10 Ways To Be Useful on Twitter

by Ryan Miller – Follow him @ryancmiller

failwhaleWith Twitter being the big buzz word all over the MSM, blogs and just about everywhere you look, it seems like everyone is jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.  And that’s not a bad thing at all.  But most people don’t know how to ‘use’ it or don’t understand how it can be a great tool meet new people, manage lots of conversations, track buzz, and help your business.  While there’s no one RIGHT WAY to use Twitter, the ‘What Are You Doing’ moniker is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here’s 10 ways to Be Useful on Twitter:

1. BE NICE – Its a big big world out there with so many cool people talking about every topic imaginable.  If you like what someone is saying, Follow them.  Just dug a good article they wrote on their blog?  Leave a comment, or tell others about their post. Its just good manners.  Likewise, if they Re-Tweet one of your messages or link up your blog post, give a shout out or just say thanks.  It goes a long way.

2. The Art of the Retweet – Retweeting is really effective way to spread good information quickly.  Really quickly.  I’m a re-tweet-aholic.  There’s so many great links I see from people I’m following that in many cases, the people that follow me would also dig.  So you Retweet.  It keeps the links flowing and helps good ideas get exposed to tons of people.

3.  Bring It – Face it, we’re ALL super passionate about something, or an expert in some particular field.  Maybe you know more than anyone else about vintage He-Man toys, are a beer enthusiast, or a travel guru. Maybe you are good at connecting people.  Search.Twitter.com is your friend and mark my words, it’ll be one of the most valuable pages on the web very very soon.  Plug in your search terms and ‘boom goes the dynamite.‘ You’ve got a real time stream of conversations happening on that topic.  Engage.  Help people.  Share your knowledge.  Then Repeat.

4.  Be You - You’ve only got 140 characters to get your point across.  That’s what makes Twitter a killer-app.  You have to be brief.  Get to the damn point.  But at the same time, BE YOU.  Tweet like you speak. Talk about things that matter to YOU.  Your best asset is authenticity.

5. Don’t Spam – I’m sure you’ll be tempted to talk about all the great things your business can offer, or send a million notices of your upcoming event.  But here’s the thing.  No One Cares About Your Business (see Krista’s article for more info).  Be authentic, show you’re knowledgeable, and put a link to your biz in your description on your profile. If you’ve got the chops and show it, when people are looking for the type of service you offer, you’ll be top of mind. Its all about the soft sell.

6. Have a Tool Box - Use apps like TweetDeck or Twirl or Tweetie to keep an eye on your conversations and groups of followers. Once things start growing they grow quick, so its important to build systems that will allow you to interact, track, and manage your Tweeps.

7. Integrate - Make sure your updates are posted in real time cross platform.  Have them injected on your blog, make them automatically appear on your Facebook profile, and post your @handle at the end of comments you post.  All this will help people engage with you regardless of where they found your content.

8.  Hashtags are your friends – If you’re tweeting about an event or topic that’s trending, give it a #hashtag.  It will help when searching for certain topics.  #FollowFriday is a great weekly tag where you can suggest people others should follow.

9. Keep Your Profile Current - Make sure you have links and a good description of yourself in your profile.  Potential followers and friends use this to get a sense of who you are, what you do, and use it as a way to find additional content you might be putting out.

10. Be Useful – Don’t overdo it.  Don’t be That Guy.  And don’t tell us incessantly about stuff we don’t care about.  It doesn’t matter to me that every day you tweet out that you just picked up your kids from work, or are cooking dinner, or just woke up, or that you’re going to the bathroom.  So stop it. Now. Everyone has something to bring to the table that’s engaging, fun, and can help the conversation.  So Be Useful, and get to it.


  • April 28, 2009

    Nice article. Yes, I think in those days it’s absolute necessary that you’re tweeting as a REAL person and not business/spammy like!

