Ask Annie: Meeting People on Twitter, Hanging Out, and Getting Found

Ask Annie Neugebauer Writer Unboxed logo


@AnnieNeugebauer WU Twitter question. Writers “meet” each other on Twitter. How? How do people “hang out” with Tweets? I’m a noob. :)

Abigail Welborn@AbigailFair

This is a great question! The answer is simpler than it might seem: they tweet to each other. If you don’t include a handle (a person’s username following the @ symbol) in the beginning of a tweet, that tweet goes “public,” meaning it will appear in all of your followers’ timelines. (Do keep in mind that all tweets are technically public, and that if someone wants to find them they can.) If you open a tweet with someone’s handle as the very first thing, that tweet goes to that person specifically, and only people following both of you will see it in their timelines. (There’s a brush-up of @ mentions here.)

So how do people meet and hang out? They have conversations by tweeting back and forth! That’s really it. To “meet” someone on Twitter, you usually follow someone who looks interesting and tweet to them to say hi, introduce yourself, or comment on something they’ve tweeted. If they’re interested in socializing, they’ll usually follow you back and answer your tweet(s) with their own. A conversation can be slow and ongoing, where each person responds every few hours or days as they happen to get on Twitter, or it can be concentrated and brief if both people happen to be online at the same time.

It might sound overly simple, but that’s really all there is to Twitter. You find people, connect with them, and maintain that connection by occasionally having conversations. Thanks for the question, Abigail, and welcome to Twitter!



What is a good way to get discovered on Twitter?

Barbara McDowell Whitt, @BarbaraMcDWhitt

The most reliable way to get discovered on Twitter is to do the discovering.

Hi Barbara! Thanks for this question. I’m going to assume you mean “get discovered by people who want to follow you” and not “get discovered as a writer (by agents and/or editors, etc.).” If you mean the latter, my answer is: I have no idea. (If I did I’d be famous already, jeeze!) But if you mean the former, here are my thoughts. [Read more…]


Ask Annie: Retweeting @Mentions, Building a Target Audience, and Following Back

Ask Annie Neugebauer Writer Unboxed logoWelcome to my first Ask Annie column, where I’ll be answering all of your Twitter questions right here on Writer Unboxed every other month. I’ll pick 1-5 questions each time, depending on the length of the answers. I save all of the questions I receive, so if I didn’t get to yours this time, that doesn’t mean it’s out of the running! (More on how to submit your own question at the end of this post.) Let’s jump right in with our first question.


If I’m mentioned in a tweet, should I retweet it every time?

Nicki Gilbert (@nixgilbertca)

No! Forgive my jump to the punchline here, but no, no, no. Absolutely not. That’s a great way to clutter up your timeline and drive your followers crazy! If you retweet every compliment and/or every mention, people will start skimming over your tweets. You should only be retweeting the things you truly want all of your followers to see.

Now let me break this down a little better. Nicki, I think the root of your question is probably based in a concern for manners, which is a lovely concern. If someone takes the time to mention you, it seems only polite to give them something in return – or to at least acknowledge them – right? In general, this is true if you’re etiquette-geared, but retweeting every mention is not the answer! For one thing, it can make you seem egotistical; if you constantly retweet compliments it can come across braggy. But also, it simply isn’t practical. The more followers you get the more @mentions you’ll have, and retweeting them all is madness.

So what are some options to maintain good etiquette without retweeting every mention? [Read more…]


The 10 Most Generic Tweets of All Time

photo by mendhak

Twitter is chock full of vague, generic, redundant tweets. Usually my eyes skim over them like the filler they are, but every once in a while I’ll sink into one and roll around in the absurdity of it. I have no excuse other than sheer glee at such nonsense. (Yes, my humor is a little twisted.)

I have an announcement! I’ll be looking for your questions about the strange and magical ways of Twitter – everything from function to etiquette to theory – and answering a few of them right here on Writer Unboxed. Details are at the bottom of this post.

So today I thought I’d share the joy by posting the 10 most generic tweets of all time – snark included free of charge.

(But seriously, I’ve posted a few of these too. Don’t sweat it, guys. This is all in good fun.)

