Twitter Tips for New or Curious Tweeps

Dec 6, 2013 | Tips & Tools for Writers

A few tweeps on Twitter occasionally tweet their annoyance with the way other tweeps tweet. Not annoyance with their opinions, but with the way they fit their thoughts into 140 characters. In a country that celebrates free speech, I’m grateful both annoyers and annoyees have the right to speak their minds. Me, I try to tell myself, “Isn’t it great that we’re all different?” Still, fellow authors and self-employed folks sometimes ask me for Twitter tips. Not because I’m the best tweeter or have the most followers, but because they know I find personal and professional value in Twitter, without letting it become a time suck.

So here are ten of my Twitter tips:

1)   Twitter doesn’t have to take much time. I visit Twitter for a few minutes in the morning, a few in the afternoon, and a few in the evening. My goal is to find at least three meaningful or fun tweets to pass on with each visit, and to originate at least one good tweet of my own each day. It’s good to visit a few times a day so you can reach multiple audiences. Because great tweeters often share links to news and information, this isn’t as quick as it sounds. However, between email, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest I only spend about one or two hours a day doing online networking.

2)   Tweetdeck makes it easier. I use to organize my feed so I don’t waste time sifting reams of information. Tweetdeck allows you to create targeted threads that are relevant to you. My top threads feature: 1) tweets from the list of followers I interact with most, 2) tweets or notifications in which people mention or follow me, 3) my main feed, and 4) my own tweets.

3)   Twitter Lists enhance focus. Some tweeps create lists for different interests—such as travel, books, or the environment—which can be useful. I only have one list: of the followers I find the most interactive, informative, and generous. That is, they engage in meaningful conversation, provide links and/or information I find useful or enjoyable, and help me and other tweeters spread the word about important or fun news and ideas. When I’m short on time, that’s my go-to list.

4)   Generously follow back, but not willy-nilly. I take a moment to look at someone’s profile &/or tweets, and if our values or interests don’t seem to align, I don’t follow. You wouldn’t blindly follow just anyone in real life, so why do it on Twitter? This takes a bit more time in the short-run, but saves time and irritation in the long run, as it keeps your feed relevant and uncluttered.

5)   Marketing on Twitter is great. Shameless selling, not so much. I primarily post information that interests me, not info about what I’m selling. That way, I’m engaging people with similar interests and giving them something they might want or like. Then when I drop in the occasional suggestion to buy my book, read my blog post, or attend my event, they’re more likely to take me up on it or spread the word. If I keep saying, “Buy, Buy, Buy,” tweeps will tune me out.

6)   The Retweet (RT) is Twitter’s most powerful tool. Retweeting is one way the Arab Spring spread. Consider this: a friend with 350 followers tweets some news, then I RT it to 2400 followers, then three of them RT it to their 10,000 total followers, and so on. You can do the math. And remember, if you retweet for others, they’re more likely to retweet for you.

7)   140 Characters is too much. Give yourself the best chance to get retweeted: that means keeping your tweets to fewer than 140 characters. Why? Because when someone RT’s you, your twitter handle gets repeated, thus becoming part of the 140 characters. When someone RT’s me, it adds 18 characters, RT: @caralopezlee (plus spaces). So I keep my original tweets to 122.

8)   Keep it Simple. Don’t try to cram everything into your tweet! Short and sweet quickly catches the eye:

They Only Eat Their Husbands, a great gift for adventurous women who love #books & #travel

However, if it’s jam-packed, it can lose that instant appeal:

They Only Eat Their Husbands, a perfect #gift for a #traveler or armchair adventurer: #Alaska #books #readers #travel

Notice that the first tweet uses a shorter link. For that, I plug my link into or, to have it automatically shortened. As for hashtags, they’re like spices: a little enhances the dish, helping it spread to more noses, but too much can overwhelm.

9)   Speak English (or the language your audience speaks). Simple abbreviations do save space, but keep them to a minimum. Yes, veterans understand Twitter lingo, but there are always newbies, and everyone’s eyes travel first to writing that doesn’t require deciphering. This is easy to spot:

Does your dog like fast food? Here’s what mine taught me about a better burger: .

But here’s a puzzler:

4 #DogLovers who <3 #FastFood . Today SuperDuper BLOG: post abt my MUTT’s fav CHZBURGER joint. He nu the diff! #dogs .

I also advise against all-caps as it can feel like you’re shouting. Of course, sometimes we need to be emphatic, which is tough in a medium without italics. So it probably doesn’t hurt to throw in the occasional:

Sorry, I misspoke. I didn’t mean to say I was AGAINST it. I’m actually FOR it.

10)   Keep it useful. While everyone enjoys an occasional personal anecdote or inspirational quote, we make the most meaningful use of Twitter when we share information others can use. So create fewer tweets with the word “I” and more with the word “you.” What’s more, if you spend less time telling us that your kid ate all the cookies, or what Mrs. Fields said about cookies, and more time sharing your favorite cookie recipe, you’ll probably attract more followers.

Hmmm, guess I’m getting hungry…


About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

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