Mia Eaton taps into her Twitter knowledge, with Margaret Atwood as spokeswoman. And this is only Part I.
Twitter is too vast a subject to cover in one post, but let's begin like this. Try to think of Twitter as a salon—a thoughtfully curated gathering of voices, news, and opinions from people with whom you choose to share your time. It is a place to contribute your thoughts, your humor or sensitivity, your unique knowledge.
How much you enjoy and benefit from using Twitter will depend largely on who you follow, what you contribute, the discussions you find, and how much you engage with others. Try to find and follow people with similar professional or personal interests, who provide you with relevant news, or whose company you enjoy.
"New Twitterers ask, "What will I say? Who will follow me?' Wise Twitterers ask: 'What can I learn? What cool ppl will I find?'" — @jooliagoolia
I've seen a famous writer go from moaning about how he doesn't get the point of crying out into the void, only to realize that he'd been missing countless @replies from fans and friends, and suddenly, the whole world opened up. Next thing you know he was harnessing the Twitter hivemind for knowledge about a strange bird in his yard and meeting fans at local bars.
A quick aside: you can use Twitter's website in your browser, but seeing all your @replies, @mentions, direct messages, and following #hashtag subjects is infinitely easier and less frustrating with a good Twitter client
(typically for free or less than a gourmet coffee). I really love Tweetdeck
on my home machine, and Tweetie 2
on my iPhone.
Mashable has an excellent Twitter guide book
, that explains everything from #hashtags
to why people aren't following you back
. I'll cover the @ (at replies and mentions) more next time, as well as the hefty power of the hashtag, the best ways to RT (retweet) and the category lists that help you organize the people you follow.
So, how to not be a lame tweeter? See above re: why people aren't following you back
, as that article covers many of the most common turn-offs. Consider the content and tone of your tweets. Don't blast people with links to your blog, or badger the world at large to follow you or buy your book. Avoid that irritating "expert" voice it's easy to slip into when trying to sound intelligent. Avoid aphorisms. Don't be a downer. You'd (not) be surprised about how many people use Twitter to blow off steam when they're depressed or frustrated. Constantly posting complaints or self-pitying remarks is no fun for others. Nothing says you can't have a bad day — I've had bad days turned around by an outpouring of twitterlove, people sending me pictures of bunnies and whatnot — but you can't talk like Eeyore all the time.
People naturally gravitate towards and are more likely to Re-tweet (RT) people who share good links, who are entertaining, or are endearing or empathetic characters. Like employing a writing constraint, it's helpful to flavor your tweets (writing, running and cooking, for example), but don't feel like you need to be super strict with yourself.
Margaret Atwood started tweeting
a year ago, and yesterday she wrote a charming, amusing piece for The New York Review of Books
about her experience thus far. I couldn't ask for a better spokeswoman:
"The Twittersphere is an odd and uncanny place....
But despite their sometimes strange appearances, I’m well pleased with my followers—I have a number of techno-geeks and bio-geeks, as well as many book fans. They’re a playful but also a helpful group. If you ask them for advice, it’s immediately forthcoming: thanks to them, I learned how to make a Twitpic
photo appear as if by magic, and how to shorten a URL using bit.ly
. They’ve sent me many interesting items pertaining to artificially-grown pig flesh, unusual slugs, and the like. (They deduce my interests.)"
So, She Writers who tweet, how do you find it?