Top 10 Twitter 101 tips & tricks


Recently I’ve had quite a few friends ask me how to get started on Twitter.  Below is a list of basic Twitter tips and tricks that I use:

1. Build an audience: Follow People

It’s not fun talking to yourself … the good news is that building an audience on Twitter is pretty straight-forward: be relevant, focus on specific topics, but most importantly follow other people.

Typically, if you follow someone on Twitter, they will follow you back. Not always, but typically.  This is a quick way to build an audience and Twitter makes it really easy to decide who to follow by making suggestions:


The recommendations get better as Twitter learns more about the type of people you typically follow and the topics you tweet about.

2. Organize people into Lists

As the number of people you follow grows you will quickly find it unmanageable to read everyone’s updates.  Twitter provides a concept called a List that you can add people to.  Rather than reading everyone, you can use lists to read only those people who you are really interested in.

For example, you could create a list called Customers and add people that you do business with.

Lists can be public or private.  People can view and follow your public lists, but private lists are only available to you.

Example uses: I have lists for analysts and competitors — yes, I follow them too.  This way I can quickly see a focused group of people to see what they are talking about:


Competitors, Industry Analysts and Telligent Customers are all marked as private – only I can see the members.  Telligent is a public list managed by Rich Mercer that I, or anyone else can, follow.

3. Tweet like a pro – Hootsuite and other tools

How do you manage all of the updates if you are following thousands of people?  Short answer is: you don’t.  Instead you use specialized software that allows you to better manage lists and the people you follow.

I use Hootsuite, but there are many great options (including those integrated with your iOS device):

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For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on Hootsuite, which is what I usually recommend. With Hootsuite you can manage multiple Twitter accounts as well as other social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, create different views and filters for content as well as a number of other tools for controlling how you consume the Tweet-stream.

One of my favorite features about Hootsuite?  Scheduled updates: the ability to schedule when your tweet gets published:

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You can see that the original link to the post ( was converted to (  This does a couple of things and is covered in tip #8. Hootsuite does this link shortening for you automatically.  Just paste your link into the link box and click the “Shrink” button.

4. Re-tweeting and Commenting

Re-tweeting content is one of the ways that Twitter enables information to spread quickly.  A re-tweet is simply you rebroadcasting someone else’s message to the people that follow you.

For example, you see a tweet by someone you follow and you can re-tweet it on by simply clicking the “Retweet” link:

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you can re-tweet that:

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A couple of things happen here:

  1. @Sitecore gets a notification that they have been re-tweeted – People like to know they are being read and their information is being valued.
  2. You are expanding the audience of the content – When you re-tweet someone you are essentially re-broadcasting what they said to your followers.

Re-tweeting is an important component of Twitter as you can also re-tweet people that you don’t necessarily follow or that don’t necessarily follow you.

In addition to re-tweeting, you should also add commentary on other people’s tweets.  For example:

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This is important because @rkoplowitz will get notified that you mentioned him, similar to a re-tweet.

5. Repeat yourself

Twitter content is in-the-moment and people typically aren’t going back in time to see what you’ve posted.  For important content I will tweet a message multiple times at different times of the day.  For example:

  • 4-6 AM CST to target Europe
  • 10-12 AM to target East/Central timezones
  • 4-6 PM to target West coast timezones

I will not repeat content the same day but will spread it out over a week or two.

Again, tools such as Hootsuite, makes this really easy as it allows you to schedule tweets.  I’ll spend an hour each week scheduling out tweets over the upcoming weeks.

6. Help your content get found: Hashtags (2012 Word of the Year)

From Wikipedia:

A hashtag is a tag embedded in a message posted on the Twitter microblogging service, consisting of a word within the message prefixed with a hash sign.

A hashtag is nothing more than a topic that people are talking about.  When a portion of text is pre-pended with a #, such as #SocialMedia, you can follow that topic:

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When you tweet something your effective reach is your follower list.  If you use a hashtag (the right ones) you are broadening the scope of who sees your content.

For example, let’s say you are in the marketing industry.  People in this industry may use the hashtag #marketing in their tweets.  People will follow this hashtags much like they follow a person.  You can also use hashtags to find new people to follow that are talking about topics you are interested in.

7. Less is more

Twitter posts can be up to 140 characters, but if someone re-tweets you it adds the text “RT ” plus their Twitter handle.

For example this Tweet is 136 characters:

“Telligent’s social business platform helps customers build world class communities to better support their customers

If someone re-tweeted it, the end gets cut off:

“RT @robhoward Telligent’s social business platform helps customers build world class communities to better support their customers http://ow

This would have been a better tweet using only 94 characters:

“Telligent’s #socbiz platform helps customers build world class communities

Always try and write tweets like headlines: small, compact, and designed so that someone can re-tweet the full content.  Typically I try to use ~90 characters to make room for re-tweets.

Why is this important?  I’ll find interesting stuff that I want to re-tweet and very often I either have to edit down the original message (not ideal) or I don’t re-tweet the content because the original message can’t be condensed.

8. URL shortening

As it relates to shortening your content there are a number of great utilities (this is built in to most Twitter tools) that will shorten a URL.

