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What I Have Learned From Writing 2,000 Articles About Twitter

Yesterday, I wrote this article about Twitter. Nothing particularly unusual about that, as I’ve been writing about Twitter now on a near-daily basis for more than four years.

But this event did represent a benchmark of sorts, as that post was the two thousandth article that I have written and published about Twitter since February 19, 2009. Two thousand is quite a number. I think I’ve probably written more articles about Twitter than anybody else, like, ever.

So what have I learned in that time?

Quite a lot, actually. And at the same time, very little, at least relatively, inasmuch as Twitter has changed considerably since I first signed up for my @Sheamus account on March 8, 2008, and continues to evolve. It’s always moving, both in terms of data and as a corporate entity. Accordingly, the way that I think and write about Twitter has undergone a continuous, parrelel shift over that same period, just to keep up.

More on that in a moment. First, nostalgia! Long-time readers (I thank you) will know that the first time I wrote about Twitter it was on my blog Twittercism.

In February 2011, Twittercism was acquired by WebMediaBrand’s Mediabistro, and merged with AllTwitter, which is where we all are now.

Here, then, are some Twitter lessons. A snapshot, if you will, of what I have learned from writing about the bird and its ecosystem, broken up by topic into bite-sized sections. I hope you find them of value.

GETTING STARTED

YOUR TWITTER PROFILE

  • Complete your bio. While it’s certainly true that many people don’t read Twitter bios, the people that matter do. Keep it up to date. Get to the point. Don’t use in-jokes that only your friend(s) will understand. Be clear and concise. Watch your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Don’t assume your “hilarious” sense of humour is apparent to everybody. If you have to tell people that you’re funny, you’re not.
  • Your avatar matters. If you’re an individual using Twitter, we want to see you. Not your baby, and not your cat, and not a close-up of your eyeball. You. If you’re a brand, always use your logo, or the most recognisable thing about you.
  • Your Twitter Profile background really isn’t all that important. Sure, take the time to personalise and professionalise it if you want to, but don’t sweat the details, as almost nobody will notice, especially if they’re already following you.

FOLLOW MANAGEMENT

  • There is no ideal number of people to follow, but you really don’t need to follow more than a few hundred. Honest. Everybody on Twitter is connected, so news will always filter through. What you need to do is follow the right people. And, as always, that’s the right people for you. Nobody can tell you who that is – you have to find out for yourself.
  • Social influence platforms are easily gamed and will never compete with basic human intuition. Nobody who matters cares about your ‘score’. Who do YOU find influential? That’s all that matters.
  • Evaluate and prune your Twitter network on a weekly basis – it shouldn’t and doesn’t need to be static. You’re under no obligation to keep following anybody. If you can’t remember why you’re following someone, that’s all the reason you need: unfollow.

HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS

  • Be polite, useful, interesting and unique. But most importantly: be yourself.
  • Act as if.
  • Who is following you is far more important than how many. A handful of influencers (within your space) paying attention to your tweets is dramatically more valuable than thousands of users who couldn’t pick your avatar out of a lineup.

YOUR TWEETS

  • Like it or not, people will judge you on grammar, spelling and punctuation. Don’t give them the opportunity – be excellent at all times.
  • #Don’t #use #hashtags #on #every #single #word.
  • Don’t stress too much about the original retweet versus Twitter’s retweet button. Use whatever you want, and let others do the same.
  • Ask yourself: why am I using Twitter? Then keep on asking it, as both you, and Twitter, are always changing.
  • Twitter doesn’t mind if you want to reinvent yourself, but people sometimes do. Give them time to get used to the shift.

OTHER PEOPLE’S TWEETS

  • It’s okay: you don’t have to read every single tweet. You’d be mad to try.
  • Negative people are poison, and you should weed them out of your network. Beware especially folks who act like friends while constantly naysaying everything that you say or do. They’re the worst.
  • Some people go out of their way to be offended, and they are nearly always the problem, not you. Cut ‘em loose.

TWITTER ETIQUETTE

  • You don’t have to thank for retweets, but should try to publicly give credit to other users when it’s due.
  • Don’t be a metweeter.

PRODUCTIVITY

  • For optimum results access to Twitter should always be two clicks away from wherever you are. Whether that’s your desktop, smartphone or iPad, keep Twitter close by. You never know when you might need it (and vice versa).
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to schedule tweets, but don’t automate anything. This definitely includes direct messages (most people hate ‘Welcome! Now Like my Facebook Page!’ automated-DMs), but also junk like FourSquare check-ins and anything else that clutters up a stream. Don’t use garbage like TrueTwit. It will only cause you to lose prospective followers.
  • There is no perfect Twitter software client, and there likely never will be. The best Twitter client is the one that works for you. Try as many as you can, and make your choice.

BRANDS

  • As a business, your Twitter username is very important. If you’re just starting up, make sure what you want is available. If you have to compromise, do so wisely.
  • Ideally, your Twitter presence should always be managed in-house, by employees that you can empower to make the right decisions on your behalf. However, if you have to outsource the management of your Twitter profile, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention.
  • Unless you’re a household name, building a relevant and engaged Twitter network takes time. Twitter is free, but you have to prepare for the long haul. Overnight successes are very rare, and ROI, even amongst the best, is relatively slight. It’s my honest opinion that if immediate results are important, and you have a CPC budget in place, you’re better off with a Facebook Page.
  • Buying followers does not work. Ever. Twitter trains, ‘systems’ and the like are all complete garbage, without exception.
  • That said, I’ve had great success with Twitter’s ad platform (for clients), and you can use the Promoted Accounts feature to find lots of relevant followers if you have the necessary budget. Ironically, it doesn’t come “cheap”.
  • Always respond to and address complaints. If you can, move the conversation immediately to direct message, and then email.
  • Educate your boss. And if YOU are the boss, educate yourself.
  • All you need are 100 true fans.

As above, Twitter is a constant work in progress. These lessons have stood me in good stead, but your mileage may vary. Times, as they say, change, and this will always be true on Twitter. If I had to sum all of this up in one sentence, it would be this: nobody knows everything about Twitter. Nobody is a “Twitter master” (and especially not a guru). But you have it in yourself to know as much about Twitter as anybody else out there. You just have to be prepared to do the work. And then keep on doing it.

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