I’ve been teaching a few courses lately on using Twitter, and the students always want to know what they should do. What’s the rule for tweeting links? How do I get more followers? When should I tweet?
I can give them guidelines, best practices and advice, but what I can’t give them when they ask these questions is a solid answer. And, while I might not know everything there is to know about Twitter, I know a lot. No, the reason I can’t tell them a hard-and-fast answer is not because I don’t know it: it’s because there are no hard-and-fast answers. The answers are up to you.
The (many-faceted) state of Twitter
There are about a thousand and one different ways that people use Twitter, from customer support to gathering news to just venting about the products they hate, and a thousand and one best practices for each type of Twitter user.
So when it comes to questions like “when should I tweet”, the answer only comes after a long hard look at your past tweeting habits, your current and target audience, your goals and your resources.
When should you tweet? Well, how often are you tweeting now? Once a day? More? Less? And how often are you willing to tweet? Ten times a day? More? Less? What timezone is your audience in? What demographic? Are your current followers actually the ones you want to target? Are you looking for retweets or clicks?
Try answering all of those questions, and then you’ll have a better (but nowhere near perfect) idea of when you should tweet.
Twitter experts don’t always know best
If an expert is telling you that they have all the answers to your tweeting questions, I’d think twice about labeling them an expert. That is, unless they’ve taken the time to get to know you, your brand, and your current Twitter usage patterns and goals.
Most psudo-experts, on the other hand, will try to sell you a snake oil product that “works miracles” on your Twitter account: “Get 2,000 followers in one day!” or “The best type of tweet is…”.
Of course, these are hollow claims, unless they are backed by a studied approach and detailed knowledge of you and your brand. There is no legitimate one-best way to get followers on Twitter. You can check out popular Twitter lists in your niche, third-party directories, use Twitter’s search or “Who to Follow” recommendations, use word-of-mouth, participate in a Twitter chat, network at conferences, scour quality comments on blogs you read, etc. Infinite.
Try and try again
This is not to say there aren’t absolute wrong ways of doing things. But doing something right is a little trickier, as “the right way of tweeting” should really be called “the right way of tweeting… for you”.
Don’t be afraid to experiment when it comes to Twitter. If I suggest that your follower-to-following ratio should not be above 1 but you feel like following more people than the number that is following you, go for it. There is very little (aside from outrageous or offensive tweets) that cannot be undone on Twitter.
Trust your instincts before the experts, because only you know exactly what you want to get out of Twitter.