10 -Different- Twitter Tips for Designers
There are hundreds of blog-posts already stating the same tips for using Twitter over and over again. While these tips are mostly very useful, they only cover the basic principles. I have tried to come up with some more advanced tips for people already familiar with Twitter, which are specifically aimed at designers using Twitter as a supplemental platform for ideas, discussions and self-promotion.
1. Think about your attitude, target audience, biography
In the same way as your clothing, your way of speaking, and your general behavior influences how you are perceived in real life, your online perception is influenced by more than just your tweets.
Think about your target audience. Who are they? Are they designers, colleagues, potential clients, friends? How do you want to present yourself to them? Which jargon do you use, and is it possible that the use of certain design-specific buzzwords may scare off a part of your intended audience?
When you have a clear view of your audience and how you want to be perceived, start writing a biography. First make a bio of 500 characters. Short as this may seem, use full sentences and correct grammar. Only include the most essential information about you. What makes you different, special?
Now, cut your biography in half. That’s right, 500 characters is way too long, nobody will read it. Besides, half of what you’ve written can be left out. Get to the core without resorting to the use of abbreviations or single-word listing of your skills or interests. Emphasize your unique qualities, make sure the description can only apply to you and nobody else. You will probably end up with a very specific two- or three-sentence biography that people will actually be willing to read.
The problem is, you’re not there yet. Twitter allows only 160 characters for your bio, so you need to bring back your micro-bio to a single sentence. I know this is hard, but with the right choice of words it is possible to describe the single most interesting and unique thing about yourself or what you do in a way that still excites, communicates and connects, unlike a boring list of boring things. Because seriously, how many people in your direct environment could be described by: Designer, thinker, blogger, avid coffee-drinker, photographer, social media fanatic, freelancer. It just doesn’t stand out and won’t be remembered.
The same goes for your profile picture. Choose one that communicates exactly what you want to communicate, and use the same one for every connected social network. Make sure it is consistent with your biography. Faces are like logos in the age of social media, and you want yours to stand out and be recognized even by people that don’t know you. Like a logo, your picture communicates emotion – Is it a frontal or a profile shot? Are you smiling? Are you involved in a certain activity? What color is the background? Do you wear glasses? Sunglasses? Why?
Bottom line: Think through every detail that communicates information about you, and be consistent.
2. Follow people with ideas different from yours
This one is simple. It can be a real enlightenment to follow people that have different ideas. Everyone tends to get stuck sometimes in their own world of beliefs. I personally encountered this after months of researching electric mobility – I could not understand why people possibly would think of hydrogen cars as a good solution for the future. I knew a lot about electric cars and how they would become cheaper and more accepted and would slowly take a larger part of the market over the next decades.
However, then I started following some hydrogen-advocates and decided to just watch what they were saying, to the public and to each other. Not only this helped me realize that it was not purely a matter of black and white, but it helped me in strengthening my understanding of both sides of the matter by providing me with better insights in the exact differences and general misconceptions. I still believe in full-electric mobility over fuel-cell mobility, but my opinion is now much more substantiated and well-informed.
The key is broadening your horizon by forcing yourself to read and interpret information that may push the boundaries of your comfort zone at first, but helps you be more informed and nuanced in the end.
3. Recommend people, but not on #followfriday
For a long time, Follow Friday, or #followfriday, was a great way of introducing and recommending interesting people on Twitter to your followers. However, as Twitter keeps growing, #followfriday has collapsed under its own popularity.
With a lot of people now posting multiple tweets crammed full of names of people you should follow every Friday, it has not only become incredibly messy, but also more about recommending as much influential people as possible only in the hopes of receiving a recommendation back from them.
Not wanting to participate in this mess, I have decided to recommend people whenever I feel like it, but only if they really deserve it. Also, I will only recommend one person at a time, and I will explain the recommendation with a description of the reason why I think it is interesting to follow them. This not only makes recommendations more personal but also more effective, and I hope more people will stop using #followfriday and start giving genuine recommendations, whenever they feel like someone deserves it.
