In which Linda answers some questions from blog readers.
1. So what’s up with your Twitter handle? You don’t follow your own advice. You know something? You’re right. My twitter handle should be either @LindaBernstein or, better, @GenB2. These days, we’re all brands, in a way, when we’re on a public platform, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, not to mention Tumblr or Pinterest or one of the hundreds of social networks, large and small, that populate cyberspace. Either we’re ourselves, or we’re part of something we’re promoting. If my handle were @GenB2, I’d be promoting my Website, which is all about Baby Boomers, and my platform for now until I get my book on Baby Boomers published. If my handle were @LindaBernstein, I could take it anywhere and be “me.” So how did I end up as @wordwhacker? I had to get on Twitter quickly, and I tried to be clever. I’m a writer, a lover of words. I’m an editor, a worker with words. @Wordwhacker seemed appropriate. It was memorable. People liked it. Now people who don’t know my name say, “oh, you’re wordwhacker,” when they meet me. Nice, but also sucks. It’s not that I have so many followers I couldn’t change it. I could also develop either @LindaBernstein or @GenB2, and I might.
2. Will you follow me? Yes, maybe. If you’ve got good stuff. I mostly follow friends and journalists. I also use two cool tools (NEW INFO ALERT)
www.friendorfollow.com lets you sign in with Twitter. Then you can do three things: Check whom you follow but doesn’t follow you back; check followers who follow you; and check who is following you but you’re not following. I’ve unfollowed people because of what I’ve found–people with whom I had a follow-me-I’ll-follow-you arrangement, but who had dropped away. So if they’re not giving me interesting content, and believe me, they weren’t I dropped away too.
http://twitcleaner.com This neato little tool first asks you to follow them so they can DM you. (DM–direct message, remember? It’s a private message between two people who follow each other, and, frankly, a lot of what’s tweeted on Twitter should really be done through DM because people are having conversations we don’t all need to see in public.) Then they go through everyone you’re following, and based on the kind of tweeting that Tweeter does, they suggest who has “dodgy behavior,” who tweets nothing but links, and who hardly follows anyone, and who’s self-obsessed. (@NJDoc–they suggest I unfollow you because 70% of what you do is retweet). Then they do a report on you. Mine said:Make my day! Thanks.
3. Who’s reading my tweets? Unfortunately, the answer might be no one. It depends on how you’re tweeting. If you have friends, who have more Twitter followers than you, and they’re retweeting you, then maybe lots of people. But if you’re just starting your tweet @DearFriend with no character before the @, then probably no one is seeing your tweets. Some people asked me to look at their tweets and tell them what they were doing wrong. This is the most common error. So begin your tweet .@DearFriend or /@DearFriend. That way everyone who follows you will potentially see it. Except the Twitter stream goes by fast. Here one minute, gone the next. Most people don’t bother reading their whole stream if they’ve missed 357 tweets. Some people check their @ mentions and retweets. Most famous people don’t. So if you’re tweeting @Aplusk, he’s not reading it, believe me. I found this fantastic explanation: http://www.jhische.com/twitter/. It’s visual and well done.
4. How can I get more followers? Jeesh. Wish I knew. You can buy them. Lots of people do. (Yeah, Mr.BabyBoomerPretendExpert, I’m on to YOU.) Or you can do something and get famous. I know lots of writers and journalists. The journalists who work for well known outlets have tens of thousands of followers. Those who are columnists and write books have even more. And if you’re @NickKristof, you have over a million. Taking a class where you meet fellow Tweeters helps. So does taking part in Twitter Chats. I’ll discuss these more next time, but meanwhile you can Google it. Some people tweet at the people they’re following constantly, thinking that the person will notice them and follow them. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes they just ignore you. What’s true is that the more you tweet, the more followers you will get. The more you give content–links to things that are interesting, links to your blog–the more followers you’ll get. The more self-obsessed you are, like you are so obviously trying to be clever, well, you’ll bore people. I know because I do that. I get pretty snarky, and I lose followers. But here’s something I know–followers come and go. Most of the ones who go were only following you because they wanted to be followed back. Or they’re bots. So today you had 33 followers and tomorrow you have 31. Doesn’t matter because probably only half of them, at most, are reading your tweets.Meanwhile, though, here’s an interesting blog about people who rack up the followers (though still not guaranteed they’re reading you): “How to Spot a User With a ‘Fake’ Follower Count” http://bit.ly/nakPom.
