Using Twitter – the finer points (2/4)

Once you have got started on Twitter, as outlined on the previous blog post, there’s a few more details to learn that will be handy.

“Retweeting” – this is when you forward someone’s message on, so all the people who follow you, get to see this message.

  • When retweeting a message, as much as possible, include the twitter account name (‘handle’) of the person who originally wrote the tweet. And within the constraints of just 140 characters, whenever possible, also include the twitter name of anyone who has RT’d it already (thus bringing it to your attention). It doesn’t look good to send a message on looking as if you wrote it, when in fact it was written by somebody else; although sometimes space prevents inclusion of extra characters.
  • I never retweet a message I don’t agree with, for 2 reasons.  The first reason is that it’s too easy for someone down the line to misunderstand and think the tweet is something you wrote (and thus agree with).  The second reason is that it always looks like trolling. In other words, retweeting a message you don’t agree with looks like you’re encouraging people who follow you (and thus likely to think similarly), to make negative comments about the message written by a third party.  I’ve had this happen to me, and it’s like being turned on by a pack of mad dogs.  (Unfortunately some people have followers like that – sheep, really, only very unpleasant.) If you want to let your followers know about a factual error or erroneous view someone has just voiced, then refer to it in a reply to the original writer.
  • If most of your followers are likely to follow the same person the interesting message came from, there’s not much point in retweeting it, unless you’re doing it a few hours later (so people who missed it first time around, might catch it the second time).  You might want to RT a message at a specific time if you have followers in a particular country you’d like to see the message. If you want to make sure someone in particular gets to see it, either include their account name at the end of the retweeted message, preceded by the word ‘ping’ (which indicates you’re drawing it to the attention of that person in particular).  Or send them a DM.
  • Abbreviate long messages so the end of the message is not chopped off when retweeted, but be very careful not to change the meaning.  I’ve had someone object vociferously to me carefully abbreviating an RT (labelled an MT, see below), in order to prevent a very witty message being truncated when retweeted.  But her comments indicated she thought she was writing War & Peace 140 characters at a time.  Twitter is not the place for anyone obsessive about the words they write (and someone objecting to a tweet being carefully edited to prevent it being abbreviated, just look precious) .
  • If you’re changing the tweet quite a bit (eg abbreviating quite a bit and/or rearranging the wording but keeping the meaning the same), then preface the message with MT (“Modified Tweet”) not “RT”.  Use quotation marks if applicable, to distinguish someone else’s words from your own.
  • If you’re changing a retweet a lot, ensure it’s very clear what the original writer wrote and what you have added or altered (and use MT not RT).  And it’s VITAL-never add anything nasty to something somebody else has written then retweet it. That is ultra-ugly behaviour!  Instead reply to the tweet, if you want to get prodding with the pointy stick.
  • Do you fix other people’s typos & punctuation errors in RTs? Personally I infinitely prefer someone fixing up any glaring errors I’ve made, because if they’re retweeting something I wrote, my name is on it and it’s going to be read by who knows how many other people (from a couple to lots).  Everyone makes errors (especially if tweeting from a phone) so important corrections would only be taken as criticism by the overly-sensitive.  Obviously though make sure if you’re making corrections that your ‘improvements’ are 100% correct and unarguable.  Anything you’re uncertain of, leave as-is.  Or risk end up looking like a goose.  I do correct American spelling to Australian spelling, if the tweet has been written by an Australian (as if I made this error, I’d be very happy someone fixed it).  Computer and phone spellcheckers do Australians no favours – they mostly use American spellings.
  • Often I’ll ditch hashtags and extra twitter accounts off RTs because these things have served their purpose in the original tweet and including them again just hogs message space unnecessarily. Doing this can also allow expansion of some abbreviations (eg s/b to ‘should be’), so the message is easier for others to read.  If someone does this for me I take it as a compliment – someone values what I’ve written enough to want to ensure other people get to read it and appreciate it.

