Realizing my last round of Twitter research left my Twitter followers wondering what was wrong with me, I thought it would be a good time to perform research that they actually valued. It wasn't easy. My desire to add more followers, at all costs, consumes me.
But this time, I think I succeeded. Instead of trying to find ways to add more followers through dodgy practices, I've researched ways to add more value to Twitter and become a better tweeter.
The Sweet Retweet
Although it's a relatively new practice, retweeting is an outstanding way to improve your standing on Twitter.
Has one of your followers updated their Twitter stream with an interesting article they found somewhere on the Web? If so, don't just read the story and go about your day, retweet it! I've found that when I do so, most of my followers will do the same and in the process, some add my username to their own update, exposing me to their entire list of followers.
Not all articles are created equal, though, so you need to make sure that the message you're retweeting is something your followers actually care about. I learned the hard way: it turns out my followers really don't care about horseback riding in Moscow.
To retweet, the accepted practice is to copy the original text into your own Twitter post and prefix it with "RT" or "Retweet" and the originator's name. For example: "RT @donreisinger: I resubscribed to the NY Post last week. Delivery was supposed to begin on Jan. 31. I have YET to receive a paper."
Sorry, but no one cares about your dinner
There's a common complaint, made especially by those who don't like Twitter, that too many people use the service to tell the world about things no one cares about. Usually, I think that's ridiculous. But sometimes, I find a few updates like that and realize that maybe those folks aren't so far off.
Look, it's nothing personal and believe it or not, I really care what you say, but I couldn't care less about what you had for dinner last night or how delicious your chicken salad sandwich is. I'd much rather see it filled with retweets and other interesting tidbits of information that the vast majority of users actually care about.
You're probably wondering how I know that it doesn't make you a better Tweeter. Unfortunately, I learned my lesson not long ago. The hard way.
Reply. A lot.
I like to talk. I'll even admit that I like to hear myself talk. As a Twitter user, that's sort of a problem.
Believe it or not, followers actually want to believe that you're listening to them. I know, I know, it's not all that easy and sometimes it's hard not to laugh at the dumb tweets, but you need to exercise restraint and realize that Twitter is a community where people want to have a conversation.
I had some trouble with that. And if you look at my recent updates, it seems I still do. But I'm getting better. I now realize that people on Twitter don't want to just hear what others have to say, they want to be heard. And the best way to satisfy that desire is to reply to their interesting tweets.
Find interesting stuff and post
You know when I told you that you should retweet interesting updates you see in your stream? That's lazy. You really need to be a proactive user. Go out and find neat articles and post them in your Twitter stream for others to enjoy. Maybe they'll retweet your update and you will be exposed to a slew of new people who want to know all about you.
I did it on a few occasions and it worked beautifully. It turns out many of my followers really enjoy tech talk and discussions on sports. Whenever I find a good article on those topics, I post it on Twitter and more often than not, my followers retweet my update.
It's OK to say nothing
Just because there's a big box beneath a "What are you doing?" message in Twitter, it doesn't mean that you need to say anything.
I'm not quite sure why we all get the urge to update as often as possible, but we need to realize that updates from scripts are a waste of everyone's time.
Look, I'm really happy to hear about your life and what's going on, but I don't need to be inundated with items you're adding to Google Reader or songs currently playing on your computer. Maybe someone cares, but when I see my stream being overrun with automatic updates, it annoys me. Don't do it. Please.
Have something interesting to say on a topic that's hot on Twitter right now? Make sure you use hashtags -- keywords preceded by the hash sign, "#". Over the past few months, hashtags have become a great way for other users to find content quickly.
Hashtags basically create groupings on Twitter that combine content of the same topic. It sounds simple, but whenever you have something really interesting to say about a topic that's hot on Twitter or Twitter Search, it doesn't hurt to place a hashtag after your tweet. It helps others find your update that aren't following you and exposes you to new people who might like what you have to say.
It's more than text
Have you ever taken pictures and uploaded them to a service like Twitpic so you could post it in your Twitter stream? If you haven't, your followers are missing out.
Sending pictures is a great way to add more value to Twitter and make you a better Tweeter. Let's face it: who really wants to look at text all day? Your followers might actually like pictures better than your regular updates.
That's why I've uploaded pictures from my wedding. It turns out my followers would rather see pictures of my wife than hear what I have to say.
And now, you're a better Tweeter. You don't have to thank me. Just follow me. Why not? You know what you're getting: a user that retweets your interesting articles, won't talk about his dinner, listens to you, finds interesting stuff for you, doesn't spam you, uses hashtags, and uploads pictures.