I love Twitter. I've been using the platform since March of 2008 and it has literally changed my life.
I landed a job at Yahoo because of the content I posted there, I've made industry connections, I've made great friends, I've gotten writing gigs, met clients there, and so much more all from sharing content and engaging there.
Something I see and hear often from clients is that they just don't get Twitter. It's noisy, it's confusing, it's hard to comprehend. While for a long time this perplexed me, I started to begin to really understand why new comers to the platform weren't able to make it work.
Late in 2014 I was starting to feel really overwhelmed with the platform too. I actually fully understood why my clients no longer wanted to waste their time there. I didn't either! It suddenly felt really noisy to me. The engagement I had with others seemed nil, compared to what it once was. So I took a huge step back at the end of 2014, and really minimized my time there for most of 2015.
I also started to notice that I wasn't the only one feeling this way. There was talk of it all over online. From individuals to publications. Twitter was a mess. Twitter's stock was way down and their user retention was abysmal. Sure, people were signing up, but they weren't sticking around.
A Brief Timeline of Changes This Year
Twitter was highly aware of these issues too. And this year things started to really shake up. Changes came swiftly.
In June Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo stepped down and this fall Jack Dorsey returned as the CEO. With Dorsey's return (one of the founders of Twitter who had basically been fired from Twitter in 2008, and founder of Square) changes happened immediately. Like lightening fast.
A few highlights of the changes just in the last 3 months: Moments were introduced, and easier way to pay attention to what was going on in the world ("The best of what's happening on Twitter in that moment.") 8% of the staff was laid off. Favorites (stars) were canned for a more lovable, feel good heart, because this made more sense. And just today images will be featured much more predominantly -- taking on a square view as opposed to a rectangle, and offering more of a collage look to multiple uploads.
Giving Twitter a 2nd Chance
With these latest changes I've actually noticed a difference in my own experience on Twitter, and this fall I started to hang out there again. Which honestly was a relief, because it was the first real social media platform I embraced (besides MySpace & Flickr), and it's the second social driver of traffic back to my website -- so I kind of need to be there.
Twitter is one of the only places you can see news breaking almost immediately. While Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are all now vying for this with various features -- Twitter is still the predominant place to find out what's going on in the world right now. Plus, I almost always stay educated due to my industry, so it's important for me to be there. Not just because of the connections I make, but also because of the news I get.
Perhaps you too also want to give it another chance? Maybe you signed up and abandoned it quickly? Or maybe you hung out there and just had no idea where to begin? If you've been thinking about giving Twitter another twirl after hearing about the changes to the platform, but have no idea where to begin, this post should help you.
Getting Started (Again) on Twitter
So get ready to dust that old account off. Below are suggestions, tips, and resources to help you get started on or get you back in the saddle on Twitter and really up your game there.
I'll show you how to create value in your time there, how to actually enjoy yourself, and ways to not waste your time. (Speaking of wasting time. If you're unsure about where you should be online, wait a minute! Read this post first. Don't waste more of your valuable time by adding one more social media platform you don't know what to do on! Please!)
Fill Out Your Bio & Add a Picture
OK, first off let's get that profile looking like you and get it updated with relevant info.
Like its tweets, Twitter begs brevity. You only get 160 characters for your bio, so make it work. Here's a helpful article by Buffer giving you tips on how to create a great bio.
Next, be sure to upload a picture of your face and add your website. There is a ton of spam on Twitter, and you only have a few seconds to grab someone's attention when you follow them. I check out everyone that follows me, and if I don't see a real picture I don't click at all.
Make sure your profile photo is no smaller than 400x400 pixels. If you're feeling really energetic upload a header photo to give your profile that extra oomph. Make sure the dimensions are no smaller than 1500x500 pixels. Here's my profile to give you an example. You can even get sassy and change your colors.
Start Small but Varied
Twitter is like a buffet. Choosing the right people to follow will decide on what sort of experience you have there. Don't just follow your friends and peers. Follow industry insiders, journalists whose work you read, galleries or museums you enjoy, small boutiques you shop at, comedians who make you laugh, artists or illustrators you admire. The list doesn't stop there either!
Most importantly don't follow hundreds of people at once...just like a buffet fill your plate once, then go back for more. (Pro-tip: pay attention to other accounts people you follow retweet. If you think the tweets are interesting or funny check them out, and maybe follow them too. I've met so many new people this way.)
One of the coolest things about Twitter is you get to see all different types of people and businesses sharing in real time and being themselves. But following hundreds of accounts at once can make your stream overwhelming, and really noisy, very quickly. Plus you'll miss out on opportunities to engage. So take it slow.
Twitter is Like a Dinner Party
When I work with people one of the biggest pain points is that they don't know how to begin on Twitter -- they're at a loss for how to talk about themselves, their product, and after that they're unsure. So they just give up.
