In the time since I've joined Twitter, I have probably read just about every article about how to make the most of the social media network. This includes tips on the best times to post tweets, how to gain followers, how to avoid losing followers... basically, how to be a Twitter rock star. So now that I have almost four years of experience under my belt, I've decided to chime in with my own tips that I've learned through observation as well as trial and error.
1. Don't be a troll.
It never ceases to amaze me how negative some voices can be when they are amplified by a 140-character tweet. Using social media to foam at the mouth and post hateful thoughts about strangers says a lot about a person and their state of happiness. If you find yourself taking frequent trips under the bridge, maybe it's time for a break in order to assess why attacking others while hiding behind a keyboard brings you joy. But then again, Lauren Sivan might have summed up trolling best during a recent segment of "Big Deal or No Big Deal?" on Good Day LA, "We're awful, awful people apparently."
2. Avoid rambling about how terrible your life is.
Everyone has an occasional "ice cream cone in the dirt" kind of day, but be mindful about how often you tweet about them. Most people (myself included) don't want to read endless "woe is me" postings in their timelines about the sad shambles your life is in. Granted, we all need to vent, but save this type of confiding for your offline IRL friends. Most of your followers are people who have never met you face-to-face, and they probably won't want to after reading your Debbie Downer tweets.
3. Twitter beefs are useless.
Endlessly arguing with some Internet shut-in who gets off on picking fights on social media is pointless. People sometimes do this to help establish their online reputation (strange that people think they can build a brand off of fighting under the guise that it's debating). Other times, they just want to get under your skin, and engaging with them is a surefire way of letting them know it's working. It's similar to an ill-tempered child who is seeking attention. Respond and it will only get worse. Leave the juvenile feuding to the trolls in the Internet sandbox and block them. It's much more effective and will give you peace of mind.
4. Tweet it as soon as it pops into your head.
Contrary to what many social media experts will tell you, there is no ideal hour to post on Twitter. I've posted tweets sometimes during a 4:00 a.m. bout of insomnia and woke up later to find them retweeted several times over. Bottom line: If a tweet is going to impact with an audience, it will regardless of the time of day it goes up. Therefore, as soon as you think it, share it.
5. It's Twitter, not marriage.
When someone makes a decision to follow you, he or she isn't entering into a contractual union where they swear allegiance to you for their entire Twitter existence. People follow, and then sometimes they unfollow. You shouldn't get offended when it happens. Continue to be confident in your content and keep it moving. Honestly, some of you act like you just got served divorce papers when you tweet about losing followers.
6. Go easy on favoriting tweets.
The one function I have never really understood is favoriting, and now that Twitter is posting favorited tweets into timelines, users really need to start exercising a little restraint. Do it too much and you'll risk looking like some crazed fan à la Kathy Bates in Misery. Besides, do you really think that you're going to go through your Favorites list and reread all those starred tweets in your spare time?
7. Don't take Twitter (or any other social media network) too seriously.
This one is probably the most important thing I've figured out. Whether you're promoting a business or just passing time while waiting for the next Star Wars movie to arrive in theaters, social media is a great tool for interacting with others. However, it is by no means the most important tool in the kit. Yes, it can help build a brand, but if some kind of global cellular data and Internet outage were to ever occur, we would be left with the basics: verbal communication, handwritten notes, and face-to-face interaction. So take this whole social media thing with a grain of salt and have fun with it. Market your business... crack some jokes... entertain and inform. Twitter enhances communication, but it shouldn't be regarded as the only source for information.
I think I've kept a good perspective about my digital footprint in social media and the level of importance it has in my life. I enjoy it; however, it doesn't completely define who I am as a person. Some time in the distant, geriatric future, I'll probably reflect and wonder why I tweeted so much to begin with. So here's one final humorous thought -- via one of my tweets, of course -- that stops me from getting caught up in social media's hype and drama. Hopefully, it helps you too.
Yrs from now, we're gonna look back at this experiment in human behavior called Twitter, & realize what jackasses we made out of ourselves.
— Justin Hernandez (@HernandezJustin) August 18, 2014