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19/12/2011

The Hidden Guide to Using Twitter Effectively

Author: Kristi Hines.

When it comes to social media, there is not that much hidden about how it all works. The issue is that sometimes the information is hard to find in one place. So in this post, we are going to unearth some commonly unanswered questions in standard Twitter how to posts when it comes to getting the most out of your Twitter experience.

What is the New Twitter Activity Stream?

You may not have noticed it yet because you spend a lot of time in a Twitter management tool instead of on Twitter itself. But one of the new additions to Twitter is the Activity feed. You can find it when you log in to Twitter as a tab underneath your What’s happening box.

Here you will see something similar to the news feed in Facebook. It shows the latest activity by people you follow including who they have recently followed or added to Twitter lists, what tweets they have sent or “favorited”, and other activity. If you are following a huge amount of people, it may not be that helpful, but if you only follow a small amount of people, then you might learn more about them.

How Do Recent Images Work?

When you go to your Twitter profile (again, actually on Twitter), you might notice the Recent Images strip in your sidebar.

I assumed this would only show your recent images, but instead, it shows any images you have somehow interacted with. This means images you have shared through mobile uploads, images you have tweeted (or retweeted from others), images you have commented on, and so forth.

So don’t expect it to be like the photostrip on Google+ or Facebook – your only option to get these out of your recent images is to delete the tweet associated with the image. You can do this if you click on a recent image and then the Delete link under the tweet.

Be sure to use the View All grid display of your images at the top right of the Recent Images viewing browser to see all of your images. You might see something you didn’t mean to come up as a part of your public profile!

How Can I Use RSS Feeds with Twitter?

For those who love RSS and subscribing to virtually anything in their favorite RSS reader (mine is Google Reader), Twitter offered RSS feeds for user updates, Twitter lists, and Twitter searches. During the last few updates of the Twitter platform, those easy to find RSS links disappeared. But you can still monitor these things using RSS.

Sociable.co developed a Twitter RSS feed creator that will generate RSS feeds for you based on your input of usernames, Twitter list names, or search queries. If you’d like to manually create the feeds, use the following formats.

For a Twitter User

http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=username

To create a RSS feed URL for a Twitter user, you will replace username with the Twitter user’s account name. For example, if you wanted to follow tweets originating from KISSmetrics, you would change the above URL to:

http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=kissmetrics

For a Twitter List

http://api.twitter.com/1/username/lists/listname/statuses.atom

To create a RSS feed URL for a Twitter list, you will replace username with the Twitter user’s handle, and the listname with the name of their list. For example, if you went to Listorious’ Top 140 Lists and wanted to follow the Social Media list by Mashable, you would change the above RSS URL to:

http://api.twitter.com/1/mashable/lists/social-media/statuses.atom

For a Twitter Search

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=keyword

To create a RSS feed URL for a Twitter search, you will replace the keyword with the keyword you are searching on Twitter. For example, if you are searching for tweets mentioning the keyword blogging, you would change the above RSS URL to:

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=blogging

If you are searching for mentions of a particular username, you would change username to the Twitter user’s handle and the above RSS URL to:

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=%40username

If you are searching for mentions of a particular hashtag, you would change hashtag to the hashtag keyword you are searching and the above RSS URL to:

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=%23hashtag

What Can I Find Out Through Advanced Twitter Searches?

Twitter Advanced Search offers users a lot of options when it comes to finding just the right tweets.

Local businesses can use it to find tweets in their area from people who might be interested in their restaurant, retail store, or local office. Anyone can look at conversations between users which can be helpful if you see parts of a chat and want to know what the full conversation looks like.

You can also use the following advanced search operators in the search box on Twitter.

Be sure to save your favorite searches using the Save this search button at the top of the results on Twitter.

And access them in your Searches tab when logged in to Twitter.

You can also use some of the advanced search operators for Twitter searches and save them as a stream in Twitter management tools like HootSuite.

Can I Search Twitter Using Google?

Sure can! You can look up the top ranked profiles, status updates, official Twitter blog posts, and Twitter lists using the search query site:twitter.com keyword on Google. If you would like to exclude status messages, change the search query to site:twitter.com keyword -inurl:status.

