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The other day I looked at my Twitter account and I noticed that despite only using Twitter for a short time, I’ve made a surprising number of tweets. Since I started, I’ve learned a lot about the community, how people use it, and the ecosystem of services that rely on Twitter to function.

If you’ve got a minute, I’d love to share some of what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen others do successfully.

1. Abbreviate

If you can say it with less letters, do so! There are only 140 characters allowed in a single tweet, so shortening a word or using a bit of slang is completely acceptable. Instead of “are,” say “r.” The same goes for “you” and “u.”

Don’t go overboard, though. If you abbreviate everything you write or do it in a way that breaks with your normal tone, you’ll drive people away. Using more than two abbreviations in a single tweet might be something to avoid.

2. Shorten Your URLs


Another kind of abbreviation you can use is link shortening. Instead of posting an entire link to a blog post (which might exceed the character limit on its own), you can use a URL shortening service. The most popular of these is [NO LONGER WORKS] TinyURL, which simply takes any long link, gives it a unique identifier, and produces a clean little redirect link that you can post anywhere.

The service that I prefer is the one offered by Since I am part of many different microblogging communities I use to keep them all straight. Links entered into the post box are automatically converted into a “” format. This saves time and helps you ensure your links don’t get cut off. Because the system looks for links in an intelligent way, it’s also possible to post a long link in the middle of your tweet and have it shortened without interfering with the rest of the text or your character count.

If you’d like to consider other link shortening services, then check out Lee’s list of 10 different short URL services 10 Short URL Services Face Off! 10 Short URL Services Face Off! Read More .

3. Invite Responses

Remember that Twitter is a social community with a reasonably good system for replies. If you only broadcast the status of your laundry, don’t expect many responses. You have to find a way to engage your followers by not only sharing the story of your life, but also asking their opinion. Questions make great Twitter posts because, subconsciously, the reader has to think about it longer as they formulate a response.

Be prepared for all kinds of replies, though. Usually your followers will be polite, but if you ask a controversial question, be prepared for strong viewpoints and possibly hurt feelings. If a debate gets too heated, either stop replying or move the conversation to another medium. In my experience, squashing your well-formulated viewpoint into 140 characters will probably fail to get your point across.

4. Find Your Voice

While you may have heard this advice in your high school creative writing class, I don’t mean it in quite the same sense. There are a million different things you can tweet about. If you really want to let the world know that you’re “going to do some cool stuff,” then feel free to post it. If you’re using Twitter as a means of plugging your own posts, that’s OK too. The most important thing is consistency.

If you typically write very casually about mundane events, don’t be surprised when your followers largely gloss over that crucial tweet describing your political views. The reverse is also true. A Twitter account that’s full of well thought out tweets can be disrupted by a few obscure references to the tedium of your life. Figure out what kind of Twitterer you want to be and stick with it. Your followers will thank you for it.

5. Timing is Everything

This is the tip that I have the most trouble following myself. When you have a couple big things happen and you sit down at your computer, you may have the compulsion to blurt them all out in 3 or 4 consecutive tweets. While it’s a great way to vent, it concentrates all of your day’s contributions to Twitter in one chronological spot. If some of your followers check their feeds later in the day, they may miss your updates completely.

Instead of compacting all your posts, spread them out so each one has an equal chance of being seen by a large number of people. If a follower sees one update in their feed, they may click your profile to check if they’ve missed anything. For extra help with timing, check out Jason’s article Three More Great Twitter Tools Worth A Look Three More Great Twitter Tools Worth A Look Read More , which includes a description of TweetLater, a tweet scheduling service.

6. Know the Syntax

While it may seem obvious, make sure you know how to use the Twitter syntax. Specifically, the “@ reply” and the “hashtag.” These will allow you to change the meaning of your posts in a simple, unified way. ” @ replies” are great for replying directly to any user. Twitter alerts anyone whose username appears in the beginning of a tweet. For instance “@loyaleagle I’m having trouble with that too,” would show up in my replies area, as well as in my general feed (if I already follow that user). The post is clearly a reply to a previous one and people not involved can look at both feeds to understand the conversation. If you use an “@ reply” in the middle of a tweet, it won’t be added to that user’s list of replies, but it is a good way to mention someone’s username, as Twitter will automatically linkify it.

Hashtags are similar to “@ replies,” but they function more like an archival service. According to the hashtags wiki, they allow you to tag each post with its own specific category (much like the tags found on Flickr). Using hashtags allows you to join a community of people who are all interested in the same thing or are looking for updates on a particular news event. The downside to this is that you lose some characters to the tag, especially if that tag is long.

7. Use a Multi-protocol Service

As I mentioned above, is a fantastic service. I have numerous microblogging accounts all over the web and keeping them unified can be very handy. This isn’t an article on multi-protocol microblogging tools, but I wanted to mention them because they can help your tweets as well. If all of your microblogging services are synchronized, your followers will feel comfortable adding you in their favorite network. Also, it will help you get your various accounts updated together (otherwise you might accidentally omit one).

Remember, a lot of the tips above are completely applicable to other microblogging services. Some services have their own specific syntax, though. If you use a multi-protocol service to unify your posts, make sure the syntax works for every account. Fortunately the “@ reply” is a fairly well known term, so it should be fine anywhere.

