10 Tips For Making The Most of Twitter

When I have a question about Twitter, I ask Aleah Marsden. As it turns out, I’m not alone with my questions about the why, how, and what-the-heck of Twitter, so I asked Aleah to please write us newbies a post. Enjoy, and tweet it to a friend!

Top 10 Twitter Tips

I get comments from people occasionally wondering why Twitter is my hands-down absolute favorite social media platform.

I tell them it’s because there are people there.

Real people with real lives who, if they are using it well, are also looking to interact. I don’t think any other social media platform offers that as simply and effectively as Twitter. Facebook comes with a lot baggage; some people would be better off limited to 140 magical characters. Instagram is visually stunning, though I find its lack of links and difficulty sharing stunt its ability for deeper connection. Pinterest—my least favorite platform—is just flat-out void of people. It feels like I’m walking into a museum alone and I’m looking for someone to discuss the art with and all I can find is more art.

Now, to be sure, being a writer and lover of words, I am biased. Still, wasn’t the original point of social media to connect with, well, people? My biggest writing opportunities have ALL been somehow related to Twitter. I have made friends and connections with people that, frankly, I shouldn’t even know.

As a means of publicly declaring my Twitter devotion (and having a convenient link to send to the person who weekly contacts me about my “Twitter strategy”), I’ve made a list of my Ten Twitter Tips for you to get the most out of this platform:

1. Don’t act like a celebrity. Stop and consider your motives. For many of us a reality of our Twitter use is to increase our social media presence for our platform. I do not have a problem with this, up to a point. However, a trap I fell in when I first began tweeting was being overly concerned with my follower ratio. I wanted to make sure I always had more followers than people I was following because I wanted to look popular. I was the queen of my tiny Twitter-kingdom, and you know what? It ended up stunting my overall growth. This is Twitter people, not prom.

2. Follow-back real people. My general rule: if they have less than five thousand followers and seem to be interested in interaction, or I perceive them as being in my target audience for my writing, then I follow back. There are always exceptions, but I’ve found this to be effective. This does take about half a minute of actual research; clicking on someone’s profile to see what they’re about. But if you’re here for connecting with people and not just looking like a celebrity, then it’s more than worth your time. Often, not always, I’ll use the first profile look to engage someone: I notice you have a lot of kids and like coffee: me too! Or, reading anything awesome right now? Following back is probably the number one way to show you value people above your platform. It says I see you and I care about what you have to say.

3. Invest in slow, sustainable growth. Yes, many of us are here to cultivate a platform. Personally, I do this by daily following a handful of people that I think would benefit from my message, instead of following a thousand people per week who are also just looking to gain followers. I do this by following people who follow people with similar interests. For example, I know that a lot of women who follow the Redbud Writers Guild account (@redbudwriters) are looking to connect with Christian women who are influencing culture. I fit that category, too. I know that women who follow Christianity Today’smeneutics blog (@CT_women) enjoy news and cultural analysis from a feminine evangelical perspective; I want to know what these women have to say. People who follow IF:Gathering (@IFgathering) or Propel (@PropelWomen) are looking to empower women in leadership; I’m interested in that, too. There’s nothing wrong with seeking to follow people, just be genuine in how you go about it. Your numbers will increase more slowly, but you’ll have built an affinity group that actually cares about your message.

4. Be genuine. You should be the same person offline that you are online, and that goes for any social media platform. This does not mean you need to tweet your deepest, most private thoughts. I think of Twitter as a virtual work cocktail party. Would you walk into the room and loudly begin reading your diary? Now, I think there is a place for transparency in any relationship, but I also think in our culture of praising the “brave” and “vulnerable” that we need to consider whether we are sharing to encourage others or to get attention. Figure out where you draw the line between being genuine and over-sharing.

5. Be quick to listen, slow to tweet. One of the coolest things about Twitter is that you can listen in on conversations people are having. I love watching people I admire interacting and engaging difficult topics. It’s not every day (or ever) that I can sit in on a conversation about current events with such a broad scope of voices represented. Twitter can be an excellent tool for better understanding where people are coming from on all sorts of issues. Here’s the thing: YOU DON’T HAVE TO INSERT YOUR OPINION. I mean, if you have something constructive worth mentioning, by all means jump in! Unfortunately, what I usually see happening is a lot of people who feel they need to declare what side they are on as if we’re choosing teams. Tweet-debate is not a team sport.

6. Don’t feed the trolls. There are always those people who struggle with number four. These people are not only looking to join a team, but they’re trying to become team captain. Your best strategy is to ignore them. If they’re particularly bothersome utilize the mute or, as a final resort, block feature. Be aware, though, that just because someone doesn’t agree with your opinion, this does not make them a troll. Twitter is a great place to gain a diverse understanding of issues, so follow people who don’t see the world as you do, but be humble enough to listen without provocation.

