Six easy tips to become a Twitter ninja

I can get pretty far in convincing people of the value of Twitter. I think of it like a social bookmarking site in which I find articles that are interesting to me based on recommendations from people who have similar passions. Sort of like subscribing to magazines. It’s also a good marketing tool. Even if people are still mistakenly convinced that Twitter isn’t good for anything but posting pictures of random lunches, I can sell it as an excellent media relations device, since most journalists are Twitter ninjas these days.

But the roadblock that many Twitter newbies can’t get past is how to cut through all the white noise to broadcast a useful signal.

You follow people based on interests, not personal connections, so you amass many more followers than Facebook. On Facebook, 150-250 “friends” is average. On Twitter, it is easy to collect 1,000 followers in a few months.

Each of those followers also post much more frequently than on Facebook, adding even more to the white noise.

The fact is that you’ll miss stuff on Twitter. It’s impossible to keep up with thousands of tweets from thousands of people even if you do nothing but maintain a Twitter account all day, constantly glued to your phone. You don’t even get everyone’s tweets since promoted posts get mixed in with the mass.

But there are steps you can take to make life easier on yourself.

I’ll start with how to hone in on the signals that are interesting to you among the noise.

1. Utilize lists.

Twitter has a feature where you can create lists of subject areas in which you can organize your followers. Use lists strategically. If you don’t want to miss tweets from a few friends, create a list for 10 friends. If you want to be sure to interact with particular journalists, create a list for “Local Journalists,” say, or “Science Journalists.”

2. Be selective about whom you follow back.

Don’t follow every Russian punk band and Miami pole dancer that follows you. The nature of Twitter is designed to encourage you to build more followers, at any cost, but you don’t have to follow everyone back and those followers can still see your tweets since everything is public. It just means you won’t see their tweets in your news feed, and you can filter it down to specific interests.

3. Don’t tweet about everything.

Become an expert in specific niche topics and tweet about those. For example, love college football? Tweet about nothing but college football. Maybe throw in college basketball or NFL tweets, too. Then you will build an audience of people who are interested in college football who are more likely to add you to their college football lists and thus see your tweets.

4. Use a third-party monitoring tool like Hootsuite.

Use such monitoring tools as Hootsuite, a browser-based tool that lets you organize specific hashtags or search keywords into lists to easier follow topics of interest. You can also group followers into lists. Twitter caps the number of people you can follow at 2,000 (though no limit on the people who can follow you), so Hootsuite lets you keep track of an unlimited number of Tweeters. Another advantage: Auto-schedule your tweets for certain dates and times using these tools, rather than having to be on Twitter at all times of the day. Others include Tweetdeck and Buffer – as well as a whole host of similar services, some free, some “freemium,” many paid.

5. Follow hashtags.

A hashtag is not a person or a website. It’s a phrase or keyword that functions as a search term to find topics of interest. The number sign converts it into a hyperlink that you can click on to find more tweets from people who are talking about that topic area. Find a few hashtags that many people in your market are interacting with. For example, for gardening, the big one is #gardenchat. Then track discussions using such tools as Hootsuite. You can attract new followers based on your use of that hashtag, and make sure what you’re posting is still relevant to your audience.

6. Monitor your own use of social media.

Once you appreciate the value of such services as Twitter and get into it, it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed by all the information it offers, to let it become a so-called “time sucking black hole” on your day.

Set up a schedule for your use of social media. Use autoschedulers to post on Facebook and Twitter. Manage your social media presence for an hour or two each morning when you check your email, or at the end of the day; whatever works best with your flow. Respond to client interactions in a timely manner and understand the peak hours for different social media services. But going back to my original point: Even if you do nothing but monitor Twitter 24 hours a day, you will miss out on tweets that might have interested you. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged by that.

Instead use that baseline as an opportunity to think strategically about your Twitter use.

Only then will you be on your way to becoming a true Twitter ninja.

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