For example, the URL to a recent article I wrote for CMSWire is way too long:

Using a URL shortener this becomes something like:

If you don’t use Hootsuite, there are plenty of other URL shorteners.  The one that I use is (shown below), but there is also which precedes Twitter.

Just paste any URL into, such as:


And it shortens it down for you:



URL shortening serves another purpose too: it allow for tracking the number of clicks. does an especially nice job at this.  Just add a + at the end of any URL, e.g., and you’ll get a page chock full of stats:


9. Format your tweets

This is more personal preference, but I believe that if you want people to click on links (drive behavior) you have to make it as easy as possible.

My tweets always follow the same format: [Content] [Hashtags] [Link]:

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Content is always first and the link is always last.

Why? I don’t want people to have to work to find the URL – which is what I want people to click on.  The hashtags exist specifically to help get the content discovered.

10. Have a message / focus

Probably the most obvious tip, but its important to be focused. 95% of what I tweet about is technology related, sometimes about Telligent, sometimes not.

Of that 95% I try and tweet mostly about industry related topics followed by Telligent specific information. The remaining 5% is personal-stuff (just for some added flavor) and that typically is reserved for weekends.

Happy tweeting!

Kindle Fire … not for me


I’ve carried both an iPad (1st generation) and an Amazon Kindle (3rd generation).  I really like both.  The iPad was like a mini-laptop and the Kindle was great to travel with, especially with its amazing battery life.

About 6 months ago my first generation iPad was stolen.  The plan was to wait for the iPad 3, but along comes the Amazon Kindle Fire in September at a paltry $200.

I couldn’t wait, the Fire looked like it would be the perfect replacement for the iPad: smaller, many of the same apps, integrated with my Amazon Prime account for movies and more, the list goes on and on.

On November 16th I received the notification from UPS that it was at my house.  2 hours later I unwrapped and had it in my hands.

My first reaction: the device was beautiful and simple, albeit the screen size was smaller than I hoped it would be. Something in-between an iPhone and iPad. Setup was a breeze once I got my WEP key entered in the device configured itself and with a few clicks was linked to my Amazon account.

Thinks started to go downhill rather quickly after that. I found the navigation to be clunky. The bookshelf metaphor is everywhere and carousel navigation, while great in concept, isn’t as effective when you have 200+ books.  I also didn’t like how it mixed apps, books, and other content together.

No support for corporate email? Yeah, we’re still on an Exchange server and while setting up Gmail was a breeze, I had to go spend $10 on an app to get email.  Thankfully they had a 30 day trial.

There were three items that cemented my decision to return it:

1. Battery life – The Kindle Fire absolutely burns through the battery.  I did a little more research and learned that the stated battery life is 7 hours.  About 2 hours less than what the iPad claims.  I travel … a lot.  The last thing I want it to lug around another proprietary charger.

2. User Experience – I realized just how much I missed the home button on the iPad/iPhone.  It’s like a little life preserver, no matter where you are you know you can click that button.  On the Kindle it’s on the left and it comes in and out of the UX.

3. Hardware design – I’m in the middle of Charles Stross, Accelerando (great hardcore science fiction) and tried reading on the Fire for about 10 minutes.  The device kept shutting off?!?  Why… the power button is on the bottom of the device and the weight of the Fire is enough to push the button when resting on something.  Really?

Wired sums it up well for me: “iPad killer? No, the Kindle Fire is not.”

Back to waiting for the iPad 3.

It’s on the Internet, so it must be true


A bit tongue-in-cheek, but here is a recent statistic I saw quoted on Twitter:

“90% of txts are open w/in 14 seconds of receipt.”

I’m always looking for great new statistics to quote, but I also always research them — if they are not linked to research — to figure out where the statistic originated.

I started with the above quote in Google.  Not much came back so I refined the search to “90% of texts are opened.”

This uncovered:

  • “90% of texts are opened within 3 minutes #mobilemm11″
  • “90% of texts are opened.” (referenced)
  • “94 percent of text messages are opened in 9 minutes or less”
  • “90 percent of all SMS text messages are read usually within three minutes of being received”

None of the statistics I found were from studies done by well known analysts. Sometimes a lot of these (once true) statistics go through a game of telephone on the web.

The real future skill is discernment … not the ability to just find information.

Top 10 best travel tools

A quick list of some of my favorite travel tools (not in any particular order).


If you travel frequently Seatguru will help you find the best seat on the flight.  I use this all the time to figure out which seat has power so I can run my laptop on those long international flights.


Kind of like but for hotel rooms.  I don’t use this as frequently because generally I don’t care about the view, but if I’m staying more than a few nights…


Trying to get from point A to point B by plane and want to see what your options are?  This is a no-nonsense tool that lists the costs, times, and stops for flights.  Great for planning.


I haven’t used this in the US yet, but when I’ve traveled in Europe this has been a handy tool for finding last minute hotel rooms.  Especially in the summer hotels in cities like London fill up quick.


I’m not into socializing my travel plans, but Tripit provides some REALLY nice tools for managing your itinerary.  As in, just forward them your reservations (flight, hotel, car, etc.) and they will automatically build the itinerary for you.

