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Have you been reluctant to add Twitter to your social media marketing strategy because you haven’t felt confident in your ability to compose an effective tweet? Well, you’re not alone. Since the Blink;Tech team has dubbed me their resident Twitter nut, I’m going to break the tweet down and give you some handy tips to help you tweet like a pro and get the most out of this valuable marketing and branding tool.

The first and most important consideration in composing a tweet is brevity. Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with, but if you want to be a Twitter expert, you should try to always use much less. By leaving at least 15 or 20 characters free, it makes it possible for someone to retweet you if they want to add a comment to your tweet and/or are using the old-school method of retweeting (which we’ll explain more later). Always remember that the shorter and more concise your Tweets are, the more they will be read and retweeted.

Because Twitter is searchable, people use a hashtag (#) as a way to tag, find, and follow conversations. The best way to familiarize yourself with hashtags and how they are used is to check out trending topics in the “Trends” box on your homepage. You can use several hashtags per tweet if you want, but a good tip for keeping your tweet brief and more readable is to incorporate the hashtag into the body of a sentence, rather than just tagging it onto the end of your tweet.

If you want to include a link in your tweet, be sure to use a link shortener. Twitter now has a built-in shortener for links, but bitly is a better choice, since you can get real time data on how many clicks your link has gotten. You can set up a bitly account to keep all your favorite shortened links easily available. There is a mobile app for bitly, too.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Twitter has to do with including @usernames in tweets. If you want to address (or mention) someone on Twitter, and your want your conversation to be visible to the world, don’t start your tweet with their @username. This makes the conversation visible to only you, the person you tweeted to, and anyone who happens to be following both of you. Instead, put his or her @username later on in the tweet, or start your tweet with a period (.) immediately followed by an @username. Clicking the “Reply” button beneath another user’s tweet will also make your tweet nearly invisible to the world. Just remember to move the cursor in front of their @username, insert a period, then move the cursor back and finish writing your tweet — and you will be visible to all once again.

If you want to retweet another user’s tweet, it is wise to avoid clicking on the “Retweet” button provided by Twitter. The Retweet button does not allow you to add your own commentary to a tweet, and the person you are retweeting will not know you did so unless they scroll through their “Interactions.” Most importantly, your retweet will not come up in Twitter searches.

Instead, I recommend doing an old-school “manual retweet.” The good news is, making an old-school retweet is easy. Simply start a new tweet with the abbreviation “RT,” followed by a space. Then copy and paste the @username of the person you want to retweet into your tweet editor. After this, copy and paste the tweet you wish to share. If you want to add something to the tweet, you can either put it before the RT, or put the original tweet in quotes and write your witty remarks afterward.

Here’s a visual guide for you: I’m a big fan of the local music scene in Sarasota. When a tweet from Sarasota Music Scene (@SRQMusicScene) rolled across my feed announcing singer/songwriter Michael Miller’s latest music video, I decided to show some love with this manual retweet:

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Be advised, however, that the manual retweet has come under fire as poor Twitter etiquette, largely due to users retweeting without adding their own input or crediting the original tweeter. If you skip over the best practices for manual retweeting, your retweets will be considered inconsiderate at best, plagiaristic at worst. And to reiterate an important earlier point, if you don’t credit your retweet-ee with an @username tag, they won’t know you shared their tweet. Thus you lose out on a great opportunity to spark an interaction and make a connection through social media — which is the whole point to begin with!

These few simple tips make a huge difference in getting your tweets seen, read, and retweeted. Stay tuned: In future lessons we’ll be discussing the art of following, how to filter through all the spam, and how to use Twitter clients.

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