Category Archives: Blog

Best way to cut a tweet down to 140 characters?

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I received an email from a reader asking about keeping tweets under 140 characters. Here’s what he said:

“Just finished your book and hopefully set up an account. Think I successfully set. up my first tweet. One question. First draft too long. I couldn’t figure out how to get help to cut it down. Just backspaced and deleted words. Is there another way? Thanks for your great treatise.”

It’s actually a common problem, and one that I deal with every day. I like to express thoughts that may take a whole sentence and use “normal” English grammar, but Twitter is unforgiving — anything over 140 characters will be cut off upon posting. Fortunately, Twitter shows how many characters remain (or are over the limit), which makes figuring out the proper length a little easier.

Here’s what I wrote back:

Thanks for your email! There’s no magic way to cut a tweet down to 140 characters. I usually get very creative with shortcut words (e.g. & instead of and, w/ instead of with, intl instead of international) and drop pronouns. I have also seen people break a long tweet into two tweets, like this:

1. Love how the waiter at Joe’s Italian Bistro took the time to explain how they braise lamb chops
2. Definitely plan on going there again for our anniversary!

I also discussed this issue in Twitter In 30 Minutes, and showed an example of how to creatively cut down a long tweet to the right length. Here’s the long version:

Tweet over 140 characters

 

Here’s the short version:

c4_compose_tweet_compact_small

Keep in mind that links, photos, and hashtags will add to the character count, so you need to leave room for those elements if you want to include. them.

One other thing worth noting: I always try to leave at least 13 characters remaining. Why? Because it makes it possible for anyone to retweet my message without going over (“RT @ilamont: ” requires 13 characters.

How to create a tweet

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The following article about how to create a tweet was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. 

Creating a new tweet is a cinch, and Twitter gives you multiple ways to do it. This post explains how to create a tweet using Twitter’s Web or mobile app interfaces for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android.

Online

Go to twitter.com and make sure you are logged in. Look for the What’s happening field at the top of the screen, above your home timeline:

  1. Place your cursor in the field, and start typing.
  2. As you type, a counter below the field counts down how many characters you have left. Once you have typed 140 characters, the number will turn negative, meaning the tweet will be truncated to 140 characters unless you manually reduce the overage.
  3. When you are ready to release your tweet to the world, click the Tweet button.

There’s another way to compose a new tweet. In the upper right corner of the browser window, next to your profile icon in the Twitter toolbar, is a rectangular button overlaid with a feather-like icon. Click it to write a new tweet.

How to create a tweet

Twitter app

Twitter’s mobile apps are also easy to use, although they will require you to use a smaller keyboard.

  1. On Apple devices, find the Compose icon, which looks like a small rectangle with a feather lying across it. On Android, look for the What’s happening prompt at the bottom of the home screen, or tap the feather icon.
  2. Use the keyboard or the dictation function on your device to create the tweet. The dictation function can usually be activated by tapping an icon that looks like a microphone. It’s a huge time saver!
  3. Tap the Tweet button when you are ready to send it.

This article about creating tweets using Twitter’s Web and mobile apps was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. Download or purchase the book here.

Help! I’m being followed on Twitter

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The following article about followers on Twitter was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. Download or purchase the book here.

What happens when someone follows you on Twitter? This is the message that you will see in your email inbox:

Help followed on Twitter - new follower email

You can also see a list of all of your Twitter followers. Go to your profile page on Twitter.com and click the Followers link. All of the accounts following you will be presented in reverse-chronological order.

It may seem strange that these people are following your tweets. Who are they? How did they find out about you? What are their intentions?

For most accounts, it is easy to figure out who they are: Just click on the link to see their profile page and the recent tweets they’ve made.

As for how they found out about you, and why they are following you, those are harder questions to answer. In many cases, they may have stumbled upon you by using Twitter’s search engine or looking at someone else’s list of followers (for instance, if you follow @Oprah or the local newspaper, you will show up on those two accounts’ lists of followers). They may think your tweets are funny or insightful, or you share some common interest.

Most of the time, it’s harmless attention. These strangers will see your tweets, and may even start a dialogue at some point.

But “following” is not synonymous with “stalking.” Twitter creates value by sharing information and letting people and organizations expand their networks, even with strangers who they may never meet in person.

Remember also that anyone can see your tweets. All they need to do is load your profile into their Web browsers. Even if they aren’t following you, they will still see your tweets.

In other words, your tweets are public. If you don’t want anyone to see them, then you should protect your tweets…or not use Twitter at all.

Information on how to block specific users from following you and how to protect your tweets is described below.

To learn more about Twitter followers and how to protect your tweets, download or purchase Twitter In 30 Minutes

Twitter accounts to avoid

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The following article about Twitter accounts to avoid was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. 

