The Theory Behind the 140 Characters – Twitter 101

This semester, we have explored multiple mediums of digital communication and social media. We have been given the opportunity not only to educate ourselves on mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and Parasite, but also actively engage with them through personal posts and interactions. However, when we sat as a class re-capping our experiences, we collectively discussed the distance and unfamiliarity we still felt from Twitter. Despite the fact that its 140-character limit platform appears to be sheepishly simple, there is a great deal of pressure that accompanies the average Tweet. So, I have taken the liberty of doing some research on what qualifies as a strong Twitter account.

Social Times, a sector of Adweek, is an online publication that covers the world of social media. A post titled “10 Habits of Great Tweeters” caught my attention, as it outlines what “the people who do Twitter best have in common.”  Providing a concise list of 10 of the best habits, writer Lauren Dugan equipes users ranging from “tech-savvy moms, adverture-loving 20-somethings or political pundits” with habits that will propel your tweeting to the next level.

Despite the fact that a Twitter post consists of only 140-characters, there is much to think about in order to take your tweeting to the next level.

Despite the fact that a Twitter post consists of only 140-characters, there is much to think about in order to take your tweeting to the next level.

  1. Consistency: Highlighting users who exhibit a strong use of consistency, such as @KatyPerry, @CNN and @copyblogger, regardless of the range of these users, each maintains consistency in their topic, which is key. Twitter users follow other users for specific reasons, and if “you change up your main topic of conversation regularly, you’ll scare them all away.” To back up this claim with some research, the article states that “the best tweeters typically stick to one or two topics for 80% of their tweets, and sprinkle in their interests in the other 20% or so.”
  2. Variety: Despite this sounding as though it contradicts the importance of consistency, what variety means in this context is variety of content, rather than variety of topic. For example, posting photos, links from various sources, individual thoughts and opinions, retweets, interactive conversations, podcasts, endorsing brands, asking questions, and so forth are just a few of the ways that individuals can create variety within their posts. This is pivotal in keeping one’s followers interested.
  3. Being helpful: “Whether you believe in karma or not, there is something to be said about putting positive energy out there, especially on Twitter.” There are accounts dedicated purely to offering helpful tips and advice to their followers, such as @TweetSmarter, who has an incredible platform and 358,000 followers. Whether one is walking someone through a problem or offering strategic advice, “by helping others, you’ll help yourself.”
  4. Endorsing others: In addition to helping others through advice and inspirational quotes, it is suggested to publicly endorse key members of one’s community. “By promoting a friend’s new book, sharing a colleague’s blog post or advertising an industry leader’s Twitter chat you’ll gain two benefits: one, if your endorsement is well thought out, you’ll be seen as a thought-leader and potential influencer by your followers; and two, you’ll land yourself on that person’s radar and they might return the favor.”
  5. Constantly checking @mentions: Monitoring Twitter regularly is important not only to stay up to date on what is being shared and discussed, but also to allow yourself to engage in social media conversations. Not only can you check in to see who is mentioning you, but in doing so you will find who wants to start a conversation with you and in turn, who you may want to start a conversation with. It is important not to let a full 24 hours pass from the time someone sends them an @mention to the time that they respond, “whether they’re an individual or a business running a customer service Twitter account.”
  6. Tweeting on the go: It is important to find a balance between becoming that person who tweets during a “romantic dinner” and knowing the right time and place to tweet. “The best tweets are those who don’t set aside 10 minutes to come up with tweets at their computer and then forget about the network: they have smartphones and the ability to tweet when the inspiration (or a particularly beautiful picture of a flower) strikes.”
  7. Refreshing their lists regularly: “Lists are a powerful way to build a network on Twitter, but they require maintenance. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking your lists every few weeks to clear out the dormant accounts, add new ones, and consider starting a new list or deleting one altogether. The best tweeters have a handful of up-to-date lists that they use to network or learn.”
  8. Updating who they follow: It is key to pay attention to who you follow, and to ensure that one is not simply following everyone who followed them. Helpful applications such as “Who Unfollowed ME” and “Manage Flitter” allow users to determine if they are losing followers or not and why, and in turn allows you to unfollow those who have unfollowed you. Check your “list” regularly to ensure that your followers are still relevant and that your ratio is balanced.
  9. Monitoring their links: As mentioned earlier, when maintaining variety on your Twitter account, a key component of that is regularly sharing links. However, one must ensure that the links are effective, and take users directly to where you want them to go. In order to stay within your 140 character count, you can use a service such as or HootSuite’s to shorten every single link that you send out. They crunch the links down as well as track them. This way, you can utilize these programs to monitor who is sharing your content, how frequently it’s being retweeted, the time of day that your content gets shared most, and more.
  10. Sparse hashtagging: “Hashtag stuffing is a big no-no.” One should only use a hashtag when it is relevant to the content of your tweet and especially when it will add additional meaning to your tweet, either through the hashtag itself or the tweets the hashtag will be linked to. The rule of thumb is to include only one or two per tweet.

After this helpful 10-step lesson, I myself feel much better equipped to take on the Twitter scene. Watch out Twitter, here I come!