Its surprising how many articulate, well educated and confident people suddenly feel quite self conscious when composing their first tweet. “But what should I tweet??” they cry, wringing their fingers over the keyboard, anxiety etched on their poor wee faces. Stage fright. Big time.
Not wanting to burst your bubble but when you do finally send your first tweet, its highly likely that no-one is listening so no-one will even see your cleverly crafted 140 character debut flit through the virtual world. This is actually a good thing. Think of it as a dummy run, a trial. No pressure whatsoever. (I should point out that once tweeted, your tweet is captured in Twitter history forever and one day when you are more famous than Gaga someone will dredge up your first tweet for all to see. But seriously, don’t over think it. Just do it!).
There are a few types of tweeting styles on Twitter:
Some Twitter accounts have tweet counts in the single digits but following huge numbers of accounts – they are either spam orstalkers. Neither is desirable. Avoid being mistaken for one.
Some people are conversationalists on Twitter – they spend most of their time chatting to other people and may have a lot of tweets. They probably use foursquare a lot and could be accused of over sharing. If you want to be one of those people you will probably already own at least one iPhone and will need chargers stashed in every corner of your house, car, or workplace.
Some people share content on Twitter – links to blogs, news articles, websites – if you are someone who scours the web and consumes a lot of information, you may be one of these people.
Some people provide content – they may be bloggers, thought leaders or respected in their industry and they will provide original posts and tweets to be shared with the community.
And some people are just damn famous. You know who I mean.
Decide which one of these (or a mix) you would like to be on Twitter and then get tweeting!
Once you have broken the ice so-to-speak, the next step is to entice some followers to engage with. It will get quite boring quite quickly if you are tweeting to the world and can only hear the Twitter tumbleweed blowing around.
Its often been said that Twitter is like a party. Would you head along to the same party night after night and not talk to a soul? Surely after a while you would get sick of being treated like the wallpaper and either speak up or bugger off? Twitter is the same – if you want to be able to share and engage with others that you follow, then its only natural to say gidday and start chatting.
Some people find it a bit hard just to start chatting to someone you have never met – feels a bit weird and stalkerish. But surprisingly, its not as strange as you think – because everyone on Twitter is doing it, so its the accepted norm. However don’t go hard out and start replying to every tweet that you see. If you were Silent Sam before and then suddenly turn into a firehose of questions then people will think you are a bit odd. Imagine if you were at a party and there was someone standing over by the wall doing an extraordinarily good impersonation of wallpaper. Then suddenly they rush over to you, barge into your conversation and start asking questions, handing out business cards like a casino dealer, and repeating bits of your dialogue over and over. It would be weird. Admit it, it would.
So the trick is to start gradually. Here are a few things to try:
Retweet the tweets of people who you respect or wish to engage with. Reply occasionally to their tweets.
If they have a blog, post a few comments on the blog. Offer a different perspective. Even disagree! This may provoke a response, and dialogue will start rolling.
Tweet useful and relevant information – I’m not talking about your breakfast.
Take part in trending Twitter memes eg #retroavatarfriday. You’ll see these trending on sites like Trendsmap.
Share pictures using Twitpic or other platforms. Photos are hugely popular on social networking sites and more likely to be shared or retweeted.
Take part in a twitter chat – for example #MMchat held NZ Thursday lunchtime. By following the hashtag you will be able to see the conversation, retweet a few tweets that you like and jump in with your own thoughts. This will expose you to a different group of people from those who currently follow you.
Use hashtags on your tweets, especially where they are well established hashtags for a particular subject eg #custserv. Anyone searching for that hashtag will see your tweets. The same applies for hashtags for a specific event eg #eqnz (Canterbury earthquake) or #webstock (example below).
Good luck, and remember that its not a popularity contest! Its better to have a smaller number of followers who are interested in what you have to share and who you can chat and engage with, rather than thousands of spam followers who don’t care about you. Or what you had for breakfast.