Master Twitter and Tumblr
Learn how to rule the internet with advice from doyens of social media.
Wed Jan 18 2012
Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor
Be authentic (and funny)
If you're looking to expand your social-media reach, the place to start is, duh, with yourself. "Think of social media as a tool for constructing your online reputation and community," says Annie Colbert, a writer who was recently profiled in Wired as one of the preeminent "ghost Twitterers" (someone who is recruited to write tweets for a company or individual). Hiring an online proxy is one avenue to getting noticed: "Ghost Twitterers are like carpenters, ensuring your building efforts stand sturdy and work effectively from behind the scenes," explains Colbert. But it may be more worthwhile to find your own voice. "The most important advice I can give is to avoid anyone who calls themselves a 'social-media expert' and simply be yourself," says Anthony De Rosa, the social-media editor for Reuters, who also runs one of the most popular Tumblr blogs, Soup (soupsoup.tumblr.com). Another way to get noticed is by being funny. "Humor is key," explains De Rosa. "I try to riff on events on Twitter, and on Tumblr, there's a lot of people having fun with the news."
Interact with other users
You've signed up for a Tumblr or Twitter account, and you're reading blogs written by a bunch of cool people. Now it's time to start getting to know your fellow users. "There's probably someone already blogging about whatever you want to blog about," says Tumblr editor Christopher Price, a.k.a. Topherchris (topherchris.com). "Try to engage with that person—follow them, like their posts, and hopefully, they'll reblog you and bring you into their audience." Price also recommends talking to other bloggers through the reply and ask functions in order to get yourself known in the Tumblr sphere. Just don't expect to gain a huge following overnight. De Rosa notes that his substantial social-media presence—he has more than 22,000 followers on Twitter and 150,000 subscribers to his Tumblr posts—took more than four years to build. "The key to success is patience and consistency," he explains.
What not to do
It sounds contradictory, but it's key to avoid focusing too much on self-promotion. Tweeting a link to your latest article or YouTube video is one thing; filling your followers' feeds with nothing but references to yourself will almost certainly turn people off. "Don't be spammy," says De Rosa. "You do better when you share what others are doing that is great, and you'll get attention organically." And engagement is key: You won't gain followers if you're a passive user. Pay attention to people whose work you enjoy, and find thoughtful ways to interact with them. "Don't try so hard to get people to follow you, and whatever you do, don't expect them to follow you back just because you followed them," says De Rosa. "That's not how it works."