As I’ve said countless times, Twitter is the internet love of my life. I’ve tweeted my way through frightening visits to the ER, bouts of insomnia, emotional crises, moments of excitement, and media feuds. I don’t know what I did before Twitter (besides toss and turn without reassurance that I wasn’t the only restless soul up at 2:30 a.m.), and I certainly don’t know what I’ll do when it eventually folds. It’s my social media platform of choice, and I’ve spent more than four years on it.
I know a thing or two about using the website. I’m not an expert, and I certainly have Twitter meltdowns from time to time, but I’m a longtime user, and here are my main pieces of advice for people looking to grow their following or more effectively approach the platform. I’ll skip over some of the more obvious rules (i.e., no overtweeting), but if you have anything you’d like to add, share in the comments section.
1. Never EVER set up automatic direct messages to new followers
There’s a special place in Twitter Hell for users who sign up for auto DMs, and I’m not sure you can ever come back from making a colossal mistake like this. In fact, I’ve unfollowed users who set up automatic “Thank you for the follow! Check out my idiot website and like me on Facebook!” messages to new followers. It’s automated and feels incredibly impersonal and spammy, so if you get nothing else out of my Twitter tips post, hear me out on this.
2. Your amount of followers should always exceed the number of people you follow
It should never be even. Take a look at my own Twitter page to see what I mean:
Your Klout will be higher that way, and you’ll gain more followers as well.
3. Use JustUnfollow.com and other “unfollow” sites
I go to justunfollow.com to keep track of who unfollows me, not because I’m a glutton for punishment, but because I don’t want to follow people who aren’t following me — unless of course we’re talking about Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Liz Meriwether, and other big celebrities or news outlets. They’ll never follow me but I want to keep up with their tweets anyway — it just means I won’t waste my time following randoms.
4. Try to avoid Twitter fights
Sometimes it’s amusing and thought-provoking to debate other users, but 140-character attacks via internet are petty and make you look bad. I’m not afraid to stand up for friends on Twitter and (occasionally) retweet mean comments the way the late Andrew Breitbart did, but as Matt Lewis once said, Twitter shouldn’t feel like high school at its worst, and public spats give it the traumatizing schoolyard vibe.
5. Diversify your tweets
I’ve been tweeting a ton of personal content lately, mainly because I’m no longer an online editor/writer! That said, I still tweet videos, pictures, article links, and personal anecdotes. Make sure you’re not JUST tweeting your feelings or JUST tweeting news articles.
6. Use hashtags carefully
Hashtags are important, but stay away from empty and vague ones like #boyfriend/#bf in favor of specific hashtags such as #breakingbad and #emmys2013. Every once in a while, I use totally nonexistent hashtags like #Whyismytimingsoterrible, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Clearly, I’m not always good at taking my own advice 🙂
7. Avoid false “BREAKING” tweets
I don’t like when people tweet things like “BREAKING: Miley Cyrus is a bimbo” or something along those lines. Save the breaking news updates for ACTUAL breaking news — no one likes users who cry wolf!
8. Try not to “hate follow” people
There’s plenty of nastiness on the internet (and in the world at large) — don’t further the problem by hate following users. I’d much rather lose a follower than have that person only come up when he/she wants to trash my work or opinions. It’s one thing to engage in a healthy conversation and dialogue, but another to simply read an enemy’s tweets to feel better about yourself. I like everyone I follow, and I love Katie Pavlich’s Twitter philosophy: “Don’t like? Unfollow.” Boom.
9. Favorite like there’s no tomorrow, respond conservatively
I favorite almost every tweet someone sends me (if it’s positive or smart), but I don’t always have time to engage in a back and forth with other users. If you don’t like exchanging a series of tweets with people, favorite their tweets and move on. On that note, I’d advise limiting your back and forth to three tweets. You can obviously keep going, but after a while, it gets repetitive and floods your own personal feed. Take it to g-chat, email, Facebook chat, Hip Chat, etc., your mediums for “chat” are endless.
10. Be kind and pretend Twitter is an incredible party
Send warm fuzzies to your followers and friends, thank others for their support, and treat Twitter like “the world’s best cocktail party,” as Jennifer Weiner has described it.