This post is the second in my Twitter series that will go through April. If you haven’t read last week’s post, How to Use Twitter, Part 1: Get Started, go catch up now, then come back and read about how to tweet.
Twitter was established as a microblogging platform, which means users post small, short pieces of content. In its infancy, Twitter was limited to 140 characters, so long and complicated content wasn’t possible. This limitation frustrated some users, but most learned to condense their thoughts to fit into the format. In 2017, Twitter increased the character limit to 280.
Now that your profile is complete and you’ve found a few accounts to follow, it’s time to start some conversation.
The Twitter Like
A like is the simplest form of conversation on Twitter. To like a tweet, you click the heart icon under the tweet. The tweet’s author will be notified that you liked the tweet. Liking, just as on Facebook, can be a way to acknowledge and agree with an idea quickly and without comment.
Here’s a tweet from a Little Rock, Arkansas television station about actor Tyler Perry, who paid for groceries at a Kroger store in the Atlanta area. It drew 104 likes, as you can see by the number next to the Like icon.
How to Start a Conversation on Twitter — @Reply
Here’s a short Twitter conversation with my oldest daughter from this past weekend. Her tweet and my reply, as a mom who is concerned about her safety.
And she replied back to assure me that her newly-made mask is, indeed, more practical than I realized.
To reply to a tweet on the web, click the thought bubble icon at the bottom (in the shaded blue circle).
A box will pop up with a space and prompt to compose your reply, then icons for media you can attach, which include an image, a GIF, a poll, or an emoji. Click the three dots and you can schedule the reply for a specific time.
Notice that when the reply box pops up, the other user’s Twitter handle is included in the message. This is the Twitter equivalent of tagging someone on Facebook. The user you’ve replied to will get a notification that lets them know you’ve replied.
And just like that, you’ve started a conversation on Twitter. As you get used to reading tweets, look for ways you can reply to other users. Ask a question, expand on their thought with your own, or just agree — or disagree. It’s OK to disagree, as long as you do it respectfully.
Everyone loves to be retweeted. There are several reasons you’ll want to retweet.
- You really like the tweet or agree with the sentiment. Here’s a tweet I retweeted from Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day.
2. You want to help boost an important message. Here I retweeted this salute to health care workers on the front line of the Coronavirus pandemic to add my support.
3. To add your opinion to a tweet or thread and preserve the context. If you want your followers to understand what you’re responding to, include the tweet as a retweet. Here I’m just playing around, but you get the idea.
Retweeting is a lot like sharing someone’s post on Facebook. You share for the same reasons — to add a comment, to amplify the original poster’s message, or to show your approval or endorse an idea.
If someone retweets a link to a piece of content you’ve shared, it’s nice to thank them. You’ll usually see retweet abbreviated as RT.
If you tweet a message that is important for a large number of users to see, such as information about an emergency or event, you can ask other users to please RT to help spread the information.
Be careful what you retweet; you’re making it your own. It appears on your profile. I don’t retweet any tweet with a grammatical error as I don’t want that on my feed. Don’t retweet something you wouldn’t say on your own.
More Twitter Reading
How to Use Twitter, Part 1: Get Started
The Seven Deadly Sins of Twitter
How to Live Tweet an Event
Direct Messages (DMs)
Twitter offers direct messages as a way to communicate privately with a user. Direct messages, or DMs, are often used by companies that provide customer service and address complaints.
This DM thread came about because I had tried repeatedly to unsubscribe from Walgreens’ email list and kept receiving emails. I tweeted about my irritation and included their username and they quickly requested that I DM them my email address.
Taking the complaint private is common so that details that shouldn’t be made public can be exchanged, and to prevent the airing of a company’s dirty laundry.
You might DM a user for other reasons, but be careful with DMs; don’t be spammy or overly promotional. There are services that will send automatic DMs, when someone follows you. Don’t do this. No one likes an auto DM that promotes what you’re selling. Sometimes I’ll even unfollow a user for sending me an auto DM. It’s for this reason that many Twitter users don’t read their DMs at all, so you may not get a response.
Sometimes you have more involved or longer thoughts to share. That’s when you’ll create a thread. You’ll see threads displayed with a vertical line that connects them like my thread with my daughter.
A thread can be tweets from only one user or from multiple users. When you @ reply another user, you create a thread.
To create a thread, click the prompt at the top of the page to open a tweet window. Type the first tweet, then click the plus icon at bottom right to add another tweet to the thread and begin where you left off with the first tweet.
Many users will add a number, as I have above, to let readers know how many total tweets are in the thread. Your tweets will display with the vertical line (see the blue arrow below) connecting them and any @ replies will be added to the thread.
As you look at the Twitter timeline, you’ll see links under threaded tweets that will expand the thread if you want to read all of the tweets.
Sooner or later you’ll probably want to use Tweetdeck for Twitter. Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter and allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts. It’s also great for social media monitoring and listening, as you can create columns for search terms you want to listen for.
To use Tweetdeck, go to Tweetdeck.Twitter.com and sign in with your Twitter credentials. At the left of the screen, you’ll see a plus icon and the words “Add a Column.” You’ll choose a column type to add.
On my far left column, I have a Twitter list I call “Memphis.” Though it started as Memphis Twitter users, over the years it’s become my main list of people I know, either on or offline, and want to be sure I don’t miss. I’ll talk about lists in the next couple of weeks.
The next column to the right has my notifications. This is where I see any retweets, new followers, likes, and replies.
The third column from the left is a search for the hashtag #social media, and the column to its immediate right is a search for the term “small business owner.” These columns will include any tweets that contain the search term or hashtag specified. You can add your name and easily monitor any mention of you.
At the top of each column, there’s a settings icon that allows you to customize your column — see the far right column. Here’s my #QuarantineLife search. I can confine my search to a geographic area, users, engagement and tweet authors, so you can narrow down your search as you like.
To add an additional Twitter account, click the button that looks like two people at the bottom left and enter your user name and password.
Tweetdeck can help you use Twitter more efficiently and stay on top of trends and mentions of you and your brand. The ability to customize your view makes it much more useful.
Twitter on Mobile
Last week we talked a little bit about the Twitter mobile app. There are no columns like Tweetdeck, but you can display lists. To show the stream of tweets from that list, tap the list name.
To show a search, enter your term or hashtag in the search bar at the top, as I have here with the #QuarantineLife hashtag. The mobile app has no way to save a Twitter search as you can in Tweetdeck; you’ll have to enter your hashtag or search term every time.
You can filter your search, but the options aren’t as numerous as on the desktop.
Other than saving a search, everything you do on Twitter from the desktop can be done just as easily on your phone. Likes, replies, retweets, and DMs work just the same with the same icons, so you’ll be able to go from desktop to mobile with ease.
- Don’t be a jerk. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t tweet it. Online words can be hurtful and you cannot unsay them. Even if you later delete the tweet, anyone can screenshot the original. Assume it lives forever, because it probably does.
- Don’t tweet DMs or other private messages. If it’s a private conversation, keep it private.
- Pay attention to grammar and spelling. Even though tweets are fast moving, remember that they are visible on your profile and represent you and your brand. Poor spelling and grammar make you look unprofessional and amateurish.