Before I follow Twitter accounts, I check their tweets. If a certain account rarely tweets, or the tweets are boring (for instance, just links to news stories) I won’t follow the Twitter account. Here are some other red flags:

Egg accounts

Egg accounts are often new or abandoned accounts, created by people who haven’t uploaded a profile picture to Twitter. For people who have just started tweeting, an egg account is normal (maybe you’re an egg, too!) However, egg accounts that haven’t been updated in months or years are not worth following. The people who own them have given up on Twitter, and most likely won’t ever share something of interest.

Rude birds

Some people on Twitter use Twitter to belittle others, spread bizarre observations, or share intimate details of their warped lives. The tweets are littered with swears and stupidity. Sometimes the accounts belong to teens who don’t know any better. Sometimes they belong to adults who haven’t matured. Rarely do they offer insights or information of value. Don’t bother following them.

Spam accounts

Not long after you start using Twitter, you will receive a notification that someone is following you. Most of the time, the followers are legitimate — maybe they are people you know, or people who are following you because of some shared interest.

But others may look a little…off. The tweets seem vapid or unauthentic. They follow hundreds or thousands of people, but have very few people following them back. Links appear in their feeds that don’t come from well-known domains. In addition, the profile pictures tend to show unusually attractive people. Here’s an example:

Accounts to avoid on Twitter

Don’t get your hopes up if someone like this follows you. Random attractive people probably don’t want to follow you (or me, for that matter). In fact, such accounts do not belong to attractive strangers tweeting about football, travel, and hooking up. These accounts actually belong to spammers, and my guess is most of them are unattractive, basement-dwelling losers who tweet links to low-grade dating sites, advertisements, or online shopping portals that might generate a few pennies every time someone clicks. Don’t click the links, and don’t follow them back!

This article about Twitter accounts to avoid was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes

How to follow someone on Twitter

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The following article about following people on Twitter was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. 

So you’ve signed up for Twitter, reserved your Twitter handle, set up a profile, and are ready to seize Twitter by the beak. This requires tweeting (described in Chapter 4), but you also want to see what other people are tweeting about and sharing on Twitter.

To see other people’s tweets, you’ll need to start following people. If you don’t, Twitter will seem empty and boring, and you will quickly lose interest.

As described earlier in this guide, Twitter encourages new users to follow celebrity accounts. Twitter also urges users to upload their address books, and will try to match the email addresses of friends and other contacts with existing Twitter accounts.

But what if you want to follow a Twitter account after you have registered? The following sections explain how.

Once you are registered for Twitter and have logged in, clicking on another person’s Twitter handle will reveal that person’s Twitter profile. Each profile contains a Follow button. Click it to follow the account. Once you do that, that person’s tweets will start appearing in your home timeline.

Below is an example of @marty_walsh, the Twitter profile of Boston’s mayor. You can visit his profile by typing twitter.com/marty_walsh into the address bar of your browser. The Follow button is located below the description:

Twitter how to follow someone

If you click the button, all the recent tweets created by Mayor Walsh and his staff will start showing up in your home timeline. Your home timeline consists of tweets from all of the Twitter accounts you follow. The more accounts you follow, the more tweets you will see in your timeline.

If you are using the Twitter app on your mobile device, tapping the handle of a Twitter user will reveal his or her profile. Click the Follow button (look for the silhouette icon with a plus symbol) to start following them:

Twitter how to follow someone on an iPhone

Alternately, you can use the Twitter app’s search feature to find specific accounts to follow:

  1. At the top of the screen, you will see an icon that looks like a magnifying glass. Tap it to open the search feature.
  2. In the field provided, type the account name of the person or organization you want to follow.
  3. The names of likely accounts will start to automatically populate the search field.
  4. Once you have found the right account, click the Follow button.

This article was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. Download or purchase the book here.

Update: Twitter timeline changes?

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Twitter has confirmed that it is experimenting with mixing up the home timeline. In other words, instead of showing tweets in reverse chronological order, the algorithm is pushing selected tweets to the top of the Twitter timeline, presumably because they have higher levels of engagement or other positive qualities. Facebook has a similar process in place, which highlights popular photos, posts, and links in the News Feed.

Home timelineThis should not come as a surprise. Using the classic “reverse chron” setup, people checking their timelines at certain times during the day are guaranteed to see whatever ordinary tweets happen to be broadcast by followers. If you check it late at night, it’s basically crickets. Highlighting popular tweets make sense, and certainly helps keep users who otherwise might say “what’s the point?”

What I fear, however, is that more ads will be crammed into the Twitter timeline, or people who don’t get a chance to tweet that often will be shoved to the bottom of the timeline when they do.

Note that this is only an experiment. It may not be released to the entire Twitter universe, or it may be changed in some way.

