50 ways to use Twitter more effectively

This comprehensive guide explains various features of Twitter, as well as the must-have apps, tips for better tweeting, and more.


With more than 170 million active users, Twitter has turned into the go-to site for real-time news updates and snippets of information from those we follow. Every user knows how to put together a tweet and how to reply to users, but what about more advanced features such as shortcuts, apps, and search engine optimization (SEO).

Here are 50 ways to improve your knowledge and get more out of the service:

The basics:

Keyboard Shortcuts

With many of us spending large amounts of time on Twitter every day, keyboard shortcuts offer an easy way to save a few seconds. There is a shortcut for nearly all of the actions you carry out on a daily basis. Consult the list of shortcuts here.

App security

Over the time that you’ve been using Twitter, there is a good chance you’ve given some apps—such as TweetDeck or TwitPic—permission to access your account. While most of the apps are fine, it is worth checking to see which apps you have given access to recently and purging some of the ones you no longer use.

Scheduling tweets

Sometimes you can come up with a good tweet, but feel that it’s not ready to be posted for the world to see. If that’s the case, there’s a vast number of apps and tools that enable you to schedule tweets for later. TweetDeck and HootSuite are two examples. If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, Buffer is a great tool.

Sensitive Content

If, for whatever reason, you’re tweeting content that isn’t suitable for general consumption, activating this option will either display sensitive content (those that users have marked as such) or mark yours as such. The latter will mean that users will be warned about your content before they proceed.

Embedded tweets

Instead of taking screenshots of a tweet, you can now embed them into your blog posts. To embed a tweet, find the 140-character message you want, expand it, and click details. You will see the option “Embed this tweet” appear in a new screen.

Location information

Geo-tagging on Twitter shows people where you are tweeting from. If you don’t want people to know your location, head to settings and you will find the option to change this feature under “Tweet location.”

#hashtag search

If you’re looking for particular topics or searching for updates to an event, using a hashtag to search can bring you more accurate results. Simply enter the hashtag into the search box on Twitter. Provided you know the main hashtag—for instance, #London2012—you can uncover more real-time info.

Cross posting to Facebook

The majority of social media sites allow cross posting, and Twitter is no exception. Quite simply, this means your tweets will appear on your Facebook wall. To activate this feature, go to your profile settings, click “Profile” on the left, and scroll to the bottom where you will find this option.

Searching on Twitter:

Twitter search

Twitter recently redesigned its search feature. Now, it behaves more like Google and Facebook by making suggestions about related topics or users that might interest you. Search terms can be filtered by “Top,” “All,” or “People You Know.” The third option will show you what the people you follow are saying so you can jump into the conversation or add your comment.

Advanced search

However, if that isn’t enough for you, you can take things a step further and increase your search capabilities. When you’ve viewing the search results page, clicking the cog icon in the top right-hand corner will bring advanced search. Here, you can filter by words, accounts, location, and even moods. Alternatively, you can access advanced search here:

Saved searches

Similar to how you find advanced search. Click the cog button on the upper right corner of the search results page. There you’ll notice it’s the second option alongside advanced search. By clicking “save search,” you’re doing just that—saving your search.

Discover page

This is a section that some users tend to ignore, but it’s more valuable than many people give it credit for. Discover’s main function is to expose you to content and users you might not have found through your normal feed. Along with presenting the major stories on Twitter, the activity section shows you everything that’s been happening with those you follow—such as retweets, follows, and favorites—so you can find new content and users to follow.

Followers by category

Not content with presenting news, the Discover section also gives users the chance to find new people to follow based on interest. Just click on browse category and Twitter will present a list of topics that might interest you.

Find Friends sections

Search and categories aren’t the only ways of finding friends on Twitter. In Discover, you can click the ‘Find Friends’ section and track down users through your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL account.

Follow buttons on your blog or website

It’s a good idea for bloggers to include a follow button so that people can find them on Twitter. Simply visit Twitter’s button page and select the share content or follow button, fill out the details and embed it into your site.

Hashtag button on blog or website

Installing a hashtag button on your blog or website—similar to how you would a follow button—provides readers with an easy way to follow a hashtag. Putting one of these buttons can be a good idea if you’re hosting an event. The process is the same as installing the share and follow buttons.

General tips for tweeting:

Aim for 120 character (or fewer) tweets

You may post interesting content or say witty things, but when you’re doing so, you want to give people the opportunity to retweet your stuff. As a general rule, you should leave 20 characters worth of space to allow for retweets. If possible, leave 40 characters, because the person retweeting should be able to fit in a quick comment.

Identify modified tweets (MT)

For those cases in which you’re retweeting a message that’s too big, modified tweets come into play. Marked as MT, this lets people know that this tweet has been edited so you can cut down the least essential parts or reword it so you can tweet it.

