I absolutely hated Twitter when I first started using it. It made me feel like a stranger in a strange land and I just didn’t get the appeal.

Several months of trial and error later (fine, mostly error), I now LOVE Twitter. As I mentioned the other day, it is the single best way I have found to quickly communicate, especially with major companies, experts, and celebrities. If you haven’t read my story about how I accidentally offered sex to the Director of Consumer Services at General Mills and received free Old El Paso® coupons as a result, you should do that now. It’s a perfect example of why Twitter rocks (and why my Mom used to wash my mouth out with soap.)

For me, Twitter came with a really steep learning curve… like learning a foreign language as an adult, minus the hot tutor. I hated that feeling of “How in the hell do you DO this?” I had no idea what TY and RT and DM and FF meant, among other things. I also didn’t know the difference between a hashtag and a hashpipe, (whatever THAT is.) But I was bound and determined to figure it out; and slowly but surely, I am getting there.

I’m still a Twitter newbie, relatively speaking, so please take my advice with a grain of salt. There are entire books and websites and Twitter accounts completely devoted to helping people learn this hot new medium. But I do know a thing or two about a thing or two, so stick around.

So far, the BEST resource I have found is The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein. It’s great for newbies like me, but it also has tons of info for advanced Twitter users. In fact, I would say that a majority of it was over my head, but at some point in the future, I hope to understand it as my Twitter confidence grows.

Today, I’d like to highlight just two basic and useful tips I have gleaned from this book and my last few months of Twitter immersion.

Step one if you don’t already have a Twitter account is to create one. Here’s a tip I did not know when I created mine three years ago: the shorter your Twitter user name, the better. You only have 140 characters to express yourself in Twitter and you don’t want to burn those up with a long user name. This is especially important if you want to be mentioned and retweeted, and believe me, you do.

Okay, the next thing you need to know in Twitter is how to use the @ sign. It’s how you mention other users so they know you are tweeting about them and the two of you can connect. But there’s a trick to doing it that about 95% of Twitter users don’t know! And it’s a real gem! Ready? Here it comes:

Don’t start a tweet with the @ sign.

If you do, your tweet will only show up in that user’s Twitter stream and to any users who follow you both, but that’s it. Twitter is all about public communication. So the more people who see your tweets the better.

This is tricky and most people don’t know it or get it, so let me give you an example. The other day I shamelessly Tweeted this:

@geneweingarten What kind of a sicko Mom teaches her kids how to make fake turds? ME! See my “Pootorial” >> http://goo.gl/fb/ipKFlless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Gene Weingarten’s Twitter avatar is a picture of a swirlie turd and his profile reads:

Washington Post columnist, Philosopher, Epistemologist, Enthusiast of Excreta-Related Humor

Be still my heart! So I thought to myself, surely a man with a turd for an avatar would enjoy my Pootorial, right? I specifically started that tweet with the @ symbol though because I didn’t want to pester my own 277 followers who had been bombarded for a week at that point with my shit, literally. {I would have sent Gene a DM (direct message), but he wasn’t following me at the time.}

Well guess what…he replied! SWOON!!!!

A fine family arts and crafts project: An easy, remarkably realistic fake turd. http://goo.gl/fb/ipKFl From @TheBeardedIrisless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

And the fact that his tweet didn’t start with the @ symbol means that it showed up in all 4,134 of his followers’ streams that very moment. If he had started that tweet with @TheBeardedIris then only our two mutual followers would have (possibly) seen it. That’s important because shortly after this wonderful tweet, I was contacted by a real live published author who follows Gene Weingarten’s tweets and enjoyed my Pootorial! No lie. But that, my friends, is a story for a different day.

But here’s more proof that Gene Weingarten is THE man. A few minutes later…

Okay, @TheBeardedIris can not only make fake poop, she blogs like the wind. Read about her labia: http://bit.ly/lhdfhMless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Best. Day. Ever.

Not only is Gene Weingarten generous, but he obviously knows his Twitter too. Gene prefaced the @ symbol with a word, any word. And that one word made all the difference in the potential visibility of his tweet.

This can be tricky because when you press the “reply” button in Twitter, it automatically begins your tweet with the @username to whom you are replying. No biggie, just insert your cursor before that @ and type something. Here’s a list of words/expressions I often use for this purpose:

  • SWEET!
  • Okay
  • Yes
  • STFU
  • Yay!
  • Nuh-uh
  • Shit
  • Seriously?
  • No way
  • Thanks! (or Thx or TY)
  • LOVE IT
  • Oh hells yeah
  • Geez!

And for my two UK readers, please add:

  • Shite
  • Bollocks

Enough. Nutshell: size matters in Twitter and don’t start your Tweets with the @ sign. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me because my tweets are a lot like my love making: loud, sloppy, and selfish. No, I did not just say that. Yes I did. And it’s true. Follow me and see for yourself.

sincerely and now with extra #hashtags,

-Iris

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.