How to Win Friends and Support People on Twitter

Guest post by Neal Chambers

Most technologies that are easily adapted and made widely popular are usually improvements of things that already exist. Mail replaced messanger services; the telegraph replaced mail; email replaced mail; Google Wave (might) replace email. It is the same with Twitter. Twitter replaced online chat which (kind of) replaced parties. There are some key differences that Twitter adds to the table though. For example,

A) You can join anyone’s party, and anyone can join your party. If you have your feed unprotected, and you do have your feed unprotected right?

B) You can throw anyone out of your party if you need to. You usually don’t but it’s always nice to have the one button option of doing so.

C) People from around the world can join your party.

D) The party is going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

E) People are asynchronously enjoying your party. One conversation can last a day, weeks, or even months.

With all these changes in mind, it’s still important to understand that it’s a party and it’s your party. You should keep in mind to be successful you need to be a good host. Let’s go over the basics:

Send Out Invitations

from pareeerica
photo: pareeerica

Every good party starts with inviting people over for a drink. This can start with listing yourself in the various Twitter directories out there on the Internet. I just recently published an article on the matter – 14 places to find good quality followers. There I have listed all the major directories and follower recommending websites. It should be a great place to jump start your following.

There are other options though. Something that I regularly do is look at my friend’s ‘following’ list. These are Twitter users that your friend has actually chosen to follow. This usually comes up with better results than the ‘followers’ list because they might be spammers. When looking at this ‘following’ list, be sure to click through to the user’s profile and read their bio, last few tweets and check out their blog if they have one. Then add a few people you like.

Greet your Guests

photo: RuTemple
photo: RuTemple

Okay, now the party is starting. Guests are arriving at all times of the day and night because after all this party is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s important to try to acknowledge any newer followers. It might be good to greet them and ask them where they are from and make sure they don’t need a drink or something.

There is a current trend right now to do this with an automatic DM or auto-DM. These can be okay if A) it’s not overly generic (e.g. Thanks for the follow! Look forward to your Tweets!) or B) You offer free stuff or more information about yourself through a link.

Personally, what I TRY to do is look through a user’s profile and ask a semi-personalized question like – How is teaching in Detroit? or I love the layout of your Teaching blog. This way they know I’m not just sending them a generic auto-DM. It shows you are actually taking the time to get to know someone which is one principle behind having a PLN.

Introduce Everyone

photo: ItzaFineDay
photo: ItzaFineDay

You know those fancy parties where you show up and some guy in a fancy suit announces to the party that you’ve arrived? Don’t worry if you’ve never been invited to one, because now you can live out that experience on Twitter. When someone logs on to Twitter the first time, chances are they don’t know anyone at the party. They’ve come because they heard it’s where all the action is or where all the cool people are (that’s us right?).

So, it’s good to give them a proper welcome by introducing them to all of your following. Be sure to include a relevant snippet about them in the Tweet and their username. You can do this as soon as they get online or wait for #teachertuesday or #followfriday.

Help the Confused-Looking Guy/Gal in the Corner

photo: CarbonNYC
photo: CarbonNYC

From time to time, people will need help. After all, that might be one reason why they came to the party in the first place. You can help these guests out by filtering your Twitter stream with a ‘?’. This will give you all the Tweets of people asking questions. Sometimes you will come up with a few rhetorical questions, but more often than not you’ll find a friend in need. This is what having and building a PLN is all about, spreading information and helping others solve problems.

You can also use a neat little service called twithive.com This web app allows you to filter your stream by questions, conversations, links or retweets. It also packs in a few more features like Tweet clouds, which are clouds of the most popular terms for your stream. I find it offers you a way to look at your Twitter stream from a different angle.

Pop your Head in When it Counts

photo: meddygarnet
photo: meddygarnet

Since the party is going on all the time, it’s literally impossible to be at the party at all times. Many have tried and all have failed. Don’t be a Twitter addict. You have to pop your head in every once in awhile and make sure every one is still enjoying themselves. The key to this is to know exactly when to do this. There are a couple metrics you can look at to see when your following is online.

1) Click counts – If you use a URL shortener (and you should) then you’ll be able to track your click counts. I really good service for this is j.mp (AKA bit.ly). Take note of when your links are being clicked on the most and what links are more popular.

2) Tweetstats.com – This site can give you some stats on when a particular user is online. It breaks down tweeting frequency by days of the week and even hours of the day. You might want to check the stats of people with a big following and see when they are online the most. However, the more tweets someone has made the longer it will take for tweetstats to compile the data.

Enjoy the Party

photo: Wendy Piersall
photo: Wendy Piersall

It’s important to remember that Twitter is just a tool and not a lifestyle. It’s okay to step away from time to time and take a break. It’s also okay to let your personality and opinions shine through and add to the melting pot. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s party after all.

If you are on Twitter be sure to join me @nealchambers. I’ll see you at the party! Also, if you haven’t already, please take the time to fill out a short survey, I promise it’s painless.