7. Love your Twitter neighbor as yourself. I have had numerous people ask me what the secret is to get people to interact with you. Well, if you want people to tweet you, why don’t you start by tweeting them? I set a goal of interacting with five people every time I log on. Do you want people to retweet your posts? Well, go ahead and do some reading and comment and retweet other people’s work. You want someone to tweet about your book? You get the picture.

8. Don’t be a link or retweet spammer. While I appreciate when people share their own or other people’s work, this should not make up the bulk of your tweets. I follow you because I genuinely want to know what you have to say. Please don’t add to my already congested feed by auto-tweeting a link to your most recent post hourly for a week. Certainly do not be one of those people who have a Twitter account for that sole purpose. If you want to promote your work without interaction a better platform choice would be Pinterest.

9. For the love of hashtags. A lot of people hate on hashtags or the newly coined hashtag-activism. Hashtagtivism. Like all of Twitter, I think this has potential for good or evil Personally, I’m a fan of the witty hashtag at the end of a tweet. #thestruggleisreal #hatersgonnahate #procrastinatorsgonnaprocrastinate Some people find them annoying, especially long ones, so use them sparingly. #itshouldnotakeyoufiveminutestodecipherasinglehastagthatisridiculousyouonlyhaveonehundredandfortycharacters. In theory, the purpose of hastags are to gather like content into one place. An especially practical way I’ve seen this used if for book launches. A unique hashtag of your title can help create buzz. (Be sure to check your hashtag before using, though. You wouldn’t want to be linking your work to something sketchy). Also, there is something to be said for hashtagtivism getting a powerful message out, ex: #blacklivesmatter. This is also another way to find people of similar (or respectfully dissimilar) opinions. There are even some excellent communities that gather around hashtags, check out: #amwriting #wholemama #fmfparty.

10. NEVER EVER AUTO-DIRECT MESSAGE This is one of my biggest pet peeves. You follow someone and whatever app they use to manage their account automatically sends a generic direct message. This is a surefire way for me to immediately unfollow or mute you. I don’t know what social media guru teaches people this is the way to go, but if you want people to engage with you, act like a person and personally tweet them. To me this is akin to being handed a gospel-tract from a stranger. Sure, it can sometimes be effective, but I’m much more likely to take an interest in your message or ministry if I have a relationship with you.

Oh, Twitter.

How do I love you? Let me count the ways.

I love you on your very best,

And very worst of days.

This is a somewhat adapted version of one of my sons’ favorite board books How Do I Love You? By P.K. Hallinan. The premise is that a parent steadfastly loves his or her unruly son, no matter what he does; be it coloring on the walls or playing contentedly.

And that pretty much sums up my Twitter experience, as well. For everything wonderful and exciting about this platform, it certainly has its petulant toddlerish side as well, but, oh how I love it!

Yes, for every genuine connection there is an exponential number of trolls and bots, but I believe if you have a heart for connecting with people, then it’s well worth the investment.

Aleah Marsden is a writer, editor, and Social Media and Communications Manager for Redbud Writers Guild. She blogs at DepthoftheRiches.com about life, faith, and Bible study. Connect with her on Twitter: @marsdenmom

 

The post I don’t want to write, and you don’t want to read (but we must)

I was one of the first people I knew to get a cellphone in the 90’s: a sleek black Nokia about the size of a pencil case. It could make and receive calls, and when texting became available a few years later – I texted on it too.

And for 17 years, that was all I needed my cellphone to do.

But then last year, my sisters bullied persuaded my Dad into buying me a smart phone, since I wasn’t willing to make the change. “We stay in touch through apps,” they said, “and we don’t want you to be left out.” And so I got a phone. With apps. And it was wonderful.

The arrival of a smart phone also meant the arrival of some other things: the ability to get driving directions whenever and whereever! the ability to put my earbuds in and speak to my family overseas via skype for free while driving long distances, with sound quality as good as if they were sitting in the passenger seat next to me! the ability to check the opening time of the local pool, or the start time of a movie before heading over there! wonderful!

But also: the ability to check my facebook updates when I stopped at a traffic light, and the ability to see if that email reply I’d been waiting for had come in, and the ability to see what witty and wonderful things had been posted on twitter. At first, it was the occasional check. But with the weeks passing by, I found myself driving with my phone in hand more and more often. Not calling on it, or texting on it, but just… you know… checking.

