Four years ago, after a brief affair with Facebook, a friend of mine talked me into creating an account on Twitter.
Being the dutiful conformist that I am, I joined him and the ever-growing army of Twits. Over the next several years I spent countless hours reading thousands of jokes and observations while opening hundreds of links to newspaper articles, online essays, music videos and humorous images of cats. Here are some of my hard-earned observations as a Twitter user:
1. Don’t be afraid to follow anyone & anything (at first)
Social networkers have all heard the saying by now: Facebook is about people you went to school with, Twitter is about people you wish you’d gone to school with.
From profound (like Alain de Botton) to the absurd (like Drunk Hulk) Twitter is a place where you can befriend practically anyone. I can attest to that as someone who used to follow both The Terminator and Jesus Christ.
2. Don’t be the last to hear
When Americans captured Osama Bin Laden in 2011, it was Twitter user Sohaib Athar who first reported hearing helicopters and explosions in his town of Abbottabad. During last year’s London Olympics you could follow the Opening Ceremonies without looking at TV – just by reading other people’s tweets about it. When it comes to newsworthy events, Twitter is the first place to hear about them.
3. Trim the fat
Twitter is an interesting place but it can quickly get overwhelming. There are only so many tweets a person can read on a given day without getting nightmares about endless stream of sarcastic messages about pop culture or events in the office. It’s therefore important to carefully pick whom to follow and mercilessly prune anyone who fails to be interesting or amusing enough. Also, Twitter lists can be your best friend, helping you sort out people you follow in easy-to-use categories.
4. Keep it short and sweet
Arguing on Internet is useless. Arguing on Twitter is absurd. Being limited to only 140 characters per message means you don’t really have space for good old-fashioned rant. Best-case scenario: you write your rant over the series of tweets and people start to unfollow you because you bore them. Same thing goes for any kind of longer discussion, really. It’s much simpler to write funny, caustic or insightful tweets and keep everything else for your blog. You can always advertise it on Twitter and if you’re good enough, people will read it.
5. Don’t be stingy with the stars
Favorites and retweets are the currency of Twitter. Don’t be afraid to favorite (hot the ‘star’ button) and retweet the people you enjoy reading. “Follow Friday” (#FF) is a long-standing tradition of recommending interesting people on Twitter to your followers.
Sometimes it’ seems as if half the population of Twitter is simply reposting interesting tweets sent by the other half. While this may be true, it’s all part of Twitter’s charm and a great way to build a sense of community among users. If you haven’t already, give it a try.
Danijel Štriga (@Glupinickname) is a sleeper agent from behind the Iron Curtain. When he’s not watching TV or playing computer games, he enjoys discussing movies and playing P&P RPGs.