

dj runnels
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