One of the questions I get asked from time to time is: What is Twitter? Sadly, I can never explain it. I used to say, "it's nothing but status updates, except 140 characters or less." That confused people who were used to Facebook's former version of a status update: Kelen is waiting in line for his ticket to Spider-Man 3! "So you literally post exactly what you're doing every time you update?" That would lead to discussions about @ replying and retweets and then I would completely lose whoever I was talking to. It's gotten so bad that if anyone asks me, I reply, "Twitter is stupid." This is followed by burying my face in my phone as I rattle off 5 tweets. Ignorance is bliss I suppose.
Something I don't feel asked enough is: how do I use Twitter? I'm glad you asked! While I've been tweeting since 2008 and have amassed only 845 followers and 41,917 tweets (as of this writing), I consider myself one of the best Twitter users EVER. Far be it from me to not share my Twitter knowledge with those who want to follow in my famous (tweet)steps. Hopefully this basic blueprint will help you become a Twitter legend in your own right, and maybe (and that's a big maybe), a better tweeter than I am.
Rule #1: DO NOT TWEET EVERYTHING
I know Twitter used to have a simple question: what are you doing right now? And I don't know how many times I've seen accounts where a user will list what they're doing every moment of the day. Just took a bath. Eating Popeye's. Rolling a blunt. Just murdered my friend. Taking a shit. No, no, no, no! Not only are some of those tweets boring, they're also too revealing! No one needs to know you're taking a shit. Ever.The most common is the default getting wasted/drunk/fucked up. That's great. No one cares. That's why your mom is your only follower.
The key is to be is as real as possible while be interesting. Impossible you say? Hogwash! As I type this, I'm trying to clean my bedroom for the first time since I moved into it. Do you care? No. If I say: Finally can see my bed! #ItsAProcess. That's a decent tweet. It reveals that my bed was covered in something that I had to get out of the way. The hashtag (# followed by a run-on sentence; #LikeThis) tells that I'm in the process of doing something tedious and slow but not exactly what it is. Like I said, it's not my best tweet but it's better than the average tweet.
Rule #2: Tweet about what you know
A lot of people have said to me that they don't know what to tweet about. That's the beauty of it; unless your username is BalletTweets, you can tweet about anything you want. Sports, the weather, your feelings, why you prefer Tide over Arm & Hammer, it doesn't matter. If you think it, tweet it.
This is not a pass to be a douchebag. While you might feel a little bit more bold since this is the internet, remember to toe the line. Just because you think Truck Bryant isn't a good basketball player doesn't mean you can tweet him horrible insults about his mother. Don't blame me when you get stuck in your mouth.
Instead, voice your opinions. Tell the world why you think McDonald's sweet & sour sauce is amazing. Curse your phone to high heaven for not charging. Celebrate an accomplishment.
More than likely, someone will celebrate with you.
Rule #3: Research who you're following
It's super easy to follow 100 celebrities and friends as soon as you get your Twitter account. In fact, it's encouraged due to Twitter's Who To Follow section. In no time, your timeline (where all the tweets you follow appear) will be filled with all kinds of goodness.
Don't believe the hype.
A lot of celeb accounts are rarely used (@Eminem, @S_C_), some are filled with retweets (when one person tweets, Twitter gives you the option to repost the same tweet, or retweet) about themselves, and some accounts aren't even run by the celebrity in question. You'll be reading news headlines most of the time.
And following your friends is risky as well. Do you really need to see all those pictures of your friend's cat (we get enough on Facebook)? Do they have to retweet every single tweet by an account they really like (I'm guilty of this but I have a variety of things I retweet, not just one person)? And my favorite? Mentioning (an @ is a mention on Twitter. It's followed immediately by a username so that the user knows someone is talking to them. Or about them.) their significant other in every tweet. @mysexyman and I are eating lunch! @mysexyman and I just bought a new dishwasher! I love @mysexyman's family! Can't wait to be @mrssexyman! Maybe I'm a Twitter snob and I understand you want to share your love with your followers but that falls into Rule #1.
My best advice is to research. Go through a user's recent tweets. Do they retweet often? Are they replying to or mentioning the same user all the time? Are their tweets interesting? Do they post pictures? And most importantly, is this someone you'll be okay with possibly being followed by?
