The Twitter Survival Guide

December 5, 2012 1:05 pm

Twitter is unique in so many ways. It allows those who might go unheard to express their talents, thoughts and opinions, not only to their followers, but to the world at large via hashtags, retweeting, twitpiccing and so forth. When I first joined a couple of years back, I was thankfully able to learn the entire lingo as I went along. For the new user today, it definitely won’t be that easy to know what Twitter actually does, let alone being able to avoid the faux-pas that so many commit.

The Basics

Think of Twitter like this: you can share a 140 character Facebook status per Tweet. You type it into the little box, and voila, you have completed your first musing. To actually get people to read them (and follow you), you have to work a little harder. Clicking on somebody you know’s profile and ‘following’ them means you will receive their tweets – not the other way around like Facebook. However, they will probably follow you back, in which case they will receive your whimsies too. Don’t expect Ashton Kutcher to follow you back though. Duh. Yes, celebrities have Twitter accounts too, but be wary of the promo-only ones (see Faux-Pas).

Another way to get followers is to hashtag, which literally means putting # before any phrase. That way you can click and find someone who has used the same hashtags, who might have the same interests as you. Yes, following in itself is a weird, slightly creepy, phrase. Especially if you’re ‘following’ a stranger, but just remember that you shouldn’t physically follow people. Just digitally.

Mentioning someone, that is putting a @ before their name, is basically like tagging them. They will receive a little twotification to say you tweplied to them. Feel free to do this with strangers if the topic is appropriate – you might gain a new follower! Followers are basically shiny little chicks you need to keep happy, safe and fed so that they don’t abandon you. Nothing is worse than tweeting to 0 followers.

Who To Follow

Your friends are the obvious choices. Celebrities who you are interested in or have interesting things to say are good options too, but steer clear of those who just use their accounts to promote themselves. Following people in your line of work or desired career is a bonus too. They might give you some haute tips or even connect with you in a way which might be beneficial for the future. Comedic accounts, such as HRH Queen Elizabeth, are a good bet, but avoid others like the infamous Roy from Coronation Street… unless you’re into that kind of stuff, I guess.


Yes, you have a profile on Twitter, just like Facebook. You can upload a photo, a small bio (which you can include hashtags and mentions in, like a tweet) and even a background/header now I believe. You can set privacy settings which can be useful if you don’t like the idea of anyone ‘following’ you.

Should I #FollowBack?

If strangers follow you, consider following them back if you really care about having a large following. Some of them may unfollow you afterwards though to make it seem like they are more popular than they are, so I recommend doing weekly purges to make sure you aren’t receiving updates from somebody who isn’t even bolstering your own number of followers.

Twitter Faux-Pas

Twinoobs fall into a lot of very steep, very annoying traps when they first start, and they resemble the same ones that exist on Facebook. Don’t write passive aggressive tweets about people you don’t like. It will only serve to start a Twar. Talking of Twars, don’t get caught up in drama with accounts that are purposely provocative or offensive, nor seek to cause this yourself. Twitter is a place of opinion sharing and free speech – don’t let it become your personal battlefield.

Equally, personal tweets are forbidden too, in the respect of whiny passive aggressive or just plain attention-seeking ones. If you find yourself using the phrase “I hate it when people…” or “So upset-xx”, delete them, for the love of the tiny blue bird you’re slowly killing.

Tweets where your only concern is furthering your own success in life will certainly annoy people. If you have something good going for you, talk about it, but don’t let it be everything you say. Celebrities on twitter often do this, and I don’t see that there’s much point to following them unless you’re interested in their merchandise.

Mundane tweets are to be culled as much as you can. Things like “I’m tired” or “I ate breakfast,” are plainly stupid. At least jazz it up with some sarcastic remark, exaggeration or pop culture reference. “Why do I always eat my breakfast like a wild snorlax” or “I’m more tired than the entire population of this Starbucks” are preferable. I know; my wit is legendary.

Lastly, don’t get bogged down in numbers. Whilst it’s nice to have followers and thousands of tweets, don’t let the various braggers you will meet on your Twitter journey bring you down. I had a friend once who was perfectly agreeable until she said, “Oh you have 100 followers? That’s nice… I only have about 800.” She had relentlessly pursued all the #1D #fangirls though, and at least I walked away with my musical integrity intact.

Remember, that whatever you put on twitter doesn’t just exist in an alternate dimension where nobody can see it. Quite the opposite. Twitter is a lot more exposed than other social networks if you leave the privacy settings off. What you say will inform others of who you are as a person even more so because tone and other features are harder to infer. Keyboard warriors will live and die by the sword in their little twars; passive-aggressiveness will be discovered and avenged. Twitter is awesome, if you use it correctly.


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