Friends – I say with shame that this is the DUMBEST HABIT I have ever developed in my life: and after the second or third time I had an “oops” moment where I had to suddenly veer  back after drifting into another lane, or screech to a halt behind someone who put a turning arrow on, alarm bells began to go off. It was just a matter of time before the “that was close!” moment became an “it’s too late” one.

Last year I fell off my bike. I was going about 3 miles per hour and was new to riding a road bike with clip-in pedals. I didn’t clip out fast enough, and I toppled over and smacked into my driveway. I was nearly stationary, and the weight of the fall was just me and my super-light bike – but it hurt like the BLAZES and I sported a bruise for weeks. Also, last year, my daughter fell off her 1-foot-off-the-ground bed… and broke her elbow.

If falling off a stationary bike or rolling off a 1-foot-high bed could cause such damage – WHO WAS I KIDDING that driving a two ton speed of metal at 30 miles per hour wasn’t going to cause SIGNIFICANT pain and suffering to my loved ones (and others’ loved ones!) if I were to get into an accident. Even at low speeds. Even just a fender bender.

And then yesterday, this video started to go viral – which hammered the point home even more:

Whoa.

I am an addict and I know it. But in the spirit of being proactive and responsible and a LIFE-SAVER and a parent, this is the plan I have come up with:

When I buckle myself into my car, I pick up my phone and scroll to the settings menu. I select “cellular”, and it looks like this:

 

20140610-094243-34963075.jpgAnd then, I make it look like this:

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No internet on the road? That means no social media on the road.

Easiest thing ever. Or easier yet – put it in airplane mode.

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Or turn it off.

Please.

Please.

(I’m so sorry it took me this long).

But Please, do this with me. It can be our safe driving covenant, okay?

 

What If Facebook Makes Me a Better Mom?

Facebook gets a lot of bad rap. It’s a time sucker, they say, and screen time is no substitute for face time. “Liking” a status doesn’t mean we have talked. Social media is a poor substitute for social life, yadda yadda.

I feel the danger of Facebook. I know it is easier to sometimes watch my screen refresh than to watch my kids build towers. Handsfree Mama is quick to point out how social media is making me a worse Mom.

But on most days, with a little responsibility and care taken not to spend too much time on there, I think I’m a better Mom because I’m on Facebook. Not because of Facebook per se, but because online I belong to a community of encouraging, funny, wise friends – who commiserate, advise, cheer and laugh me through this journey.

I spend most of my day in the presence of three small kids, with no adults around. Facebook gives me another adult to share moments of eye-rolling hilarity:

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See those ‘likes’ and ‘comments’? They made this stay-at-home mama feel she was in the company of friends. I enjoyed my daughters’ wisecrack more for having laughed with others.

On the days when I fail my attempts to scale Laundry Mountain, Facebook allows me to relish the silliness of my vocation:

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On days when we’re quarantined by strep throat and I’m at my wits’s end, Facebook funnels the voice of my resourceful Pinteresty friends right into my kitchen, brimming with great ideas and encouraging words:

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My FB community saved that day. And the day after it. And the day after that: with creative ideas and prayers for health and words of encouragement – they send reinforcements of the very best kind.

Facebook has been a lifeline to stay in touch with people I love. It allows me to share proud mommy moments with my family abroad. It has been the means for finding last minute baby-sitters, new homes for less-loved toys and clothes, a reference for a new pediatrician.

In a world where I seldom get to talk to friends for long enough to find out what they’re reading and thinking, Facebook is a medium where friends post articles that keep me afloat as a Mommy: things that remind me we’re not alone, pieces with tips on colicky babies, posts that remind me that breastfeeding needs to be encouraged.

In an insular world where the immediate needs of my children often eclipse the urgent needs of justice, broader-minded friends on FB post links to articles that remind me to pray, to think, to give, to show mercy.

I believe I am a better Mommy because of the community of wise and wonderful people whose presence online is a representation of their presence in my life. Their thoughts, links, comments and prayers shape and encourage me in the long days of parenting.

Being a Mom can be lonely work. I sometimes need to be heard. I sometimes need to listen. Facebook brings a listening ear and words of perspective, council, reflection and humor from every corner of my world right into my living room – and I’m thankful for the “village”. We help each other keep things in perspective.

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A wise man once said that there was a time for every activity under heaven. A time to gather sticks, and a time to scatter them. A time to mourn and to dance.

I think when it comes to Mommying, for me there’s a time for both: a time to switch off the screens and look my children in the eye and snuggle and read books and play baseball. But there’s also time for that community of friends whose company and counsel is virtually indispensible. And yes, pun intended.

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Three cheers for the sisterhood.
Three cheers for sharing life.
And three cheers for Facebook, if you ask me.

