In the comments of my last post about how to make online friends, several people mentioned they had trouble jumping into conversations on Twitter, so I promised a follow-up post. Believe me, I get it. Many of my school years can be summed up by this picture—being left out. Been there, done that.
Maybe that’s why I love Twitter so much. Twitter lets you eavesdrop on all those conversations so you can easily jump in. Really. It’s okay to butt in. This isn’t high school with all the exclusive cliques. Twitter is a big mingling party.
Think about it, if those people wanted the conversation to be private, they’d take it to Direct Messages or email. The absolute worst that will happen is you won’t get a response, and because Twitter is so busy, no one will notice but you.
Now that you understand how butting in is not only allowed but encouraged, the next issue is…
How to Join Twitter Conversations
- Give Positive Feedback
Look for tweets about things you can congratulate people for—a request from an agent, a sale, new release, birthday wishes, etc. Everyone likes recognition and getting kudos. Even multi-published authors will often tweet back a thanks.
- Give Support
Similarly, look for tweets about things people might appreciate a virtual hug for—rejections, bad news, being sick, etc. Again, people like receiving support. Just as much as you might be afraid all your tweets go ignored out in the wild twitterverse, so does everyone else. Show someone that they were heard and they’ll appreciate it.
- Use Old-Style Re-tweets
Instead of using Twitter’s web interface, use TweetDeck or a similar program. TweetDeck allows you to do the old-style re-tweets (RT), where your Twitter ID is inserted into the RT. The new-style RTs don’t display your name as obviously, so the original poster might not notice that you’d helped them out. You want “credit” for your RTs, don’t you?
- Customize Re-tweets
If you’re re-tweeting a link, add some words to say why—add value to the RT. (This is another reason I like the old-style RTs, where you can edit the text before sending.) Was it funny, informative, helpful, or inspiring? (Yes, it’s okay in Twitter to edit someone else’s words to make everything fit into 140 characters. As long as you’re not misrepresenting their meaning, no one will mind.)
- Give Extra Credit
When you really enjoy a link or tweet, in addition to retweeting it, you can @ reply to the poster and thank them with a note about what you enjoyed about it. This goes along with the Positive Feedback above. People like knowing if they made a difference to your day.
- Be Smart with @ Replies
If you want everyone to see a reply, put other characters before the @ symbol. If the @ symbol is the first character of the tweet (like when you hit Reply), only that person and your mutual followers will see the message (explanation here). In other words, a message like—@awesomedude is hysterical! Everyone should follow him—wouldn’t do any good. Only people who were already following you both would see it. To make it work, put a period (.) first—.@awesomedude is hysterical! Everyone…
- Join a Chat
Twitter Chats are normal tweets that all use an agreed upon hashtag (#). With this common hashtag, everyone can follow the conversation even though they don’t follow each other. Here’s a list of some common Twitter chats for writers and readers. If you participate in these themed conversations (Young Adult books, publishing industry, urban fantasy, etc.), you’ll often pick up new followers as well. To follow the conversation, either set up a search for the hashtag within TweetDeck or use something like TweetChat.
- @ Reply to Someone When You Follow Them
When you start following someone, @ reply them to tell them why. @So-and-so recommended them on #FollowFriday, you loved their blog post you’d seen from @so-and-so’s re-tweet, you liked their answer in the chat, you love their books, whatever. They’ll be more likely to check out your tweetstream and potentially follow you back. If you’re Twitter buddies with @so-and-so, they might even pop into the conversation (since they’d see their ID mentioned) and put in a good word for you.
- Feel Free to say “Me Too”
If you’ve hung out on forums, blogs, or Yahoo groups, you know those formats frown on the “me too” posts, as they don’t add value and clog up the topic. But Twitter is different. We all have different lists of followers and following. So an RT of someone’s comment with a “Ditto” or “Me too” is perfectly okay on Twitter. It broadens the original poster’s reach and gives you something in common.
- Answer Questions
If you have an answer for a question posted by someone, jump in and answer it. Yes, even if it was posted by an agent. They posted the question to get answers, so you’re allowed to @ reply them. If you’re behind on tweets, check with them and see if they’re still looking for answers. Or if you don’t have an answer, you can re-tweet it and get credit for trying to be helpful.
In addition to all these ways of continuing conversations and responding to tweets, you can also start conversations. Post links you find, talk about your day or observations, ask questions. Let your followers get involved.
Okay, what things did I miss? Can you think of any other suggestions? Do you think these approaches are doable?