On using twitter

I keep getting asked about how I use twitter and this was a Google Doc I was sharing but figure I may as well blog it.

When many of my friends or friends of friends discover I have a twitter account they laugh and tell me that it is pointless. Then I point out that it keeps me in touch with all topics of interest, some friends and professional contacts. I have been offered a job based on the types of things I tweet about (web stuff), met many great people and feel I am keeping 1 eye on my interests.

Also, laugh at me as they may, all of them update their facebook all so we are square!

A mere 140 characters, what is the fuss?

On the web, people push and pull content. Twitter is one tool that can help you find needles in the haystack and give you and your business insights into trends, likes and dislikes and also the opportunity to share your own knowledge.

I count 2 types of account:

#1 On personal accounts

To really understand twitter I think having a personal account is essential. Get an account, keep it public, use a real photo and fill out your bio with a URL if you have one.

Tweet about whatever interests you – I mix personal and professional so I do not swear in tweets and am aware that ‘colleagues, competition, friends and my mother’ may see my tweets. Sorry Mum, you raised a nerd. So for me this includes anything about motorbiking, drinking, social events, web technology and the ole day job.

#2 On professional/company accounts

If your business still exists then you must have an audience. You’d be surprised how people from that audience use or are interested in what your business does besides the obvious fact you sell services or products.

So start tweeting about what you are doing, places you are visiting, what services/products you are developing/selling and ‘sector’ news. Once you get your first followers you’ll begin to understand what segments of your audience are interested in your tweets and you can react accordingly. I tend to think what is it from the ‘professional’ twitter accounts I personally follow that I like and then see if I can translate this to my own professional accounts.

The 4 types of tweet

Your message to everybody who visits your account URL and all your followers – this is public

if you mention another twitter user, you’ll attract their attention by using ‘@name’ e.g. @zakmensah then the message. If you get mentioned by another user then you’ll see this if they @name you.

DM (direction messages)
You can send and receive private messages that only you and the sender/receiver can see. You must both be following each other for this to work. A few words of warning – at some point you will mean to send a ‘DM’ but accidently tweet ‘all friends’ this is down to human error and thus cannot be avoided, so even though it private do bear in mind that you could accidentally send it publicly so keep it clean. Also, you may be showing others your tweets from time to time and they may see your private DMs, again, keep it clean.

The purpose of retweeting is to highlight somebody else’s tweet, usually a URL of interest.

If a message appears in either my ‘all friends’ or ‘@replies’ then I can press the ‘retweet’ button which will add the suffix RT:name (of original sender) and then i can either edit the original message and send it to my followers or use the ‘new’ retweet feature which sends it to my followers without my editing.

I personally do not like the ‘new’ retweet feature so i rarely use it.

viewing the tweets shooting through your account is called the twitter stream and as all tweets are time-stamped you can view tweets along a ‘timeline’.


I generally use ‘@replies’ to get someones attention and then ‘dm’ if we are going to have a back-and-forth conversation as not to bug everybody who can see my tweets.

Deleting tweets
If you send a tweet that you regret or is not finished then delete it immediately BUT understand that once sent it may still reach those folk who saw it immediately or their twitter software caches it e.g. my tweetdeck shows me the latest 100 tweets and your deleted tweet could be visible if it is within that 100 – if i refresehdd my ‘stream’ then it would vanish.

Getting started

What you tweet and how you use twitter will depend on what your objectives are. These objectives vary for personal accounts, but for professional accounts your usage should align with your business objectives and tie in with your web strategy.

The following are a list of observations from my own personal experience:

Use one of the many twitter apps to help you manage your account(s). I use http://www.tweetdeck.com/ on my computer and phone.

I setup tweetdeck thus:

I have 2 accounts side by side within tweetdeck showing the all friends, @replies and DMs. Then I made a series of new columns made up of ‘keyword searches’ using keywords I am interested in e.g. ‘bristol’ – you should search for your name/business

Tweetdeck auto-shortens URLS and so I Sync the bit.ly shortner with my bit.ly account so i can monitor usage metrics. You can also see the metrics in tweetdeck by following the bit.ly guidance

Never tweet drunk.

Respond asap

Schedule time to check twitter and post updates, then shut it down when you are working. Thats right it can be a distraction so plan your twitter time.
A word of warning, Twitter can let your lizard brain run wild. Take note and close it when the work needs doing.” Seth Godin.

Do not chase followers. It really doe’s not matter how many followers you have or follow. Follow all the people/projects that inform you further about things you are interested in.

Once a week/month log on to twitter.com and scroll through your followers looking for who is following you that you are not following. Add all though in your ‘domain’, do not follow those with locked accounts and no bio.

Block spam accounts

Remember that if you want a tweet to be re-tweeted, you should ensure you save save for the characters that a retweet will add e.g. RT:zakmensah uses 13 characters if you include the space and so you will likely want to keep your tweet under 100 characters to allow the retweeters name and yours.

Never tweet drunk.

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