A beginner’s introduction to Twitter
Twitter has been around now longer than most bands stay together, proving it’s no passing social media fad. In fact, over half a billion people are actively using Twitter — but you’re still not one of them.
Maybe you’ve kept your head down, fearful of yet another online responsibility. Maybe you created an account once upon a time, and there it lingers still. Maybe you believed the haters who said Twitter is just a place for celebrities to talk about their bathroom habits and what they ate for lunch, sometimes in the same tweet.
For whatever reason, Twitter is still a mystery to you — and you’ve been too ashamed to ask your friends what the hell they’re talking about when they talk about RTs, MTs, DMs, @replies, hashtags, handles, and more. As teachers say though, there’s no such thing as a dumb question; so let’s take the shame out of the equation and dive right into some Twitter basics.
What’s the big deal about Twitter?
As recent events in Egypt and Syria demonstrate, Twitter is the most immediate of all social media. Updates are bite-sized (short textual posts, a picture, a link to a website, a 6-second video, etc.) and public, so they’re visible to anyone with an internet connection. This makes Twitter one of the best ways to share news and information.
As a musician, Twitter allows you to instantly connect with your fans, fellow artists, favorite music bloggers, festivals, promoters, and your musical heroes all over the world. It’s where today’s bands are first sharing news about upcoming releases, behind-the-scenes photos and musings, concert dates, and occasional personal confessions too.
But it’s not just about promoting yourself. Twitter is also a great way to stay informed about your own areas of interest — whether it be hip-hop, traditional Celtic music, college football, Russian poetry, colonial-era furniture, golden doodles, herbal medicine, or anything else.
On Twitter you can follow other Twitter users without them being required to follow you back — so you can curate your own information stream (known as a “Twitter feed”) by subscribing to certain Twitter users’ tweets, which will show up in your own homepage feed.
And when you’re sharing interesting content on Twitter, other people will follow you!
What the hell is a tweet?
A tweet is Twitter’s version of a post or status update. The maximum length of a tweet is 140 characters — including spaces and URLs (web addresses), though Twitter will automatically shorten long URLs.
Here’s an example of a tweet that is exactly 140 characters long:
Unless you’ve changed your account to “private,” tweets are public to all, even people who aren’t on Twitter.
You can use a tweet to either start a conversation (by posting your own content or thoughts), or to join a conversation by tweeting in response to other Twitter users.
How do I make sense of all the gobbledygook in a tweet?
Well, it takes a little bit of practice.
The first thing you’ll want to know is that when you converse with other Twitter users, you’ll be using something called a “handle” to address them in your tweet. A handle is basically a Twitter user’s username. When you place an “@” sign before a handle/username, that person will be able to see your tweet. It’s a rough equivalent to “tagging” someone on Facebook.
So, in the example above, we’re making mention of a PR company called StoryAmp (whose handle is “@storyamp”) and its CEO, Dmitri Vietze (whose handle is “@dmitrivietze”).
We wanted to use their handles (as opposed to just writing “StoryAmp” and “Dmitri Vietze”) so they’ll be notified that we’ve mentioned them on Twitter. That way they can share the info with their followers.
Why would I want everyone to see the conversations I’m having on Twitter?
Well, first off — there’s a thing called “direct messaging” in the Twitter universe. If you direct message (DM) someone, your conversation will be private. However, if you are simply using the normal tweet function to converse, then your conversation will be public. If you place a Twitter handle at the very beginning of your tweet, that tweet will only show up in the feeds of Twitter users who follow both you and the other person.
But why let the whole world watch one of your online conversations unfold? Well, because if someone is interested in you, they might be interested in who you’re talking to (not in a creepy NSA way). They might have something valuable to add to the conversation. You might say something interesting along the course of that back-and-forth on Twitter which is worthy of being shared on its own. You might make mention of someone in a tweet that serves as a recommendation to your followers.
How do I start using Twitter?
It’s easy. In a matter of minutes, you can be using one of the most powerful, free promotion tools available to musicians. Follow these simple steps:
2. Choose your “Twitter handle” — or your Twitter profile name — and make sure it’s related to your artist name or band name.
3. Import your email contacts so you can immediately start following people you already know.
4. Customize your Twitter account with a background image, a profile photo, and a header image. Make it pop! (Click HERE for some creative inspiration).
5. List your contact info, website URL, and brief bio. Your bio should include something that sells your music at quick-glance — genre info, press quotes, a blurb about your band, etc.
6. Start following fellow musicians, fans, labels, music blogs, critics, and more. Use the Twitter search to find your favorite artists, fans, family, friends, and anyone else that might enjoy the kind of music you perform. Start some conversations!
What is a retweet?
A retweet (RT) is a tweet by one Twitter user that is tweeted again (or forwarded) by another user to their group of followers. Retweeting is a simple way of sharing good content with your own followers, while also notifying the creator of the tweet that you’ve enjoyed their content and shared it with your community.
Another way to let someone know that you like a certain tweet — but without having to share with your own followers — is to star the tweet as a “favorite.” Favorited tweets are grouped together on your profile page.
What is a modified tweet?
A modified tweet (MT) is basically a retweet that has been shortened, edited, or added to in some way. Add “MT” to the beginning of any retweet that you’ve altered. Why would you modify a tweet? To change or add a hashtag; to comment on the tweet; or to correct a typo or error.
What the heck is a hashtag?
A hashtag (or “#” symbol) marks keywords or topics in a tweet so that related tweets can be grouped together in a Twitter search. For instance, you could include a hashtag already in use — such as #SongOfTheDay — so people who are looking for daily music recommendations will find your song. Or you could create a brand new hashtag for a series of your own tweets that you’d potentially like to group together, such as #(YourBandName)TourPhotos.
People also sometimes use hashtags to create an additional layer of sasrcasm, jokiness, irony, or meta-critique within their tweets. Not sure exactly what I mean? Play around long enough on Twitter and you’ll find plenty of these examples.
I’m already on Facebook; can’t I just keep using that?
What do I tweet about if I have nothing to say?
Ask a question. Share a link to your latest blog post or YouTube video. Post a photo. Recommend other bands that your fans should follow. Talk about your proudest artistic achievement. Write a 140-character review of someone’s music. Make a list. Interview yourself one tiny answer at a time. Make a big announcement. Talk about your musical gear. Write a haiku. Retweet interesting content. Keep people informed about what you’re listening to, what you’re reading, where you’re traveling, and more.
Still feel like you’ve got nothing to say? Talk about what you ate for lunch or your latest bowel movement. Hey, it works for the stars!
Hopefully this article helps you get a better grasp on the basics of Twitter, and how it can be a great way to network, promote, and have some fun. If you have other questions about Twitter, let us know in the comments section below.
If you’d like more information about using Twitter as a music promotion tool, download our FREE guide:
[Picture of question mark sticky notes from Shutterstock.]