An added bonus if you are on Google+ – when you search a keyword on Twitter (such as I did in the example above with SEO), you will see Twitter handles from people you are already connected with on Google+ first with their avatar underneath the result!

Can I Change My Username?

Before you create a new username and try to migrate all of your followers over to it, remember that you can change your username on Twitter! Just go to your Account Settings and enter a new username.

If that username is available, you can just change it without losing your followers, tweets, @replies, direct messages, favorites, or other related data. Just be sure to let people know so they will start tweeting at your new username and change any places you have referenced your old one such as your website, other social profiles, email signature, and so on.

What Chrome Extensions Are a Must for Twitter?

I’m sure that Firefox also has a lot of great add-ons for Twitter, but since I’m a Chrome user, I thought I’d share three great extensions that would help you with your Twitter experience.

Twitter Notifier

Stop jumping between tabs to see if you have any new mentions or direct messages. Twitter Notifier will send a little desktop notification when you have new activity!

Klout

The Chrome extension for Klout will place a Twitter user’s Klout score next to their username anywhere on Twitter.

WiseStamp

WiseStamp is not for Twitter, but rather for your email. It creates a nice email signature that will be auto populated into your Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail emails. You can use this extension to create an email signature that includes a link to your Twitter profile and even a well-formatted display of your latest tweet with Twitter controls built right in to follow, reply, or retweet you!

How Can I Get More Out of My Twitter Bio?

Whenever someone views your full profile, they will see your bio information and website link. But in places where Twitter lists just the bio under your username, your link will be lost.

This is how a status update looks when several Twitter names are mentioned. You can see that only links included in the bio will be displayed, so if you know that people might recognize you better by your website, you might want to consider adding it to your bio itself. Also note that if you add another Twitter handle in your bio and a link with http:// before it, both will automatically linked inside Twitter.

Why Do People Follow Me on Twitter?

Curious what topics you are well known for, but not that into checking your Klout? Look to your Twitter lists instead. People will put you into Twitter lists for particular reasons, and you can see those reasons by going to your Lists following your page by clicking on the number Listed on your profile.

If you’ve got some time on your hands and have a love of spreadsheets, you can use the directions in this post on creating a word collage of your Twitter lists. If not, just scroll down the Twitter lists following you and you’ll probably notice some keywords repeated more often than not.

The common words for my lists include social media, blogging, and SEO. If you find that there are an abundance of keywords that do not fit your profile, you may want to rethink your bio information and tweeting strategy.

When is the Best Time to Tweet?

The age old question that most people ask is when they should be tweeting. You can try tools like When to Tweet which tells you when your followers are most active by analyzing when they tweet.

Of course, with all of the automation tools out there, it can still be hard to determine which of your followers are actually online when they are tweeting. Another way to go about it is to look at the analytics for your tweets and see which times tweets you send get the most action.

Buffer (one of my new favorite Twitter tools) will show you analytics for your tweets, including retweets, clicks, and favorites.

One of my suggestions to makes sure you reach more of your audience is to tweet your most important message a few times per day. For example, if you have a great blog post you don’t want anyone to miss, change up the description for it each time you tweet. For this post, I could do the following.

  • 7:00 AM – Check out my latest post @KISSmetrics on Twitter Strategies!
  • 1:00 PM – The Hidden Guide to Using Twitter Effectively
  • 6:00 PM – Answers to Uncommonly Discussed Twitter Questions

Then, I could take my Buffer analytics to see which time slot gets the most response.

How Should I Use My Favorites?

Favorites are often the most overlooked featured in Twitter, but it is one of the greatest features. Have you ever wanted to go back to a particular tweet, but not been able to find it because you forgot who sent it or it was sent too long ago? If you see a tweet you want to be able to find later, then use the Favorite link next to the star symbol to save it.

Then go to your profile and click on the Favorites tab to see your favorited tweets.

Aside from links I want to review later, I also favorite tweets that I want to remember like compliments on a post or a retweet by a popular user. Saving these can simply cheer you up on a rainy day, or even be used as testimonials. The best part is that your favorites will stick around. I can scroll back and see my favorites from two years ago!

Where Can I Find More Information on Twitter?

If this post hasn’t answered some of your questions, then don’t worry! Check out these other Twitter guides to find out even more about Twitter!

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