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Social Media 101: How to Use Twitter, Part 3

1 Apr

Josh Cheesman
@JoshCheesman

So, here we are once again for the third and final chapter in our Twitter odyssey. Having covered the basic philosophy of tweeting, here are a last few tips to help you rise above the rest of the Twitterati.

Part 1
Part 2

VAT – Value Added Tweeting

Investor and author Tim Ferriss wrote a blog post about using Twitter without letting it dominate you. The advice is sound, but mostly along a different track to these articles (the focus is on being able to manage your time on Twitter rather than the substance of your actual tweets).

However, Ferriss does make a good point with the fourth tenet of his creed (“fourth tenet of his creed”? Why am I speaking like a Biblical prophet?):

“Don’t post unless you add more value than the attention you consume (both yours and others).”

Moses

To be fair, these kinds of things would sound cooler coming from Biblical prophets.

 Basically, this kind of leads back to parts 1 and 2. If you expect someone to read you tweets, you have to make it worth their while. Ferriss gives three examples of how to do this:

  1. “Add value if you consume attention.” As I said in part 1, no one wants to know about the mundane details of your boring life. But if you can add something of use your tweeting becomes much more valuable. Ferriss gives the example of providing the address of the restaurant where you got a great burrito instead of just saying you had a nice meal. But you can look at this in the context of journalism as well – don’t just say something like “David Cameron doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, add a statistic or something to prove it. Don’t just blog that violence is kicking off at a protest, tell people on what street it’s happening.
  2. “Use the tool for its best purposes and ignore the rest.” Put simply, use Twitter for what it’s good at – publicising small bits of information to a wide audience. Don’t try and use it to make a lengthy argument about economic policy – write a blog post (which you can of course link to on Twitter). Don’t try and use it to co-ordinate an article you’re writing with a small group of colleagues – start a Facebook group.
  3. “Linking is fundamental to adding value.” Why bother making several tweets covering all the interesting things in an online article when you can just link to that article? Linking not only makes people curious as to where the link goes (as Ferriss says), but for journalists it serves another crucial purpose: it allows you to back up the 100 character statement you’ve just made.

 If you’re taking up space on someone’s feed and not providing any value, don’t be surprised if they decide to stop following you.

Think Beyond Yourself

Another good article is Nate Whitehall’s Top 5 Ways NOT to Use Twitter. Essentially, most of Whitehall’s points come to down to one thing – don’t think about what you want to say, think about what you’re saying to everyone else.

So don’t constantly promote your own articles, promote ones from other people as well. Pose questions, respond to other people’s tweets. Not only will this be more interesting to your followers, it will help you build social capital.

Also, Whitehall advises thinking beyond just saying what’s happening where you are, and posting a picture on TwitPic. Yes, it’s terribly cliché, but a picture paints a thousand words. That’s really something you should utilise when you’ve only got 140 characters to work with. Allow your followers to engage more with your situation.

Final Advice

So this is the end of our little miniseries on producing better tweets. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and to finish off, here’s a final thought about using Twitter. If you take nothing else away from these articles, take this.

Just before you tweet, read back what you’ve said (this won’t take you long), and just think: “would this interest me if someone else posted it?”

(And if you only see one movie this year… you’ve got to get out more often.)

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