I had an interesting discussion with a fellow student the other day and I wondered if our experiences with Twitter weren’t indicative of a larger trend. So I am writing this post for my friends and classmates who are new to Twitter and may have some of the same barriers to entry that I did.
So, here’s what happened when I first started on Twitter. I followed my husband, I looked up some celebrities and news media organizations, then I started following the people that followed me. Soon I had this timeline that was a mishmash of all things weird. While some stories were obviously big enough for everyone to comment on, none of it really applied to my life. I totally did not understand why everyone was so hot on this medium.
Enter: blogs. I had this huge list of blogs that I followed and realized most of them had a Twitter handle. This is when the real power of Twitter finally started slapping me in the face. All of a sudden, my stream was making more sense. There were people talking about the issues that I cared about. So that is my first tip, find professionals that excite you and speak your language and follow them first! Once I had my bloggers in, I started looking at who they were following and kept growing my professional network.
— Buffy Hamilton (@buffyjhamilton) February 13, 2013
As I kept adding follows, I noticed that some people were putting me on lists. I figured this was like a Facebook group or something, so I went off in search of more info. Turns out, you can create your own lists and you can populate them with the people you occasionally want to hear from but don’t necessarily want in your timeline all of the time. So all of those celebrities I picked up, I was able to unfollow a lot of them and add them to a list instead. Now I can keep up with Nathan Fillion without having all of his fan retweets in my timeline. I also found out you could subscribe to lists from other people. This is so awesome because you can take lists curated by people who are more familiar with a topic, area, or profession and check out what they think is awesome. So that is my second tip, learn to use lists!
um what? I’m actually done with my to do list?This is unheard of. Probably means I’m forgetting something super important….
— Erin, Librarian (@tad_overdue) February 13, 2013
The next thing that took some time to figure out were hashtags. At first, I was just adding a pound/hash sign (#) willy-nilly in front of what I thought were the key words in my tweets. Sometimes this worked, but the real power of the hashtags lies in connecting it to what other people are saying. There are ways to find hashtags that apply to you using sites like hashtags.org or by looking at what is trending on twitter. The other purpose of hashtags is to follow a conversation. When you hear someone talking about a tweet chat or live tweeting, likely these all happen within threaded hashtags. A wise co-worker (@pfanderson) likened hashtags to tagging and metadata for Twitter. So that is my third tip, find hashtags that interest you! Go forth and catalog wisely.
— Sharona Ginsberg (@linguomancer) February 13, 2013
To conclude, and this is probably the hardest part, there are tricks to being a good digital citizen on Twitter. Don’t be annoying (yes, ALL CAPS IS ANNOYING). Listen to what is going on and contribute thoughtfully. If you are an introvert and have a hard time networking in person, this is a great low-pressure way to start networking without having to worry about how sweaty your hands were as you milled about wondering how to insert yourself into a knot of people. Start small and build from there while enjoying your new found sense of community.
For more tips and tricks, check out this infographic!