Twitter tips for beginners, humor writers and other total noobs

Read these Twitter tips for humor writers trying to promote their work. A nice guide full of tips for anyone new to Twitter.

Twitter tips — had I said these words to you 10 years ago, you probably would have thought I was having a stroke. But in the world of social media, Twitter tips are actual things that exist and to some people (shameless self-promoters such as myself, mainly) they are very important.

I’m writing about Twitter tips because I take it for granted that everyone I know uses Twitter as much as I do, which is to say, to the point where they no longer bathe. But a few of my friends in the Erma Bombeck Writers Group recently began asking some very basic questions about Twitter, so I thought I’d lend them and you my Twitter expertise. If I missed any good Twitter tips, and I’m sure I did, please add them in the comment section at the bottom of this article. These are tips for people who are new to Twitter.

Do I have to be on Twitter to use Twitter?
OK, this sounds basic, but it seems to confuse some people, so I’ll include it right off the bat. You have to be on Twitter to use Twitter. If you’re having trouble with Twitter, and you’re not actually on Twitter, this is most likely the source of all of your problems. You can sign up at twitter.com. Tip: Sign up with an email address with plenty of contacts in its address book because you can use the address book to find people you already know who are also on Twitter. People you have met in real life are more likely to follow you back than people who have not met you.

What name should I use on Twitter?
If you can, use your own name, or some variation of your name, as your Twitter name. This makes it easy for your legions of fans, or in my case, my friend Smoose, to find you.

What should I put in my Twitter bio?
Fill out your bio with a brief, accurate description of yourself. Include pertinent interests, a link to your website and an email address where people (friends, editors, fans) can write you. Only use an email address you don’t mind making public. This would be a terrible place to list your work email or personal, non-public email, unless you like spam or getting emailed by my friend Smoose.

What photo should I use for Twitter?
Include a nice photo that shows your face. Please wear a shirt in this photo, unless you are Vladimir Putin, who has outlawed any photo of himself in Russia wearing a shirt.

What is a Twitter hashtag?
This is a hashtag: #. When you write a post, put a hashtag directly in front of words that people might search for on Twitter. This could be #humor, #funny, or if your post is about parenting, #parenting, #moms or #vodka. Hashtags lead strangers to your tweets and can net you new followers. It lets everyone on Twitter know what you are writing about. On the flip side, you can search for things you’re interested in by typing a hashtag and word in the Twitter search bar. For example: #putinabs.

How do I mention other people on Twitter?
If you mention another person, include their Twitter name, starting with the @ symbol, within your tweet. I like to include @joebiden as often as possible because I think we should hang.

Who else should I mention on Twitter?
If you mention a company or its product, include its Twitter address as well. Many companies respond to Tweets and sometimes they re-tweet your tweet, or they contact you and send you free stuff. This is why you will often see me tweeting to @citibank on the off chance it will send me lots of money. You can find the Twitter addresses of people and companies by searching for their names and the word Twitter on Google. You can also search using the Twitter search bar. I find Google more effective.

How do I shorten a URL in Twitter?
If you use Twitter to drive people to your articles, use bit.ly to shorten the URLs to your links. Remember, tweets need to be fewer than 140 characters. Ideally, they should be fewer than 120 characters so that people can retweet them. More on re-tweeting in a minute.

How do I get people to click on the links I tweet?
Aim for clarity over humor (but combine them both if you can) when describing what you’re promoting. If your tweet is too cute, people won’t know why to click on your link. Add hashtags and relevant Twitter @ names. Also, just asking people to click often works. (As do threats of terrifying bodily harm, which explains Oprah’s large Twitter following.)

How often should I promote my own work on Twitter?
Try not to tweet links to your own work more than 20 percent of the time. Relentless self-promoters are boring, just like in real life. (I am looking in your direction, Donald Trump.) The other 80 percent can be jokes or sharing things you like or interacting with other people on twitter.

What is the best way to use Twitter?
This is probably the most important one: Twitter is most rewarding when you’re an active part of a community.

