Being a Twitter newb myself, I might be better or worse placed to give tips. I have been using Twitter since the beginning of February about 8 weeks ago: so maybe ideally placed to remember the pitfalls and have used it long enough to get something out of it. Please leave comments if you disagree – Twitter has an evolving social etiquette.
- Take it slow! It takes a few weeks to build up enough people to follow to make it really interesting. Don’t try to rush it – unless you already know a lot of people that are on Twitter, you will look like a spammer. Don’t rush to follow everybody – think carefully and check out people’s tweetflow before you decide whether to follow. Just because some one follows you, it is not de rigeur that you have to reciprocate. Start with a few people you actually know – or people that you have interacted with by joining in exchanges on Twitter. I found it useful to follow a few newsfeed tweets too – local news, Guardian and BBC tech news, Guardian Education news etc.
- Don’t try to read everything! I am a bit guilty of this sometimes but Twitter isn’t best used like this. Better to dip into and out of the Tweetstream and join in a few conversations or pick up on some great links. Concentrate on reading your @replies which Twitter is now calling ‘mentions’ where people have used your username (e.g. @philwbass) in their tweet either to namecheck/credit you or to communicate with you. You should try to read all of these – often as a beginner I would miss these and probably seem unfriendly
- Really important this – fortunately I learned it from @solobasssteve’s blog before I even started.
Top Twitter Tips for Musicians – try to keep your followers/following numbers approximately even. OK, if you’re an expert, newsfeed or famous you might have a lot more followers than you follow but the reverse situation is even more worrying. If you are following a lot of people and few people are following you – a lot of people might mistake you for a spammer or might wonder why it is that all the people choose to follow are not following you and wonder why. This takes a lot of restraint at first as it is slow going for about a week or so but it’s really important.
- Don’t appear to be a spamming narcissistic self-promoter. If you post mostly about yourself and you keep on posting links to your site people are savvy enough to know what you are doing and it might be a turn-off. Get to know people first, get them interested in you as a person and get to know them and then they will be interested in your music (major apologies there to Steve Lawson who said this first and phrased it better!). If you are a musician/artist/journalist etc then tweet a lot about your fascinating life/passion/output but don’t over-link.
- In your profile you will need a photo and a bio. If you don’t have a photo people will mistake you for a spammer – likewise if you have a photo of a girl in swimwear on a beach (which is what a lot of the spammers who follow me seem to have as a profile pic) – if it’s really you – I apologise! just a regular mugshot or something more arty? Up to you! Your bio should be brief and to the point – mention your main interests as this will help people with similar interests find you.
- Choose carefully how much time you want to spend tweeting. It can be a little addictive. I find though that Twitter has replaced man of the things I used to use email, forums and the like for so my amount of Internet time has remained the same while using Twitter a greater proportion of that time and being much less prominent on forums, facebook, MySpace etc. You can leave it for a couple of days or just log on and read your @replies like email. I am careful though not to tweet at work – I am a teacher/manager in a school – except when teaching about/demonstrating Twitter. If you have an internet package on your phone try Opera Mini browser and http://www.dabr.co.uk in the UK as it makes Tweeting from a regular mobile phone much easier – if you have some fancy iPhone or something ask someone else as I don’t have one of those.
- Don’t be afraid to unfollow. You can follow and unfollow at will. There was a twitterer who actually posted some very interesting stuff and I had a good deal in common with who just tweeted all day every day and I got fed up with it and unfollowed. Of course, if I’d taken my own advice about not trying to read everything, maybe that wasn’t necessary but the point is: if you unfollow someone – you can still @reply them or check out their tweets by going to their profile.
- Don’t overuse DMs. Direct Messages are a blunt instrument and if you DM someone to thank them for following you or similar it’s very much a waste of time for the recipient – especially as we get email notification of DMs. TBH, no-one has DMed me inappropriately but I’ve heard other complain about it. And Mum, if you’re reading this you can DM me anytime!
- Join in conversations. Here there is, I believe, a slightly different etiquette on Twitter than in the real world. It appears to be fine (correct me if I’m wrong) to just join in a conversation especially if you know one of the participants. On Twitter there’s not really the space to introduce yourself so just dive on in there. This is how I met many of my Twitter friends e.g. @thesidsmith If you find people talking/tweeting about something you’re interested in/knowledgeable about – just join in – don’t forget to add the @name business at the start so they see your comments. Retweets where you add RT to someone’s message and distribute it to your followers are also an excellent tool and a good way to break the ice.
- Twitter is public. Don’t make your profile private. I don’t see the point of that. Twitter is public but not everyone can be bothered to check up on your every move. If you want private Twitter (protected updates) just use email or something. Please tell me why I might be wrong on this if you have a private account. Of course you do need to be aware of the public nature of the site – I wouldn’t post information about my family, my address, phone number etc but this is just a personal choice – provided we remember that Twitter is public and what is tweeted is effectively published!
Enjoy! So why tweet?
In two months I have gotten the following out of Twitter: made new friends; learned about new software that has made my life easier; discovered new music and musicians; had people listen to my music; learned new techniques for webdesign/blogging/design etc; shared musical advice; been given spiritual support; discussed and debated on a range of issues; attended local events which I’ve learned about; kept up with local news; attended live and streamed concerts; shared some great news stories; shared art and exhibitions; helped some artists to get together for collaboration; got a local venue to play at; kept up with education and religion news; let my mother know what we’ve been up to; given advice on bass playing; discussed many aspects of music and education; kept track of the G20 events; found out about inspirational/useful/hilarious links . . .
What it’s good for is up to you! Hope this is useful to someone!