Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Twitter Q&A Part Three

Rachel of Punch Presence answers even more questions about Twitter
This is part three in an on-going series in which I ask Rachel from Punch Presence all about Twitter. Part One was an introduction to starting up, the language of Twitter, and hashtags. In Part Two, Rachel explained replying, retweeting, and other ways of interacting.Today she gets more into the behavioural strategies that we might take as users.

Inherently Social
Twitter is clearly a social medium. Our tweets are read by our followers, through searches, or via retweets. They're also public and (if I understand correctly) archived - i.e. never truly deleted.  We choose how many people to follow and what conversations to participate in. It's an awful lot of pressure for a Twitter n00b. Are there any rules I can use when making some decisions on what kind of Twitter user I want to be?

Tweeting Frequency
How often should I tweet? Is there such a thing as tweeting too often? Not often enough?

Rachel: Here’s where we get into theories and philosophies, in my opinion. It’s also important to remember that Twitter isn’t like Facebook. There is a CONSTANT flow of tweets for your followers, and even if you post several times that day, there’s a good chance they won’t see any of them. Typically people won’t go to your profile to see what you’ve tweeted that day.

However, you should give them a reason to stay engaged with you.

This is where Twitter is similar to a party. Start conversations and stay interested in what’s going on -- this could mean finding a hashtag of a topic that you’re into and jumping in there to tweet with other followers of the hashtag, retweeting someone’s tweet, or replying to a colleague/someone in your industry.

Overall, I would recommend tweeting several days a week (unless you can do it everyday, then that’s even better), and for blocks of time, as opposed to number of tweets. I don’t typically recommend any particular number of tweets -- just like I wouldn’t tell anyone how many times they should speak up during a conversation. If you have something you need to say, and want to get input from others...tweet!

And generally, you’ll get more out of replying to others and retweeting. I would say for every original tweet that you post (whether it’s a favorite quote, link to an article you wrote, or a topic you want to start up), you should RT and reply twice to three times as often. Too often people on Twitter seem to use it as a place only to promote themselves - that’s not cool.

How does it work? How do I decide who to follow? I read a good article by Next Scientist when I started up; do you have anything to add?

Rachel: Actually -- I couldn’t say it better myself! Follow people who you want to talk to, or who might have something worth saying.

And anything automated looks sketchy to me, so if someone has set up an auto-follow on their account, I’m typically turned off. Where’s the humanity?

Note from me: I started following people from Next Scientist's lists of "blogs to follow". Most of my feed is full of academics tweeting and retweeting blog posts and articles on various strategies for research, writing, publishing, open access, and strategies to maximize efficiency.  In that way, I'm currently using it like an RSS feed, letting other people highlight blogs/articles that might be interesting to me. I then re-tweet or save to Evernote (for potential future blogging) on a case by case basis. I'll likely branch out and start joining conversations once I get a better feel for the whole thing. For now I'm dabbling; hanging out at the food table so I can watch the party happen before I dive in.

Content of Tweets
There's obviously a trade-off between number and quality of tweets. How do I decide where I fall?

Rachel: Typically my only rule of thumb for posting -- whether that’s on Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. -- is that if you have something you’d like to share or write about, do it. We’re not always going to have something worth saying. Trust your gut here -- is this something you’d want to read or share? Yeah? Then go for it.

Note from me: I'm going to add in that drunk tweeting is probably a bad idea - particularly if your Twitter account is a professional one - so when you're making the call on "is this something I'd want to read or share", perhaps wait until the morning after a few pints.

Additionally, it's so easy these days to post the first thought that pops into our heads, which can be dangerous. Give yourself a 1-minute rule: if you still want to post a comment after thinking on it for a full minute (and asking yourself "Is this something I'd want to read in someone else's tweet?"), go ahead. For those of us struggling to find something - anything - worth tweeting about, here's what The Research Whisperer has to say on the subject of "what to tweet".

Other Stuff
Do you have any other general recommendations for people using Twitter for professional purposes?

Rachel: My only other recommendation is if you can’t build a consistent routine of getting on Twitter and jumping in the conversation (ideally on a daily basis), then maybe you need to find something else that’s more comfortable for you -- Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc. Don’t force it if it’s not really working for you.

And make sure you’re having fun! It’s pretty awesome how small our world is now -- I’m lucky to have dozens of online friends that I talk with on a daily basis, and I couldn’t do that without social media.

And if there are any other questions (seriously, there’s nothing too “silly” or small), feel free to email me at rachel@punchpresence, or you can find me on Twitter!

That finishes the majority of my questions for Rachel.  I am still a bit confused on the whole "conversation" and "trending" aspects of Twitter, but that might just be something I pick up as I use it.  If you have any questions or if you think I missed anything, leave a comment and I'll pick up with a Part Four.

Lastly, here's some of the Next Scientist links I've mentioned:
Creating a Sexy Twitter Account for the Scientist 2.0
Who to Follow on Twitter: Check the Follower Ratio
Are You Reading These 17 Science Blogs? You Should

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