Who do you want to read your message?  All your followers, or just those most likely to be interested in the topic?

Many twitter users are unaware of this – but if your tweet starts with someone’s twitter name (eg @FionaLakeAus), then the tweet you are sending will only be visible to the people who are following you AND the person you’ve mentioned at the start of the tweet.  I think twitter does this to try to avoid bogging people down in too many incoming messages, by ensuring you’re seeing messages related to people you’re interested enough to follow (ie with common interests).   If you tweet on several very different topics, it may suit you to send out a tweet like this, so it will mostly be seen by a particular network of people likely to have an interest in the topic. However if you want ALL your followers to be able to see the tweet you are sending, there’s 2 ways of doing it:

  1. Start your tweet with a full stop. For example:  .@FionaLakeAus did you get much rain yesterday?
  2. Reword your tweet, so it starts with an ordinary word rather than someone’s twitter address.  For example:  Did you get much rain yesterday, @FionaLakeAus?

If you receive a tweet that begins with a fullstop, it means the person who wrote the tweet put it there deliberately so that everyone following them is able to read it.

Hashtags – #

Putting a # immediately in front of a word, phrase, abbreviation etc means that anyone who searches for those letters will find your tweet along with all the others that have included it too.  For example:

  • #FF – ‘follow Friday’. On Fridays, some tweeters send out a message listing some of their favourite people to follow. Using #FF means anyone can click on this hashtag and all the tweets which include this, will be listed, so you can quickly find other Tweeters that have been recommended by others.  (Use of #FF is reducing; as people mostly find their own followers these days.)
  • #AgChatOz – There are regular agchatoz Q & A sessions but including #agchatoz in your tweets will ensure that anyone else who searches for that hashtag will find your tweet, anytime they look.  It’s a quick and easy way for people with an interest in Australian agriculture, to find relevant conversations.  There are other agriculture discussion groups on twitter overseas, for example:  #agchatnz (NZ), #agchat (USA), #agrichat (UK) #agchatirl (Ireland).  Type one of those hashtags and terms into the twitter search facility, and you’ll see a list of tweets come up that a variety of people have written.
  • Conference hashtags, such as #livexConf and #IRWC15.  These are used by people tweeting in relation to a particular event.  If you can’t attend a conference but are interested to hear what is being discussed, you can type the hashtag and name into the Twitter ‘search’ box and all the tweets which have this hashtag included in them, will be listed, with the most recent up the top.  Hashtags are also used when there is a topical issue in the news; for example #TCMarcia (Tropical Cyclone Marcia).  If you search for a hashtag that hasn’t been used recently, however, you’ll usually get no results.
  • You can also search for any word, without the hashtag, via the Twitter search facility.  Eg search twitter for “wool” and all recent tweets containing the word “wool” will appear.  Searching for a word without the hashtag brings up every tweet that included the key word ; not just the people who’ve deliberately written a tweet containing a keyword.  Searching for a hashtagged word is more likely to bring up people working in associated industries – ie people you’re likely to be interested in following, if you are in the same industry.

Adding links to tweets:

Website links can be cut & pasted directly into a tweet, and twitter won’t count all the characters as part of the 140 character limit. Cutting & pasting has the advantage that the first part of the url will usually help identify the link as a legitimate one, thus giving readers confidence to click on it.  However sometimes links are ridiculously long, so shortening them first is best.  This can be easily done via “Tiny URL“.  You simply cut & paste the long link in, click ‘make tiny URL’, then use the new, short link.

It is a good idea to only send tweets containing links to further reading, every so often. How many people are likely to have the time and inclination to click on every link and read more, if every tweet you send contains one? None.  Again; it’s a case of being aware of the sorts of tweets you like to read, and applying that knowledge to how you write tweets for others to read.

There’s truckloads of information on Twitter online. But Twitter etiquette information is harder to find. What applies in America often doesn’t apply here; and most of what has been written in Australia is capital city-related.