6. Evernote

Ok, not necessarily a travel tool per-se, but Evernote is a great tool to travel with.  I use Evernote for just about everything and when I travel I create a notebook that I fill up with my itinerary, all related emails and meeting notes, photos, receipts, and other tidbits.  It syncs with your mobile phone (iPhone for me) and allows you to keep all of this information in an offline mode — again, useful when you want to avoid roaming fees.  For example, I keep a copy of the London tube map in Evernote with my notes and annotations.

7. Practical Travel Gear

This is a useful site with great tips and tricks for traveling more efficiently.  Albeit some of them are a little more extreme than what I typically do.


Another great tool for hunting down travel details.  I use it mostly for planning out my itinerary when I’m booking multi-leg flights.  A lot simpler to use than Expedia (which is also on the list).


You probably thought this was going to be all unknown sites, but I actually find myself using quite a bit too.

10. Google Maps

I’m stubborn and refuse to pay for a GPS when I rent a car.  Before a trip I’ll usually create a page in Evernote that links to the various routes on my trip to pages in Google Maps.  I’ll then click on the link and the route will load up in my iPhone and off we go…

Got some tips and tricks? Please share!

World Class Communities

The past few months I’ve spent a lot of my time working on our research for what it takes to build a world class community.  This morning I posted an article about setting a clear business objective.

Below I’ve included a few links and images to material we’ve created — and this is just the start!

The first is a white paper, World Class Communities: The Characteristics of Community Excellence white paper, an on-demand webinar, and a series of blog posts detailing the findings of our research.

We’ve also created some great info-graphics:

Social Networks vs Online Communities

The Social Ecosystem

This is just the start of some great research about what it takes to become a world class community.  Stay tuned, there is a lot more to come!

Do you magnify efficiency?

When you think about designing [something] using technology, do you magnify the efficiency or the inefficiency?

I came across this quote from Bill Gates in The 4-Hour Workweek:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applies to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates

Pick one

Recently I’ve been thinking more about simplicity in software: how limited choices create better results.

Photography is quickly becoming one of my passions and I have a healthy collection of digital picture frames.  Before digital frames I was be forced choose one great photo to put into a frame, but now, since the digital frame can carousel 50+ photos, I load the maximum into it.

Sure I could pick just one, but I don’t.  Instead I rotate through a collection at random.

This is marketed as a benefit, but is it really a benefit?  Rather than highlighting one particular photo I highlight 50+ for 30 seconds each.

Secrets to building sustainable online communities

This past week I gave a talk on building sustainable online communities. You can access the presentation on slideshare and register on to view the full webinar.

This past week I gave a talk on building sustainable online communities.  You can access the presentation on slideshare and register on to view the full webinar.

You can also view the slides on SlideShare:

Track mentions on Twitter

In August we released our 3rd version of Telligent’s tool for helping people measure and understand their community: Telligent Analytics 3.0.

Telligent Analytics is unique in that, unlike the myriad of other listening tools available, we started with ensuring that Telligent Analytics provided unique information first and foremost from Telligent powered communities.  In the most recent version we introduced some capabilities to correlate community activities with external activities (twitter, blogs, etc.).

Combined, you can now view the sentiment of keywords or phrases (no limits on how many) that you wish to track and graph it over time:


But in addition to tracking sentiment from within your own community, you can also track mentions from external communities – such as twitter:


For example, using a generic topic like “Report” Telligent Analytics 3.0 shows mentions of that keyword on Twitter.  On August 13th there was a spike in mentions, which can be explored simply by selecting a range in the graphic.


Next, you can view the topic for sentiment, so of the mentions made how many were positive and how many were negative?  Telligent’s sentiment engine is a proprietary natural language engine that currently works only with English.  It analyzes the sentence structure and determines if the keyword is being mentioned in a positive or negative manner – it is 80% accurate, unfortunately it can’t detect sarcasm and usually scores it negative.


Finally you can drill down into the topic, read the content that was analyzed and even go directly to the mention on twitter:


In addition to twitter you can easily add any source that supports RSS. In the example of twitter the Telligent Analytics application is using APIs to pull information directly from Twitter.

You can learn more about Telligent Analytics 3.0 at At our site we have a video walk-through as well as some product PDFs with more details.

More than just the application

From a comment left on this article:

How Social Media Upending Enterprise

Successful companies put more value on the information than the application.

Look at what Amazon has done for consumer buying or what Google has done for advertising. The key to this market is not on building the new ‘it’ application, but on helping companies understand how their brand is being discussed, what their customer perceptions are, and learning to innovate hand-in-hand with customers (many large enterprises now believe that the next set of innovations will come from outside the organization).

I’ve been involved in this space for nearly 10 years now. Nearly 3 years ago Telligent ( started investing in analytical tools to help our customers understand the data after being the first in the market to offer a suite based collaboration solution.

Anyone can build the next forum, blog, wiki, twitter-clone, etc. they key is using the information to transform how the business measures, operates, and works with its customers and employees.

So I agree, there is a major shift underway. But it has to be about more than just the tools…