4. Tweet in English
Tweet in English. Even if you have only a single follower that does not speak your native language, tweet in English. People will feel left out if they see a lot of tweets they don’t understand, and will stop following you. Besides, Twitter is a worldwide platform, and that is one of its main strengths, so limit your use of German, Dutch or Italian to @-replies or DMs.
5. Use a custom background, but don’t rely on it
Twitter allows you to customize your background, which is great for adding a personal touch, and giving people more of an impression of what you do and what you are like. Also, backgrounds can be used to provide valuable additional information that you cannot fit elsewhere, such as email addresses or extra links to your profiles on other social network sites.
However, be aware that you do not rely solely on your background to provide this information! Only 45% of all tweets are sent using Twitter’s web interface, and the rest is done by third party applications like Tweetdeck, Echofon or Seesmic. Most third party applications do not show the custom background when viewing a profile.
6. Don’t protect your tweets – it defeats the purpose
The only case in which it is acceptable to protect your tweets is if you are tweeting for personal purposes with friends or family, and nothing else. As soon as your intention is to share knowledge, to meet interesting people you would otherwise never have met, to promote your work, to keep in touch with clients, or to engage in discussions, stop protecting your tweets! If you are afraid that some of the things you are tweeting might offend your boss or your colleagues, or if you are afraid to be caught tweeting during work-hours, reconsider if Twitter is the right service for you.
Furthermore, even while it takes the same amount of clicks (one) to request permission to view tweets of a protected profile as it takes to follow a public profile, I often don’t bother. It makes me feel voyeuristic, as if I’m trying to get access to something I’m not supposed to see, and I don’t like that feeling.
7. Spread your tweets, be aware of peak hours
While Twitter being a worldwide platform is part of the fun, it is also one of the things you must constantly keep in mind while tweeting. When you tweet from the Netherlands, like me, don’t expect your American followers to read your morning tweets. When it’s 9am for me, it’s 2am in New York.
I spread my tweeting over the day as much as possible, trying not to bomb my followers with clusters of tweets. When I have important questions or blog updates I want a lot of people to see, I wait until around 4pm, when I’m likely to catch both European and American followers.
Be aware of your time zone and your target audience’s time zone.
8. Don’t let people’s follower-count dictate how influential their ideas are
Some Twitter-users have tens of thousands of followers. Mostly these are people with some fame or internet-fame that run well-read blogs or are extremely active tweeters. While they have most likely acquired their massive follower-count by tweeting interesting things, they do not automatically have better ideas.
Too often I see people with brilliant minds being ignored because they are new to Twitter and do not have a lot of followers, and are therefore not taken seriously. Pay equal attention to anyone participating in a discussion, and don’t let their follower-count influence your judgment of their ideas. This seems simple, but is in fact a really underestimated problem.
9. Don’t be afraid of personal tweets, but balance them
Part of the fun of Twitter is that the communication is real-time and interactive. Twitter accounts are (mostly) run by real people with emotions and feelings, and communication is more informal than traditional methods like email or phone calls. This informal attitude of most Twitter users creates an atmosphere that makes communication much easier and lighter, and is therefore something that should be carefully protected.
Don’t be afraid to tweet what you had for breakfast. Just make sure you don’t tell us every time you take a bite of something else, during the day. The key is balance. Lighten up your timeline with personal tweets, but stay on topic. Keep the fun around, but don’t let it take over.
10. Engage, engage, engage – answer as much questions as you ask
This is the most important rule of all, and is essentially what Twitter is all about. Twitter is about communication. Communication is not repeating your message without listening. Communication is not listening without answering. Communication is both listening and answering in a repeating cycle. A rule of thumb: Answer as much questions as you ask, and be sure to ask a lot of questions. Discussion is what gets you in touch with like-minded people and interesting alternate-minded people, while repetitively shouting out your own message without listening or answering won’t.
If you don’t have any questions to ask, start finding questions of others to answer. Now that I’ve provided you with these 10 answers to your possible questions about using Twitter as a designer, show me that you understand by answering some of my questions in return:
What did you think of this article? Where do you disagree? What would you like to add?
I’m excited to hear your answers at @MarkVisbeek