EVERYONE on Twitter has made the odd mistake or two or more, especially when starting out. The only fail is to not try. Here’s a few tips on etiquette & avoiding problems:

  •  Twitter is NOT a one-way soapbox. You know what it’s like being cornered at a party by a self-obsessed bore who only talks incessantly about themselves?  If all you do is talk and never genuinely listen and respond to what other people say, people will avoid you like the plague.  On Twitter and in real life.  Twitter is NOT meant to be a radio station.  It’s for conversing with others.
  • Same applies to people who only send out links to Facebook or Blog posts.  Twitter is 140 characters for a reason.  Keep it short and sweet; don’t treat other people like their time is less valuable than your own, by only sending them links to lengthier text.  Unsurprisingly, this seems to be done mostly by people who don’t bother reading what other people write, either.  I run away screaming when I see someone doing this.  A great way to get me to “unfollow”.
  • Use the same standard Australian manners on Twitter as you do when face-to-face with people.  The 140 character limit is a challenge; manners often have to be abbreviated in order to better explain a point. It’s a constant balancing act.  It’s why twitter is more ‘blokey’ (direct and to the point) – there’s simply no room for faffing around (as distinct from Facebook, for example).
  • Make sure your message is as clear/less open to misinterpretation, as possible.  Especially given the point above – there’s no room for padding a message out with the usual pleasantries included in emails.  Knowing exactly who you are talking to helps.  Men are rarely offended by getting straight to the point whereas women are far more likely to. That said, I think the active people on twitter are mostly opinionated types, comfortable with male-style cut-to-the-chase communication, who are less likely to be quick to take offence and more practiced at remaining objective. And also far more forgiving of stuff-ups.  This makes Twitter very different to Facebook; where I’ve seen a number of women’s groups go into absolute meltdown because dissent, however diplomatically worded, has been misinterpreted as a personal attack. Usually before tweeting specifically to someone I don’t know, I’ll check their bio & tweets so I’ve got a clearer idea of how best to word my message, to avoid misunderstandings. Eg if discussing a specific aspect of agriculture, I’ll look to see whether it looks like it’s something they know a lot or a little about.  Writing a clear bio yourself helps others when writing a message for you.
  • Being aware of your own communication style is helpful, so you can take care when writing, to avoid the most likely misunderstandings.
  • Some people wonder if it’s ok to ‘butt in’ to conversations or not.  The whole point of Twitter is that it’s a public conversation.  ‘Butting in’ is the very best thing about twitter – meeting and sharing conversations with new as well as old acquaintances. Brand new points of view and new information are Twitter highlights.  Anyone who doesn’t get this, is in the wrong place.
  • However, when joining in to the conversations of others, always take care to be polite. Especially if you are disagreeing with someone. Be calm and respectful.  If you butt in to someone else’s conversation and are nasty or rude, make sure you put armor on first.
  • Remember anyone can read your tweets, eg via Google, even if you’ve blocked them on Twitter, or they don’t have a Twitter account. So don’t discuss third parties in a negative way.  Tweets can be deleted however someone may have already replied to your message, retweeted it or taken a screenshot (favourite troll pasttime!), so what you wrote may be online in perpetuity.
  • If what you are discussing at length is likely to only be of interest to one specific person (eg you’re making personal social arrangements), then it’s best to conduct these personal conversations via direct messaging or email, so you don’t bore your twitter followers to tears.
  • Anyone wanting a 100% private conversation should not be on Twitter; they should be using email or the telephone instead.
  • If I want to discuss something I wouldn’t be happy to appear publicly (on twitter), I use email. Twitter direct messaging is handy but it’s easy to press the wrong button and have what’s meant to be a DM read by only one person, broadcast to the world by accident. Murphy’s Law means it would be the most personal message that ended up publicly broadcast, too.  I’ve pressed the wrong button and seen others do it to.  Fortunately nothing world-war causing, but the potential always lurks!
  • If you read something you don’t agree with, ensure the writer’s meaning is clear before responding.  If the comment is part of a preceding conversation, then read all prior comments.  Read the person’s bio & usual tweets.  If there’s still any doubt about the exact message (140 characters doesn’t enable thorough explanations of tricky topics), then (calmly) ask the writer to clarify, first. DON’T be too quick off the block to start snapping like a shark if it’s possible you have misunderstood.  I made this error myself several times early on; but have to say I’ve seen others do it far more often, going off half-cocked (grasping the wrong end of the stick)!
  • Which brings me to a second vital rule. If you have an issue with something a friend has tweeted, discuss it privately. Direct message them or send an email, ring them or see them in person.  Don’t take up the cudgel publicly, via Twitter. Again – a good rule for the whole of life.  Always sort issues out in private, not in public.
  • Remember that you don’t ever know what’s going on in someone’s life. They might be having a bad day, or they might be dealing with major issues.  Everyone can make mistakes, so move on.  They might have a significant personality  issue (eg “sorry” might not be something they ever contemplate) – but if that’s the case, simply unfollow & stop engaging with them.  If they keep popping up in your face, block the, to remove the temptation to engage.  Play with the calm people instead!
  • Remember to pleasantly receive newcomers.  Remember what it was like when you started?  Make the effort to help new people feel welcome.  (Do unto others.)
  • Social media is relatively new, and Twitter is unique, because of the brevity and the speed. I’ve become much more savvy about how it works, and have seen it with others too.  Twitter “etiquette” has evolved, and will continue to do so.  You’ll get the gist of how standard manners are best implemented on twitter as you go along, but these guidelines are a good head start.

