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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tips for Tweeting (Including New 2016 Features)

I've put together some tips for tweeting, which may be useful for those who are new to Twitter or who don't tweet much. And for more experienced users, I've included info on some of the 2016 changes to Twitter.

Twitter's most distinctive trait is its 140-character limit for all tweets. This format cuts down on text and allows for a quick view of a lot of content. The 2016 improvements to Twitter largely altered what counts towards the character limit (Twitter toyed with the idea of allowing much longer posts but changed course following backlash). 

First, as to content, in 2015 Michael Risch at Faculty Lounge analyzed what law professors tweet, among other data. In general, law professors include a combination of links to new content, retweets of others' content, or statements without links that may be informational (or for purposes of self-promotion). Certainly various content options are possible, and it's best to strive to tweet about a combination of the following:

  • Substantive content. Pick a theme, such as your area of scholarly expertise, and focus on tweeting about things you find interesting on that theme.
  • Interactions with others. Retweet people, reply (always politely) to things others say on Twitter, and mention people. 
  • Law school promotion. Retweet official announcements from your law school, your colleagues' tweets, and positive press.
  • Self-promotion. Announce new publications, speaking engagements, and accolades. Retweet press about you or tweets that mention you. Live-tweet from events, as long as the event organizers or presenters allow it.
  • Other hobbies or interests. Sprinkle in the occasional personal detail or point of interest that goes beyond your academic pursuits. Don't overshare or adopt some fake online persona, but don't be afraid to show a little personality.

Second, understand some of the nuances of how Twitter works:

  • Share links. You can copy and paste URLs into the tweet you are composing. Links are worth 23 characters regardless of link length. This means that using link shorteners, like Bitly, is not necessary (even links shorter than 23 characters still count as 23 characters). You can also share on Twitter directly from other apps or websites with the Twitter plugin (just click on the website's Twitter button, though you can still modify the text before tweeting). Rumor has it that Twitter will do away with URLs counting towards the character count at all, but this has not happened yet.
  • Use hashtags. Hashtags allow folks interested in a topic to find your tweets more easily. Just add a pound sign (#) before a common term and it'll become a hashtag. If you want to find popular hashtags, check out what is trending on Twitter (usually your Twitter home screen will have a column with trending topics). Or, for those who want to get fancy, you can use various analytic tools and apps to find popular hashtags.
  • Add images. Thanks to Instagram and Snapchat, images are increasingly important on all social media platforms. Twitter just made a change so that images no longer count towards the character limit. And images now automatically display in Twitter feeds, making them even more visible. Consider incorporating more images as a way to expand on your ideas.
  • Retweet others.  Twitter lets you retweet someone else's entire tweet so that it appears on your profile with the original author's handle and profile image. If you learn something from someone else but don't want to retweet the content, it's nice to give credit anyway -- usually indicated with "via," "HT," or "H/T" followed by the originator's Twitter handle.
  • Quote tweets. One major 2016 update to Twitter is the revamped Quote Tweet function. It lets you retweet something with your own commentary added, and you now get a full 140 characters for your comment. Before the 2016 changes, people had to squeeze their comments into the remaining characters of the original tweet. Thus, tweet authors tried to save room for comments by using fewer than 140 characters in an original tweet. Now, you get a full 140 characters for your comments on a quoted tweet, plus you no longer have to add "RT" to indicate a retweet or "MT" for a modified tweet. You now can also quote your own tweet, if you must. 
  • Reply to tweets. An option for engaging in a conversation, a reply includes the original author's Twitter handle and is linked to the original tweet. Just click on "reply" and type your text after the auto-filled Twitter handles. But don't confuse DM (a private direct message) with a reply: replies are essentially a public conversation. [EDIT: When you click reply, that reply is only visible in the news feeds of those that follow both parties. The reply does appear on the profile page of the person who wrote the reply.]  One new change is that the characters in the Twitter handles for replies don't count towards the 140 character limit. For experienced Twitter users, note that replies used to be visible to only certain Followers, but they are now visible to everyone even if the tweet begins with a Twitter handle. This means the "[email protected]" workaround is no longer necessary to keep replies broadly visible. [EDIT: Old Twitter treated any tweet that started with a Twitter handle as a reply. So, if you started a tweet with "@" fewer people would see it. The period or dot before the Twitter handle was a pro-tip for users wanting to make tweets beginning with "@" more visible. Under the 2016 changes, a newly composed tweet that begins with "@" is visible like any other tweet, so the dot is not necessary. But when you hit the reply button, visibility is still limited. Thus, the "[email protected]" convention is not totally dead yet (and this requiem for the [email protected] may be premature). This help page explains tweet visibility more. But the best practice may be to retweet anything you're mentioned in (replies or otherwise) if you want them to be seen.]

Next up: ways to streamline your Twitter routine.


Posted by Agnieszka McPeak on December 28, 2016 at 03:45 PM in Blogging, Web/Tech | Permalink



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Posted by: Frank | Dec 29, 2016 12:49:50 PM

Thank you! That is an important clarification about replies versus mentions - I will edit to add more explanation. I'm posting today with more Twitter tips, so I'll include tweetstorms there.

Posted by: Agnieszka McPeak | Dec 29, 2016 10:59:40 AM

1. A correction (I think) -- if you reply and want all your followers to see your tweet, as opposed to only those who follow you and the person to whom you reply, then you still need to do the "[email protected]" thing. The new rule is if you start a fresh tweet with an "@" . . . in those circumstances, the workaround is necessary.

2. Update your list and tell folks how to write a tweetstorm!

3. Best way to learn Twitter is to start using it during a live event that interests you. Could be State of the Union, could be a football game, could be a major conference. Use and search for the relevant hashtags, and you'll quickly find yourself interacting with new people and adding followers.

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