8 Tips to Get You Started On Twitter

Harrison Jacobs

When it comes to social media, there’s Facebook and there’s Twitter. On the surface, Twitter is less personal than Facebook. You don’t post your vacation photos to Twitter. However, when you start using the platform, you realize how much more personal Twitter is than Facebook. It’s a conversation platform. It facilitates discussion, starts friendships and business relationships, and connects people of shared interests.  Leverage that to your advantage and create a highly engaged social network. In our second installment of our social media tips, Emerging Photographer uncovers the eight key things that you need to do to become a Twitter pro.

1. Establish Authority

Your bio on Twitter is where you tell people who you are. In two sentences, you need to outline your position, your personality, and your credibility. Include a link to your LinkedIn, your blog or your website, depending on the market you are trying to gather. Why should we follow you? What are you going to offer to the social media conversation?

2. Share Links to Quality Content

Listen, you aren’t an established brand and you aren’t a celebrity. To get people to follow you on Twitter, you are going to have to offer them something tangible: content. A general rule of thumb on Twitter is to spend 80% of your tweets sharing content and interacting with others. The other 20% can be tweets that are directly self-promotional or about you or your business. Why such a skewed percentage? People don’t care about you (Sorry, to be so frank). You need to build up goodwill by becoming a great content curator. When people trust you as a content curator, they will trust that your tweets provide something worthwhile. Then, you will have earned the “street cred” to promote your own stuff. Don’t believe us? Here are a couple slides from Dan Zarella, Hubspot’s Social Media Scientist, to back up the power of links (For more of Zarella's data-packed social media tips, click here).

3. Your Links Need Context and You Only Have 140 Characters!

Now that you know you need to be sharing links on your feed, we graduate to step two. Links need context. No one wants to click on a link without knowing what it is. It looks like spam. When you post a link, include a pithy and concise message that explains the link or convinces someone to click.

The problem with including your message is that you only have 140 characters per tweet. If the link is long (or even normal length), it looks ugly and wastes a lot of characters. Kill two birds with one stone and use a link shortener like Ow.ly or bit.ly. In addition to shortening your links, if you sign up for an account,  Ow.ly or bit.ly will save all your links and track how many people click through. Now you just added some useful analytics to your tweet!

4. You aren't that interesting. Yet.

Send attention out, not in. Twitter is a little like real life. Talk about yourself for too long and suddenly no one's listening. You look like a self-obsessed jerk. Talk about other people, events, culture and activities, and, suddenly, everyone is listening. Add something new to the conversation and people will follow you.

5. Engage, Engage, Engage

The power of Twitter is its ability to seamlessly connect you with people all over the world, at any time. To get followers, you need to show that you understand this. Start connecting with people and joining in on the conversation. Unlike Facebook, you can’t just send out a question and let whoever reply. Instead, you need to seek out the communities and people who you want to interact with.

Are you a wedding photographer? Reply to tweets, ask questions directly, and start conversations with tweeters in the wedding community. Search for the popular hashtags or lists used by that community and see what they are talking about. Offer useful or insightful conversation and watch how quickly people respond. People look for authenticity in who they follow; there’s no better way to demonstrate that you are a real person (and not a spambot) than to interact in real time.

6. Learn when and how to use Hashtags (#)

Hashtags are useful for connecting with people outside your network or for starting a specific conversation. However, don’t take that to mean that you should be hashtagging your every post. Think of it like a forum header. Use existing hashtags unless you have a following or want to start a specific conversation.

Use hashtags sparingly. Have a post that you think would be useful to a particular community? Find a hashtag that will get your tweet to them. Let’s say you have a question or post about making prints in a darkroom. It would make sense to fix a #darkroom or #analogphotography to your post. It makes no sense to make your own hashtag: #OhmyGodPrintingInADarkroom. No one will use it.

That being said, if you are tweeting about the NBA Finals and you fix #NBA or #NBAFinals to the post, it may be equally unhelpful. Such a broad hashtag might expose your tweet to a lot of people, but it is more likely that so many people will be tweeting there that your tweet will get lost in the flood.

7. Don’t Just Retweet, RT @

Retweeting is one of the best ways to let people know you exist on Twitter. People get notifications if you retweet them and it’s Twitter etiquette to at least respond to a retweet, if not to follow you back. However, only newbies use the actual retweet button.

While using the retweet button is easy, it doesn’t let you respond or interact with the tweet. Instead, if you want to retweet someone, copy and paste their tweet. Then write a new tweet with their tweet in quotation marks, fix RT@ TheirTwitterHandle to the front, and add your response at the end. Since Twitter only allows 140 characters, you may have shorten up their tweet with a “…” but they will understand. Plus, you’ll get points for looking a pro-tweeter.

8. Tweet Timing

When should you tweet? The answer, fortunately, is a little more clear cut than Facebook. That’s because we finally have two sources that agree (more or less). According to Bit.ly,  the peak of Twitter activity is between 9am and 3pm, Monday through Thursday. As one might guess, tweeting at peak times means that you could get a lot of eyes on your tweet or your tweet could lost in the flood. The graph below demonstrates when Twitter traffic is at its peak.

Twitter Activity (based on traffic on links posted in tweets)

If you’re looking for someone to click a link. posting in the afternoon earlier in the week is the best time to post. That's if you follow the graph below, which measures the number of clicks on Bit.ly links posted to Twitter.  However, Bit.ly warns that perhaps the best time to post would actually be some sweet spot between when Twitter traffic is still high but posting is decreasing. Specifically, Bit.ly is referring to 1-3pm Monday through Thursday.

Zarella has found that the best time to tweet (measured by the number of posts retweeted) is 4 p.m., just as everyone starts to wind down from work, eye the clock like a hawk, and look for ways to goof off. That seems to be in a similar vein to what bit.ly found.

Take these findings with a grain of salt and try it out for yourself. After some experimentation, you will find the best time to tweet for the followers that you hope to gain. If there’s one thing that you can be certain about though, don’t tweet at times when no one is on Twitter. Due to the real time nature of the platform, your tweet will quickly disappear into Twitter oblivion. So for those thinking about Tweeting at any time past 3pm on Friday, just don’t. Everyone in the Internet world has already shut their computer, kicked off their shoes, and settled in for a nice, long weekend nap.

If you have free time on your hands, check out Social Triggers' "Ultimate Twitter Tips Guide." Just be prepared to spend a few hours there. It's long.



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



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