Twitter etiquette summary: when in doubt as to what the accepted etiquette is, fall back on in-person conversation rules, as they’re usually eminently suitable on Twitter.

Be Smart about what you write. Why would someone want to read the message you’re about to write?  Is it funny? Is it interesting? Or useful information? Might it provoke a good conversation? Think about who is reading!  This means – pay attention to who is following you.

  • Be aware of who is following you, and who you’d least like to upset.  For example if you are being followed by a slab of farmers suffering a nasty drought, posting a message whining about having a rainy weekend forecast which will upset your social plans is not just insensitive, it’s downright stupid.
  • If you work a Monday-Friday 40 hour week, and have many small businesspeople (farmers & others) following you, posting ‘Thank God It’s Friday” messages regularly won’t go down well either.  Many Australians are working longer hours now, including weekend work as a matter of course, and I’ve seen more than a few agribusiness employees post ‘what are you doing on the weekend’ messages.  Errr, working, like many weekends.  I’m no martyr but these sorts of messages can get on your goat.
  • Bragging is irritating. It doesn’t matter whether you’re banging on about your own or your family’s achievements, your record-breaking crop, amazing holiday or social life, or the fabulous rain you’ve just received.  Twitter is not Facebook – you’re talking to the world, not just a pre-determined set of people you’ve pre-approved.  Australians can’t stand skites and big-noters.  If you’re excited about something you’ve achieved by all means tell the world, but word it carefully.  And avoid doing it too frequently.  Remember that someone reading your message might be having a really bad day, and rabbiting on about your perfect life might make them feel a whole lot worse.   And “humble brag” describes the self-promotion people inflict on others by retweeting messages of praise, etc.  Repeating flattery from others is quickly recognised for what it is – just another form of self promotion/boasting, only more irritating, because it’s pretending to be otherwise.  Fortunately, bragging is uncommon on Twitter (it’s far more prevalent on Facebook).
  • Photographs of what you are about to scoff in a cafe/restaurant. By all means occasionally, if it’s particularly notable, especially from a food production point of view.  But regularly?  Followers out the Back of Bourke, a day’s drive from the nearest fancy cafe, and anyone on a stringent budget, is likely to be bored/irritated.  This sort of stuff is usually more suited to Facebook.  Before clicking send, just think about why someone else would be interested in seeing it.  If you have a raft of keen cooks following you, obviously it is entirely relevant and the sort of thing they’d love to see.  If you’re tweeting about staying 5 star, your Louis Vuitton luggage, Jimmy Choo Shoes and scoffing expensive champagne – be aware that you’ll be actively helping to cement the view in some urban quarters, that farmers are asset-rich whingers.  Avoid fostering stereotypes!
  • Travel photos and messages?  If you’re travelling and have something of interest to to the kinds of people who are following you, go for it.  Just ensure your message is informative and interesting rather than a boast, thinly disguised or otherwise.  Just think about how your message is worded so that it’s likely to be of genuine interest to other people.