5. What’s a bot? A robot tweeter. I mean, sometimes there is actually a person behind the bot, but mostly it’s just a computer generating a picture with a sexy woman, and the tweet is either a link to a product, to pornography, or worse, to something that takes over your Twitter. NEVER CLICK ON A LINK IN A TWEET UNLESS YOU KNOW WHO IS SENDING IT. Also, Tweeters with eggs instead of pictures, well, either they’re trying to keep their identity anonymous so the Syrian police can’t find them, they’re real newbies, or they’re bots.
6. How do I get rid of bots? If you’re still under 1000 followers, this is easy. Someone new follows you. Her picture is either an egg or a sexy woman. You click on her. An enlarged version of her picture appears on the right hand column. You notice she’s only tweeting links. Or three words and then a link. Or she’s following thousands but only a few are following her back. Go to that little person icon and click. The last option is “report for spam.” Click on that. She’ll be gone. Yeah, your number of followers will go down by one, but you’re doing yourself a favor, and you’re doing a favor for other Tweeters. Many times these “bots” haven’t even tweeted yet. But if she has, NEVER CLICK ON A LINK IN A TWEET UNLESS YOU KNOW WHO IS SENDING IT.
7. What’s Klout. Next time. Forget it for now.
8. How do I know who’s unfollowed me? Great tool for this. Go to www.twunfollow.com and sign up. They send a list to your mailbox every couple of days. This is a startup company that seems to operate on a shoestring budget. You won’t recognize most of the names, but no matter. They’re mostly bots or people trying to get followers in the way described in the article I mentioned above. So don’t invest in this emotionally.
9. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned on Twitter this week? Actually, I have an answer. The other night when the world was following the anti-death penalty protests in Georgia livestreamed via DemocracyNow, and I was tweeting about it, I received a tweet from someone called @DeathRowInmates. He tweeted follow him back. So I did. There was a link. According to him, his father is on death row and his father is innocent. He was tweeting and tweeting, and in the urgency of the moments before Georgia executed someone who may well have been innocent, his tweets seemed compelling. The next morning he had over 20,000 followers, and he was tweeting about his lunch. If this person is not a complete hoax, he is really young–21 he says–and in a terrible situation. He also has a bad attitude and doesn’t know how to tweet. His girlfriend sent me this insult (gotta love her hashtag):Of course people can tweet whatever they want, but if you start out asking people to follow you because you’re part of a cause and then you tweet about chicken fingers–you’re doing it wrong. Yes, if this guy is for real seeing him through his tweets as a real person would be great. But give us something besides chicken fingers. And not chicken fingers a few times a minute because you have Twitterhea and think it’s cool when Twitter stops you for a bit (Twitter Jail, people call it). This guy thought Twitter Jail was funny. So I unfollowed. I am interested in anti-death-penalty advocacy; I might even find it interesting to follow someone whose father is on death row. But I don’t need to hear about what you had for lunch (unless you’re Mark Bittman or a bunch of other foodie types).
10. Who do you like best on Twitter? My answer here isn’t going to be your answer. I really like Andy Carvin (@acarvin) of NPR because he is doing something completely new in the way he is crowdsourcing information. I like the comedian Andy Borowitz (@BorowitzReport). I appreciate the efforts of @NPR @Reuters @BBC @Guardian @NYT to keep me informed. I love the headlines from @NewYorkPost. I love discussing journalism with super social median Mo Krochmal (@Krochmal). Amy Vernon (@AmyVernon) cracks me up with what she’s found on the Internet and then posts to her Tumblr. I love it that I have total conversations with @LaurenAradi, though I have never met her in person. I appreciate some of my original Twitter folks, like @AxelDiewald. @ESills and @KJohnson04. I’m grateful that @awshuttleworth and I share some of the same obsessions about language. But this is my list. You will develop your own.
In the meanwhile, keep tweeting–but only if you like it. You can ask me questions in the comment area below or, as you do, on Facebook or by email. Friend me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/linda.bernstein and tell me who you are. My Twitter is @wordwhacker.
BTW–you should also be following @TweetSmarter, @AllTwitter, and @AskAaronLee for the latest and best links on using Twitter.