Embrace link shorteners

Yes, Twitter and every other third-party app automatically shortens apps, but using a URL shortener has its benefits. For one, all URL shorteners include analytics so you can track the effectiveness and popularity of your links. It’s handy for business and media companies that want to see how many clicks a link received.

Get organized with Twitter lists

Chances are you’re following far more people then you can keep up with. Lists are a handy way of counteracting this problem. By creating different lists for different categories, you can easily follow the same number of people without being overwhelmed.

Pace Yourself

The last thing you want to do is spam your followers. If you tweet everything on your mind at once, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Try to stagger when you tweet so that you’re more consistent throughout the day. If that isn’t possible, use one of the scheduling tools mentioned earlier to space them out.

Incorporate images and video

If you want better engagement or responses, sometimes an image or video is the way to go. It’s good to mix up your tweets with a mix of the two. If you’re unaccustomed to taking photos or you need an excuse to take some snaps, something like the “photo a day challenge” on Instagram is a great way to get some practice. Just be sure to choose only the best photos to tweet—you don’t want to overwhelm your followers with abstract pics.

Learn the best times to tweet

If you want to make sure your tweets are seen by as many people as possible, this report from bit.ly could help you. Essentially, the best times to tweet is any time from 1 pm to 3 pm from Monday to Thursday. Bit.ly also recommends that you should avoid posting after 8 p.m. on any day as well as after 3 p.m. on Fridays.

Understand the purpose of hashtags

Most users add hashtags to their tweets without considering why they do it. Hashtags signify that you’re talking about a particular topic or event. As a result, only one hashtag is necessary in a tweet, two at most. Any more than that is overkill.

Use “favorites” as a resource

Don’t view favorites—that is, when you click on the “favorite” button beneath a tweet—as tweets you like, but instead tweets that you would bookmark for later use. Most of the time, you would favorite tweets that you don’t have time to read, or a comment that you would like to save for future reference. Treat it as a resource.

Public replies

Sometimes when you’re having a discussion, you want everyone to see it instead of just the person. It might be to strengthen a point you made with a previous tweet or to help followers keep up to speed with a discussion. To do this, simply place a period (you could place any symbol, but this is tidier) and it will appear as a public tweet. This rule also applies to any tweet that begins with a username.

Mobile Twitter—tips, tricks, and ideas for tweeting on the go:

Twitter on “dumb” phones

Just because smartphones have grown in popularity doesn’t mean that “dumb” phones aren’t still in use. Tweeting via traditional test messaging still exists in settings, enabling you to receive text notifications. How many notifications you want to receive is up to you, but bear in mind that you have to enable certain followers for mobile notifications first before you can start using it.

Text notifications when you sleep

Because you don’t want to be woken up at 3 a.m. by a Twitter user on the other side of the world, you can choose to switch off updates during certain times. Simply turn on the settings and choose the times you don’t want to receive notifications.

Twitter alerts for smartphones

One of the new features for Twitter’s new mobile app update is the ability to receive notifications every time someone tweets. To activate this feature, go to your account and hit the options button (person symbol). Select “Turn on notifications” and now you will be alerted to any updates from that account.

Saving articles for later

If you have an Instapaper account and you want to save articles, go into settings (found under “me” at the bottom right-hand corner) and into advanced. Here you can activate your Instapaper or Pocket account so you can save articles you find in your news feed.

Adjusting image quality and font size

Under the advanced option, you can adjust other settings such as font size (if the smallest font is too hard to read) and image quality. The latter is incredibly handy if you’re having problems loading images; setting it to “low” will mean a lower quality image that will load up faster.

Twitter apps:

Nurph

Nurph is smart in that it correlates hashtags to create an ongoing conversation among Twitter users, making it easier for them to respond to one another and chat through tweeting and creating hashtag chat rooms. You can also create Twitterbots to guide users to a chat room and funnel all your replies into the one space. Nurph is the ultimate in Twitter community curation.

dlvr.it

dlvr.it (“deliver it”) schedules blog posts to be delivered onto Twitter and across other social media platforms, enabling you to keep up with all social media and projecting your content to as many people and in as many ways as possible at one time or many.

TweetBoard

TweetBoard pulls your Twitter stream into real-time and reformats them into threaded conversations. So instead of clicking “view conversation” to see a feed between you and few users, TweetBoard enables you to view the conversation, other similar conversations ,and any tangential tweets to form one giant conversation among you and your friends and followers.

Who Retweeted Me

Who Retweeted Me enables you to congregate all your retweeters on one page and thank them one by one, if you so please. It will tell you how many retweets a certain tweet has had as well as the average amount of followers the retweeters have and the potential reach the tweet had with their help. To top it all off, this app puts the chronology of retweeting in a simple graph for you to analyze.

TwitSweeper

Twitter is as organized chaos; TwitSweeper has undertaken the rather audacious task of cleaning it up a bit. Use TwitSweeper, either as a trial version or a paid subscriber, to rid your feed of spam. Whether it manifests itself in tweets, messages, or spambots followers, TwitSweeper will be on hand to shoo them away.