When conversations involve a few people:

When twitter conversations involve a few people, there’s very little room left to write a message.  If everyone is still actively engaged in the conversation (which you can see, as they’re responding; or you may know them well enough to know it’s something of great interest to them), you just have to soldier on (or move it to another platform, which allows longer messages, such as facebook or a linkedin group, if that’s possible).  Sometimes people use a hashtag to hold a conversation involved a lot of people (such as #agchatoz), but it’s not particularly practical for a one-off conversation on the spur of the moment.

What if some of the people included in the conversation, aren’t responding? Is it ok to remove their twitter account name from your reply, to make room for writing a longer message?

It’s tricky! Twitter conversations can stretch over a number of hours or even a few days.  How do you know if they’re actually still interested, but just busy doing something else; or they’re not that interested in staying in the conversation (in which case, they may well be irritated by being included in a long stream of tweets).

If they’re still on twitter (you can see them tweeting other messages etc), then it’s safe to presume they’ve moved on and won’t mind being dropped out of the conversation (in fact they may be relieved).

If there’s no indication of whether they’re still on twitter or not, I usually take a guess. Journalists, for example, usually only reply once, or twice at the very most. Any more is a rarity. So unless you’re making a point you particularly want them to note, it’s a good idea to drop them off the conversation. Ditto other public figures who receive truckloads of messages. And if you’re in doubt, send a separate message to the person you’ve dropped off, explaining why, which gives them the option to let you know if they’re rather remain in the conversation.

It is best to avoid dropping someone out of a twitter conversation they’re actively engaging in, because it looks rude. An exception to that is if they are a habitual bully or are being nasty.

Twitter direct messaging and Twitter group direct messaging:

Click on the little envelope (‘messages’) up the top of the screen, and you open ‘direct messaging’.  You can send a message direct to any person on twitter, as long as they are following you.

It is great for sending messages that wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone else. However, I don’t recommend using it for particularly sensitive correspondence, in case your direct (private) message accidentally ends up as a public one.  Email is better for those sorts of conversations. Direct messaging is great for conveying other contact details such as phone numbers and email addresses, that you wouldn’t want to tweet publicly.

New to twitter in 2015, is the ability to create a list of people who can send direct messages to one another via the group.  It’s limited to a maximum of 20 participants.  Anyone can be added to the twitter group by anyone within the group; as long as they are following the person who wants to add them.  Somebody who has been blocked by one member of the group, can’t be added to the group (by anyone).  Of course LinkedIn and facebook groups operate in a similiar fashion, only with much lengthier messages allowed.  Because of twitter’s brevity, twitter group direct messaging would be speedier; although not as sophisticated.

On another note – some people set up automated direct messages that are instantly sent out to each new follower. Usually these automated DMs are pointless generic messages such as ‘hi thanks for the follow’ but often they also make irritating suggestions such as ‘follow me on facebook, at xyz’. These completely impersonal, automated messages are hideous. To make matters worse, they’re often sent by people who aren’t following you in return, so you are unable to reply by direct message!  It’s a great way to get people clicking ‘unfollow’ as fast as they can.  Either take the time to write a personal message to someone, or don’t say anything at all.  The best thank you for a new follow, is to reciprocate.

