Fun with Twitter through curated accounts #rocur

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a love for Twitter. It hasn’t always been that way but I’ve written about the fun of Twitter and how to fall in love with Twitter again and I have been using it more and more over the last few months, again.

Having fun with Twitter using rocur accounts

So I have a more bite-sized suggestion this time round than my previous posts, and another kind of “gateway” into learning to enjoy Twitter that might work for some of you. And this is: have a look for some good #rocur accounts and interact with them.

Um … but what is a #rocur account?

Excellent question! You might have seen these accounts without realising what they were called (that was the case with me until recently). #rocur is short for rotated curation and they are Twitter accounts which get managed by a different person every week. They’re really interactive and great to get involved with.

For example, earlier this month I managed the @WeAreAustralia Twitter account for a week. This account, so to speak, “represents” typical Australians, and different people run it each week to ask and answer questions to people around the world, getting to know other Twitter users and being a bit of a spokesperson for Australia for a short time.

WeAreAustralia Rocur account on Twitter

It was enormous fun to “be Australia” for the week. Before my week started I wrote a list of all the many (and varied) things I wanted to talk about, from social media to Iceland to autism to books – all kinds of stuff that piques my interest. And I managed to talk about all of it, and meet all kinds of interesting people both in Australia and across the world who I’ve now continued the conversations with back at my own Twitter profile.

And so what should I do about a #rocur account??

I’m not suggesting, necessarily, you go off and volunteer to be a #rocur Twitter person for a week, but what I am suggesting is that you go and follow some interesting #rocur accounts and interact with them. These people are there very specifically to talk to others so it’s such a great way to get into the habit of interacting on Twitter, not just posting your own tweets “to nowhere” – because interaction is the most fabulous part of Twitter, and how it helps you to build relationships with all kinds of interesting and, let’s face it, useful people!

A great start is this list of country #rocur accounts. There are also #rocur accounts for different parts of Australia, like @WeAreADL for Adelaide or @WeAreBrisbane for, obviously, Brisbane! There are also #rocur accounts for different interest groups – like @We_Love_Aural for music-lovers, and a newish but good account for ex-pats around the world called @WeAreXpats.

Over to you (get over to Twitter!)

So my challenge to you is: look up a few #rocur accounts that intrigue you and get involved in the conversation. It’s one of the best entry-ways into getting used to interacting on Twitter and you might find that once you start, you can’t stop. But I’m not responsible for that!!

 

How to fall in love with Twitter again (aka how to use Twitter right, IMHO)

Twitter and I have an on-again, off-again kind of relationship. It took me quite a while to learn to like Twitter in the first place – I was “forced” to use it, initially, by a travel website I was working for! – and I still have waves of love and not-so-much-love for it. Just over a year ago I blogged about all the reasons I love Twitter and yet a few months ago I felt like I couldn’t really be bothered again.

Now I’m back on the Twitter bandwagon again, and I wanted to tell you what got me back to happy tweeting. There’s been a lot of discussion this year about how people miss the “old” Twitter – the Twitter of its first years where there was a lot of chatting between people, and a lot less of people just posting links to their blog posts or to other people’s posts without much in the way of useful comment. And I realised that this was exactly the problem for me, too.

My tweets these days: links with comments, my thoughts, and discussions about wombats

 

How I solved my lack of Twitter enthusiasm

Once I’d realised that I missed chatting to people (one of my favourite parts of Twitter – not just “meeting” people but also getting involved in tweet-ups and tweet-chats) and I was sick of seeing endless links to stuff, then I decided on my solution. (Incidentally, I tried using Twitter lists as my solution, but this wasn’t actually the answer I needed.)

I just had to go and unfollow a bunch of people.

