Everyone makes mistakes. Here are a few that people can’t seem to stop making on Twitter, and how to avoid them yourself.
We’ve given you tips for running a business Twitter account, while pointing to mistakes businesses make while using the microblogging service. But you don’t need to be running a business to feel confused about Twitter.
Here are some mistakes you might be making, why they’re mistakes, and how to stop making them.
Starting A Tweet With A @Username
The vast majority of your followers aren’t seeing some of your tweets. This isn’t a bug – it’s part of how Twitter works – but a lot of people don’t seem to notice it’s happening.
You already know that including someone’s @username directs the tweet to them – they will see a notification, and (hopefully) respond. It’s how conversation works on the site.
What you may not realize is that any tweet that starts with a @username isn’t sent to all of your followers.
@sideox I hate you.
— Justin Pot (@jhpot) February 11, 2014
You see this? It’s my private hatred for my podcast co-host Dave LeClair. And because I began it with @sideox, only people who follow both Dave and I saw it on their timelines.
This is because Twitter assumes such messages are part of a semi-private conversation. If you want to include someone in a message, but also want all your followers to see it, you’ll need to put something before the “@” symbol in the tweet. Some people use a period for this purpose:
.@sideox I hate you.
— Justin Pot (@jhpot) February 11, 2014
The period in front of this tweet allows me to more publicly declare my dislike of Dave. It means all my followers will see it. I could also re-arrange the sentence, it doesn’t matter: as long as the @username isn’t the first thing in the tweet, all my followers will see it.
It’s a simple thing, sure, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. It’s something the site never really explains to users, and now you know about it.
Plenty of people new to Twitter know one thing: #people #love #hashtags.
Except, not really. #Filling #a #sentence with #nothing #but #hashtags is #infuriating. Don’t.
Think of hashtags as a way of joining an improvised chat room. People who want to discuss a particular topic, in real time, use hashtags to find other people talking about the same thing. Here are a few ways this happens:
- Posting updates about a live event or broadcast, e.g. #sochi2014
- Posting about a specific topic, e.g. #hockey.
- Adding to a running joke, e.g. #firstworldproblems
And a few wrong things to add:
- Words that are clearly the first part of a longer idea, e.g. #the. Hashtags end after a space, which is why people don’t put spaces between the words in them.
- Some #random word no one will ever search for. This is pointless.
If you’re still confused, read everything you need to know about hashtags. It goes over the history of the hashtag, and further explains how people use them. You can also read more about choosing the right hashtag for your tweet.
Someone follows you. You follow back. Common courtesy, right?
Not necessarily. Unlike Facebook, which is based on two way “friendships”, Twitter is designed for broadcasting ideas. It works best if people follow only those they’re actually interested in, then make a point to read those people’s tweets.
It’s been said that trying to use Twitter casually is like trying to drink from a fire hose, but I think this is only the case if you follow too many people. So don’t. Only follow people you’re really, really interested in – and don’t feel bad if you’re not following people back. After all, if you never actually look at Twitter because of how overwhelming it is, you’re effectively following no one.
I’d even recommend regularly going through the list of people you follow and unfollowing people you no longer find interesting. You consume a lot of information, and sometimes you need to cut back. Just because it’s only 140 characters doesn’t mean it can’t get overwhelming.
Which reminds me: don’t become the person someone else needs to unfollow. Make you tweets occasional and fascinating – not steady and uninteresting. Here are some more tips about writing tweets your followers will want to retweet.
Using An Autoresponder
You might be tempted, or even be told that it’s a good idea, to set up an auto responder that greets new followers. This is a temptation you must resist. It’s going to annoy people, and will probably get you unfollowed.
People don’t want to talk to bots; they want to talk to you. Don’t act like a bot.
Have you noticed any other mistakes people make on Twitter? Inform your fellow readers in the comments below, because odds are there’s things we all need to learn.