If you receive a nasty message, should you be unlucky enough to receive one, what is the best way to react?

  • First: never lose your cool. Do not swear, rant or be nasty. However tempting!  Because whatever the provocation, this type of reaction will simply make you look bad – and potentially fuel the fire at the same time.  Either respond calmly & reasonably (as it happens, this tends to enrage fanatics even more as it takes away their power) or simply ignore the message completely (making trolls even crosser).
  • You can immediately block anyone you like. While they can still read retweets and your tweets when signed out of Twitter, this does make it less convenient for them and sends an unspoken message akin to ‘tell it to the hand’ (shut up and go away).  I block mad trolls immediately these days, and it puts a real skip in my step.  Blocking someone who gets on your goat, or a deliberate, persistent fault-finder (there’s several in Australian agriculture, unfortunately) reduces the temptation to engage.
  • If someone is repeatedly vitriolic, deliberately picking fights etc (trolling) then block & report them for spam.  (Obviously, don’t misuse the twitter spam reporting function though.)
  • Do remember, it’s impossible to please everyone. Your tweets are likely to be read by just a handful of people but they’re public messages so can be read by anyone, anywhere.  And long into the future.  Express yourself politely and treat others with respect, while at the same time not shirking away from openly expressing opinions on tricky issues when you think it might be useful.  It’s people who stick their necks out to voice honest opinions that help to change the world and make it a better place.  If your heart is in the right place, this will shine through. As mentioned before, a tweet is like writing a letter to the editor. Not everyone will agree with or find what you’ve written interesting, nor will you find 100% of what others write interesting or agreeable.  But it is this healthy diversity that makes life interesting.

Twitter mistakes & how to avoid them:

  • Twitter account photo.  Having a photo on your Twitter account helps people who know you, identify that it is you and not someone else who has the same name.  The world is full of people who share the same name!  It doesn’t have to be a closeup portrait photograph – it can be anything you like.  A good photo can illustrate your connection with the bush, so that other people in agriculture are far more likely to ‘follow’ you.  Some people use a photo of themselves out in a paddock, on a harvester or ute, or with dogs, horses or other livestock.  Or just a rural landscape image with no people in it at all. A good photo will help attract the attention of people who’d like to follow you and who you’d like to follow back.  If you’re in business, think carefully about the photo you attach to your Twitter profile.  You may be on Twitter purely for social purposes, but anyone can find you – from customers to colleagues and employers.  So a selfie taken on a big night out on the town, usually isn’t the best choice.  Nor is a photograph of your kids. (For obvious reasons. And yes, people do use pics of their kids on public social media accounts.)
  • Twitter account bio.  If your main aim is to connect with other people involved in agriculture, then spell out your interest or background in your bio. But ‘simple’ is fine and is often wisest when starting out.  Eg:  “I live on a vineyard in the Hunter Valley”.   If you’re in business, don’t write something too much like a sales pitch, or people will run away screaming.  Remember it’s not meant to be an abbreviated c.v.; if it looks too serious you can come across as self-important. Do you include awards won?  Personally I think this just looks way too fig-jamish for the average Australian on Twitter.  And winning an award is winning an award – it doesn’t guarantee you are ‘better’ than someone else, or qualify you as more interesting.  Listing awards can either come across as having tickets on yourself, or as a bit desperate, given you’ve decided to squeeze it into your 160 character bio limit.  Save these sorts of details for a LinkedIn profile.  However if you are a Nuffield Scholar, Churchill Fellow, Australian Rural Leadership Programme fellow, etc – it makes sense to mention it in your bio if there’s room, because it helps others locate you.  A bit of humour is also fantastic. Read what other people have written to get a feel for what style you prefer.  Tweak it as you go along; it’s not set in stone forever.
  • Responding to messages people send you. At first I didn’t reply to anyone, because I had absolutely no idea how it worked, exactly what to do, and what the standard courtesy was.  I started getting ‘followers’ months before I’d sent a single tweet and months passed before I discovered a cache of direct messages (and sent belated apologies for the lack of a timely reply). Early on I did send out a few messages explaining I was new and still learning the ropes, to avoid accidentally offending someone, and I recommend doing this.  Most people are keen to help!  I now understand that Twitter really is just like a conversation. If someone speaks to you, do your best to think of something to say in return, however brief. Most tweeters are fairly relaxed but it’s of course wise to avoid the risk of accidentally giving someone the impression that you’re rude (a self-obsessed monologer who ignores people talking to you.  And yes, there are people who knowingly do this on twitter.  Though most are easy to identify.)
  • Don’t click on tweets that look dodgy or click on any links unless you’re sure they’re from a reliable source.  There are spammers who send out dodgy messages – if you click on a spam link your account may be hacked. This is easily fixed by changing your password.  And immediately delete the dodgy messages sent out by your account, so others don’t make the same mistake.  Of course these spammers use ‘calls to action’ designed to get immediate action before scepticism kicks in. One very effective spam tweet says ‘people are spreading nasty rumours about you’, or ‘have a look at this’, with a dodgy link included. As everyone values their reputation, naturally people are alarmed and click on the link straight away to see what has been said about them.