So, over the course of a couple of months, I’ve been looking out for people who don’t fit my requirements, and I’ve also used tools like ManageFlitter which can identify people you follow on Twitter who are spam, inactive, or various other undesirable categories, and my follow list has been cut down considerably. What a wonderfully cleansing purge this has been! Basically, I’ve unfollowed Twitter accounts which:

  • Only tweet their own blog posts (I like finding about your new blog posts. But not if that’s all you tell me.)
  • Only tweet links – whether these links are their own or someone else’s – and never have any comment to add to it. If you’re going to tweet links, add a few characters so I know why I should read it.
  • Only auto-tweet stuff from Facebook. This is one of my true pet hates. If you don’t have time to be on Twitter then don’t be on Twitter! Facebook posts are so different to tweets.
  • Never have conversations with other Twitter users.  When I see a tweet that’s just an unexciting link (especially if I suspect it’s automated) then I click through to their profile – if their last few tweets are like that too, and no @ messages to other real people, then it’s an immediate unfollow from me!
  • Barely ever use Twitter – because then they’re unlikely to get involved “properly” too.
And it worked!
The only problem now is that I am too tempted to spend too much time on Twitter, because it’s so much fun. In particular, having nearly-live conversations with people (as in, you reply reasonably quickly) is fun. Fortunately I realised a quick way around this was to simply leave Twitter open in a tab while I’m at my desk, but click on the Notifications tab – then if I get replies a little number pops up, and I can hop in and reply when I have a spare moment between other tasks, but without getting drawn into the whole feed and discovering new conversations I want to have when I really should be doing something else.
Having the Twitter Notifications window open saves me getting lost in the Twitter stream
You can see in this little screen shot that the number of notifications shows up in the tab, so I don’t even need to waste time clicking there to check – it automatically refreshes.

How are you going with Twitter?

What’s your current relationship with Twitter? Do you love or hate it – and which bits do you actually like? Is there a way that you can set it up to only find the bits you love, like I have?

 

What I learnt from running my first Twitter chat or Tweet-up

Last week we held the first WABAK Twitter chat – to help a bunch of mostly former blogging students get the hang of using Twitter, and as a substitute for a face-to-face meet up this month.

Let me tell you, hosting a Twitter chat or Tweet-up is SO much fun but much more exhausting than I’d imagined! We had a total of 14 tweeps chatting away – I’d thought I’d acknowledge them all by including their hello messages here.

#wabak 03/14 participants

We spent an hour online talking about confusions of Twitter, who to follow, how to use hashtags, what snacks people were eating while tweeting … and so on! (Also, a strong sideline in Pinterest!) I asked about ten questions during the chat to keep things on track and I think that worked out pretty well. But I still learnt a lot:

  1. Not everybody has got the hang of using Twitter on a computer – many see it as a mobile app and it definitely is very useful to use on smartphones (I check Twitter on my phone fairly regularly!) but for more “serious” efforts, the desktop version at Twitter.com makes it easier … and easier still is using something like Tweetdeck where you can see various columns at the same time (for example, a column just for the #wabak hashtag).
    Tweetdeck screen shot of the #wabak tweet up
  2. Some of the participants had some great suggestions on great Twitter users to follow – including @problogger, @kellyexeter, @doctorkarl, @brainpicker, @huffposttravel, @thisissethsblog, @valeriekhoo, @kisstosell and @sarahprout.
  3. Chocolate is still a popular topic.
  4. Kylah (@kylahmorris) from Zest eBiz won the prize for being the first to spot the trending topics of the day; Aggie (@aggie_lim) from Happiness Everyday won the prize for being the person making the most effort to “attend” our tweet-up – she was mid-learning at the Food in a Fuel Stove event at the Bibbulmun Track Foundation (pictured below).
    Aggie Lim tuning in to our chat while cooking at Bibbulmun Track Foundation
  5. Newbie users reminded me that when you first join Twitter, it can be a real challenge to keep your tweets belong 140 characters. Fortunately, even long-winded people like me get the hang of it so I tried to reassure them.
  6. Above all, I learnt that chatting with a dozen or so people at once and trying to direct their chat towards a common goal is MUCH easier in person than online! But it was heaps of fun, and I think we achieved my main goal which was to provide a bit of a comfort zone where people could have a go at interacting on Twitter amongst a supportive group.
But I’m sure the learning is still continuing for the participants, and for others of you who are still trying to “make friends” with Twitter – so do let me know in the comments – what questions do you have about Twitter?