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Neal Chamber's headshot

Neal Chambers has taught in Japan for just about 5 years despite graduating in video production. He is currently teaching at a private English conversation school in Osaka. He is a regular teacher contributor at EnglishSpark.com where he writes the series Teacher Stumpers about difficult and odd grammar. He enjoys attempting to climb mountains without injuring himself.


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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, author, and international speaker. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and the Social Media Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has co-founded and organized the acclaimed educational projects, Edchat, ELTChat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. Her prolific presence in the educator community through social media has been recognized by several notable entities, such as The New York Times, UNESCO Bangkok, Edweek, Converge Magazine, the United Federation of Teachers, the 140 Conference, Mashable, English Central, Tefl.net, and T/H/E JOURNAL. Her education blog, Teacher Reboot Camp, is ranked as one of the top 10 language teaching and technology blogs and the 50 best blogs for education leaders. In 2012 find her book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Eye on Education and participate with over 7000 educators worldwide in this online professional development course that helps educators develop Personal Learning Networks and accomplish social media and teaching goals. Find her on Twitter, @ShellTerrell. Shelly has taught English language learners at various levels since 1998 in the US, Greece, and in Germany. She currently presents and hosts workshops on integrating technology effectively with young learners and adults. Shelly holds an Honours BA in English and a minor in Communication with a specialization in Electronic Media from the University of Texas in San Antonio and an Honours MA in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix.

8 thoughts on “How to Win Friends and Support People on Twitter

  1. The tragedy of twitter is the party just becomes a bit uncontrollable. twits are just twits to the sky. Twitter is slow and cannot just replace Instant Messaging that i love. Twit now, an answer or response is but a remote possibility.

    Profiles are silent without a bio or blog or site. user name just does not match with name and it becomes a problem to memorize the names of followers. For example i know you from your blog. Know your name as your user-name matches with your name. But this is not the case with all.

    In other site i know the names of all my friends but in twitter this is just opposite. Twitter can deliver umpteen number of tiny urls but just cannot replace live chatting. Personal knowing is not just possible. The tragedy is that not many followers have added me to chat clients. I have got chat buddies from other sites and that party is just enjoyable as it rocks and speedier too.

    Anyway, again a well written guest post.

  2. Dear Neal,
    After Twitter really took off this spring (at least as far as I can tell) during the relatively slow summer months I found it easier to drop by Twitter often to build relationships and follow what people were exploring, and loved it. Now that my schedule is full, I drop by just once or twice a day to see what my favorites have been up to, and find I’m particularly interested in what they’re blogging about or publishing for learners, as I prepare my next projects. Twitter is nice in that it keeps these communications short, so I can breeze through them. but I’m actually finding Facebook to be a more pleasant and “human” place to connect, with the pictures and videos. With my head full of things going on in my own world, I can relate better across the timezones and cultures when I can see your profile linked to more “real life”. I tend to use Twitter more “functionally” than Facebook, and no longer engage in much chitchat there. I’d be in our Ning groups more if I had more time, but that’s just not possible at the mo. Wonder if others are experiencing the same sort of thing -?

  3. Neal,

    Very good post about Twitter, particularly the apt similarities between the social networking service and a party. I will say that many people likely see Twitter akin to a party, and therefore not much value beyond a bit of fun. But as you know, the service has provided invaluable to people’s personal learning networks. Maybe a second post about Twitter after the party, when everyone has the chance to rely on friends, friends and friends, and distant peers is needed?

    Just a thought.

    Again, great post.

    Chris

  4. Thanks everyone for all the feedback!

    I have to say Twitter as a party is not an original idea, but hopefully this put some breath into it. I think to answer some earlier concerns about not being able to ‘control’ the party. I think that is kind of the point. It’s a place to mingle and branch out. At any party, you don’t have to (and don’t want to) listen to every conversation going on even if it is your closest pals. So letting a few things slip by really isn’t that big of a deal.

    Anne, you’ve got a good point about Facebook. It has all the bells and whistles of a full-blooded social media network. This is good and bad. Good because you get to see everything in vivid color, bad because it can start to be a time suck as you explore and meander through the halls.

    If Twitter is the party, then Facebook and your blog is your house. You meet people at the giant magical 24/7 party and then invite them back to your place for a nice dinner where they can check out your place and get to know you better. In my opinion, they seem to form two circles of friendship, Twitter is the outer ring and then blog/facebook/linkedin/ning/email/wave? are the inner rings.

    And yes Chris and Shelly, I’d love to write part 2. Stay tuned!

  5. Neal,
    I joined twitter back in the spring, but only recently have begun REALLY using it. I love the tips and techniques that you give here, and love the party theme. I will definitely try out some of your suggestions with regard to Twitter. In the meantime, I’ll also be joining your list of twitter followers.
    Thanks for an excellent post.
    Marti

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