Twitter Tips and Tricks

By Brionne Griffin, PBS Interactive Intern

There comes a time in the life of every Twitter account when the user must ask themselves the hard questions. Are my tweets staying true to my original purpose? Am I using the best language and tone for Twitter? How can I better engage my followers and grow my network? While nobody knows the absolute best answers to these questions, the important thing is that you’re asking. To keep your account in pristine condition, perform a simple audit every few months to see what’s working, what isn’t and what could be better. Here are a few questions and tips to get you started:

1. How do I write tweets people want to read?

twitter illustration by brionne griffinIt’s about quality not quantity. Science has entered the Twitterverse, folks. Scientists at UCLA and Hewlett-Packard teamed up to dissect the elements of a tweet and predict popularity based on four distinct components: the source of the article, the category, subjectivity in the language and the named entities mentioned. They found that people respond most to straightforward tweets from a reliable news organization (much like PBS and #localPBS stations) about something new and unique another respectable company is doing. People want the facts in a pithy 140-character blurb. So keep your comments about the company picnic on your personal twitter, and use your station account to cultivate interesting knowledge and engage users.

2. Should I use hashtags and trending topics?
tagdef illustration by brionne griffinThe hash sign is no longer restricted to the confines of the telephone. When used in Twitter’s microblogging sphere, the sign denotes specific keywords or topics in a Tweet. The hashtag trend erupted into a worldwide phenomenon and now there are specific hashtags for each day of the week:
When the alarm goes off Monday morning, you can leap out of bed, knowing that it’s #musicmonday and you can tell people about great music (or an ACL show). Tuesday offers up #tumblrtuesday, so all of you with a station Tumblr account can remind your followers how great it is. On Wednesday, er I mean, #wonderwednesday, you can ask your audience professional questions, like “What is one thing PBS could do to serve you better?” or fun questions, like “Would you rather be an extra on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood or Downton Abbey?” Try to reply or retweet any answers you receive because it will encourage followers to continue interacting with you. On Thursday, you have the option of #throwbackthursday to tweet about something from the days of yore (like an old PBS show you once loved dearly), or #thankfulthursday to just give thanks for something wonderful.
So what makes the “#” so powerful? If used well, hashtags can be a great way to expand the reach of your tweet. When your tweet includes a related and popular hashtag, anyone who searches that hashtag will see your tweet in a live feed. To find out what is trending at the moment, or to look up the meaning of an ambiguous hashtag, click on over to

3. What’s a good way to shorten my tweets?
thsrs by brionne griffin
So you’ve crafted a tweet and the tone is flawless, the wording is sublime and your message comes across exactly how you want. Then your eyes make their way down the page to find angry red text blaring ‘-5 characters’?! Well never fear, you no longer have to fight the character limit war alone with Thsrs, the newest addition to your Twitter toolbelt. This simple online service (also available as a Firefox plug-in), takes whatever long word you enter in and spits back a list of shorter synonyms.  And viola, you never have to abbrev8 again!

4. What are some new topics to tweet about?
You tweeted links to your latest blog posts, updates about your latest and greatest television programs, then sent a few tweets about a local event, but now what? You can always look to these staple subjects if you’re stumped for fresh new tweet ideas:

    - Website Updates & Changes
    - Staff News & Additions
    - Answer messages, respond to mentions, thank others for any promotion of your
       business or Twitter account.
    - Tweet behind-the-scenes photos that give your followers exclusive info they couldn’t
       get anywhere else.

5. Twitterature? Is this for real?
Most everyone in the media industry will agree there is so much untapped potential in social media. But what does that look like in practical, quantifiable terms? Well in the spirit of always looking for what’s new, what’s popular and what’s next in the digital media world, PBS Digital Studios created a video entitled, Is Twitter the Newest Form of Literature? The video throws a few creative, thought-provoking arguments on the table and will definitely spark your imagination. Maybe even inspire you to create the next big thing in social media.
Give these tips a try and let us know how it goes. Is there anything innovative your station is doing to better cultivate a community around your Twitter account(s)?

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