How hashtags make me happy (and how and why you can use hashtags)

What on earth is a hashtag?

If you’ve been wanting to ask me this question, you are definitely not alone.

Let’s start off with the basics. A hashtag is like a topic marker, a way to describe in a word or short phrase what the topic of your post is about. And the point of using a hashtag is that people can click on it and then find lots of other posts about the same topic (usually from all different people).

Hashtags have a few special qualities:

  • Of course, they have to start with a #. (This has got to be one of the few recent examples of British English triumphing over US English.)
  • They can’t have spaces. You can use more than one word but you have to join them together. For example, #AmandaKendleConsulting if you wanted to make a hashtag out of my business name. 
  • They’re not case-sensitive so you could also use #amandakendleconsulting and if you clicked on that you’d get the same results as the one with the initial capitals. Sometimes I use the initial capitals just to make the phrase clearer. Sometimes I don’t!
  • They are taking over the world. Okay, they are taking over the social media world. They started off on Twitter but have since spread to basically every social media platform there is, even Facebook. But if you click on a hashtag in Facebook, for example, you’ll only see other Facebook posts that have the same hashtag. (A more advanced bit about this later.)
So then the next obvious question is why should we use hashtags? The main reason is so that more people can find the stuff we’re posting on social media. So, for example, if you post a photo on Instagram of the beach and use a few hashtags like #perth #scarboroughbeach #workathome (see, that’s throwing words together without spaces … you get used to it!) then you might get the attention of people who don’t actually follow you on Instagram. Someone who searches for Perth, for example, will see your image, and that might entice them to look around at your other pictures, and perhaps follow you. And it works the same way no matter which platform you’re talking about – although it’s fair to say that hashtags are more widely used on Twitter and Instagram at the moment, more than on other social media sites.
The other great time to use hashtags is so that people who know about the hashtag can use it to, so that you can all see what the others are doing. For example, at the Problogger conference last month, the hashtag was advertised as being #PBevent and this meant we all posted our thoughts and updates (and pictures of cake) using the #PBevent hashtag – and could then easily see what other attendees were saying about it, too. And of course with our #businesspics challenge on Instagram, our participants use the #businesspics hashtag and then anyone can tap on it and find all of the different posts from everyone.

I asked my Facebook page followers what their hashtag questions were, so let me answer them here:

Can you have your very own hashtag?
And related – how do you start a hashtag? Well, basically, a hashtag is public property. If you want to have a hashtag that gathers only your own posts together, then you want to make it pretty unique – #AmandaKendleConsulting would work here, #myhouse would not – but you can’t stop someone else from using it as well. To “start” a hashtag, you simply use it. Once you post a hashtag it just becomes one, and it’s clickable, even if it’s only that one post you’ve done that will pop up.

How do you decide what hashtag to use?
This gets easier with practice but there are basically three different ways I decide which hashtags to add:

  • By guessing/using a kind of common sense – for example, if I’m posting about a blog post I wrote about Japan, I would use #Japan
  • By searching to see what exists already – I might search to see if #OsakaSightseeing is already a hashtag, or #OsakaSights, and if one of them has a lot of posts, choose that, in the hope that more people will see my post
  • By watching what other people do and copying them!
You can also research conglomeration of posts from different platforms that have been hashtagged with the same thing at a service like Tagboard.

How many hashtags should you use?
I tend to use a maximum of three or four regardless of the platform (often less on Twitter, they take up too many characters!). I read a Mashable report about Instagram recently which showed more hashtags are better, up to about five hashtags, and then from then on you don’t get much benefit. And yes, to answer the person who asked me on Facebook, if you use twenty hashtags every time you may lose some followers, I know I for one get kind of annoyed when there is a mass of hashtags to navigate past.

