Jun 10, 2014

How to Twitter Good

•Don't be in it for the followers.
Look, everyone wants a big number in the "followers" rectangle—but it doesn't mean anything. I currently have 530 followers, but that doesn't tell you anything. I could be following two million people. I could have gotten them all from being the first to reply to John Green that one time. What matters is not how many followers you have; what matters is how engaging and personable you are with them.

•Put a picture of yourself as your profile picture.
I used to have a really weird picture I found online as mine, and I had maybe -1 followers. When I changed it to a crappy headshot I took on my Mac with no filter and my dog looking potentially dead in the background, I gained a buuunch, and people started interacting with me much more. Of course, this could be due to reasons unrelated to my profile picture, but it's still pretty universally true that people like to see pictures of other people. (Also, everyone hates the eggs that are the default pictures. Everyone.) Trust me when I tell you no one cares if you have pimples or big teeth or whatever. We're book people. Let's be real.

•Be interesting.
Don't tweet "I just found a penny" or whatever. If it doesn't make for a good story, or if it isn't funny, engaging, or smart, I generally don't tweet it. There are, of course, exceptions, and also I don't claim every one of my tweets falls into these categories. But try to make it worthwhile for your followers.

Not that hard. No one likes the people who abbreviate every word.

•Strike up conversations.
If you want someone to follow you, the best way is not to follow them for two years without ever speaking to them. It's to see where your common interests lie and to discuss them with that person. Of course, don't go overboard. There's actually a pretty bold line between replying to everything someone tweets and engaging with them in a mutually enjoyable conversation.

•Be relatable.
People will retweet things that apply to them, or otherwise things that make them laugh, think, or cry. (Also, if you can make someone cry in 140 characters or less, you are a wizard.)

•Be different—from others, and from yourself.
No one likes people who steal other people's jokes. Similarly, no one likes people who repeat the same jokes (or general joke format) over and over ad nauseam. If people wanted to read someone else's joke, they'd follow that person.

•Try to make friends.
If you go into Twitter thinking "I'm not here to make friends," you will almost certainly fail at Twitter. The whole point is to establish relationships with people! There's a reason it's called social networking.

•Realize that no one really knows what they're doing.
Social media is new. So new, in fact, that this is a pretty universal truth: there are no rules. There are guidelines, sure, but you can absolutely break them. Generally you won't do so well if you do break them, but who knows? (No one.) You could well become famous and secure an agent and a book deal and a million dollars through Twitter. Just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it won't, and I think it's important to remember that.