If you have any specific tips you’d like to share, please post them below. There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter, but some ways will work best for you.

Finally, make sure to join and follow MakeUseOf on Twitter

  1. pauly
    July 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Yawn. I just lost 2 minutes of my life skimming through this "article." Great to see the common populace of american asses enjoy it oh so much. Keep writing such drivel! Maybe you'll change our world some day!

  2. Ruth, MaplewoodVA
    October 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Very interesting topic! Is there a way to track how someone found you on Twitter? I have a client that is asking about learning how she suddenly gained so many followers. I've not come across anything that explains this but just wondered.

    I use TweetBeeps, similiar to Google Alerts, for tracking specific keywords used on Twitter. A nifty little tool. I plan to check out Tweettrak. Thanks!

    • Mark O'Neill
      October 29, 2008 at 9:42 am

      Why don't you just Tweet and ask them how they found you?! ;-)

      • Ruth, MaplewoodVA
        October 29, 2008 at 9:55 am

        Such as obvious answer. lol Guess it's the internet marketer in her coming out and she wants to track "what" worked to bring new followers so "this" can be repeated again. I'm not sure what type of response(s) she'd get from asking. Personally, sometimes I follow just "because." Appreciate your prompt reply.

  3. RyanK
    September 9, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Speaking to point number 6... Hashtags were really useful when Twitter's track functionality worked.

    But since its been disabled for well over 2 months now, I wrote a bot that provides the same functionality. Follow TweetTrak on twitter and then send it a DM with what you want to track: 'd tweettrak track @RyanK'

    Then, whenever anyone uses my username, a DM will be sent to you with the contents of the message. You can obviously replace my username with yours, a hashtag, or any search query you can come up with.

    Lots of features planned, check out for more info. Please let me know if there's any problems or questions. I'm tracking both TweetTrak and RyanK so just tweet with one of those and I'll see it!

  4. Lainie Petersen
    September 8, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I agree with others here that abbreviations can be annoying. One thing about having small character limits is that it forces me to be more choosy about my words. I consider this good practice for blogging.

  5. Jimmy Rogers
    September 8, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Wow, this is possibly the best crop of comments I've ever seen on one of my articles!

    I tend to agree with the abbreviations thing, but at the same time, I see the occasional use of abbreviations as a kind of syntax. There is a definite limit to the number of characters you can use and as someone who is habitually verbose, I sometimes need to dock a few letters here and there to get it all out.

    Btw, it should be noted that while I'm handing out advice, I definitely do any or all of these things particularly well. I know that I should do them, but keeping a wonderful twitter feed is tough, just as writing a good book or magazine column is tough.

    • Mark O'Neill
      September 8, 2008 at 3:58 pm

      Abbreviations tend to annoy me a bit too but I often find myself doing it too sub-consciously. It's all those years of sending SMS messages on my mobile phone! I really need to snap out of it but when Twitter only gives you 140 characters, it's difficult to get all Shakespeare on someone.

  6. AnthonyRusso
    September 8, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Good tips. On pushing blog posts or your company, you have to use a balance. If you are talking only about your blog posts or your company, it will annoy your followers. Occasionally though, I meet clients on Twitter and mention my company, but I try to keep the "real" tweets above the company posts by about 2 to 1 ratio if I can. Easier to do on weekends than weekdays.

    Anthony Russo
    Conferencing Consultant
    Great America Networks Conferencing
    Skype: anth.russo
    Twitter: @AnthonyRusso

  7. Mark O'Neill
    September 8, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    I really don't like people who solely use Twitter to push their blog posts at you. Yes, use it for blog posts but also use it to discuss other things as well. If I want to subscribe to your blog, I would go there and subscribe to the feed! So that would be my first suggestion - don't just use it to push your blog.

    I would also try and inject some humour and personality into the Tweets. Don't make it stale and boring. Don't tell your followers that you've just picked your nose or pulled the lint out of your belly button! Tell them something humorous!

    • Alisha
      September 8, 2008 at 1:40 pm

      I agree. Just saying you've gone to the bathroom or made some lunch isn't really that exciting to read all of the time.

      I use Twitter to find new stuff to read or even write about. If someone doesn't offer that, I don't follow him/her unless that really is the reason I'm following!

  8. Lainie Petersen
    September 8, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Really nice tips, Jimmy, but I particularly like #4. People (meaning me) need to be reminded about this.

  9. Alisha
    September 8, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Great tips, except I don't agree with #1. I don't think of that as a way to improve tweets.

    Even though Twitter only allows 140 characters and it can sometimes be hard to fit in all that you need to say in one tweet, I don't really like seeing shorter words that are already short, because people do it even when they only say a few words. I hate seeing "r" and "u" in place of the actual words, which is only a couple letters more because it reminds me of how lazy people have become today.

    I will actually stop following anyone who does that. It just bugs me! ;)

    • Robert George Reoch
      January 20, 2010 at 9:32 pm

      I'm with you, Alisha. With the proliferation of texting and tweeting, is anyone else becoming worried about the state of proper English? Use it or lose it, I say. I do agree a couple of innocuous abbreviations here and there can be forgiven for the tweeter whose comments are not mundane, but please leave the "R" to "Toys R Us," and the "U" to "U-Haul."

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