Twitter mistakes are only ever made by people who have been on Twitter long enough to know better:

  • Don’t send a DM (Direct Message) to anyone who you are not following, because they are unable to DM you back.  It’s really rude. Interestingly, the only people I’ve seen do this are people who’ve been on twitter for a while, i.e. they should know better. It’s not the sort of accidental mistake a newcomer makes, as direct messaging is not the sort of thing people know how to do, or are willing to tackle, early on.
  • Don’t send automated replies. They’re impersonal, so pointless. I wouldn’t have a clue how to set this up, nor would anyone new to twitter – again, this is a manners blunder by experienced people who should know better.
  • Never, ever attach any nasty words or images onto someone else’s tweet and send it on. Mentioned above but worth repeating. Blindingly obvious when you think about it, but it happens.  I had someone do this to a tweet I’d forwarded on to help a restaurant looking for a free-range pork producer. A political fanatic following me saw the tweet, attached pig’s ears & snout to a politician’s image, and sent the tweet on with it attached.  With my name & other people’s names included, with the inference being that it was our ugly creation.  Best to never, ever send anything nasty, but if you absolutely must, at least ensure only your name & words are associated with it – no-one else’s. Tinkering in the way that was done above is the sort of thing that could end up in a defamation lawsuit, with good reason. (Funniest part of the afore-mentioned gaffe was that the person then went on to publicly deride me for not knowing who the politician was, after I voiced an objection to what he’d done. I.e. his second fail was continuing to dig, making himself look even more revolting, after first landing himself in a hole.)
  • Gathering many followers, but following few in return.  Most people who have ammassed a number of followers (more than 1,000, for example), are fairly savvy about how to set up lists of favourites and refer to them, via a service such as Hootsuite.  Apart from someone world famous, anyone who has a large number of followers but only a small number of people they’re following, looks pretentious.  There’s no expectation to automatically follow someone just because they’ve followed you.  If we’ve got common interests I usually follow followers back. But I am selective; avoiding one-topic tweeters, anyone vitriolic or having mostly personal conversations with close friends, and zealots generally. And I don’t expect people I follow to follow me back. (More information on my follower/following policy.) I tweet about agriculture-related topics mostly, and anyone not interested in food and fibre production would be bored senseless.  But someone with 1,000 followers, who is only following several hundred in return, is basically saying to the world that they find very few other people interesting enough to bother interacting with them.  It’s like putting up a public *I’m Special* sign.  The further away from Sydney, the more likely it is that people will draw this conclusion.

