Twenty Twitter Tips image

Twenty Twitter Tips

I’ve now been on Twitter for exactly two years. I didn’t know how to use it at the start, as anyone who read my feed for the first few days will be aware, and it took me a while to get my head round the jargon, the functions, and the etiquette. But I absolutely love Twitter now, and have found it an enormously useful tool, both as a follower (it is much the best aggregator of news and information I know of, and people can be both hugely helpful and hugely funny), and as a followee (I’ve used it to make friendships, get feedback, answer questions, ask questions, commend other writers, promote books, arrange travel, and even launch conferences). Used wisely, I’d recommend it to anyone. Here are twenty suggestions for those who may be starting out, or perhaps reviewing the way they use it.

1. If you make Twitter about increasing your influence as widely as possible, you’ll find it frustrating. If you make it about using your influence as wisely as possible, you’ll find it rewarding.

2. Turning off notifications is a great way of fighting the temptation to be distracted all the time.

3. Decide at the outset what you want to use Twitter for. Personally, I try to use it for (a) finding resources that make me happy in God, (b) distributing resources that make others happy in God, and (c) keeping up with the news. If you know what you’re using it for, you’ll be able to use it in an intentional way.

4. If you use more than one hashtag in a tweet, it makes you look like a teenage girl. #awkward #annoying #unnecessary #INeverDoItAndThisIsWhy #NothingWrongWithTeenageGirlsThough #JustSayin

5. Arguments on Twitter are not what they seem. When A and B are debating, it looks like A is trying to convince B, and B is trying to convince A. But actually, A and B are both trying to convince C, D, E, F etc, who are watching. That’s why things get hyperbolic and histrionic so quickly.

6. Twitter abbreviations are not always obvious. RT stands for “Retweet”, MT stands for “Modified tweet” (this is someone else’s, but you’ve changed it slightly), and HT stands for “Hat tip” (you’re giving credit to someone else for pointing this out). And while we’re on the subject, Retweets are endorsements.

7. If you have the egg as your profile photo, everything you tweet doesn’t count. (HT @barnabaspiper)

8. Don’t feed the trolls.

9. Some people retweet praise for their books/articles/songs/etc. Personally I think that’s not a great habit (Prov 27:2), but I don’t get angry about it.

10. Some people retweet criticisms or insults, in order to mobilise their followers to yell at the critic. Personally I think this is a terrible habit (Prov 17:9), and I do get angry about it.

11. Using parallel structures in consecutive tweets, like I just did, can be rhetorically fun, but it can also get irritating quickly.

12. No matter how many tweets you send, someone will always be wrong on the internet. (It might even be you.)

13. Nobody can actually read all the tweets of 5,000+ people. So if someone “follows” that many, it means they either skimread hundreds of them, or (more cunningly) they use software that distinguishes between the people they’re following as a courtesy, and the people they’re following because they want to read what they’ve said. That one bamboozled me for a while.

14. Twitter followers are like Monopoly money. They’re great, as long as you remember they’re virtual and not real.

15. Some people, mysteriously, instead of pressing the retweet button, copy your tweet and write “RT @AJWTheology” at the beginning. If you ever find out why, let me know.

16. If you’re arguing with someone, and you have the option, take it offline or privately as quickly as possible. It’s amazing how much more peaceful things become when nobody is watching.

17. The number of followers someone has probably reflects how famous they are, not how useful what they’re saying is. @katyperry @justinbieber

18. Blowing your own trumpet on your profile is an easy way to both cultivate pride, and look like a numpty. Effective shortcuts to buffoonery include ranking yourself (“the UK’s #3 theology specialist”), quoting praise (“the best pastor ever” – Newsweek), and calling yourself a “Pioneer”, “Innovator” or “Thought Leader”. Personally, I’d avoid talking about yourself in the third person, too, but that may just be me; I think it makes you sound like Felipe from The Apprentice.

19. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the thumbs tweet.” (@RevKevDeYoung) In other words, if you keep saying things online that come across as snarky or aggressive, it’s because there’s something in your heart that needs to change, not just because you’ve tweeted unwisely (though that too, probably).

20. Take Twitter breaks sometimes. I do Lent; some have tech-free days of the week; some take Christmas or summer holidays. Do whatever works for you.

Twitter can be an enormous amount of fun, and like many inventions, it can be used to preach the gospel, make disciples, and honour God. Receive it as a gift, and use it as worship, and you’ve got nothing to worry about (1 Tim 4:4-5). And if you’re still not sure about all the etiquette, try watching this:

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