Aside from LinkedIn, Twitter is my preferred social network, and it can also be very productive — productive for networking with colleagues, for meeting clients, and for publicly displaying who you are and what you stand for.
In relation to other forms of social media, it’s also less unproductive because it doesn’t necessarily require you to read never-ending posts (though it might lead you to some of those), and you’re supposed to express yourself in 140 characters or less (though finding just the right way to say it within those constraints can take some time!).
I’ve looked at some colleagues’ tweets in the last couple of weeks and noticed a couple of tips that might be worth repeating:
- Never start a tweet that is supposed to be seen by everyone with @username because this will be seen only by username plus everyone who follows username and you. Enter a period (or some other character) before the @ sign. You’ve probably seen this advice many, many times, but during my recent tweet analysis I was surprised at how many experienced tweeters make that mistake.
- If you feel like tweeting about private things as well as professional things, make sure that you have two different accounts. Really! I immediately unfollow other tweeters who start to regularly report on personal matters — and while it’s not important what I do, many of those who you really want to reach are doing the same. It’s not enough to say that you don’t promote your Twitter account anywhere in your professional materials — as soon as you participate in a professional discussion, you are effectively promoting it.
- If you get frustrated with someone’s barrage of tweets but you don’t want to frustrate them by unfollowing them, you can also “mute” that account by clicking on the three dots at the bottom of one of their tweets and selecting Mute @username. To my knowledge, this is available only in the non-mobile web version of Twitter.
- Make sure to give credit where it’s due. If you find something through someone else’s tweet or email, make sure you mention that in any related follow-up tweet you might send yourself. If you post a link to an article that someone interesting wrote, make sure to research his or her Twitter handle and mention that in the tweet as well. And if you’re retweeting someone but have changed some of the content, make sure to precede it not with RT (retweet) but MT (modified tweet).
- #Use #hashtags judiciously, not to #the point that #your #tweets are really #hard to #read. It’s probably a good idea to set a hashtag in front of a central term (like #translation or #xl8), but I even prefer not to do that. Instead, I really enjoy using the hashtag as a way to explain or comment on my own tweet (this should be a whole new area of linguistics).
Here are some other helpful tips (most of them relate to the non-mobile web version of Twitter):
- It’s a good idea to download your archives of tweets every once in a while — especially if you tweet a lot. This will help you to quickly locate a tweet you might have sent a long time ago. You can do that under Settings> Account> Request your archive.
- You can also use helpful keyboard shortcuts in the Twitter interface. To see all of them listed at once, just press the question mark key when you’re in the Twitter web interface. (Cool, huh?)
- Obviously the best way to (legitimately) gain more followers is to post interesting and engaging tweets. If you want to speed it up a little bit, here are a couple of ways to follow others so that you engage with them and hope that they will follow you back:
- When there are translation-related conferences happening (and they’re always happening somewhere…), click on the conference hashtag to see who is tweeting from the conference. Not only will you get a good (and cheap) overview of what’s happening at the conference, you can follow the tweeters and maybe even engage them in a conversation while staying under the hashtag umbrella.
- Search tweets under translation related hashtags such as #xl8 and consider following those.
- Select Discover > Activity within Twitter to find out who the folks you’re following are liking and following. They might be worth following as well.
- Select Discover > Find Friends. If you have a webmail account, Twitter will look through your address book and see whether they match existing Twitter accounts that you don’t follow. Here’s a tip for selecting whom to follow among the suggestions: don’t do it if there is no profile picture, no description, or no or only old tweets. All the others might be worth looking at more closely. (Don’t spam and invite non-Twitter users, though.)
Finally, make sure that you don’t just gain colleagues as followers but also potential clients. Think of Twitter as your interactive, ever-evolving business card. You’ll be glad you did.
This article was originally published in The ATA Chronicle (January 2015), the monthly magazine of the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org).
Jost Zetzsche is an English-to-German translator, a localization and translation consultant, and a widely published author on various aspects of translation. He writes regular columns in the ATA Chronicle and the ITI Bulletin; his computer guide for translators, A Translator’s Tool Box for the 21st Century, is now in its tenth edition; and his technical newsletter for translators goes out to more than 10,000 translators. In 2012, Penguin published his co-authored Found in Translation, a book about translation and interpretation for the general public. You can find his website at www.internationalwriters.com and his Twitter handle is @Jeromobot.