How do you (properly) use Twitter?

Hi all,

Well, I'm finally back working on Winter Rain, after a long break. And while I'm thinking about it, I thought it time to look into how to properly use Twitter. I have an account (cmf_fiction), which I've been using for status updates on the writing. I haven't been following anybody, because the top three items on that feed show up on my website, under the heading "Writing Progress", and I didn't want any replies or follower stuff showing up there. But now I'm wondering if that would even happen.

So, crash course, please? How should I be using Twitter? Should I be following a lot of people? Should I be using lists for stuff? If so, what? Is there anything else I should know?



This post was on novelr this week. It might be helpful:

I don't tweet as much as I should, I fear. Good luck!

I think Twitter is easier to use if you download some software or something. I find the site itself lacking in obvious features (why isn't there a 'retweet' button?!) but I don't use it enough to warrant having some fancy program or another to unlock its potential.

It's like an MMO IRC channel where you get to select who you listen to. That's DANGEROUS!

First step is to download and install TweetDeck or something similar (there are a couple of options, I'm sure people will rec them here but TweetDeck I think has the best array of functions) this will turn Twitter from a difficult to manage website into a sort of real-time public chat/messaging system.

1) Whether or not replies and such end up on your feed depends how you set up the feed. If you have it linked to your account through a specific widget then only your tweets should hit the feed. However, no doubt you've noticed some other options like what has set up that pulls in tweets by hashtags. Anytime anyone tweets anything labelled as "#weblit" it shows up on their feed. This can be useful when you want to attract attention to a general topic, less useful for individual organizations/people.

2) Following a lot of people -vs- not. Before Twitter took off and a bunch of apps were written to auto-follow and spam, following a lot of people meant something. Now it means almost nothing. The key with Twitter is to build relationships, to build up your networks and access more people. For example, without twitter I never would have gotten to know Jan or am_harte or half the weblit community. Emailing a stranger is awkward and almost no one emails back, tweeting is different ... even famous people will tweet back to you. String together enough little conversations and you've built a relationship that you can leverage to promote your projects. When I tweet about a project update or (more likely) a new essay about weblit as a business, all those new relationships frequently retweet it so that all THEIR FRIENDS hear about my update to. This is extremely useful in driving quality traffic to the site :)

3) Lists are really new to Twitter, so it's hard to say what the impact will be just yet. Basically Twitter realizes that the number of people tweeting for business/hobbies far outweighs the number of people tweeting for in-real-life personal things. So if I'm interested in weblit ... I want to follow as many weblit people as possible. Lists allow me to do that more easily because all I have to do is find a weblit person, then follow their "list" of other weblit people. From my understanding-- although I haven't really played with it much-- it's like following (potentially) hundreds of people in one click. Useful for building a collection of people you want to network with.

I have to reenforce what Dary said, just remember that Twitter is completely public. There are lots of functions and options to screen out public noise and make Twitter seem like an private area but it's not. :)

Thanks guys, you've been a great help. :-) And I don't know how I managed to miss Janoda's article. Doh!


I think twitter's main value is as a communications tool. I don't really follow anyone or watch their updates unless they use it to interact as well as post updates. So if you do start using it, I think it's best to use it to open a dialouge with.

Also, I'm not sure what good twitter widgets on websites really do for a project that's not specifically made to harvest twitter responses, to be honest. They definitely bring attention to the fact that you're on twitter and your project's being talked about, though, and there is that. It probably lures more people in to take the jump and join twitter.

I was primarily using twitter as a "microblogging" adjunct to my website -- a place I could post about the progress on the next installment. The widget was how I imported those updates into the main site. It seems people are using it almost as forums, now -- which I'm trying out this week. But I'm filtering that stuff out with the widget, so nothing will change on the main website. Will see how it goes.


I think Twitter is in its infancy. As such it is pretty amazing. It is essentially user driven. The tweetdeck recommendations above are on the mark. I find that traffic to my online fiction-memoir is about the same whether I mention it or not. Not sure why. Probably returns. Getting Twitter followers means that you do have a pool of responders if you are actually involved in providing interesting updates and responding to those who respond to (mention) you. I like the idea I picked up in another thread of posting bits that are in character and simply providing the chapter url. Example: "Rosario Candela," Mildred murmured. Totally out of the blue. But Candela designed most of the killer apartments in NYC in the early 20th century. Anyone who knows will be surprised. Once you get a lot of followers your list grows automatically since you are on a number of lists that folk mine to find followers. Remember to follow them back. As I said, Twitter is in its infancy. It is growing like topsy. Among the social networking options, I prefer it over all others.

@Chris: get Tweetie. It's the best client I've seen for Mac, both from a aesthetic and UI pov. It's brilliant.

I've bought Twitterific yesterday, actually -- though I'll have a look at Tweetie. Thanks. :-)