photo by Ian Muttoo

This post probably isn’t what you’re expecting. If you’re looking for guidelines and tips on how to use and get the most out of Twitter, you can view a list of my past posts here. But before you get overwhelmed, don’t worry. This is not a crash-course on everything you could possible learn about the art of Twitter. This post is about what you really need to know about Twitter, and that boils down to five surprisingly simple things.

1. There is no one right way.

Don’t roll your eyes; it’s true! If what you’re doing is working, it’s the right way for you. If it’s not, it’s not. It truly is that simple.

There will always be things that work for you that won’t work for someone else, and vice versa. This is a fact of life. Use it to free yourself from the stress of “following the rules.” If getting on Twitter feels like a chore – or a field of social land mines – because you’re so wound-up about “doing something wrong,” you’re not going to enjoy it. And if you’re not enjoying it, your followers probably aren’t either, which defeats the entire point. So here’s your permission: take what works for you. Leave the rest.

2. There is no such thing as a Twitter expert.

If there’s no such thing as “Twitter rules,” there also can be no such thing as a “Twitter expert.” That might sound strange coming from someone who writes a Twitter column, but trust me: I don’t consider myself an expert. In fact, I would run far, far away from anyone who calls themselves a Twitter expert. That type of terminology just doesn’t leave enough space for individual variables for my taste.

3. There are techniques shown to be beneficial.

Don’t let it devastate you if you realize you’ve been doing something ‘wrong.’ Adjust and move forward.

That being said, there are people who know a lot about Twitter, who have great tips, and who have found things that consistently work for most people. “Don’t send automatic direct messages to new followers,” is a fantastic example, because I can’t think of a time when this advice doesn’t work. You still have the right to ignore such foundational good-practice beliefs, but you’d probably be better off if you didn’t.

If you decide that Twitter is for you, educating yourself about these principles is a great idea, as is brushing up once in a while and reevaluating things.

The key to not letting such guidelines overwhelm you is threefold. 1) Don’t let it devastate you if you realize you’ve been doing something ‘wrong.’ Adjust and move forward. 2) Don’t let it get under your skin if you disagree with some advice. You have that right. 3) Don’t sweat the small stuff, baby.

4. You do not need to be on Twitter.

Did you just do a double-take? A Twitter columnist who doesn’t think you need to be on Twitter? Yes! I blog about Twitter because I personally have found it to be hugely beneficial, but that doesn’t mean it will be for everyone. With all of the “platform building” options available to us today, there’s no need to do all of them. In fact, I think doing all of them is a great way to burn yourself out.

Instead, writers should find the social media venue that works best for them – something that feels natural and fun and productive – and utilize that to its full potential. I do encourage interested writers to give Twitter a try, but I would never try to convince them that Twitter is required. This column is simply for those who’ve chosen Twitter, in the hopes that I can share some of what’s working for me.

5. Twitter can be worth it.

All of that being said, Twitter is a powerful tool, and it can be worth it. I would be remiss not to mention that. There are drawbacks, as there are to all social media platforms, but if you and Twitter are the right match, it can be a beautiful thing. So if you’re on the fence, why not give it a try? The worst thing that can happen is you hate it and quit. No harm done.

There you have it: everything you really need to know about Twitter. The rest is just gravy.

Do you ever get overwhelmed by thinking you need to know everything about Twitter? Have you come to realize that some “rules” just don’t work for you?

About Annie Neugebauer

Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) is a novelist, short story author, and award-winning poet represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency. She has work appearing in over forty venues, including Fireside, Darkfuse, Buzzy Mag, and the British Fantasy Society journal Dark Horizons. She's an active member of the Horror Writers Association and webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas. When she’s not frightening strangers with her writing, she’s most likely frightening her husband and their two cats, Buttons and Snaps.