Nina Badzin Twitter Tips My Twitter tips go beyond a simple “how-to.” I want to help the Twitter newbies and those who aren’t using the site effectively. Why? Because I love Twitter and when you’re in love, you want to share it.

Twitter provides tremendous opportunities to make connections and have some fun, but you have to know what you’re doing.

Here’s what I wish I’d known about Twitter from the get go.

1. NICHE: If you don’t have a purpose for using the site, you’re wasting your time. My goal was and still is to feel a sense of community with other writers. To that end, I generally follow writers, literary journals, bloggers similar to me, some local tweeters, and publications focused on Jewish life. Celebrities? Nope. News organizations? Absolutely not. When I want the headlines, I read the paper or a news site. When I want to know what one of the Kardashians thinks about anything–well, that will never happen.

I’m not suggesting you only follow people you agree with or who are exactly like you. My category of “writers” for example includes people from all walks of life, not just people who write in the same genre.

2. MAKE LISTS: If you don’t use lists, you’re missing the tweets you really want to see. Keeping the people you follow unlisted is like storing your forks in your sock drawer. It’s too much trouble to find what you’re looking for and wastes a lot of time. Start those lists. And use them! (If you don’t know how, finish reading this post then go direction to PART TWO.)

3. USE HOOTSUITE OR SOMETHING LIKE IT: I rarely use the actual Twitter site–what a clunker. Options like Hootsuite make the Twitter experience a breeze. Hootsuite allows me to see my lists next to each other, including the @mention, “Retweets of me,” and “likes” categories.

4. UTILIZE THE “LIKE” FUNCTION: When I’m reading tweets, I “like” the ones I want to check out later. Later might be weeks away–that’s fine. People appreciate the RT of their links whenever you can get to it.

5. KNOW HOW TO RT: Please commit this one to memory. When you start a tweet with the @ sign like this—> @NinaBadzin–ONLY the people who follow BOTH of us will see that tweet. That type of tweet is called an @reply. So when you’re RTing someone’s link as a nice gesture (and you should do that regularly on Twitter or you’re COMPLETELY missing the point) then it’s not all that generous to write a tweet like this—>@NinaBadzin wrote a must-read post about the ins and outs of Twitter.

Wrong! It should look like this—>A must-read post by @NinaBadzin about the ins and outs of Twitter. Another option—>.@NinaBadzin wrote a must read post about the ins and outs of Twitter. Notice the . in front of the @–That little . makes all the difference. HOWEVER, don’t start throwing a period in front of every @. (See below)

6. KNOW WHEN TO START WITH @: We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of Twitter etiquette. There’s a time for a less public tweet. If you’re thanking someone for a RT or giving a specific response to an article/post, then an @reply is totally acceptable. Sometimes it makes sense for just the people who follow both of you to see that tweet. There’s nothing wrong with using the @reply (I wish people would use it more often), but understand that if you’re trying to promote someone’s post, then you must stick a word or a period before the @. (See #5)

7. KNOW WHEN TO DIRECT MESSAGE: Nothing irks me more than a long personal conversation on the public feed. Like I said above, a few Tweets back and forth are appropriate and expected. (I absolutely do this.) But an endless back and forth is unnecessary. If you have that much to talk about, take it to the Direct Message function or exchange email addresses.

8. KNOW WHEN NOT TO DIRECT MESSAGE: Do NOT auto-DM the people who follow you with seemingly friendly notes like, “Thanks for the follow. I hope you enjoy my tweets and let’s connect on Facebook.” I suppose people who do this think it makes Twitter more personal. It doesn’t. Authentically interacting makes Twitter more personal (responding to general questions, RTing someone’s tweet).

9. BIO AND PHOTO: Speaking of spambots, make sure to fill out your bio as thoroughly as possible. Upload a picture. Most people avoid following the eggs.

10. KEEP YOUR HANDLE (Twitter name) SHORT AND CLOSE TO YOUR NAME: LISTEN TO ME–keep your handle short and don’t make it cutesy. When people RT your link, your handle counts against the 140-character allotment. And if you want a certain tweet RTed, you always want to keep it well under 140 anyway. (Your handle, the RTer’s handle, plus the actual link count against the 140.)  Therefore, if your handle is anything like @NinaIsaWriterPleaseLoveHer, then you’re never getting retweeted. It’s never too late to change your handle. Go to the help section on Twitter. The name change directions are there. You won’t lose followers. WHY NO CUTESY NAMES? I think writers (aspiring and published) should use their real names. Names like @writergirl or @lovestowrite are generic and forgettable. Be YOU, not your blog’s name, or the name of your interests.

That’s all I have! I hope it helps you maximize your relationship with Twitter.

(Go to Twitter Tips: Part Two)

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Nina Badzin is a freelance writer, a writing workshop leader at ModernWell in Minneapolis, ModernWell's book club host, and the friendship columnist at The HerStories Project. She reviews 50 books a year on her blog and writes essays, short stories, and articles for other sites and print magazines. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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