8 Twitter Tips for the Savvy Social Media Practitioner

As Twitter and the lightning-fast adoption of Google+ demonstrate, social media are an easy, cost-effective, timely way to put targeted content in front of your audience.

Here are eight strategies to help your Twitter content get the attention it deserves – while dodging common Twitfalls:

10 tweets aren’t better than 1
Maybe you’ve seen this guy or gal on Twitter: They’ve written a list-blog offering 10 pieces of advice about something and then they tweet each item on the list separately. With only 140 characters (or fewer, if you want a retweet), Twitter is supposed to encourage pithiness and creativity. It’s not supposed to feel like a run-on sentence or a skipping record.

See when your audience is sleeping, know when they’re awake
Now that the infographic on best times to tweet has come out, beware crowding the Twitterverse during these times, especially if your key audience is in a time zone that doesn’t correspond with daylight hours on the east coast of the United States. Wise communicators find the best times for their followers, so have fun and experiment to discover which time of day brings you more replies, retweets, click-throughs, audience engagement, and “favorite” designations.

Unless you are actually in a Witch House band, use hashtags and symbols sparingly
You know these folks: Their tweets look like Witch House* set lists. There are more # and @ symbols than actual words. Yes, you want to engage people. You want your content to reach its intended audience. You wouldn’t be a good communicator or social media practitioner if you didn’t want these things. But, most important of all, you’re going for meaning when you communicate. Write something clear and concise first, then identify the most appropriate audience for your content. Figure out the one hashtag that will reach your audience (two at the very most). Remember, your peeps are already following you. They’ll do the work of getting the word out when your tweets contain content that’s valuable and coherent enough to retweet.

Avoid rerunning old tweets or linking to ancient content
A social media expert I follow, who shall remain nameless, spews out automated (AKA scheduled) tweets all day and night. In order to feed this constant flow with what looks like new content, he resorts to rerunning links to blog posts from several years ago. Nothing sillier and more credibility-crushing than having your latest tweet promote “The Top 5 Twitter Trends of 2008.”

Source your content when retweeting
It can be disconcerting – and reflects on credibility – when someone on Twitter links to a blog post or breaking news, and you discover that they didn’t author the content they’re so actively promoting. If you want to share valuable content from others, take the time, and the extra step, to look up the author on Twitter so you can give them credit. What to do about the person who clued you in to this content? If there’s room, include them in your tweet this way: via @NoBad Language. Or DM (Direct Message) them with a “thank you” for providing a valuable link. It’s only fair and not only will you build credibility for yourself as a content provider, you may find yourself with some grateful new friends.

Don’t run your Twitter stream on LinkedIn
Especially if your Twitter channel goes beyond your professional life to include personal contacts and musings. LinkedIn is for your professional brand. Linking it to a channel that functions as your personal stream of consciousness is risky. The headhunters and HR folks who search LinkedIn for potential job candidates may rule you out if they see Twitter posts about what you did for entertainment over the weekend, your political views, your use of salty language, or rants against your cell phone provider. Know your channels and present your best self – to friends, to recruiters, to fellow alums, to colleagues – in each one.

Resist being drawn in
It’s hard not to chime in when the entire Twitterverse seems to be sharing witty reflections on the topic du jour. As with the previous piece of advice, if you’re tweeting under your real name or can be identified by your Twitter handle – or tweeting on your company’s account – remember that HR is always watching. Social media background checks for job candidates are the norm today, and something you tweeted two years ago can come back to bite you – hard – and you’ll never even know why you didn’t get a second interview for that job you really, really wanted.

“Scoring” is for wild-and-crazy bachelors
Checking your score is the social media version of Googling yourself. We all do it; we all get a little thrill from it. But, you move away from being a truly effective and reliable content provider the more tricks you use to bump up your score.

Here is another reason: Have you ever noticed a true correlation between your activity on social media, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and your score? Most people I know have the same concern – they’ve been highly active and their score plummets or, like me, they’ve gone on vacation and not touched their social media accounts for two weeks, only to see their score jump 10 points. Whatever algorithms they’re using to calculate your social media status, these scoring services are not yet reliable and they take your eye off the real reasons for engaging on social media.

Focus on content, reliability and engagement within a valued community of professionals or friends, and you’ll be a top-notch Twitterer.

For additional tips on Twitter, check out Larner Caleb’s “10 Ways to Send Out the Wrong Twitter Message.” Helpful and a fun read.

* What’s Witch House? It’s like that time when Prince decided to go by an unpronounceable symbol instead of his name, and everyone was stuck referring to him as TAFKAP (The Artist Formerly Known as Prince). Prince is also known for penning songs with titles like “I Would Die 4 U,” predicting texting- and Twitter-speak by several decades. Witch House bands use symbols for names and song titles, making it ultra-difficult for people to pronounce them or follow them (try typing a Witch House band name into a search engine and see what you get).