The Archivist

The Archivist is one of the premier Twitter analytic apps, allowing you to archive tweets and analyze the biggest trends. Whether you’re searching for stats on keywords, hashtags, or certain users, the Archivist will provide an extensive and aesthetically crisp analysis of whatever you want.

MentionMap

MentionMap displays all your mentions and replies in a spider diagram, which, though undeniably nice to look at, can be awkward to navigate. Type in your username and the diagram will appear with legs dedicated to users you have tweeted, hashtags you have used, and tributary users and conversations. It is a great way to visualize your tweets and the connections you’ve made on Twitter.

TwitLonger

Twitter is a hard taskmaster; TwitLonger is merciful and sympathetic. Sometimes 140 characters isn’t enough and TwitLonger understands as such. You don’t want to write an entire blog or a novel, but you just need a few more words to convey your point. TwitLonger will cut you some slack by posting a link to your extended tweet on Twitter so no one misses out on it.

TweetAdder

TweetAdder is a management tool designed to get you get more Twitter followers. But more importantly, it helps bring in engaged followers suited to you rather than just going for pure numbers. It is a good tool for those that are new to Twitter or want to exploit social media to their business’s advantage. Fast and easy to use, TweetAdder will get you up and on your feet in no time, helping you add users and get properly involved with Twitter.

ManageFilter

ManageFilter is a behemoth. You can unfollow users and bots en masse and copy and follow lists of users from other accounts; the in-built analytics are comprehensive and allow you to pick the best time to make your most important tweets. There’s even a search tool tailored to your account unlike any offered by Twitter. This app is helpful and essential for popular accounts and businesses.

Qwitter

Qwitter is an email service that keeps you up to date on your followers, those who have unfollowed you, and the fluctuation in each. For people with a great deal of followers, Qwitter is useful with its daily updates, telling you how many people you have gained and lost and putting it in a statistical context. It has a clean design that is similar to Twitter. It is effective if you need to know these details.

TweetDeck by Twitter

Perhaps the most well known Twitter app ,TweetDeck is great and quickly becoming the preferred way to use Twitter among dedicated users as it is far more expansive and comprehensive than a standard Twitter news feed. Instead of merely viewing your feed, TweetDeck enables you to view multiple feeds at any one time, and they can be customized to your choosing. Most likely, one would use it to view replies, mentions, interactions, and search hashtags simultaneously. But there are plenty of other possibilities.

Miscellaneous:

Twitter SEO

Social media and SEO have a close relationship. One complements the other, and it shouldn’t be any surprise that you can optimize your Twitter account to take advantage of this. There are several ways you can do this:

• Pick a name and username that has the main keyword you want (if it’s marketing, for example, @ABCmarketing works). If you already have a Twitter account, you can change your actual name, but don’t change your username.

• Include your website address. It’s an obvious statement, but you want to make sure people can find your site. Don’t use a URL shortener and whatever you do, don’t make your address direct to your Twitter account.

• Don’t forget about your bio. Above all, you want your personality to shine through, but you should include some main keywords in it. You only have 160 characters so make sure the words in question are high value.

Google Analytics

If you have a blog or site, it’s important to know how much of your traffic originates from social media. Google Analytics has made this easier with the addition of a flow visualizations, which illustrates how many visits you get from Twitter and other social media sites. It’s important if you want an idea of how much traffic you can generate from the site.

Cartoons

This is cheating a little, but it does show just how effective the medium can be if you apply a little bit of creative thinking. Electric car brand Smart in Argentina created this brilliant cartoon using just tweets to highlight its point—that the company’s car can fit into the tightest spaces.

Twitter’s own guides

Twitter has a vast range of guides and blogs for different sections, which is bound to come in useful at some point. Some of them include guides for advertising & business, developers, and newsroom, to name a few.

Twitter Stories

Considering that Facebook has just released its own version, it’s a good time to go back to Twitter’s version, which is a year old by the way. Simply showcasing the best stories involving Twitter, the site’s aim is to get you to think of the social network differently and see the creative ways the service has been used.

Know Your Followers

It helps to know who exactly you’re communicating to, and with more people stating their location in their bios, it’s easier than ever to find out. There are two ways of going about this, the first is to go though your followers and make a note of the countries and locations they’re from. If you have a significant number of followers this will be quite time-consuming.

The second way is to use a third-party tool such as SocialBro to do all the hard work for you, giving you data that you can use to communicate more effectively.

Things you shouldn’t tweet about

So our last tip is a little less serious, but the points made are still valid. Chances are you’re familiar with the internet comic, The Oatmeal. If you’re not, well let’s just say you’re in for a treat.

Niall Harbison and Lauren Fisher are the founders of Simply Zesty, where a version of this article originally appeared.

(Image via)

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