Think Before You Tweet

Is your tweet music to the ears of your Twitter followers? Or is it hitting a sour note–contributing to virtual noise pollution?

It’s easy to tweet about anything you’re doing at the moment, but I contend–regardless of what anyone else says–that we don’t have a lot of patience with tweets that are too personal. If you’re tweeting to build relationships and business, keep your personal tweets to a minimum. These include: “I need to get a haircut,” “It’s snowing!” and “Good morning Twitter followers!” (If all of your followers are friends and family, you’re free to ignore this advice.)

The best tweets are worth retweeting and/or add value to the conversation. Let’s look at five tweet types (Can I call them twypes???) that are more likely to hit a high note.

Matthew Kowalski, Incandescents. Oil, acrylic, on canvas, 25 x 35 inches. ©The Artist
Matthew Kowalski, Incandescents. Oil, acrylic, on canvas, 23 x 35 inches. ©The Artist

1. Informational Tweets
These tweets are your way of helping out your followers. You can retweet a link to an upcoming webinar you’re attending or an online coupon you discovered. You can also tweet a link to an online article that might be of interest to your followers.

2. Entertaining Tweets
People love to smile and laugh! You can provide the fodder for their joviality by tweeting about a funny video or a humorous quote. You could also BE funny and that’s good enough to win you lots of followers. If being humorous is in your nature, let your personality shine on Twitter.

3. Inspirational Tweets
These are among the most retweeted–at least in my circles. Post a good quote (referencing the source, of course) or make up one of your own. Links to encouraging videos work well, too.

4. Congratulatory Tweets
If you really want to make friends on Twitter, mention others’ accomplishments in your tweets. Think about it. It’s like you’re a teacher standing in front of a roomful of students and praising one of those students in front of everyone else. Didn’t you love it when that happened to you as a child? Well, adults like accolades, too!

5. Promotional Tweets
This is last on the list because you should be promoting yourself less than 5% of the time on Twitter. For those of us who didn’t like math class, that’s 1 in 20 tweets.

FINAL WORD:  Remember that Twitter is a SOCIAL media. What interests people in a face-to-face conversation will also interest them on Twitter. You wouldn’t walk up to someone at a party and say “Hi, I had oatmeal for breakfast.”



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21 thoughts on “Think Before You Tweet”

  1. As soon as I figure out Twitter (or HAVE to figure it out) I know this will come in handy-Thanks!
    And thanks very much for the Podcast-it always helps to hear the words as well as read them.

  2. Good Twitter advice, Alyson. So, you’re saying we should NOT be promoting ourselves more than 5% of the time on Twitter? If so, that’s a shift for me, i.e. realizing that Twitter’s more about others than yourself. Kind of cool, actually.

  3. I really like this post. There are people on Twitter and all you see constant self promotion. I’ve even had Direct Messages with promotion which I think is out of line.

    parisbreakfast – I was totally bamboozled by Twitter when I first saw it but it does click eventually. You’ve already got a blog so Twitter is a bit like Micro-blogging! Short snappy blog posts.

  4. I enjoy the personal tweets of people I follow, but I am not there to use them for my own personal gain. That’s not my idea of “social.”

  5. Hi Alyson,

    This post is so true. Just yesterday I clicked to “unfollow” someone. I had chosen to follow her because she does artist licensing, which is something that I would like to know more about. I added her to my “art/photo” list on twitter and column on TweetDeck. All good except that she was filling the TweetDeck column with “cheek numb from dentist” and all sorts of things that had nothing to do with why I followed her. And, she posts constantly (15 minute intervals?) that I wasn’t seeing tweets from actual “art/photo” people that I was trying to follow. Anyway, great post, spot on as usual.

  6. This is a good reminder to me. I try to tweet what will be of interest to artists and people in that industry. Sometimes I’ll tweet a personal thought, but I’m careful for it to not be TOO personal.

    As far as the over-promo, I like your ratio of 5% of self promotion. I think I need to be more careful about that. But, I’m not selling anything, I’m giving out free info. So maybe that’s not considered promotional? Hmmm, something I need to think about!

  7. This is great advice as Twitter is a complete mystery to those who first join! I remember I was completely confused and bewildered about how it worked. Now I’m hooked! I try to tweet useful links and information that I think my followers are interested in. Among those are my own blog updates, but I try to keep those to a minimum in comparison to my other tweets.

    I don’t tweet much personal stuff. Sometimes I think I should do more because that is what makes it social and helps people get to know eachother. I appreciate personal tweets from others, but some people definitely take it too far!

