Should I tweet? A beginner's guide to Twitter.
by Antony Cox published at 14:42 on 2011-12-28
Although I have had a Twitter account for some time I haven't actually published many tweets. The reason for this is quite simple. In the past I really didn't understand what I should be tweeting about. Now I do, and I still don't tweet very much. The reason for this is also quite simple. I don't have much to say via the medium of Twitter.
Having gone through this journey of understanding I thought I would write a short post for anyone else wondering what to do with their Twitter account. Just because it's not much use to me, doesn't mean you won't find it very useful, or at least quite fun. I will try and answer some of the basic questions regarding the service, for example: What should you tweet? When should you tweet it? What's the point of it? What does it say about you?
What should you tweet?
You can tweet about anything you want. Whether you should or not is largely personal choice. It's worth considering that anything you tweet about yourself, not in response to a direct message or someone else's post, is essentially equivalent to voicing your thoughts in a large group of people when nobody asked for your opinion. If you want to be that guy then you can. in my opinion a great tweet is informative and intended to increase awareness of something, whether that's a secret gig that's just been announced, a great value sale item you just found or the birth of your new child. It can be hard to overcome the fact that tweeting is fundamentally narcissistic, especially if you're not a celebrity or public figure who could reasonably be of general interest to the Twitter population. That said, I think people are less likely to judge your self obsessed ramblings given the environment, and the fact they signed up to listen to you. Basically, don't sit there thinking about what you could tweet, wait until you learn something that you feel others would benefit from knowing, then tell them. Very few people will genuinely give a crap about your new sofa, your child's progress in potty training or the nuances of your hangover.
The other Twitter based phenomena is the re-tweet which essentially means that you have read a tweet from someone else and want to tell your followers about it. I see many, many feeds that are made up almost entirely of re-tweets. I'm sure there's a good reason to do this but I can't think of it. Maybe if you wanted to aggregate a collection of posts to a group of followers? I notice this happens a lot when you are paying someone to perform social media marketing and they don't have much original content to work with, or they're bad at their job.
Another use for your Twitter feed is to keep in touch with groups of friends in one place. Like group sms messages but free. With increased smart phone ownership this is an easy way to inform lots of people about your whereabouts and activities 'on the fly' - should you want to.
When should you tweet?
Whenever you have something to say. You're not going to disturb anyone in the same way you might with a telephone call or text, so go ahead.
What does it say about you?
How you use it defines what it says about you, but generally it suggests you're in touch with technology and eager to use it to make friends and find out about other people. Which has got to be a good thing, surely? Sometimes though it clearly suggests a person is self obsessed, bored or both.
In summary I think most people can benefit from joining Twitter, following some interesting people and tweeting themselves when they have something to say. On the other hand, I also think a lot of people waste their time and the time of others by posting fresh nonsense or worse, repeating other peoples rubbish. In that respect Twitter is just another way to socialize with people, with all the pitfalls and pleasure to be found elsewhere.
So what's the answer to the question 'should I tweet'? If you're having to think about it, probably not. If it's spontaneous and informative, funny, emotive and relevant to your followers - and the general public - then probably yes.