Sunday, February 24, 2013

You didn’t “trend” … and other subtle Twitter confusions

If you google “Twitter mistakes,” you’ll find a whole slew of big-picture twitter snafus to avoid. While those are (usually) good, that’s not what this post is about. This is just an FYI on some of the smaller Twitter misunderstandings that tend to confuse people (and me when I try to explain them – so please ask questions in the comments if I didn’t explain something well enough).

1. You didn’t really “trend”

Have you lately noticed a lot more tweets like “Yay! We got #randomhashtag to trend!” than you used to see? There’s a reason for that.

 Twitter recently quietly changed the default trends you see on to “tailored” trends that are specific to both your geographical area and the people you follow. How can you tell if you’re seeing tailored trends or not? Click on the word “Change” at the top of your “Trends” list.

If you are seeing tailored trends, you’ll see something like this:

If you want to, you can click on “Change” to choose to see trends that are worldwide or for a specific country, including the US – or even to a specific city.

I prefer tailored trends because I have not seen the word “Bieber” in my side bar since they made the switch – but I do occasionally look at them just to see what the world is talking about. Note: If you follow a wide range of people (i.e., not just publishing industry people), your tailored and national trends are going to be similar.

There is good news, though! Assuming you follow people who are similar to (or influence) your target audience, you’re still reaching who you want to reach!

2. Limiting your tweet’s audience 

Here’s another thing a lot of twitter users don’t realize: If you start a tweet with the “@” character, only the people following both you and the user belonging to the “@” will see it in their stream. Meaning, people who follow you, but don’t follow the other user will not see your tweet. For example:
(Yes, we currently have the same avatar, sorry for any confusion this may cause!)

In this tweet, I’m probably trying to tell all my followers about Jenna’s awesome giveaway, right? (Seriously, go enter. And follow her. *ahem* back to the post…) But only those who follow both me and Jenna will see it in their stream. This means I am not reaching anybody she hasn’t already reached with her own tweets.

“But I can still see it.” When I try to explain this to Person 1, they sometimes go to Person 2’s page and point out they can see Person 2’s tweets to users Person 1 doesn’t follow. Yes, you can see it on their page, but not in your own stream.

So when you’re posting a tweet that you want all of your followers to see, you can either reword it so it doesn’t start with “@” or start your tweet with “.@”

I definitely didn’t intend for this to turn into “This is how you’re doing twitter wrong,” so how about we go in the positive direction with some little-known features of twitter.

3. Turn a user’s RT’s off

Do you know someone who you love to follow because you love their original content, but hate that they RT every single thing Justin Bieber (or whoever) tweets? I think we all know someone like that. It’s a tough decision: keep following them and put up with the ridiculous RTs or unfollow them and miss out on their awesome original content.

 You don’t have to make that decision.

Twitter allows you to turn off RTs from an individual user. Yes, a lot of clients allow you to do this too, but itself has a way. Go to that person’s page (I’m going to use Jenna again as an example but I know she won’t take offense… right?) and click on the little button to the left of the Follow/Following button:

Easy, peasy!

 4. Twitter’s Advanced Search 

Twitter has incredible search functionality – but so few people know about it! To use this, start by using the usual search function – however you access it. You will see results like those below for “#sunshinetour.” In the top right corner of the search results there is a gear symbol, click on that and then click on “advanced search.”

You can then use any of the options shown below to narrow your search. Again, I’ll use Jenna as an example:

You can also use this to narrow your search when you are searching for something that is part of a common phrase. For example you can enter “lady” in the “any of these words” field and put “gaga” in the “none of these words” field.

(Seriously, play with this one. It's fun!)

That’s all I have today – but please leave any questions you may have in the comments! Anyone who’s been following this blog for a while knows how much I adore social media so I’m always happy to answer general questions. I hope I’ve helped!


  1. This is one of the best Twitter posts I've ever seen!

  2. This was so helpful! Thanks. I've learned a ton today :)

  3. It would be great if you could make more of these Twitter info posts. Maybe once a week, or every other week. Keep them short and simple. That way they might actually stick in my brain. Thanks!

  4. I never knew about the advanced search function. The "normal" search function isn't very good, so this is nice to know. Thanks!

  5. Oh, now I get why people use .@

  6. Definitely the BEST Twitter help post I've read! Most of this, I've never known before. Thank you! I'm gunna use the RT trick :)

  7. Thank you!!! I definitely needed some of this information.

  8. Very helpful! Thank you! I especially like the advanced search option.

  9. Super helpful post you've got here. Thanks for sharing. :)

  10. Great post you have here, Sarah! I even learned something new from it. :) Thanks for sharing! (And now your tweet to me makes sense.) ;)

  11. This is a fantastic twitter post! Great work - I think everyone can use this.

  12. Excellent post, thanks so much for sharing.

  13. I suddenly feel less "Twitter dumb" - thank you for sharing this information! ;)