I’m hearing more and more confused questions about Twitter. People are on it, but they’re not quite sure what they’re doing here, and what’s up with these weirdos they don’t know who are suddenly following them? Relax. Twitter is a good thing. And it gets to be pretty much whatever you want it to be. Here are some more tips from my angle on the tool (there are a bazillion more out there, so please comment with yours).
If you’re new to Twitter and baffled, start with this plain-english video by Common Craft. No one, to date, has been able fully to explain Twitter. But this comes close.
Get Pings as they Happen
By default, you’ll see your replies by clicking the “Reply” tab and you’ll get Direct Messages in your inbox. I’m having both of those sent to my phone as text messages so I can see them as they happen. Here’s how I did that:
- I went to Settings -> Phone & IM, set up my phone, and turned Device Updates to “On” (not to “direct message”. You’ll see why in a second.)
- I went through each person I was following and made sure I had Notifications set to “Off” (cuz I don’t want everyone’s tweets coming into my phone. Fortunately, “Off” is the default when you add someone new, so you might not have to do this.)
- I went to my phone and sent “track sarahdopp” to the Twitter number (404040 in the U.S.) This means that every time the string “sarahdopp” shows up in a Twitter message, I hear about it right away. 95% of the time, it’s an “@” reply. (I’m fortunate that that my Twitter name is unique enough to do this.)
Voila. Direct Messages and Replies straight to the cell phone. Bonus tip: When you’re at a big event like SXSW, switch your favorite friends’ Notifications to “On” so you’re also finding out what parties they’re going to right away, as they twitter about them. Then turn them back “Off “when you go home.
Get a Grip on Your Goals
If you’re using Twitter as a…
…mini blog, then don’t feel pressured to join in on the constant “@ reply” conversations, and keep your content in your style. Keep an eye on your Twitter profile page and make sure your “face to the world” is representing you. Be appreciative of the strangers who follow you and don’t feel obligated to follow them back. Follow the people whose content you care about, and try to ignore the background noise without criticizing it. People will appreciate the quality of your posts.
...community-building tool, then stay aware of what other people are writing and be consistently present for them. When someone messages or replies to you, respond right away. If you do it with an “@ reply,” you’ll give them public props and they’ll appreciate that. If you’re trying to welcome new people, then consider following the people who follow you (here’s a hint though: if they’re following 800 people and only 3 people are following them, you can probably write them off as “spam”). Be extra respectful and extra helpful, and people will take care of you.
…way to stay in touch , then be there for your friends and ignore everything else. Post about what your friends will care about, try to post with about as much frequency and “@ replies” as your friends use, and don’t feel obligated to follow anyone who’s not your friend. If it creeps you out when strangers follow you, then switch your posts to private. If you don’t mind being a little bit “on stage” with your life, then let them watch but just pretend they’re not there. Or picture them in their underwear.
If you have one of these styles, and some of the people you follow have different styles, that’s okay! You’re both right! Respect the differences! If you don’t like watching their tweets, then unfollow them. Simple as that.
First thing’s first: make sure you can post from your cell phone. It will change your life. Then figure out how you want to see your friends’ tweets.
If you like living in your browser and you want to minimize distractions, use the Twitter.com site. It’s pretty awesome.
If you’re on an Intel Mac or using Vista and you want to keep an eye on your tweets as you work, get Twhirl. (It’s a two-part download. Just follow the instructions.)
If you’re on an older Mac, use Twitterific. (I also have this set up to update my Skype profile with my latest tweet.)
If you’re on an iPhone, try Thincloud or Pocket Tweets.
If I didn’t list your machine (or if you just want more choices than this), check the list of apps. There are a lot. A lot. A lot.
Get More Tips
I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface here. But these guys dig a little deeper, so if you want more tips, start here: http://twitter.pbwiki.com/