5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Twitter

In the wake of Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street protests, it should be clear to everyone now that social media, and Twitter most of all, has evolved far beyond an excuse to procrastinate on your homework. Almost everyone is plugged in now, and if you don’t think your employers are furiously Googling your name to find if you’ve ever written an inappropriate Tweet, you’re wrong. People get fired about this stuff. Good and bad things can come from Twitter.

Here are five things you can do to how to max out on upside and minimize potential damage:

(1) Don’t Tweet when you’re upset. Tweeting when you’re angry or upset is like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry: Only bad things can result. Listen, I understand that sometimes people just need to vent, but complaining about your problems on Twitter is like screaming in the middle of the street. Everyone can hear you, and that includes people you don’t think are listening. If you tweet every time you’re upset about something, you seem like a crazy person. Seriously. Even if you aren’t worried about scaring off potential employers, you should be wary of frightening friends. Word to the wise from someone who apparently has way too many angry friends: Tweeting things like “I hate myself” when you’re in a bad mood or talking to people who aren’t on Twitter (result: incoherent Tweets) are by turns worrying and annoying. Try to keep it cool. If something’s bothering you and you need to get it off your chest, you can always try talking to real people, face to face. Here's a great example:

(2) Follow funny people. This can be tricky, because some people seem like they’re cool but really aren’t worth following. For instance, I once started following a Bill Walton parody account after it produced a funny Arrested Development joke in the middle of the Women’s World Cup, and subsequently found myself stuck with months of repetitive, unfunny jokes about LeBron James’s propensity to choke in the clutch of NBA playoff games. Don’t let yourself get seduced by one tweet. Some accounts (I’m looking at you, Stephen Colbert and Rob Delaney) are better to experience through retweets. That way, you get their best, funniest Tweets because your friends will share them, and you won’t have to wade through a daily slog of too-offensive-to-be-funny Tweets involving poop. One of our favorites:

(3) Follow your friends. Twitter can be a global idea market and a birthplace for revolution, but it’s really not any fun unless you’re following your friends. Even after you’ve gone your separate ways to college or what not, Twitter can help you stay connected to the day-to-day happenings in your friends’ lives. Sure, that continued connectivity has been a bit of cliché for a while now, with email and texting, but those other mediums are mostly ways of having direct conversations with your friends. Twitter really lets you know how they’re doing, what they think of school, what they had for breakfast, and if they disobey my first rule, whether they’ve become emotionally unhinged. Hint hint:

(4) Retweet! Retweeting is fun. As mentioned above, it’s a way for your friends to experience the tweets of cool people you may be following, and it also gives your Twitter feed personality. Your friends can get a sense not only of what you’re saying and doing, but also what you’re listening to. Even cooler, if you reply or retweet people often enough, they might notice you and send a few tweets your way. How cool is that?

(5) Make it your own. Ultimately, your Twitter should be a reflection of you. How you talk, what you do, what you’re thinking, what you’re reading, writing, and listening to. The previous four rules are guidelines for not annoying the hell out of your followers or Internet-savvy employers, but beyond that, make sure to give it your own spin.

Photo Credit: eldh