Twitter takes some getting used to, but once you’ve trained yourself to stick within the 140-character limit and you understand an @mention and a retweet, you can navigate it pretty well. However, in order to get the most out of Twitter, you’ve got to go beyond your comfort zone a bit and experiment with some of the advanced – but essential – features the pros use. Here are three that you should know… but might not.
Lists are basically Twitter’s way of creating groups of similar people for you to follow. If you create a list, you can add anyone you like to it – but it’s best to include accounts that have something in common, like being social media experts, cat lovers, or fashionistas, for example. We’ve created a Mediabistro blog network Twitter list, which basically means you get the day’s TV, local, social and other media news in real-time from our entire network on Twitter, without having to follow each blog one-by-one (but go ahead and do that too!).
I’ve written before about changes that could make lists Twitter’s most powerful feature, and although they’re often seen as a second-class citizen compared to the traditional follow, there’s potential for lists to become even more important than following someone.
Think of it like this: if you follow a list, the tweets from the individuals on that list don’t appear in your home timeline (unless you also follow the individuals separately). Instead, they appear, grouped together, in a timeline of their own on the list’s home page. This means you can follow the conversation happening between 25 social media experts without being bothered by non-relevant tweets stuffed in between, like you would see on your home timeline. And if you use a Twitter dashboard like HootSuite, you can monitor each list in a discrete column.
Lists are a great advanced Twitter feature for you to start using. They streamline your Twitter experience, and they’re a bit of a point of pride if you find yourself listed on someone’s “great content” or “must follow” list yourself.
“Old” Style Retweets
Whether you are a Twitter veteran who remembers the old style retweets, or you’ve never heard of them, you will want to understand what they are and how you can use them right away.
As it stands, Twitter’s internal retweet feature is pretty bare-bones. You see a tweet you like, click “retweet” underneath it, and a popup will appear asking if you want to retweet it to your followers. You can’t edit the tweet, and it shows up in your timeline and those of your followers as a tweet from the original author with a “retweeted by @yourname” beside it and a green little triangular arrow in the left-hand corner. It was supposed to be an elegant way to present a retweet, but I (and many others) think the old way was better.
What was the old way of retweeting? The tweet you wanted to share with your followers was basically copied and pasted into your “compose” window, along with a “RT @originaltweeter:” at the beginning. This allowed users to add a small comment to the beginning or end of the tweet. Of course, it also allowed people to unfairly edit tweets, but that didn’t happen as much as you’d expect.
I love the old way of retweeting, because it lets you give your two cents as well as share a link or tweet you found interesting with your followers. If you want to know more about how to do some old-school retweeting yourself, I’ve written a guide to making the switch on HootSuite.
Scheduling tweets is not a built-in feature of Twitter, but it is something that most third-party Twitter dashboards let you do, and it’s an essential part of a robust social media presence.
You can’t be tweeting 24/7, but neither can you tweet once per day and hope to make a big impact. In order to balance the need to tweet often with the need to eat and sleep, you’ll want to pre-write some tweets and schedule them to go live throughout the day.
Scheduling tweets allows you to have content tweeting from your account while you’re out enjoying the sunny patio of the local coffee shop. If you’re not doing it, start. If you used to do it, get back on the wagon. Trust me – creating a tweet schedule will not only keep your account active, but it will reduce the overall time you need to spend on Twitter.
Here’s an article I wrote a while back about how to create a tweet schedule. It’s immensely useful for anyone who hasn’t created one yet, and it’s a great refresher if you’re planning on restarting.