How to Tweet

I had a friend recently ask me to give him some pointers on Twitter. He had just dipped a toe into the water and was feeling completely overwhelmed by the constant flow of information. I chuckled a little---not at him, but at myself, because I consider myself such a novice, sporadic twitterer compared to many of the folks I know... and I have mixed feelings about the technology, to be perfectly honest. There's great flashes of insight there, and genuine community can take place, but the chaff. Oh, the chaff... But his question got me thinking---how would I advise a new person on Twitter? Here is some stuff that has worked for me... but I hope people will chime in with their good advice too. (This assumes that people have a basic understanding of the mechanics of Twitter: following people, hastags, and the like.)

  1. Forget trying to "keep up." You will make yourself crazy. You remember the Lazy River at the water park? You get in, enjoy the ride for a while, then get out and do something else. Meanwhile the river keeps going, new people are getting in and out, and that's just part of it. It's not like you're pining for the Lazy River while you're going down the Twisty Tubes or the Power Wedgie. Go. Live your life.
  2. Set up some searches. Pick a couple of interests and save them as searches that you can dip into. Find people you like through those feeds and start following them.
  3. Follow everyone who follows you. This may be a controversial piece of advice, but when you're trying to build up a Twitter presence, I think it's a nice easy way to ramp up your contacts. You can always unfollow people later. It's much more fluid than Facebook.
  4. Re-tweet. Re-tweeting a tweet you like is a big part of Twitter. And I think that's good---it's like going to a cocktail party. Some times you generate your own small talk, sometimes you say, "Hey, did you hear that crazy story on the news?" or whatever. That said, if you do nothing but re-tweet, people get annoyed. Say something original every now and then.
  5. Handling trolling/misinformation on twitter. The turkeys really have a knack for getting under some peoples' skin. Like mine. I've learned not to get into back and forth with people. I will give them one response in good faith, and then if they continue being a turkey, I drop it. I'm not talking about simple, honest disagreement. That's worth engaging, provided the 140-character format is up to the task---and it frequently isn't: see tip #6. I'm talking about brick wall stubbornness, contentless goading, and the like. The times I have continued to gnaw on that bone have not gone well, so I just let it go and channel the writer of Ecclesiastes: it is all vapor. As an aside, if you're part of an organization that people are talking about on Twitter, you have to accept that negative stuff will be said about your group, and there's no tamping it down. Some memes will take hold and stick around forever. But for the most part, today's kerfuffle will be long gone in a week.
  6. Along those lines, don't do on Twitter what's better done in other formats.
  7. Sabbath is your friend. Unplug on a regular basis. Tomorrow night is a good start.

What would you add?