  • April 28, 2009

    This is the most informational post I’ve read about conducting yourself on Twitter, so thanks for that. Nothing will make me unfollow faster than NOT adhering to these rules, most especially #5 (Don’t Spam). Well said.

  • April 28, 2009

    Good tips to keep in mind all the time. Twitter is definitely getting more mainstream recognition, particularly given all the celebrities and media that are catching-on. Keep it relevant, and keep your audience in mind.

  • April 28, 2009

    @Peter van Veen We Tweet as a business, but our Community realizes we use Twitter as a means of communication and conversation with them. We post relevant information they want to hear, and do it without being “spammy.”

    Our Community will definitely let us know if we’re being “spammy.”

  • April 28, 2009

    #4, Be yourself, has done more to help me both pull the most from Twitter and also enjoy it. Thanks for such a useful post.

  • April 28, 2009

    thank you for the great write up… made me conscious and more forthcoming using the killer app

  • April 28, 2009
    Robyn Durst

    Thanks for the great article Ryan. It’s good, simple advice that I will take into account when trying to grow my presence on Twitter.

  • April 28, 2009

    Great article, Ryan–concise and useful. I’m new to Twitter and still figuring things out. Your tips are a big help! I’m following you now.

  • April 28, 2009
    Sue Lee

    Love all your helpful tips. I’m still learning how to use twitter. There is something to learn everyday and it’s a great way to find out information on most anything.

  • April 28, 2009
    Rev.Ebenezer J.Malyi

    I love Twitter.Is now easier for me to communicate with my friends.Long life Twitter.

  • April 28, 2009

    Nice piece, Ryan. I see you left the best piece of advice for last.

  • April 28, 2009

    Thank you! Finally a link worth reading. I have a blog all about networking and it just irritates me that every tweet has a link attached! Thank you for the post here because if people really follow your advice the community will stay in tact and we will all learn more about each other ande not just be spammed to death! Thank you and give someone an awesome day!! Casey @caseyeberhart

  • April 28, 2009

    Great article…useful info. Thanks Ryan for the lucky tips!

  • April 28, 2009

    Be yourself is the best way to go when using twitter. I just started using twitter with my new Blog but people do not like a business, they want a person. So I have to be the person behind my new Blog.

  • April 28, 2009

    Thanks Ryan for great ideas to share with my followers. I even emailed it to many of the Twitter novices. Look forward to following your future posts. Regards, Alicia

  • April 28, 2009

    Thanks Ryan. I’ve just realized I haven’t been using much hashtags that I (maybe) should, except #FollowFridays. A great way to show appreciation to my twitter friends for helping out, engaging conversations, and just being informative, knowledgeable, and kind. Guess I should pay hashtags.org for a visit.

  • April 28, 2009

    Now reading Twitip more than Mashable – good work! :)

  • April 28, 2009

    Fantastic post, I can see myself utilizing each of the ten tips.

    Hey how do I add the Twitter id to my comments field like that? I want one, is it a plugin? What’s it called. You know what I bet you blogged about it so I am going to search your blog for the answer, how’s that for using my noggin? :)

  • April 28, 2009

    Nope, I tried to find it but failed. How do I add Twitter Id to comments form?

  • April 28, 2009

    I disagree strongly with no.10 really , writing this just before i go to bed ;p

  • April 28, 2009

    Great post. I only follow “real people” who can hold a conversion. I cant stand the 100% business spammers types. Though I do promote my site and my blog, that is only about 5-10% of my usage on Twitter. My URL is already in my profile.

  • April 28, 2009

    You forgot one: Be funny.

    Not all tweeters should aim for knowledge sharing; some aim for the funny bone. I follow a few folks simply because they are consistently hilarious. And when I using Twitter to give and receive good content for work and home and life, I appreciate an occasional smile as well.

    The first place to look for Twitter wits is, hands-down, Favrd.

    Visit now. You’ll be mad you did. (Huge time-vampire. Sorry.)

