Since I “simultweet” my Wednesday blog posts on Twitter (using the #PubLaw hashtag) and on my blog, I’ll assume for the moment that if you’re here, you already know how to use Twitter.
That said, I’ll do a supplementary post or two on the blog about using Twitter in the days to come for those who want a review.
Used improperly, Twitter can suck the hours from a day faster than vampires can raid an unguarded blood bank. The key to effective Twitter content is knowing what you’re going to do before you get there.
There are many ways to provide valuable Twitter content, but over the next three weeks, we’ll talk about three of the most effective and efficient. Today, we’ll start with the simplest: aggregation and retweets.
SHARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SHARE
When you see a useful link or piece of information that someone you follow has tweeted, you can share that information with your followers via a retweet (RT). Retweets sometimes feel like “cheating” to new twitter users, but it’s actually a hugely effective way to share information across the Twitterverse. Since you only see the tweets of those you follow, retweets expand the original content beyond that person’s follower list, and share it with yours.
There are several ways to RT content effectively:
1. Simply click the “retweet” option, which sends the tweet off to your followers in its initial form and format.
2. Modify the tweet in some way (for example, by adding a reply or shortening it) and use the “MT” modifier (for Modified Tweet) along with the original person’s handle.
3. Add to the tweet, but keep the initial tweet intact, and attribute with RT (For example: add example).
People who share useful information in this way are helping to “spread the word” about content that someone else has provided. The term for people who gather and share others’ content this way is “aggregators” – and many people like to follow aggregators because they save us time. For example: @MsHeatherWebb follows and reads a lot of writing-related websites, and shares useful articles and writing tips via Twitter. Since I follow Heather, I don’t have to follow all those sites (and Twitter feeds) myself – she and I have similar tastes, and I know I can follow her links and RTs to find some useful things.
Heather also provides her own, unique content–something we’ll talk more about next week–and effective Twitter content providers should do a mix of both. However, if your social media time is limited, or if you haven’t yet figured out the rest, sharing useful content with others is a great place to start.
In addition to retweeting others’ content, aggregators often share links to content they’ve found online. (Remember to attribute!) A great example of this is @ElizabethSCraig, who often tweets links to writing-related websites, blogs, and articles. Writers who follow her save time, because she reads many blogs and websites and delivers the useful links to Twitter for her followers to read.
Don’t panic if you don’t read a lot of blogs and websites. You probably already see more useful content than you realize. The key is paying attention to what you see.
SHARE WHAT YOU SEE
Even if you don’t have time to read a dozen blogs a day, you can start with reading one or two, or simply sharing useful things you happen across in your Internet wanderings. Share the things you already see! Link shortening sites like https://bitly.com will help you condense the link-related portion of the content – but don’t forget to summarize where the link is going, too. A link alone, without more, is not an effective direct. People need to know what they’re going to see before they click.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO ATTRIBUTE
Twitter etiquette (and plagiarism) require that you attribute the source of content which isn’t your own. If the author has a twitter account, be sure to use the handle so the author knows you’re sharing his or her content. (In many cases, this will gain you friends and followers among those you RT.) Never take someone else’s content and claim it as your own. When tweeting a link to a blog or website, it’s OK to simply say “Great article about field mice who eat owls at: [URL link]” because that’s not claiming you wrote it. If the author is on Twitter, however, a better tweet might be “@KerrySchafer has a great article about slime toads: [URL]” – because Kerry will appreciate seeing you tweet it.
Many authors despair of finding a way to be “useful” on Twitter. Paying attention to what you already see and know is an easy way to start.
How often do you share content on Twitter? Do you take advantage of retweeting useful content you see?