Shortly after I posted my Monday call for guest #twutorial posts, I saw a Facebook link that took me to an Alexis Grant post encouraging people to use a “Notice-Me” list. I have cited Alexis’ advice before in this blog, including her tips on using Twitter lists, her job-searching blog posts and blogging tips. So I sent her a direct message, asking if she’d like to share a blog post for my #twutorial series.
She quickly agreed and shared the post below. She gives sound advice, though 90 percent feels a little high to me. (Not saying she’s wrong; I think she uses social media smarter than I do. My point is that everyone should develop your own social media style and decide how to apply the advice you receive. Even if 90 percent feels high to you, too, the rest of the advice here is outstanding. Whether you’re following my tips or Alexis’ or someone else, you need to apply them in a way that fits your style.)
If you’re looking to use Twitter more strategically, check out Alexis’ networking course, Become a Twitter Power User, starting Monday.
Sometimes simple changes make a BIG difference. And what we’re about to talk about today falls into that category. It’s a simple, easy way to make the most of your time on Twitter, yet it’s vastly underutilized.
If you use this tip consistently, your network will grow dramatically — and you’ll gain quality followers, ones that actually interact and click. (Even new research supports this.) Even better, you’ll attract the attention of influential people, ones who will help you reach your goals — whether you’re looking to connect with new sources, sniff out scoops or help your blog gain traction.
So what is this easy tweak?
Using the @mention.
Ninety percent of your tweets should include an @mention. That’s right – nearly 100 percent. Nearly all your tweets.
Why the @mention is so important
Why should most of your tweets contain an @mention? Because it helps people notice you.
Whenever you include someone else’s @handle in your tweet, that tweet shows up in their @mentions feed. Which means they’ll read your tweet. Which means they might click on your @handle to find out more about you. Which means they might follow you back.
And guess what happens if they follow you back? That opens a line for private communication via direct message, which is pretty much GOLD for your networking efforts.
A tweet without an @mention is a missed opportunity. Here are a few examples:
- You went out for coffee with an esteemed editor, and tweeted about it without including the editor’s @handle. Missed opportunity.
- You read a helpful blog post, and tweeted about it without @mentioning the author or publication. Missed opportunity.
- You shared a stellar article you wrote, without @mentioning the sources you quoted. Missed opportunity.
Twitter is all about connecting. If you’re not using @mentions, you’re not connecting directly with other users, and the people you’re talking about probably aren’t going to notice you.
Think you already use this to your advantage? Push yourself to take it to the next level — and include not one, but two @mentions in your tweets. Double the effort, double the results.
Putting this tip into practice
So how do you find an @handle for the person you want to tweet about?
Sometimes you’ll be able to find the person’s or organization’s @handle simply by looking in the sidebar or footer of their blog or website. Other times you’ll have to search for it.
Tip: When you want to look up someone’s Twitter handle, type their name plus “Twitter” into Google rather than using Twitter’s search function. Why? Because Google’s search function is better than Twitter’s. Searching through Google will save you time.
I know what you’re thinking — that adding @mentions to your tweets will take more effort, and you already spend too much time on Twitter. But incorporating this into your daily routine will be SO worth it. Not only will you be that much closer to connecting with tweeps who can help you reach your goals, those people might even RT your tweets, which will help you continue to grow your Twitter community.
Plus, if you @mention someone once, you’ll likely @mention them again in the future. Once you’ve looked someone’s handle up a few times, you’ll remember it. (And some Twitter applications, such as HootSuite, even remember the @handle for you.) Over time, you’ll become more efficient.
Oh, and don’t make this mistake
While we’re on this subject, do you know the difference between an @mention and an @reply?
An @mention can show up anywhere in a tweet, while an @reply is at the very beginning of the tweet. (More details here on the difference.)
Why does this matter? Because the @reply includes a complication that trips up a lot of users.
I used to think everybody knew this, but lots of experienced tweeps do it incorrectly. And if you do it incorrectly, you’re not getting as much as possible out of the platform.
Here’s what trips tweeps up: when you send an @reply, the only people who will see that tweet in their home feed are you (the person who wrote it) and the recipient, plus anyone who follows both of you. That means if I send out a tweet like this…
@newfriend Loving your blog post today!
… the only people who will see it in their feed are me, @newfriend and our mutual followers.
That’s fine, unless you write a tweet that starts with an @reply that you want more people to see, like this:
@newfriend has such a great blog post today on astronomy: http://bit.ly/sample
Even though it will only appear in the home feed of a select few, that doesn’t mean the @reply isn’t public. If you go to anyone’s Twitter stream, you can see the @replies they sent. Those @replies just won’t show up in your home feed unless you’re the person they wrote to or you follow both the sender and the recipient.
This makes sense if you think about it. Twitter is trying to cut down on the noise in your feed, and they assume you’re only interested in someone else’s @reply if you are that person they’re replying to or know both parties.
But can you see how this would lead to mistakes?
Sometimes a user will send out a tweet they want everyone to see, but begin it with an @reply. That means most of their network doesn’t see it, which devalues the tweet.
So the Twitter community came up with a work-around. If you want to start a tweet with an @reply, simply add a period in front. That means your tweet would look like this:
.@newfriend has such a great blog post today on astronomy: http://bit.ly/sample
And boom! The tweet now goes to all your followers.
Make sense? If you avoid this pitfall — and use @mentions like the Twitter Power User you are — you’ll be well on your way to a bigger, more engaged, more influential Twitter community.
Alexis Grant is an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist (after working as a reporter for U.S. News & World Report and the Houston Chronicle). She offers a free newsletter with practical tips and advice for making your own luck in the digital age. She’s also managing editor of Brazen Life, a blog for ambitious young professionals.
I welcome other guest #twutorial posts from journalists experienced at using Twitter. Address a particular topic or technique that will help other journalists use Twitter more effectively. If you’ve already addressed a topic on your blog, I’ll republish the first few paragraphs here and then link to your blog. I’m also interested in examples of journalists who use Twitter effectively. I’m compiling lists of various types of journalists to follow as examples: reporters, newsroom leaders, visual journalists, etc.
Here are earlier #twutorial posts: