How To Use Twitter Without Screwing Up
Twitter can be a touch cryptic, and it’s easy to make mistakes from time to time – even if you’re a longtime user. Here are a few common mistakes, and how to avoid them.
Whether you’re just looking to better understand the social network, or hoping to avoid embarrassing yourself on social media , keeping these five things in mind can go a long way.
Starting Tweets With Someone’s @Username
If you want your message to reach your followers, don’t start it with someone’s username. A lot of longtime Twitter user’s don’t realize this, and to be fair it’s not exactly obvious. It does make sense when you think about it; here’s a quick rundown.
@makeuseof is a site I write for, but only people who follow both me and them on Twitter will see this tweet in their timeline.
— Justin Pot (@jhpot) December 3, 2015
- If you start a tweet with someone’s @username, Twitter assumes you mostly just want to talk with that person.
- As such, most of your followers will not see these tweets
- The only exception is people who follow both you and the @username you’re trying to contact.
- This prevents your followers’ Twitter timelines from filling up with you replying to people they don’t know.
- A common workaround is to put a period before the username, like this:
.@makeuseof is a site I write for, and because I put a period in front of their username my followers will see this tweet.
— Justin Pot (@jhpot) December 3, 2015
Don’t feel embarrassed if you’ve made this mistake: no one noticed. Just keep it in mind for next time, so more people can see your tweets.
Not Checking If You’re Tweeting The Right Person
A lot of the fun of Twitter is sending quick messages off to famous people, but if you do that make sure you’ve got the right username. Fail to do that and you’re likely to end up bothering some poor soul, like Jon Jones.
He’s a video game designer who happens to share the name of a famous MMA fighter. Whenever that fighter shows up in the news, Jon gets a barrage of tweets from MMA fans . It’s kind of hilarious.
— Jon Jones (@jonjones) January 6, 2015
— Jon Jones (@jonjones) December 16, 2014
If you’re going to fire off a tweet at someone, make sure you’ve got the right profile. I personally use a search engine for the person’s name, with the word “twitter”, and check the profile before tweeting. Look for an accurate name, photo, and a blue checkmark – that means Twitter has verified you’re reaching a famous person using that name (you still need to check photos to make sure it’s the RIGHT famous person). It’s a little bit of work, but it’s better than bugging people like Jon out of laziness.
Using #too #many #hashtags
Some people think #randomly #adding #hashtags to your tweet will give it more exposure, but that only works if you’re using a hashtag people are likely to search at some point. Adding meaningless hashtags doesn’t make it more likely people will find you, but it does make them harder to read. Just don’t do it.
Even if a hashtag is popular, you shouldn’t necessarily use it. Hashtags can be a great way to participate in a global conversation, but jumping into a conversation and saying something completely unrelated is bad form – online and off. Before using a hashtag, make sure you know what it’s actually about. You could end up embarrassing yourself otherwise.
Not Thinking Through Your Hashtags
Because hashtags don’t have spaces, they can be vague. So if you’re hoping to create a hashtag, make sure there isn’t some other word hiding your hashtag.
— Loginov (@loginov) November 26, 2012
My colleague Dave outlined all sorts of similar hashtag fails , so be sure to check that out to get a better idea of how things could go wrong.
Making Joke Bomb Threats, Or Any Kind Of Threat
When you’re chatting with some friends on Twitter, it can feel like you’re just having a casual conversation. And there’s certainly a lot of privacy in being an obscure person on Twitter – odds are most of what you say will never be noticed by anyone.
Make a bomb threat, though, and all bets are off. Bomb threats aren’t funny, and authorities have to take them seriously.
Paul Chambers, of Doncaster UK, is one of many people who have learned this the hard way. When the airport wasn’t open he vented in a way he thought was clearly a joke.
“Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
He was arrested shortly after, and briefly had his phone and computer confiscated. You can argue that this is a violation of his freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean you should make joke threats. It’s not funny, it’s not noble, it just wastes the cops’ time when they should be dealing with real issues.
Don’t make joke bomb threats.
Following Too Many People (And Not Using Lists)
A common complaint about Twitter is that it’s impossible to keep up with, and that’s true if you follow thousands of people. My solution: only follow an account if you actually want to see everything they tweet. If someone regularly tweets things I don’t want to see, I unfollow.
It sounds mean, but it isn’t. If I feel overwhelmed by my timeline, to the point where I never actually look at it, I’ve effectively unfollowed everyone. So my advice is to keep the number of accounts you follow below 150 .
But I should say that not everyone at MakeUseOf agrees with this point: many would point out that creating lists is a good way to declutter your timeline . This lets you add accounts you’re occasionally interested in to a separate list, which you can check when interested. These accounts are kept out of your main timeline.
What Common Twitter Mistakes Did I Miss?
These are just five things I’ve noticed, and even done myself. But I want to learn more, so I’m going to ask: what common Twitter mistakes do you notice? Let’s talk about them in the comments below.
Image Credits:Opened door by trialhuni via Shutterstock
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