Getting To Grips With Twitter

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I’m always surprised that so many people who like Facebook don’t use Twitter, and I realise now that some of them have got the wrong idea about it. There are endless tips and hacks about using Twitter, mostly to do with keeping your post at the top of the pile and the right times of the day to post. You can get Siri to post for you, which is faster but riskier if you’re on the move, and you can embed tweets (I do on Facebook, which I don’t really have time to use), but most so-called hacks are pretty obvious and too well-know to add here.

Twitter has around 328 million monthly active users. A couple of years back the growth flatlined, but since then it’s been climbing again. But for writers, unless you want to look totally desperate I don’t think you should imagine it as a sales tool, but as a method of opening dialogue with readers. I don’t believe in pushing stuff at people, although I’ve been known to get excited about receiving a shiny new book and posting it.

If you’re promoting something the general rule of thumb that you preference publishing items of general interest over selling your wares. Most Twitter users I know who are sellers make sure there’s at least a 5-1 ratio of general interest articles to one promotion.

Twitter has some say in what you see and who sees you. They sometimes filters the timeline, showing tweets of your favourites first because their bots can see who you talk to the most frequently, so they know who you’d like to see tweets from. They then show real-time tweets again in reverse chronological order. That’s if you want to catch everything that’s happened while you’ve been offline.

Actually, being a totally rubbish networker I don’t use Twitter much to promote my books; my main purpose is to read articles on politics and the arts that I’ve missed. Trending is useful insofar as you can see what’s catching people’s imaginations at the moment, and work out whether it’s press release driven or from grass roots.

I largely follow writers, organisations and other professionals who regularly add interesting links. A friend admonished me for posting too early, saying; ‘You’re not maximising your hits’, to which I replied that I was just talking to my mates early in the mornings, not trying to monetise anything, the concept of which she appeared not to grasp.

Journalists (proper journalists, not feature writers) are great to follow as they often post their spiked stories, and you get to read a truthful alternative to fake news. Drawing attention to false stories was the one interesting thing the POTUS did; unfortunately he picked the real news and promoted his own fakes. It’s best to pick posters who follow almost as many people as the number who follow them. Beware the Tweeter with 50K followers who follows 20 people.

For me, it seems you get the best out of Twitter by treating it as a newspaper, using the links as directional pointers. Pick your follows well and you’ll end up with a genuinely interesting daily digest of what’s going on around the world and in your neighbourhood. Pick them badly and you’ll get pictures of cats and sunsets. I use sometimes Twitter to research, asking for certain geographical details or historical events; you’ll often get an expert who can give you an immediate answer.

I have no problem with unfollowing annoying posters, but I think it’s important to keep following those with dissenting views to your own, so long as they’re intelligent about them. The last thing you need is a gene pool of people who agree with you. If anyone reading this never uses Twitter I’d suggest you play around on it for a while and see if you find any links you like – I know there are people who edit out all posts with links, but that seems to defeat the purpose of Twitter – that you can see the world and hold genuinely intelligent discussions with posters.

There’s now a Beta mode in trial testing out longer posts. I personally think it will make you edit out the idiots more quickly and concentrate on the interesting ones, so I’m in favour – for now. We’ll see what happens when it goes live.

9 comments on “Getting To Grips With Twitter”

  1. Crprod says:

    Facebook has been useful in keeping up with a very large extended family, but recently they have concentrated on stuff that, to use the phrase attributed to Wolfgang Pauli, is “not even wrong”. Fortunately not everyone is like that, and many people have an online presence only in Facebook.
    People on Twitter are more carefully selected to have a wide range of considered opinions. I do tend to stay away from comments on both as getting into that world is like not watching your step at the dog park.

  2. Ian Luck says:

    I detest Facebook, or as I prefer to call it ‘Arsebook’. It takes over people’s lives, and there’s a lot of insidious stuff going on in the background. It tracks you closer than you’d care to think about, and it’s tendrils reach out to areas to find out what you like to buy electronically. Ever been in a store and an advert for something in that store has popped up on your ‘phone? That’s Facebook, either via your online purchasing history, or, more worrying – your face has been recognised in the store via the store’s security system. Every time you upload a picture of your face to Facebook, a copy is sent to a facial recognition file, which, apparently, is better than some law enforcement agencies. Facebook has agreements with some large stores, that allows them access to that store’s CCTV system, and, if your face is recognised as you wander though the store, adverts tailored to you are sent to your Facebook feed. I find that more than slightly sinister. Another reason I don’t use Facebook is simply: If I haven’t spoken to you since I left school, what makes you think that I’m going to want to 35 years after the fact? I’d spend too much time unfriending people (which, to me, seems the only enjoyable thing about it: “I was your best friend at school” to which I reply: “No. You liked me.” This conversation has happened.) I don’t use Twitter, as it seems utterly pointless, and I refuse to have anything to do with something that is named like a 1970’s toddler’s comic.

  3. Brian Evans says:

    I call them Faeces Book and Twatter

  4. Brooke says:

    Well said, Ian!

  5. Martin Tolley says:

    With Ian totally.
    Having retired (escaped) from work last year I was inundated with post and emails “inviting” me to join up with previous staff members, enroll (is that what you do?) on their facebook page, send “friend requests”, etc. After many communications I had to tell them that for the past 20 years I’d been trying to get away from people just like them, and the last thing I wanted, and the worst thing I could possibly imagine would be to (a) be friends with them and more embarrassingly (b) show that to the world.

  6. Barbara Allan says:

    I recently became converted to Twitter. I was on my way to London and train stopped. No info from staff but via Twitter I was able to find out what was happening. Useful info source in that situation though I do get fed up with lots of the Tweets – silly cats, etc

  7. Ian Luck says:

    A work colleague left Arsebook simply because of something that I have heard is all too common, and it sounds harmless enough, but, with repitition, becomes tiresome to the ‘nth’ degree: Every day, he was sent pictures of what a friend of his was eating. Morning, noon, and night. He said he began to dread seeing the same plate, cutlery, and tablecloth. I said that he should get some fake dogshit and put it on a plate, and send a picture of it just after the food picture was sent, so his friend would be eating when the canine stool arrived.

  8. Louise says:

    I’ve been on twitter for a few years, and generally enjoy it. I think it’s fantastic that you can connect with people all over the world who have similar interests. How cool is that? I found Twitter a bit bewildering initially, and must admit that I got a book out of the library in order to understand it better!!

  9. Helen Martin says:

    I just do facebook because I refuse to spend any more time on line. I’ve not even been doing that lately because I have a bum knee that won’t let me walk very far and I haven’t the energy to power up my ipad. I check e-mail including links, then facebook until I’m tired – oh and a few little games I play and that’s it. Once a day.
    While we’re talking about this I would like to register a complaint. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has lately allowed it’s programs to announce, “For an extended version of this interview,” or “For more details on this story please go to our website or my account on twitter.” I’m listening to the radio because I want to hear what they the reporter or program person thinks. I don’t want to break off and go into another room to follow one thing and perhaps miss the best item in the program. There is now a discussion going on about people’s constant connection to their phones. Someone complained that the guests at Thanksgiving dinner two weeks ago brought their phones to the table. Why do people have to know right now what friends are doing? Short of earthquake, fire, flood, or assault it can wait for half an hour – an hour – till evening – can’t it?

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