1. I’m drinking coffee. I like it!

Yes, we know. Everyone likes coffee. You’re probably not even a “real writer” if you don’t have coffee siphoned down your throat as a form of alarm clock. (We won’t speak of The Tea People.)

2. I want some chocolate.


3. I love bacon.

I’m seeing a trend here…

4. Nutella, amirite?

I don’t know how to break this to you guys, but Nutella really isn’t that great. I mean, it’s fine, but it’s no coffee. Let’s just not pretend it is, okay?

5. I’m upset. =(

I’m sorry, but that is so vague I have no possible answer but… “I’m sorry.” And if we ask, “What’s wrong?” and you can’t even tell us, a particularly unfriendly lobster will come pinch your toes tonight while you sleep. Not even kidding.

6. I have good news that I can’t share! =D

[Read more…]


The Great Twitter Debate: Should You Follow Back?

photo by Gerry Balding

Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment, because if there’s one topic that could be considered controversial about the usage of Twitter, it’s this one. When someone new follows you, should you follow them back?

Some say yes, of course; it’s rude not to. Some say no, why should I? Twitter isn’t meant to be reciprocal. Others (like me) land somewhere in the middle. And still others are baffled, overwhelmed, or totally undecided.

Today I’m going to break down each school of thought in hopes of putting things in perspective, and maybe helping the undecided figure out where they stand. I am not – I repeat – I am not trying to convince anyone of one method over another. I’ve seen people use each of the options below to great success, so I suspect the answer lies less in “which is the best overall” and more in “which is the best fit for you.”

Team Followback

The plan: Follow back everyone who follows you, barring spambots. These people usually end up with a higher number of “following” than “followers.”

The goal: Build a high number of followers. Be inclusive. Maintain a wide pool of people to interact with.

The detractors: Many social media instructors teach that a “good ratio” is part of building a platform as a writer. If you follow everyone who follows you and then some, you look like a fan instead of someone to be a fan of.

The reasoning: This school of thought believes that following back is common courtesy. It costs you nothing, so there’s no reason not to. If you expect people to follow you, you have to be willing to return the favor.

Some supporters of this method also argue that it’s just smart to acknowledge fans/readers. If someone follows you and you follow back, it’s like a tip of the hat for their attention. Happy fans are good fans, after all.

Every Tweep for Him/Herself

The plan: Follow only people who offer you value – connections, prestige, information, entertainment, etc. These people usually end up with a lower number of “following” than “followers.”

[Read more…]


Everything You Need to Know About the @Reply

photo by Steve Snodgrass

Okay, tweeps and future tweeps! So far in my column we’ve covered getting started on Twitter, the retweet, the #hashtag, and basic Twitter etiquette. Today I’m going to go over the ins and outs of another Twitter staple: the @reply, also known as a mention. (Still not sure if this whole Twitter thing is even for you? This post might help you decide.)


First and foremost, what’s that at symbol for? The at symbol (@: read as “at” in common speech) followed by a username is called a “handle,” and it’s how you “tag someone” on Twitter. To do this correctly, you put their username directly after the at symbol with no spaces between, like this: @AnnieNeugebauer. Typing this on Twitter automatically activates that chunk of text as a link that directs you to that user’s profile; it also notifies the user that they’ve been mentioned.

A “reply” is technically when you answer a tweet directed at you by directing one back to that person, using their @handle.

A “mention” is when you “tag” someone in a tweet that isn’t necessarily a reply, also done by using their @handle. (So a reply is also a type of mention.)

How to See Your Mentions

So how do you know when someone is mentioning you? All of your mentions show up under your “notifications” page found at the left of your Twitter screen. Your mentions will be mixed in with notices of favorites, retweets, and new followers. Your mentions will also appear in your main timeline if you’re already following the person who’s mentioned you.

How to Reply to Someone

Let’s say someone mentioned you in a tweet. How do you answer? Beneath the text of their tweet, in smaller font and toward the right, is a list of options that includes “reply,” “retweet,” “favorite,” and “more.” Click on “reply.” A text box will open with their @handle automatically pasted into the beginning. Simply type your response after that (leave one space) and click “tweet.” Your reply will appear in their notifications!

How to Know What Someone Is Replying To

[Read more…]