  8. This service called Friend or Follow will tell you who you are following who is not following you back…If someone I follow doesn’t follow me back, then when I get an email solicitation from them, I consider that breach of etiquette…Doing business often entails listening to things that may require patience, if a business seeks my attention but doesn’t give me theirs, then why should I sign up for their seminar or whatever?

  9. Alyson Stanfield

    Carolg: The podcast is here each Monday. I’m just pointing it out so that it’s not as hidden as it was when I moved the newsletter feed here. Glad you found and like it!

    Tim: Yeah, it is kind of cool. And it’s challenging to promote yourself without promoting yourself constantly. Just think of building relationships as the biggest part of your self-promotion equation.

    Amylouise: I’m not sure this is an issue, but the more people you have in a TweetDeck column, the more watered down the voices become. Otherwise, one or two of them can be overwhelming.

    Maria: As you know, I struggle with this, too. I think sharing information is different from blatant promotions. I’m going to write further about this and give examples. Will look forward to your insights.

    Allatwit: Then this post isn’t for you. I’m talking about using Twitter for business.

    Miranda and NHyde: But don’t you think the personal tweets need to have interesting substance–something that will help you remember them?

    Sari: That’s one way to look at it. I know that I can’t keep up with my followers. I used to do auto-follow, but that’s a nightmare and brings in all kinds of unwanted DMs. I wish I could give every follower my attention, but it isn’t possible. I would say that you sometimes follow people to get their tweets first–not to tell them about yours. I see them as a source of information for me, not necessarily that my tweets would be useful for them.

  10. Personally, I’m sick to death of the perpetual spin in art circles these days. I really hope people don’t spend time “crafting the perfect Twitter message”. I just want people to be themselves.

    Through all kinds of posts (substantial or not) eventually you get know people, learn their quirks, passions, interests, philosophies, opinions, humor, etc. That’s what interests me about social media, so I try to take the long view.

    Maybe it’s just me.

  11. Very good point Nicole. It is nice to get to know peoples little quirks, but when someone is tweeting every 2 minutes with stuff like “I’ve just trimmed my toenails” it gets a bit much. Also if they keep Tweeting stuff like “just listed in my shop…” and nothing else it gets a bit tedious.

    I read Alyson’s post more as general guidelines rather than “crafting the perfect Twitter message”.

  12. Alyson – I wonder about how Tweeting inspirational quotes started. I feel like too many people do it. How many inspirational quotes do you need to read a day? It feels like filler sometimes.

  13. Alison: Great article! But aren’t you contradicting one of your previous blog posts on this subject? In your 7/14/09 “What To Tweet” post at the text says, “…In an earlier post, I said that we don’t really care what you’re currently doing, but I was wrong. In his TIME magazine cover story, Steven Johnson writes: ‘And yet as millions of devotees have discovered, Twitter turns out to have unsuspected depth. In part this is because hearing about what your friends had for breakfast is actually more interesting than it sounds.'”

    Sounds like the wisdom on this goes back and forth. Just thought I’d point it out for interest. Thank you for your articles–I’m a big fan! — Steve

  14. Alyson Stanfield

    Nicole: I understand. Many people are just confused as heck about Twitter. I’m just trying to give some guidelines. When you’re promoting a business, everything you say and do is scrutinized. Sorry to say that, but it’s a form a self-curatorship. You choose what you say and how you want to present yourself to the world. I don’t want anyone to be inauthentic, though.

    John: You’re right. Too much of anything is a bad thing. I don’t read my feed that often, so I only see a couple of inspirational quotes each day. But I can say that when I tweet something inspirational, it’s almost always retweeted with gusto.

    Steve: I’m busted! You caught me and you win the grand prize. I was secretly hoping someone would bring that up. I know what TIME said, but I also know what is more interesting to read–at least for me. Note that he’s talking about friends in that article. I think many of us on Twitter consider our followers to be colleagues and associates, but maybe not close enough that we consider them to be good friends. I am sure we’d tweet differently if only friends followed us, and I know many people restrict their followers to friends and family. It’s an interesting question as to how we’re using Twitter. I probably should have emphasized more that my article was about tweeting for building business. Whaddya think?

  15. I was intrigued by your comment that “I don’t read my feed that often.” What do you do then? Just Tweet? I keep hearing about the need to reply and RT to create relationships.

  16. John: Oops. That was careless of me. I should say I look at what’s on the screen at that moment (when I tweet), but I don’t dig deeper. Tara Reed (licensing expert) refers to it as the Zen of Twitter: You see what you’re supposed to see at that moment. Otherwise, we could spend all day on Twitter and that’s not productive. You will often see me replying and RTing.

    I do use TweetDeck, so I have groups set up and can scan numerous feeds at once, which is helpful. Saves time.

  17. Pingback: Todd Starks :: Artist » Written Statements

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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