What to tweet

Every Twitter user starts out with a similar dilemma: What can I say in 140 characters or less that will be interesting to my followers and help me gain new followers?

Above all, aim for variety in your tweets. Here is a menu to start with, but there is plenty more to share with Twitterdom.

1. Funny Tweets

Everyone loves to smile and to laugh. Share a link to a funny video, repeat a funny quote, or reveal your own sense of humor. Even better if it is related to art.

2. Inspirational Tweets
Ditto everything I said under #1.

3. Helpful Resources
This is a biggie! The more you can help people, the more they will return the favor and help you build a following. Because Twitter is social, being helpful earns you extra credit and more friends. Recent tweets I’ve seen included coupon codes, sales on art supplies and marketing materials, and useful articles.

4. Questions and Opinions
Ask questions of your own because people love to give their opinions! Answer questions because you want to be part of the conversation. Share what might be a controversial opinion if you really want to stir things up.

Ask questions about resources (e.g. what type of camera to purchase), ask seemingly–but fun–irrelevant questions (I just asked if it was “biggie” or “biggy” as I was writing #3 above; most said “biggie”), and ask for guidance on a marketing decision.

5. Retweet (”RT” in Twitter lingo)
Retweeting is repeating what someone else wrote. Using the RT at the beginning of your tweet followed by the person’s @name gives them credit. It also shows up in their @Replies column so they can see how kind you were. It’s a courtesy and, again, helps you make friends on Twitter. Here are some recent RTs from me.


As I said above under #1 and #2, you can share funny and inspirational quotes, but you can also share thought-provoking or profound quotes. Again, even better if they are art-related, such as a critic’s opinion. Be sure to give credit to your source!

I came across–again–this quote that I love and tweeted it yesterday. It's from Kimmelman's book The Accidental Masterpiece.

Tweeting a Quote

7. Leads and Opportunities

If you hear of a deadline for a show, a grant, or a residency, tweet it.

8. What You're Doing

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.
The technology writer Clive Thompson calls this “ambient awareness”: by
following these quick, abbreviated status reports from members of your
extended social network, you get a strangely satisfying glimpse of
their daily routines. We don't think it at all moronic to start a phone
call with a friend by asking how her day is going. Twitter gives you
the same information without your even having to ask.

Thanks @lisacall for bringing this to my attention in your comment.

9. Your Blog Posts or Website
Aha! We finally got to promoting your art. It’s not a mistake that it’s this far down the list. You must make friends before you can promote to them. You have to send all of the other tweets in order to “earn the right” to promote to your followers. If you were constantly promoting, you’d lose friends and followers quickly. A good rule of thumb is to promote 5-10% of the time.

Don’t just send a tweet that says “New blog post, click here: http://…” You have to entice people. Pique their curiosity so they want to click! There are thousands of new blog posts they could choose from. Why should they click on yours? What will they get as a result?

Ditto for sending tweets that say “Just posted a new work on Etsy, click here . . . “ Again, describe it. Make me curious! The more descriptive you are, the easier your tweet will be found in a search.

REMINDER: Don’t forget to use http:// in front of your URLs in your tweets. That’s the only way to make them clickable in Twitter.

I continue my Twitter tips. Leave a question in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in future posts.

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36 thoughts on “What to tweet”

  1. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Rebecca: Also, some of the platforms like TweetDeck and Seesmic will do this for you automatically, which is cool.

  2. Great post! I thought I was the only one who liked reading tweets about what people ate or about their weather. Seems as though I’m not the only one after all!

  3. This blog could not have been for timely for me! It answered so many of my questions as a very new Twitterer (June 10.) I do have a question. Are there recommended guidelines/etiquette to accept or deny a follower? I realize it looks good to have so many followers but some of the less than obvious are I’m not sure. I read some of their tweets and I just don’t know. Don’t want to be rude but… Your opinion?

    Thanks again for this. Absolutely perfect.


  4. I do have one more question. Should you automatically return the “Follow” of someone who is following you? That actually is the question I meant to ask in my earlier post.

  5. Hey Marilyn, I always click on their name in the following me notice & read their profiles, maybe visit their website, read the tweets- one lady was a pro & I don’t mean professional…(I only follow if it feels safe)…Later if I’ve followed someone who writes something seriously questionable,it’s easy to unfollow- just go back to their profile & click again on the following botton, it changes to remove…done…You carve out your own style-I don’t think quantity is quality-I mostly just follow arts related people…(& some just location specific people to where I live)…

  6. Mary Emma Allen

    Great post, Alyson! Thanks for all this very helpful information about Twitter…in this post and the preceding ones. I’m one of those writers/business people who hasn’t known how to use Twitter and find it useful. I’m going to recommend your series to readers of my blogs.

  7. Let’s see; web site, blog, twitter, linkedin, facebook, and whatever the next “in” things are that come along (and yes, there will be more “in” things). Definitely a time problem for me!

    I do take a long time to create each painting (probably much more than most artists)and need more time for this as well as for traveling to scout and study prospective painting sites. Feedback has shown that the web site is a worthwhile effort. Making it in my style is important to me and keeping it interesting and up-to-date takes a good bit of time (let’s not even think of computer hardware and software problem-recovery time).

    More time to painting, etc. has to be the first priority. However, if I can manage to squeeze out a little more time; between blog, twitter, linkedin, and facebook are there any thoughts floating around as to which has the best track record for producing artwork interest/sales per unit of time for creating/maintaining it?

  8. Great post, Alyson. One more thing you could add to the list is #followfriday (or #FF)followed by @twittername. This is where on Fridays you recommend that people follow someone. This helps promote your twitter friends and shows them your support/admiration.


  9. I have to disagree with #8 What You Are Doing, I have unfollwed tons of people because all they tweet about is what they had for breakfast, or that they just had a great coffee at Starbucks. I don’t want to hear about that stuff from by best friends let alone folks I am following on Twitter.
    If you are an artist, follow me on twitter @tkrysak

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  11. I really disagree with #5. I will unfollow or even block people with stuff like “promotion”, “marketing”, “get followers”, “selling”, and “sales” in their tweets. I’m not into pitching every person I meet with the junk product of the day, and I loathe people who are.

    Tell me something interesting? Yes. Pitch your latest “thing” or fad to me? No, go away.

  12. Now I am really confused. I wouldn’t care about cereal but going some place would be ok to know. And I never have been pushy about selling my art. That is a problem even after the book.

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  14. this has been of tremendous help. i reluctantly started a few months ago but haven’t really used it. now i’ve the time to figure out what and how. So glad i found this site. i guess it’ll get easier as i use it more

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  27. I love tip #9-I’ve had a few times where, as much as I enjoyed a fellow artists style and tweets the constant barrage of follow-this-link-to-my-Etsy! has eventually made me hit the unfollow button. With one artist in particular I wanted to message her, let her know what my experience following her was like, but I could not bring myself to do it. Is there etiquette for situations like that?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Kye: You can always contact and say you are unfollowing because X or Y. You’d be doing her a favor. But you might also be opening yourself up to an unpleasant (and unnecessary) confrontation. Usually a swift unfollow sends a message.

    2. True, the unfollow is a message unto itself. A year ago I might have taken the time to craft a gentle note (when I was a chef I learned that a complaining customer is actually a gift) but lately things have not gone well; I just don’t have the energy. Sad, selfish (perhaps), but true.

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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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