Twitter can be an extreme waste of time.
Hours can slip by as you join in the conversation, re-tweet, and follow links. Soon you realize that the only writing you’ve done all day took place within 140 characters. This is bad news bears. Social media sites are meant to bolster your career, not sweep it away in a current and drown it in the middle of the ocean.
So here’s my advice on how to keep Twitter from sucking away all your time.
Set a Social Media Time Limit
Social media can be really fun, so if you’re spending time on Facebook or Twitter during your free time, that’s fine. Use it all you want. (Unless you’re spending more time with your “followers” than with your spouse. In that case, shut the computer down and walk away. Your marriage is more important than your career.)
During the work day, know your limits. I’ve set myself a 30 minute time limit that I break down into 5 minute blocks throughout the day. For me, anything more than that would be counter-productive.
Learn to Use Tools
I don’t use anything to schedule my posts for Facebook because Facebook is now penalizing you for using outside sources to make your posts, and I think the whole point of Facebook is to have a conversation, which you can’t do if you’re not there.
I do use Twitter tools to schedule my regular blog post tweets. Doing them all at once saves an incredible amount of time and lets me concentrate on my actual work. Then, when I take a break, I can check in to see if anyone has mentioned me, and I can scan recent tweets to see if there’s anything I want to re-tweet or respond to.
If I see more than one item I want to respond to, I schedule my responses so I’m not spamming. On one level this might seem like it’s less personal, but I don’t think so. I’m still present, reading, and reacting. And it’s a better option than missing out on great interactions or flooding my followers’ lists. As a general rule, try to schedule re-tweets and respond to “conversations” right away (since those go stale fast on Twitter).
- You can create columns. I have one for followers, one for publishing houses/magazines/non-followers, and one that tracks any tweets where I’ve been mentioned (which makes replying super easy). Some days I’ll also open a column for an interesting Twitter game (joining in is a way to make new friends and have some fun) or for a hashtag.
- TweetDeck will alert you to new tweets by temporarily opening a box in the corner of your screen. You can specify which columns should generate this alert, and whether you want it to “chirp.”
- You can easily see scheduled tweets so that you don’t over tweet.
- You can add other accounts (like Facebook and LinkedIn).
- TweetDeck automatically shortens long URLs for you using bit.ly. The cool thing about bit.ly is that if you add a + to the end of the URL, you’ll get a report of clicks (letting you see what links are drawing the most traffic).
Don’t Try To Re-Invent the Wheel
Twitter is fairly user friendly, but if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t waste time fumbling around. Ask someone with more experience, or check out some sites that give you easy-to-follow start-up guides. For example, Twitter 101 – 8 Tips to Get You Started On Twitter
If you prefer to watch a video, here are the top 7 Twitter tutorials on YouTube.
You could spend hours trying to find people with similar interests to follow. Or you could put a hashtag into the search field (or assign it a column in TweetDeck) and instantly see who’s already talking about subjects that interest you.
I recommend checking out #pubtip, which was started by literary agent Rachelle Gardner to give industry tips, as well as #amwriting and #writetip.
My favorite hashtag, however, is #MyWANA. This is a community of writers on Twitter who support and encourage each other. Author and speaker Kristen Lamb started #MyWANA with her post Join In The Love Revolution, naming the community after her book We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. (Note: If you’re looking for a place to shamelessly self-promote, this isn’t it. #MyWANA is about helping others.)
Since hashtags can be a little confusing, you can find out more on the Twitter help page or in Tech for Luddites post on The Twitter Hashtag: What Is It and How Do You Use It?
That wraps up my Twitter survival guide. Now it’s up to you. I hope to see you on Twitter.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about Twitter?