What is my Twitter community?
Your Twitter community, at first, will be people you already know in real life. Many people complain that their tweets just disappear into space. These people are not cultivating and interacting with a community. If you’re a humor writer, one such community is #ebww, which is the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. If you include that hashtag, that particular community will see your tweet. If you want to see other Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop tweets, search for #ebww with the Twitter search bar. You can also bookmark the #ebww hashtag in your web browser.

If you want me (The Humor Columnist) to see your Tweets, add the tag #humcol or include my address @thehumorcolumn.

How do I get followers on Twitter?
Follow everyone in your address book, and follow people you know in real life. Also follow people you admire. Interact with these people. Many of them will interact back and their followers will follow you. This is the fun part of Twitter. Talking, sharing and joking. It’s why LinkedIn is always looking at Twitter and then taking a slug of whiskey and punching the wall.

I did that. Now I want more followers.
Follow people with shared interests. Be funny or interesting. Share other people’s work and include their Twitter names. Interact with other people. Include your Twitter address in your emails and on your website and on Facebook. Email your friends and write a status update on Facebook to let everyone know you are on Twitter and where they can find you. Or skip all of these things and become a Kardashian. This last one involves surprisingly little work.

How do I keep from feeling overwhelmed by Twitter?
Build Twitter lists to make the Twitter experience manageable. These lists can be comprised of Friends or Humor Writers or News Publications or any other way you’d like to group the people you follow. You can look at these lists within Twitter or within a Twitter app such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. I like Tweetdeck for my computer and Tweetbot for my iPhone and iPad. This is how to build a Twitter list.

Is it OK to use Twitter to promote other people and their work?
It’s encouraged. Tweet links to other people’s stories and blogs you like. Include their Twitter handles, for example @joedonatelli if it’s something I wrote. Be giving. The more you give, the more other people will like you.

What is a re-tweet?
This is a re-tweet: RT. It means you are repeating someone’s tweet. It’s considered unethical to alter their tweet when you share it, but if you make tiny edits in order to shorten their tweet, so that it is not longer than 140 characters, change the RT to MT, which means modified tweet. RT stuff you like. Add your own comments with the RT if there is room. For example, if Joe Biden Tweets “I put on my pants all by myself today,” you can add a message like “Attaboy!” before the RT.

Is it OK to write to people on Twitter?
Absolutely. If someone makes you laugh or writes something funny, let them know on Twitter. If there is a person you like or admire, this is a great way to interact with them.

What is a direct message?
Direct messages (DM) are private. They are only possible when two people follow each other. Some people, like former Rep. Anthony Weiner, are so dumb they accidentally send their creepy underwear photos to everyone because they don’t know the difference between a direct message and a public message. These people run our country.

What does #FF mean?
This is Follow Friday: #FF. When someone publishes a #FF, it means they like those writers and suggest everyone should follow them.

Can I add photos to my tweets?
You can include photos with your Tweets. People do this when they take a funny/cool photo they want to share. Sadly, these photos are often of salads. I will post my photo of Joe Biden when we finally meet. Probably at a Denny’s or on a putt-putt course is my guess.

How do I know if someone has mentioned me on Twitter?
Check your @ mentions to see if someone has mentioned you. Turn on your email alerts in Twitter so you can see when someone mentions or messages you. Interact with people who interact with you. This is your community.

Can I delete a tweet?
You can delete a tweet if you do not like it. This has never, ever happened to me, but I imagine it happens to other, lesser writers.

How much time do I have to spend on Twitter?
If you want to gain followers and influence on Twitter, you have to put in the time. How much depends on what your goals are. Starting a profile and sending one tweet a week or day isn’t enough. Like anything in life except Social Security, the more you put in, the more you get out.

You can follow me at @joedonatelli and @thehumorcolumn.

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Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.

  • The Dang Yankee

    Hi Joe-

    Real good primer, and loved the jokes you worked in. Shared it in Facebook.

  • Thanks, DY! That is much appreciated!