How to install the Twitter app on an Android phone

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The following article about Twitter on Android phones was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. Download or purchase the Twitter book here.

Registering Twitter on an Android phone or tablet is quick. You will need to download the Twitter mobile app first, though. Twitter makes apps for most mobile Android platforms, including:

  • Samsung
  • Xiaomi
  • Nexus
  • LG
  • Motorola
  • Alcatel

The Twitter app for Android devices is closely integrated with the phone’s operating system, which can make registration easier. Note that you may see some variations in the interface, depending on which flavor of Android you use.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Open Google Play on your Android device (phone, tablet, etc.) and search for Twitter.
  2. Tap the Install button.
  3. Google Play will show you which features the Twitter app will be able to access. You must approve this to continue the installation process.
  4. Open the app.

You will see something like this:

Install Twitter on Android phone

For this device, Twitter used the email address associated with the Google Play account (and the phone) to start the registration process. Tap Sign up a different account to register with a different email address.

The registration screen has fields for Name, Email, Username (which will determine your Twitter handle) and phone number. It’s almost identical to the iOS version. However, the Android interface for tweeting, adding people, and changing your profile is quite different than iOS (if you’re coming from an iPhone).

The Android Twitter app for phones and tablets will prompt new users to customize their profiles with photos and a brief bio. It’s very convenient, as you can use selfies and other photos taken with the phone’s camera. To edit your profile, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Android app, and click the More Actions icon (three dots in the upper right corner of the screen).
  2. Tap your Twitter handle.
  3. Tap the Edit profile button.

This article was excerpted from Twitter In 30 Minutes, by author Ian Lamont. Download or purchase the book here.

How to change Twitter settings on the Web or an iPhone

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Once upon a time, Twitter settings were very easy to access via the Twitter toolbar on Twitter.com or via the mobile app. Now they are buried. This short post and video will show you how to access Twitter settings on the Web and an iPhone, and will also show you some of the options that are available via Twitter settings.

Note that the Web-based settings panel for Twitter is far more complete than what’s available via the mobile app. On the other hand, there are settings on the mobile app that just pertain to the mobile device you are using.

Here’s the short video which explains where to access Twitter settings:

How to find people on Twitter

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A challenge faced by many new Twitter users is how to find people on Twitter. As I mentioned in my book, Twitter In 30 Minutes, while it’s possible to find people you know by syncing an address book to Twitter (and indeed, Twitter encourages users to do so) there are significant drawbacks, including the fact that you’re giving important personal information to a for-profit corporation. And even if you do upload your address book, people who are not on it may be hard to find on Twitter. And what about people you don’t know?

The video below explains how to locate specific personal, business, and speciality accounts on Twitter. It’s not foolproof, but it can help you use Twitter search more effectively, particularly when it comes to people with common names. I also use an example of a specialty account — Grumpy Cat’s twitter feed — which has many imitators. How do you determine which account is the real Grumpy Cat?

No one reads my tweets. Why?

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I received a question last week from a reader of Twitter In 30 Minutes. The reader was puzzled why no one was reading his tweets, or responding:

“No one reads my tweets. I send tweets to Fox News and other places and have never had anyone read or respond to my tweets or follow me. Any suggestions?”

From his email, it was apparent that there were actually several problems:

  1. No one is following him on Twitter
  2. No one is reading his tweets
  3. When he @mentions another account, no one responds

It is very frustrating when you start a Twitter account and begin tweeting, but don’t have interactions — not even other people following your account!

Fortunately, this reader had a partial fix to the “no one is following me” problem. I took a quick look at his profile, and determined that his account was protected. This means the only people who could read his tweets are those who he had approved. I emailed back and explained why that was causing an issue, and recommended that he remove the protection:

“People you don’t know are less likely to follow protected accounts (mainly because they can’t see what you are tweeting about!) so my first recommendation is to open your account so anyone can follow you and see what you are tweeting about. You can do this by clicking on the gear icon on Twitter.com and then selecting “Security and Privacy” and then uncheck the box that says ‘Protect my tweets’”

You can see the “Protect my tweets” box in the screenshot below:

No one is reading my tweets!

I also suggested that he start following more people and responding to them from time to time. In Chapter 3 of Twitter In 30 Minutes, I actually recommend several tactics for following interesting accounts and friends.

In addition, there was his specific question around @FoxNews (4+ million followers), which also applies to other popular accounts, from Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk, 14+ million followers) to @Oprah (25 million followers and climbing!):

“Once you have started following accounts and responding to them, don’t be surprised if some people respond to you while others don’t. This is particularly true of famous people or accounts with millions of followers, like Fox News — it would take too much time for them to respond to everyone who mentions them in a Tweet, so they almost never respond to anyone.”

Lastly, I let the reader know that I would follow him — you can, too, by clicking on @ilamont and pressing the follow button.