Some other random bits and pieces about hashtags that might interest you:
  • You can put a hashtag in the middle of a sentence. This is especially OK on Twitter where you have to fit so much in to a small space. So I could say

    Not sure why but my #Germany post on visiting Heilbronn (where I used to live) is having a big resurgence on the blog http://t.co/DtQYSrznME
    — Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle) October 14, 2013

  • On Twitter, people sometimes use hashtags to be funny. Or to try to be funny. Like me.

    I just unfollowed someone who complained about having to get up at 8am. #grumpymum
    — Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle) October 2, 2013

  • You can save hashtag searches for Twitter in particular so that you can easily click in and check up on your favourite topic (especially useful for conferences too).
  • Remember this is titled “How hashtags make me happy”? The main reason is that when I’ve got a few spare minutes to surf around then hashtags take me on weird and wonderful journeys around the internet. Weird, wonderful but focused journeys! Go hashtags.

Any more hashtag questions?
So, hopefully that’s answered some of the questions but I’m sure there will be more. Ask them in the comments below and I’ll take care of them. #ifican 🙂

The fun of Twitter and my own Twitter renaissance

I first signed up to Twitter in March 2008. Like many social media sites, I think I just signed up because I thought I should, long before I knew if it would prove useful or whether I would even enjoy using it. (By the way, you can quickly find out how long you’ve been on Twitter by checking at the How Long Have You Been Tweeting site).

@amandakendle on Twitter – for nearly five years, so far!

Over the past five years, I have had phases where I’ve been obsessive about checking Twitter constantly, and phases where I may have barely looked into it for weeks at a time. Of course since I started working more seriously in social media I spend a lot more time there but it still comes in bursts – and right now, I’m having another Twitter renaissance. (Where does the time come from, you ask? Mostly because I’m not using Instagram quite as much right now.)

There are numerous reasons why I find Twitter so much fun, but I know when you are first thinking of stepping into the tweeting realm – or worse, when someone like me tells you that for the sake of your business you perhaps “should” be on Twitter – it can all seem a bit hard to imagine. The practicalities of how, what and when for Twitter are coming in a future post, but the fun? Well, I want to tell you all about that now.

So let me finish this sentence a few times: I love Twitter because …

  1. I’ve “met” people on Twitter who I’ve later met in real life and they’ve become friends. I may not have come across them at all without Twitter; I certainly wouldn’t have been friends with them so easily if I hadn’t already “known” them online.
  2. When I really want to know something that’s happening right now, Twitter is the best place to find out about it. I remember finding tweets from people in Korea when tricky North Korean incident wasn’t yet in the news; when a police helicopter circles my suburb I head to Twitter to find out why, and usually do.
  3. The best advice comes from Twitter: a while back I asked for local recommendations for web designers for a client and got stacks of excellent info. Twitter users have also given me advice for dealing with a house accidentally emptied of chocolate.
  4. I get to talk to and find out about writers I admire. I especially love reading good fiction by Australian women writers and I love the chance to interact with them on Twitter – people like Kylie Ladd, Allison Tait, Sara Foster and Natasha Lester.
  5. There are fun and games. Like this:
  6. It’s quick and easy fun. If I’m waiting for an appointment I can pull out my phone, open up Twitter and quickly read and tweet a little; it’s something I can then put away without feeling like it’s not finished.
  7. People are funny on Twitter. Even I can be funny on Twitter. I can’t really explain it – something about writing such short updates, or something about how the culture of Twitter has grown over the years – but so many people are so funny.
  8. Last but very definitely not least, I get work via Twitter. People contact me because the see the kind of work I do, and want me to do the same for them. Can’t complain about that!
I could go on, but those are some of the main reasons that I enjoy using Twitter. It’s quite unique among social media tools, I think, in that you really can feel like you’re building a direct one-to-one relationship with someone who you previously had no connection to – without spending a heck of a lot of time doing it. If we haven’t met up on Twitter yet then come and find @amandakendle and say hello. I look forward to seeing you there!