One of the many neat things about Twitter is you can lurk there. You don't have to get on the horn right away to enjoy it. So again, take it slow. Watch what other people within your industry are doing and how they're sharing and engaging.
Once you're ready to tweet, think of Twitter as a dinner party. No one wants to hang out with someone that's boring or just talks about themselves all day. A great rule of thumb for sharing content on Twitter is the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. Share content 80 percent of the time that supports your business' overall voice. For example, I want to empower creative business owners to create a cohesive online strategy so I share articles, resources, and other content around this mission. I share about social media, tech, platform changes, articles that inform, etc and then I share my own content. So if I tweet 5 times a day -- 4 of those tweets would be content that supports my brand's values and voice, and one tweet would be my content (my services, a blog post, a workshop I am teaching, etc.).
Don't freak out. You'll get the hang of it, and you'll start to enjoy yourself.
Schedule Your Content
I am getting increasingly intense about this with people. Stop wasting your time all day on social media. Schedule your social media. Seriously. This is such a life saver.
By scheduling your content, you're able to check in periodically and read tweets, engage, and respond to notifications. You don't have to waste your time crafting copy, tweeting out your content, and then sitting there four or five times for every tweet you send.
Schedule your content so you can focus on actually spending time and energy engaging. Do this. You will thank you me later.
Get Visual & Dynamic
Twitter offers the ability to share images, GIFs, video, Vines, and Persicopes. Take advantage of this. Especially if you are creating beautiful products or making gorgeous art. Share your process. Share behind the scenes. Share your inspiration. Share studio or workspace walkthroughs. Share works in progress. The list is endless for things you can share visually.
Twitter allows native video that records for thirty seconds, think of all you can do with that tape! You're also able to upload up to 4 images per tweet, and they only take up the characters of one photo (22 characters!), so utilize that feature.
Just a tip, tweets with images get 313% more engagement than those that don't. Always try and make your content as inviting as possible. The best way to do this? Dynamic visuals!
(If you are using Instagram check out this post to help you turn those ugly IG URLs into beautiful Twitter pics!)
Build Community - like, share, tag, respond, start convos, talk to people!
Again back to the dinner party analogy no one likes someone who just talks about themselves all the time. This is a one way ticket to snore city. Same rule goes for social media. People are tired of being sold to, or shouted at. Listen to people on Twitter. Retweet content you enjoy. Have something special to add to that tweet you just read? Use the quote retweet feature. People absolutely love it when their content is shared, and other people are relating to it.
If a question is asked, answer it. Twitter is one of the best places to meet like minded people and have great conversations. Respond to people, talk to them! Ask your own questions too! Twitter is such a great place to crowdsource for answers. I had a Photoshop issue recently and I asked Twitter and I got a lot of help.
Are you sharing an article written by someone you follow, or talking about a place you've been or a product you love, or seeing art you admire? Tag those people and places within your tweets. Twitter is a community, let people know you are talking about them. They may even retweet your tweet, which puts your content in front of others, exposes you to new people, and builds and furthers your experience there. Fun! (If you are unsure about how to use the mention tag on Twitter start here.)
Share the Wealth
As above, people love to get recognition for sharing great content. If you find something cool through someone else ie: you read it because someone tweeted about it or shared it elsewhere, go the extra step and give them credit. You can do this 2 ways by writing "via" or "h/t" at the end of the tweet and tagging them. H/T stands for hat tip and it's short hand for thanking someone for directing you to that content. Read more about Twitter short hand here.
Don't get sucked into wasting time on Twitter. It's really easy, but it's much more enjoyable if you check in throughiout the day. Keep your notifications on on your phone on so you're able to respond in a timely manner. But overall set limits for yourself about hanging out there especially if you have a problem with time management. Because believe me you will lose A LOT of time if you're not careful. (Use pocket to save articles you find on Twitter to read later.)
My advice is check in on your way to work or over your morning coffee, then check in at lunch, and again on your way home from work, or after you're done with your work at home. I'm personally a huge fan of Twitter after Dark, which is basically after 9pm. People are hanging out chatting, talking about TV, and more or less have their guard down. It's a good time.
Use tools to help you
I never use Twitter in my browser anymore. I have too much else going on there to focus on one more tab. I use their app Tweetdeck. It is a dream! You can set it up in your browser, or use it as an app, which I recommend.
What's great about Tweetdeck is you can set up a few separate streams to read tweets, notifications, mentions, search terms, and more. If Tweetdeck is too big or cumbersome for you, check out Twitter's app in the iTunes App store -- it's a compact little ticker that has a lot of what Tweetdeck offers but doesn't take up so much real estate.
Hop to It!
Alrighty, now that I've given you a brief rundown of Twitter's year, offered reasons why you should be there, and supplied you with actionable tips and suggestions to make your time there worth it, I hope you'll give it a try again. If you do come say hello to me there and tell me what tip I offered that made you rethink taking another stab at 140 characters. I'd love to hear why you joined again.