  • April 28, 2009

    @Ashley K. Edwards: I didn’t mean business is equal to spammy, but I myself don’t like the pure business tweeting. I should try to mix it up an little bit. Some business, some private tweeting. And NEVER spammy tweeting!

  • April 28, 2009

    Thanks for the tips. My favorite is “Be Yourself.”

  • April 28, 2009

    Hey guys and girls. Just wanted to give a quick shout out and say thank you so very much for all the Retweet love and generous comments. Means a lot.

    And big thanks to Twitips for allowing me to guest post for them.

    Got any others? Send em my way. Lots of time the comments are just as valuable that the original post. Have a good one!

  • April 28, 2009

    I like your advice to just be you. The mainstreaming of Twitter (thank a lot Oprah) brought a horde of people believing that Twitter is a place to “make a name for yourself.” Unfortunately that usually means artificially building follower numbers and then pretending to be someone you’re not. This cannot possibly work long-term

  • April 28, 2009

    These are all great ways of being useful on Twitter. I feel that natural curiosity helps you become valuable on Twitter.

    Three Ways That I Use Twitter:

    Answer Questions. There are days in which I feel like being helpful so I use Tweetdeck to filter questions and I answer as many as I can. This helps me connect with my followers/followed and thus I feel a sense of collaboration in my small tight-nit Twitter community.

    Tweet Links. There are days in which I feel like absorbing information so I read a lot of different articles across many genres and then tweet any interesting links to my followers. This is a lot of fun once you see others RTing your articles.

    ReTweet. Finally, there are days where I don’t feel like finding articles myself so I use Tweetdeck to filter RTs, which have obviously peaked an interest in someone. I ReTweet many of these as I also happen to find them interesting. It makes me feel good inside when someone RTs my tweets, so I am sure that they feel the same way. This is a good way to build trust with my little community of followers/followed.

    Very simple. :-)

  • April 28, 2009

    Sometimes its hard not to be “that guy.” You get going on good some tweets and then the next thing you know… your tweeting all thoughts.

  • April 28, 2009

    I love quotes and I use twitter to enjoy them. I also share BlogQuotes and follow other quote sharers. Hashtags and tweeght are great tools, I don’t know what to do without them.

  • April 28, 2009

    WOW 895 re-tweets, thats alot! Yet you only seem to have something like 300 followers…

    Not to cause a stir but; people who enjoy this post enough to re-tweet it I would expect to add you to their twitter?

    I can’t see this being spammed as it is only dated today? Not sure if retweet me has gone belly up on stats?

    Overall a good post for people new to twitter, and I really like the guys blog as well :)

  • April 28, 2009

    Stuart – Please don’t be accusatory… The “retweet” button sends the person who clicks on it to Twitter, with a status update of “@retweet [post title and link]” – NOT to the guest poster who wrote the post, and not to Darren or @twitip.

    If you go to the bottom of the post, and click “Twitter This” – you are also sent to Twitter, with a status update of the link and the title of the post.

    The guest poster has NOTHING to do with either of these things, and for you to be suggesting things like this is spam (really? how would THAT work?) or that the author did something wrong, or should have more followers because of a tool that Darren uses here on the blog is quite unfair of you.

  • April 28, 2009

    Great article. It amazes me how many people “break the rules” somewhat and either bore you to death or bombard you with sales pitches.

  • April 29, 2009

    Excellent article. It deserve a good retweet!!.

  • April 29, 2009

    I love these tips. I think they apply to any social sharing platform.

  • April 29, 2009

    Great article, with some great tips. I am still learning how to use twitter, so I have no idea hw to use some of your suggestions. I don’t have a business, what I mostly use it for is to get political updates and information.

  • April 29, 2009

    I never thought I would say this – but I love Twitter. You’re right though; get to the damn point and you will have followers all over the planet. Another tip: make lunch BEFORE you start twittering.

  • April 29, 2009

    I’m with Justin on this. I hated Twitter when I first started using it. Then something odd happened. I started meeting some very cool people. Now I just wish I could find the time to contribute more on Twitter and help people out.

