Everything You Really Need to Know About Twitter

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 with stories and poems appearing or forthcoming in over fifty venues, including Black Static, Deep South Magazine, Fireside, and Buzzy Mag. She's an active member of the Horror Writers Association and webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas. When Annie’s not frightening strangers with her writing, she’s most likely frightening her husband and their two cats, Buttons and Snaps.


  1. says

    I’m new to Twitter, so yes, it can be overwhelming. I have a busy blog and follow a lot of blogs, which makes it hard to get on Twitter much or at all some days because I work full-time. Thanks for giving me permission to do what I can because I do still like it and how I can connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise.

    • says

      Thank you so much, Natalie! Yes, it can be time-consuming. One great thing I’ve found about Twitter though is that it’s actually helped me expand my blog readership (and find great new blogs to follow). Best of luck!

  2. Denise Willson says

    A post worth tweeting, Annie. :)

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT

  3. says

    I am a loyal WU reader and 99% of the time I learn something from every blog post. However, I am sorry, but I could not disagree more with certain statements in the post. There are rules on Twitter, rules called “Twitter Etiquette.” – There are Twitter experts who use and study twitter trends. There is a learning curve to using Twitter the “Corret way” – ( hey if you just want to go Tweet away, be my guest. ) Tweets are can be forever – (almost), so be careful what you say.
    If you are a new author wouldn’t it be great to have 25,000 followers, and be able to tweet to them your new novel, memoir, etc … has just been released, or the release date is in 30 days – start the count-down. Once you understand the nuances of Twitter – it can be the most enjoyable social platform on the web.
    Learn to use twitter the right way and you will add followers everyday. Do you need to tweet ever hour or two, – NO! But you do need to tweet a couple times a day or a few times every other day. Most of all – don’t tweet about where you are having lunch, or what you are having for dinner or how much you love your cat. Tweet about your passions, connect with others who think and feel like you do about certain issues, connect with some who feel just the opposite, but respect your opinion. Then you will find out what the “Big Deal” about Twitter is. Good Luck.
    ps: What could be more fun for a Writer, (think about it) the challenge of writing a witty Tweet !!
    – You have 140 characters, use them wisely.

  4. says

    “Not an Expert!”

    WHATEVER Annie Neugebauer!

    I dub thee Jedi Master Annie Twitter. Aw crap, I’m just a Padawan. I’ll have to find Jedi Master Momma Tee or Jedi Master Roycroft

    (Oo that sounds powerful, jedi…..master……ROYCOFT!!!!).

    Okay, okay, I won’t use the word expert. I’ll use the word technician. You are a Twitter Technician!

    I have left overwhelm by Twitter at times. But then I thought. Why do I use Twitter. I use it to stalk people in the writing industry. I’m a rule breaker, so I’m not bothered by that aspect. My primary rule is just don’t freak people out. Connecting with people can a slow process, whether in person or by social media. I do believe it’s a pretty good stalking, er-ah, observation tool.

    Your twitter columns are so helpful, not solely because you have a good understanding of twitter, but also because of way you share that information.

    Thank you Master Jedi Annie Twitter

    • says

      Master Jedi Annie Twitter? I’ll take it. ;) Thank you so much, Brian! You’ve really made my day. (And yes, you’re totally right; Twitter is fantastic for secret non-creepy stalking.)

  5. says

    Another great twitter post, Annie. Your points are great to demystify and decrease the angst about twitter for new twitter users, like myself. And if tweeters are unstressed they’re more likely to be natural and that seems to be key.

    There are a lot of rules out there, and they contradict each other. I just read a study that said that asking people to RT gave good results. Other experts say that it’s incredibly tacky. It’s a personal choice: what doesn’t work for some people, works for others.

    And… twitter is huge. I’m optimistic that one can find one’s “people” there, though it may take a while.