This post is day 25 of my 31 Days of Belonging writing challenge – another crazy community of bloggers I electively BELONG to 🙂 For a complete list of posts (with my favorites marked), click here.

Share your story. Change the world.

I am a small-time writer with a small-time blog, but recently I posted a piece that got really big really fast. I had been scared to post it. I was scared because it was personal. I was scared because it was political.

I posted it anyway, thinking “well, it won’t make much difference anyway. It’s just my little story,” but I could not have been more wrong. People responded to my story with comment after comment and email after email about how hearing an individual’s story had helped theme to see “the other side” of the debate for the first time, how the personal had cut through the rhetoric. My story encouraged others in turn to write and tell me their stories of how they have suffered under immigration laws. Hearing my story apparently opened up compassion in people who had not ever thought compassionately on the topic before. Sharing my story put a social justice issue on people’s hearts in a way that it had not been before.

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Story telling has great power to effect change – great change – far beyond what politics or philosophy could possibly do. I think stories are powerful for three reasons in particular:

1. Stories are disarming.

In a world where opinions are thrown at us day in and day out, our natural tendency

is to keep ourselves braced against the onslaught of ideas and words. We read the news with our defenses at the ready. We listen to speeches with our BS-meters finely tuned.

A story, however, does not demand our attention or allegiance. It is an offering of one person’s life and point of view: it does not threaten, it does not demand change. It simply tells. Our generation values being heard, and so when people speak from the heart – we listen. A story can reach the places of the heart, places we generally keep shielded from politicians and activists.

 

  1. Stories cut through bias.

Our natural tendency is to sort people into categories: like us, and not like us. Our inherent bias finds it easy to regard those in our camp as being individuals, unique and distinct. On the flipside of that coin, we tend to believe that all those “in that camp” are all one way. We make these generalizations because it helps us sort through issues of identity, it is our natural sorting hat for classifying, understanding and articulating difference in the world. However, the dangerous side of our natural coping mechanism is that we always carry a set of beliefs about what “they” are like.

The power of the story of just one person is that it breaks open the “they” category, and reminds us of all the individuals in “that camp”. It allows us to feel compassion and empathy for those who are “not like us”, because for the first time the story reminds us that in some way, that person is a lot like us.

3. Stories allow us to choose our response.

In their ground-breaking book “Half the Sky”, Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn challenged readers to respond to three specific social justice issues which affect women world wide. They had an armory of statistics and facts at their disposal, yet they chose to make their appeal by telling specific stories about individual women impacted by each plight.

Our brains cannot process facts like “there are 2 million sex slaves in the world right now”. We can, however, hear and understand the story of Suryesh, kidnapped from her family at 10, beaten by thugs and raped repeatedly each day until she submitted to the brothel owner. Big campaigns and huge numbers overwhelm us. We become immobilized by the enormity of the task, and change seems impossible. However, the story of one gives us a non-threatened space to respond: I cannot save 2 million, but I can make a difference to Suryesh.

Stories have the power to reach and to mobilize people far beyond the reach of politicians and power-mongers. In the quest for social justice then, here are two very powerful things you can do:

 

First: Share Your Story

The personal is political. If you have a story to tell, be brave and tell it. Tell your story of how your friend’s family got deported. Tell the story about the high school kids you work with and the things they go through. Tell your story about the poverty you’ve seen, the prejudices you’ve suffered, the abortion you went through. Share your story of loss, of mistakes made, of learning to hope through adversity. There is healing in the telling, and there is also healing for the hearers. Sharing your thoughts, your fears, your hurts can do far more to reach hearts than you might imagine.

 

Second: Share Someone Else’s Story.

By “share” here I don’t mean tell someone else’s secrets, I mean “share” in the internet sense of the word. I have a few dozen readers of my blog, a relatively small group of people who could hear my story. What made the story BIG was not so much my sharing, but that readers shared the story again and again. Every “like”, every “tweet”, every link emailed across the globe passed the story further and further. I shared my story with 200 people. A week later, it had been read by thousands.

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Social media (used well) can allow us to do impactful work for for building bridges, for bringing understanding, for furthering social justice. Every click of a mouse sends a story’s ripple a little further into the pond, and allows that story to do it’s disarming, awareness-raising, compassion-building, change-bringing work.

Of course, the power of stories should not come as a surprise to us. The Great Storyteller Himself chose stories to teach, to rebuke, to illustrate, to challenge. He chose the gospels, four stories of His life, to be the means by which we see the face of the eternal and invisible God. And he chose us to tell His story, a story which, once heard, shapes people’s eternal destinies.

Share a story. Change the world.

 

You might also like this story: The pair at the door….