  • April 30, 2009

    Great post, Mr. R!

    # 4. Just smile and be yourself, that’s all there is to it.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Keep the faith and keep being YOU!

    TrueBeliever & HopeDealer

  • April 30, 2009

    Great tips for everyone to follow how to use twitter and use it more wisely, im not a big fan of getting spam from twitter people so choose who you follow wisely or else you will end up full of spam

  • April 30, 2009

    Thank you for this – being new to Twitter, it certainly sheds light on a lot of potential.

  • April 30, 2009

    I like tip #3 “bring it” – the sharing is what it’s all about. I do have a suggestion however… When I receive a tweet with a hyperlink, I RARELY follow the link without knowing some sort of background. For example:

    Bad Tweet: Great list of Twitter tools
    Good Tweet: Very comprehensive list of Twitter tools coupled with a comparison guide

    In other words, share why you think the link is of value. Make it compelling. IMHO it will get a higher open rate AND, your followers get a better sense of who you are, how you think and what you value.

  • May 1, 2009

    The hardest thing for me is to step into the stream. I use Twitter for my news source during the day, and I usually try to help when someone asks for it (if possible). I have the hardest time starting a conversation. Maybe I need to do a better job of Bringin it, then my followers will be more likely to ask me for help or want to converse with me.

  • May 1, 2009

    Thank you for the really useful tips. I started off tweeting about almost every detail of life (not quite my trips to the bathroom, but nearly). No more of that from now on!

  • May 1, 2009

    Great advice for any social networking app. I will be giving a presentation to social workers about social networking and our profession. I will be passing along your excellent advice to my friends and colleagues. Thank you!

  • May 1, 2009

    I’ll be re-tweeting this post. Excellent post and magnetic title. Why can’t there be more quality content out there like this.


  • May 2, 2009

    If I tweeted the way I talk, I would go waaaaaay over 140 characters!

  • May 3, 2009

    I thin whit this post that am doing quite well, i have to keep imporving. Keep moving.

  • May 4, 2009

    Excellent article. I am going to make sure I am following you. You are straightforward and nice in your approach. You cover just enough. I am also impressed with the number and quality of all of the comments to this great and helpful article.

  • May 6, 2009

    Many excellent points! I love all of them. If I had to choose only one, I’d stress “be useful.” Think of how you can help others. You’ll be appreciated on Twitter, but more importantly, you’ll be helping others! And that’s what is really important. And believe me, it’s not the purpose of helping, but it does come back 100 fold! :) Excellent points Ryan, I’m going to follow you!

  • May 6, 2009

    Those tips were great, I know there’s a lot of resources out for getting to grips with Twitter, but are really good.

    Thanks for the ehads up on this and I’ll pass it on.


  • May 20, 2009

    Point #10 goes against everything twitter stands for in my opinion, I posted an article on it at my site. I think twitter is exactly what you say it isnt in point 10.

  • July 20, 2009

    Indeed a good article. Lets put hands togehter and make it a success thru TWITTER!

  • August 6, 2009

    A simple but effective approach. Great piece!

    I had to add it to my A collection of the best guides and tips for using Twitter http://www.knowthenetwork.com/blog/2009/08/a-collection-of-the-best-guides-and-tips-for-using-twitter/

  • August 13, 2009
    Lucas Tadeu

    Wow, awsome post! I totally agree with you in everything you wrote. Specially on the last topic.A bunch of people tweet about useless stuff like, “gonna take a shower” or “just ate pie”. Why the heck would people like to know you’re showering?Unless someone is stocking you.

  • May 11, 2010

    A very helpful and interesting post, i learned a few tips from this…
    Thanks is a good guide!!

  • July 6, 2010

    KISS – Yes, the old adage applies. Patients is a virtue, also. Thanks for reminding me how to use Twitter.

  • January 24, 2011

    These are really good tips! (Agreed – no one wants to hear you are going to the bathroom) LOL

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