    Before I joined twitter, I had read that it was good idea to join and just listen for a while. I can see why. There are so many worlds there! I’ve been following people from a variety of fields and the stream of tweets changes accordingly, in pretty marvelous ways. In the last week I added more arts people and my feed has bloomed with amazing images.

    So, thanks once again for the no-nonsense enjoy-and-observe suggestions! Your advice and Nina’s have been my cornerstones! I look forward to continuing to learn from you.

    • says

      That’s exactly what I was hoping to do, Marialena. Thank you!

      Asking for retweets is a fantastic example of why I don’t quite buy into the “expert” thing. Statistically it might get someone more retweets, but statistics don’t cover things like public impression, annoyance, tackiness, etc. So yeah, maybe it would boost numbers, but it might also send a message of desperation or nuisance. Who’s to say? At some point it comes down to opinion and personal preference.

      Twitter *is* so huge; it can easily get overwhelming. But like you said, there’s such variety to go with that vastness — so many options and people to meet and learn from. I think it’s worth it!

  6. says

    It seems that every hashtag I follow, especially those for writers, are filled with authors doing multiple postings to promote their own books. I’d say these are the ones doing it wrong. It’s difficult to cut through the muck and actually socialize, but over time I’ve picked up some friends. Hopefully, once I’m published, I’ll remember to form relationships and not blitz the twitterverse with my advertisements.

    • says

      Spammy behavior like that frustrates me too, Ron! I’ve always recommended that writers change the hashtag every time they post a link, and I limit the number of times I’ll share the same thing (usually 2-3). Changing the hashtag not only makes you more courteous to those browsing that timeline, it also gets your link in front of more people! We can’t kick those people out of the hashtag timeline, but at least we have the option not to follow them!

  7. says

    so much common sense! and esp needed this now, as i’ve gone off some other platforms; your quote says it all :

    “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.”

    thanks so much :-)

  8. says

    All true, Annie! Every time people have suggested I write a book about Twitter I have wanted to cry. I have never (and I know you feel the same way) wanted my career to BE Twitter. I like to USE Twitter to be part of the writing community and have a little fun. There’s a difference!
    All that said, your tips (and mine too!) for sure help people use their time wisely on Twitter. There is no right and wrong, but there is advisable and “less advisable.” All that happens in the middle us different for each person, as you said.

    • says

      Of course there are better and worse ways to use Twitter! I mention that in #3, and I wouldn’t write a Twitter column if I didn’t believe it! I try to help people sort through etiquette and good/bad practices in most of my posts, but this time I was just aiming to relieve writers of some of the intense anxiety I see about “not breaking the rules” – a worry so strong it can be enervating for many. People like you who enjoy Twitter *and* follow good practices are a wonderful example to new users, and I’m always grateful for that. Thanks so much for your comment, Nina!

  9. says

    I like Twitter most of the time, and I’m not so worried about rules… I’ve been on Twitter for three years, and I know how to use it, but sometimes feel like I’m not using it the way I really want to. That to me is more about defining my social networking and social media goals, which is one of my goals this year. And I really appreciate reading posts like this because each time I do, it helps me define a little more what those goals are. Thank you!

  10. says

    I really appreciated this post, Annie. Yes, there are some general rules for Twitter. Etiquette applies to every social medium that we engage in, but not every rule “works” for everyone. I think that is the key difference. For some people, it’s all about getting more and more followers. For others, it’s about making connections, sharing ideas, and even sometimes sharing cute cat pictures. I spend most of my time on my blog, 2nd most on Twitter, and down from there. I like Twitter because I do follow people who share good content and because I like to share content that I find useful. But I also like to have fun. Do I want to be followed by bots? No. Do I want my stream filled up with automatic book promotions? No. So I create lists to be sure that I can stay on top of the tweets of the people I most enjoy following. And so I don’t miss the cute cat pictures :)

    • says

      Thank you, Marie Ann! I think you’ve summed it all up nicely. And I agree with your take on the mix of fun and usefulness. Definitely don’t want to miss the cute cats! ;)