As you navigate the social media landscape, you may realize similarities among the platforms. Hashtags that began on Twitter have since been embraced by almost every platform. Twitter Moments remind me of Snapchat Stories. Facebook’s emphasis on profile pictures and Instagram’s visual focus are ubiquitous.
With all the changes Facebook has experienced, it remains the most popular social media platform. Instagram wears the social media engagement crown. Snapchat owns the youthful demographic, and Pinterest remains the go-to for women. What does that mean for Twitter?
It saddens me to inform you that it’s dying. On February 6, 2016, #RIPTwitter was trending on Twitter amidst the idea that it would be launching an algorithm reminiscent of Facebook. Uh-oh! Kiss the reverse chronological timeline goodbye.
A few days later Twitter posted a blog, “Never miss important Tweets from people you follow.” Say it isn’t so. Luckily, it’s not mandatory, yet. Users have the option to opt-in. This is important because, going back to its core, I believe one of Twitter’s strengths is how fast news travels on the platform and how easy it is to find it.
As an avid Twitter user, there are three tips I suggest to cut through the noise and maximize the platform. In short, take advantage of lists, hashtags and direct messages.
Creating and managing lists is my most-prized Twitter tip. I very seldom visit my home feed because it’s cluttered and I don’t have a context to follow. The reason I love lists is because it gives me the opportunity to segment based on interests, location, event, etc. After creating a list, I can look at that list and follow exactly what I want.
Private lists can only be seen by you and users have no idea they’re on the lists. This may be a competitive tactic to use if you want to keep an eye on a competitor without them knowing it.
Before we go any further, let’s talk about some of the parameters of lists set by Twitter.
- 1,000 lists permitted per user
- 5,000 users permitted per list
- List names cannot exceed 25 characters
- List names cannot begin with a numerical character.
Sidenote: Being one that pushes the limits, I will tell you that you can begin a list with a numerical character. I’m not sure if it’s an oversight, but I used to write out numbers, but one day I decided to attempt to name a list beginning with a number and it worked.
There are two types of lists: public and private. Public lists can be viewed by anyone and once an account is added to the list, the user is notified they have been added. Private lists can only be seen by you and users have no idea they’re on the lists. This may be a competitive tactic to use if you want to keep an eye on a competitor without them knowing it. If you decide you want a private list to become public, every user on the list will be notified they’ve been added upon making it public.
You can share public lists with others or subscribe if someone has created a list you find valuable or useful. Creating a list for an event is a great way to keep track of attendees, speakers, sponsors, venues, etc. While building a list can be cumbersome, there are tools such as IFFFT that can help make list creation easier.
IFFFT uses a recipe that adds users to a list based on the hashtag that’s used.
That brings me to my next tip, hashtags. Twitter didn’t invent the hashtag, but they definitely propagated it. Hashtags have found their way into popular culture and it’s to the point where people have made it part of their vernacular.
From the days of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and now Slack, hashtags have been around. August 23, 2007, is considered as the birth of hashtags on Twitter. Chris Messina suggested it be used for groups.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina ✌︎ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Hashtags have become the way users join, follow and categorize digital conversations. Like apps, there is a hashtag for everything. I don’t recommend going crazy with hashtags; there is a hashtag etiquette for each platform. Use hashtags responsibly.
My last tip is the often times abused direct messaging feature in Twitter. This is the way I further connect with people. Private conversations are great for quick messages. Twitter has allowed tweets to be shared in direct messages, accounts and hashtags are searchable, images and videos can be sent, and the 140-character limit is in favor of longer messages. Of course it didn’t start out like this.
On August 2015, the 140-character limit was removed from direct messaging. I, for one, can’t explain the excitement I had when this became a reality. Rumor has it that Twitter is thinking about changing the 140-character limit on tweets. That could potentially drastically change the digital real estate for Twitter. That’s another conversation, but an interesting one.
I’m not a fan of automating Twitter direct messages. I know that’s not scalable, but I prefer to be authentic in the way I engage. I like the idea of a welcome message, but most of the automated direct messages I encounter are people trying to sell something.
Although I’m not a fan, it may work for you or your brand. It doesn’t hurt to test and see what happens. In case you decide to test automating direct messaging, Crowdfire (formerly JustUnfollow) and SocialOomph are two tools you can try.
Quick points about direct messages.
- There is no character limit like the 140-character limit with tweets.
- You can send a direct message to anyone who follows you.
- If someone sends you a direct message you can reply even if they don’t follow you.
- Images, tweets and videos can be sent in a direct message.
- You can send a group direct message
Lists, hashtags and direct messages are my favorite Twitter tips. Embedding tweets, which you got a preview from above, is also a good tip. Embedded tweets are interactive and they encourage engagement. It’s become common to do it in blogging and other platforms such as Medium and Storify.
I can’t forget the integration of Vine and Periscope being significant or Twitter’s love for emojis and recently gifs. Did you get invited to the #GIFparty? It’s obvious there are more tips. I didn’t talk about analytics, live-tweeting or tagging. Maybe next time. What are some of your go-to Twitter tips?