If they pass all those criterias, hit the follow button. If you change your mind later, unfollow. There's a 2% chance they'll get angry at you for doing so. They probably won't even notice other than their follower count going down, and really, who has time to figure out exactly who unfollowed you?
Same goes for the celebrities. Pick and choose who you like and who you don't, Your timeline will thank you for it.
And one more tip: you may want to go easy on the follow button. There's nothing like following 500 people and never seeing half of those tweets. A consistent timeline promises that you'll never get bored waiting for tweets but a monitored timeline promises that you'll see everything you want to see without having to go back and dig later.
Rule #4: TwitPic it so that I know it's real
As great as your perfectly worded tweets can be, sometimes I want to see the pictures. You know how Facebook is filled with all kinds of pictures besides actual photos that people spend hours commenting about? They got that from Twitter and Tumblr (enter at your own risk). TwitPic (one of the original photo upload sites to be linked to Twitter) was filled with photos, pictures, and drawings of all kinds. You could access these with a small link that was added to the end of your tweet so that you could actually bear witness to what the tweet was about. Thus my phrase "TwitPic it so that I know it's real". While I know photo manipulation is real, I also have to believe that the chick you're tweeting about is a dime if a picture is included. Pictures add a lot of weight to your 140 characters. And they're fun to look at.
Rule #5: If you're gonna retweet and post links, make sure they mean something to you
One of my biggest real life heroes is Elliott Wilson. Not only did he help found Ego Trip, he edited major hip-hop magazines The Source and XXL, and is now the EiC on RESPECT. magazine. When I discovered he was on Twitter a few years back, I followed just out of admiration. I had no idea that he would launch Rap Radar, one of the leading hip-hop blogs on the internet. And what no one expected was how he would turn his timeline into Twitter hip-hop CNN. He retweets everything going on in the rap world and rarely misses a thing. All those rappers and R&B singers who I warned you about before? Just follow @ElliottWilson, he's probably already retweeted what they ate for lunch. It was a bold move that worked and now "YN" just passed 80,000 followers.
With that in mind, not everyone is gonna give a shit about what you retweet or about the amazing Avengers review you just read. You're going to lose followers because of it. But it's your timeline and you can put whatever you want on it. If those retweets and links mean something to you, you'll be fine. You'll start drawing the kinds of followers who care as well.
Rule #6: Easy on the hashtags
We know that #thoughtsAfterTheCondomPopped is trending (when a hashtag or a phrase is being tweeted at a rapid pace at the same time, it's called trending. You can trend in your area, country, or even worldwide) and you want to take part. Feel free. You might even want to make a habit of using the hashtag #MySistersFartsStink. Again, that's on you. But don't do this: Crazy day! #hot #sweaty #mindblown #needicecream #teamswimmingpool #whereswinter. Not only does your tweet look like a teenager wrote it (and it's not cool for them either), you're wasting my time since I had to read all that crap. But as @JoeBudden says, "The unfollow button is right there." When your followers start dwindling, don't say I didn't warn you.
Rule #7: The Favorites button is fun
I like the Favorites button. It's just like a bookmark for you favorite tweets and it's always fun to see what you've kept in the course of your tweeting. No necessary at all but I dig it, so I passed it along.
Rule #8: How to get followers
I don't know. Sorry for the letdown, especially if you read this far for this reason. Aside from buying a program that will add followers for you, it's in the luck of the draw. If you follow my rules, you'll be off to a good start. Or maybe you have your own Twitter plan that works better for you. Either way, there's no answer that I know of. I lot of people follow back after you follow them, so there's always that. But ultimately, what draws them to your account is known only to those who press follow.
As I write this, @OfficiallyCHRIS just got replied to by @JynxMazeCutie. Look it up, I've explained enough (NSFW – Not Safe For Work – though). I did just have a tweet favorited by @ThatKevinSmith the other day though, so there's something kind of comparable to that.
But really, this Twitter thing isn't for everybody. I just tried to give you a little style for you to run with. Follow my rules, don't, it doesn't matter. As long as you're experimenting and figuring out what works for you, that's all I ask. Especially since I'm writing this of my own free will (although a Twitter check would be nice). But hopefully, this answers all your questions about how to use Twitter. If you have questions about what it is though, I'll be the one mumbling about how stupid it is as I retweet @DRUNKHULK.