Managing Twitter (& other social media accounts):

Twitter is like LinkedIn; linear. Unlike Facebook, which is like a very tangled, complicated bush with diversionary, time-consuming branches leading off in every direction.  And complicated privacy rules that change regularly. You will receive emails from Twitter when you get a new follower and when someone replies to your tweets or retweets your messages.  However using a social media management service such as Hootsuite makes it so much easier to manage Twitter. And a basic account is 100% free!  Your messages are divided up into vertical lists in chronological order and it’s much easier to avoid missing replying to something that you should have.  Especially direct messages.  You can tinker with the ‘streams’ you like to show, but the best categories to include are:

  • Direct messages received
  • Messages mentioning your twitter address (“mentions”)
  • ‘Home feed’ which lists messages from everyone you follow
  • Tweets from people included in specific lists you’ve created (eg ‘favourites’ or ‘media’)
  • Scheduled tweets (tweets you’ve written & scheduled to be sent at a specific time/day later on)
  • Public tweets you have sent out
  • Messages you have sent direct to other people
  • Any keywords or hashtags you have a particular interest in.  Eg #Merino, if you’re a merino breeder who’d like to keep an eye on all the tweets regarding merino sheep or wool.

Creating a list of ‘favourites’, and including this list in a specific ‘stream’ in Hootsuite, means you can follow a large number of people but be less likely to miss messages written by people whose tweets you most value.  You can also ‘schedule’ (set a time) messages you send out.  Eg if you come across a really good message written by someone else, you may want to schedule a retweet for a few hour’s time, to help ensure that anyone who missed it the first time, saw it second time around.

Hootsuite is particularly useful if any of these points apply:

  • You have a number of social media accounts – especially if you have more than one twitter account
  • You like to schedule messages to be sent out at a later time/date (which helps manage your time spent on social media, better).
  • You like to follow a lot of people, but have lists of favourite tweeters you like to refer to
  • You like to read tweets containing specific key words; eg #quarterhorse

Some people use Hootsuite to send out identical messages to a number of social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  It’s a really bad idea to do that. It looks very lazy/disrespectful to your followers.  LinkedIn is for corporate messages, Facebook is for longer and less business-like messages and Twitter is for short conversations and more global in nature.  Writing one message to suit all 3 involves too much compromise. Some people may also receive messages from several of your social media accounts, and they’ll be bored senseless if messages are identical on every platform.  Fine to post a message about the same thing on different social media accounts – but use wording specifically tailored to suit the medium you’re posting in.  It’s also smart to make the most of the opportunity to highlight a different aspect of the message, on each social media account.  Know your audience, and get to understand the subtle differences between social media platforms.

There are a number of free services that can be used to check/manage Twitter followers and people you follow:

These free twitter management apps are particularly useful when you have more than a few hundred followers.  Some of these apps categorise followers – pointing out any that may be spam accounts; accounts that haven’t been used for months or which never interact with other people (i.e. self-obsessed and sale-pitchers), people who you follow that haven’t followed you back and vice versa; and people who have ‘unfollowed’ you. The latter is handy to check because it can indicate if you might have accidentally offended someone (or simply bored them to tears).  Although usually, “unfollowers” are follower-building account holders who simply followed you in the hope you’d reciprocate (not because they’re interested in conversing or your usual topics of conversation). Some examples of useful twitter management apps:  JustUnfollow, (lists people who recently unfollowed – most are usually spam accounts), UnTweeps (lists accounts you have blocked, etc)  and Tweepi (lists people you follow who have inactive accounts, etc).

How to get a record of  your tweets:

When you’ve been tweeting for a while, you might like to get a record of your tweets, and file them on your computer or print them out.

“All My Tweets” will list your last 3,200 tweets (twitter doesn’t allow more than that).  If you are a prolific tweeter, it’s best to set a reminder at regular intervals.


Note: The majority of this blog post was written in November 2013. It has since been updated, and the above info is current as at March 2015.

Summary of blog posts with tips on how to best use Twitter:

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