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How to make Twitter Fun (and other such nonsense I’ve learned in the past year)

Getting paid to Tweet is not a bad job (though I should clarify, this is only a small portion of what I do). At first, I thought Twitter would be boring.  I mean, what can you really say with 140 characters?  The answer is: “A lot.”  Plus, Twitter can be highly entertaining, as well as informative.  Because Facebook and Twitter are both social media sites, people always compare Twitter with its more famous cousin (or at least loop the two together in the same breath).  Facebook definitely has its advantages.  But where Facebook is for building or maintaining relationships between users, Twitter is about sharing information.  And when you take the time to make that information fun to read, you will make Twitter fun.

Running the U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh Twitter account has its advantages over just having a personal account.  No one really cares about my Tweets (well, maybe 99 people do).  But within the one year since I’ve actively been running the account, we’ve gone from 34 followers to over 5,500 followers. Not an epic crush of people like the guy that inadvertently live Tweeted the Osama Bin Laden raid, who saw over 10,000 followers in the course of 24 hours, but a steady increase of relevant and fairly active followers.  People definitely follow based on name recognition, so I can’t claim to be an expert in gathering new followers. And the number alone says very little about if people are actively participating.  But I have learned a few tricks over the last year, which I’ll share with you here.

More than a number
Twitter users obsess over stats.  It is as if one’s ego is directly tied to the number of followers they have.  So we’re constantly looking to increase our followers. There are a few ways to falsely inflate your numbers.  These include paying for a follow service, following as many people as you can, using the #TeamFollowBack hash tag in your profile, always writing tweets using trending topics and Tweeting at people with extra large followings in the hopes of getting a re-tweet (RT).  While some of these will work to inflate your numbers, inevitably the quality of your followers suffers because the type of followers you attract will not be interested in the same subjects you are.  If someone is following 40,000 people, the chance they will see and pay attention to your tweet is very slim.  Having heaps of uninterested followers may make your ego feel better, but you are unlikely to make quality connections.

A better philosophy is engage in a few interesting subjects. Follow other users who talk about those things, and include that interest in your Twitter bio.  For example, if you are interested in the N.Y. Yankees (really, who isn’t?), then put something like “Yankees Fanatic” in your bio, and follow the official Yankees Twitter, any Yankee players, and accounts like ESPN and Sports Illustrated.  Your tweets might include score updates or if you are watching the game, highlights of amazing Yankee plays.  Anyone who comes across your account will automatically know what types of tweets they will get if they follow you. You may not get as many followers (especially from the Boston area), but the followers you do get will be interested in what you have to say; they will RT and they will click through your links. And that gives you a higher Klout.

Your Klout is a measure of online influence. It is a 1-100 score derived from a fancy algorithm which tracks things like how many followers you have, how often they RT or click one of your links and basically how you influence other people.  The higher your klout, the more of a Twitter celebrity you are.  In some ways, your klout is a better statistic to keep track of, since it measures your quality, not just your quantity.

One of the best parts about Twitter is the back and forth conversation you can have with anyone around the world.  This is especially true of tweets coming from an organization.  People like to know they are being heard.  So even a message like, “Thanks for the Tweet” can go a long way in helping an organization’s Twitter credibility (Twedibility?). 

Ways to engage with your followers:

  • Always answer questions.
  • RT relevant or interesting tweets that you see.
  • Use #FF or #FollowFriday as a way to promote your active followers.
  • Acknowledge criticism.  Some orgs RT an unfavorable tweet.  Even if it is a Direct Message to the person to keep the conversation private, that still implies you are listening.  
  • Give a shout out to every 100th follower.
  • Mention everyone that mentions you, could be included in a #FF list.
  • Send a “Thank You” Direct Message to all new followers with relevant links.

This isn’t an airtight list, but it will help you engage your followers a little more.

What about the fun stuff?
This article is supposed to be about making Twitter more fun, remember.  Right, so onto the fun part about Twitter.

Yes, you can get very quick information on all the subjects you are interested in. Yup, instant updates from news orgs like NYTimes, CNN, Reuters, etc… Like I said, Twitter is about sharing information.  So you can get lots of quick info from a variety of relevant sources.  And yes, you can follow your favorite celebrities.  Though I never really understood the fascination with celebs on Twitter. Like why does Lady Gaga have almost 24 million followers? Her tweets aren’t all that entertaining.  In general, if people are funny in real life, they will be funny on Twitter.  Here is a list of people I find entertaining (including a handful of Fake Twitter accounts or Phweeters) and you should follow them all:

Description: Craig Gerard
Craig Gerard
Fun lovin', beer brewin, Ultimate playin,' father of two boys who lives in Cambodia.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia 


Description: Aunt Diane
Aunt Diane
Im a jewelry designer working on my art and myself. Come by my kiosk at the Santa Fe Outlets, theres a 2-for-1 on Nepalese earrings!
Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Description: Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert 


Description: the creme brûlée man
the creme brûlée man 
better living through dessert™
(editor note: probably my all-time favorite use of Twitter, a mobile food cart telling folks where they can get delicious desserts!)


Description: Two Year Old Asshole

Two Year Old Asshole

The Meanest baby on Twitter. -Created and Written by LA Comedians @KyleMore13 and @MortBurke
Los Angeles, CA.

Description: Shit Girls Say
Shit Girls Say
Could you pass me that blanket?



Description: Texts From Bennett
Texts From Bennett
These are text messages I receive from my 17 year old cousin Bennett. He thinks he's black and is currently unemployed. Yes this is real.
Gang bangin' 24/7


Description: GS Elevator Gossip

GS Elevator Gossip


Things heard in the Goldman Sachs elevators do not stay in the Goldman Sachs elevators. Email what you hear to
New York / London / Hong Kong 

Description: KimJongNumberUn
I used to be an unemployed twentysomething still living at home. Now I have nuclear weapons. It's all good, yo.


Description: Your Friend From HS
Your Friend From HS
We went to high school together and you totally at least enjoyed me somewhat. Now you left but I still live in our hometown and I am LUV'N IT! HAHA
Your Hometown ·


Description: Sarah SilvermanSarah Silverman 
We're all just molecules, Cutie.
Palestinian Territories.



Description: Glen Weldon
Glen Weldon
Writer. Book critic/comics blogger for NPR. 1/5 of Pop Culture Happy Hour. Also: Bald, so not given to turtlenecks, as they make me look like roll-on deodorant.


Description: US Embassy Cambodia
US Embassy Cambodia 
Welcome to the official Twitter page of US Embassy Phnom Penh. Follow us to engage in Cambodian and US relations.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia 


So that’s the basics. Find a combination of people to follow that make you laugh, inform you and entertain you. As Alan Baxter mentioned in his article (you did click ALL of my hyperlinks, right?), it takes a little work to get the combination right. But once you do, you’ll find out why 140 characters can be so much fun.

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