Twitter for freelancers

Ok, full disclosure: I’m a pretty late adopter of Twitter. For years I would loudly tell anyone who mentioned Twitter what a waste of time I thought it was: ‘I don’t care what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast, and why would anyone care what I have to say either.’ But in the end I was co-opted into using the social media site to promote the non-profit organisation I work for. At first I had no idea what I was doing. I knew how to post a tweet, obviously, but I had no idea about hashtags, timing, retweets, how to engage with others or how to gain followers. I thought I knew it all because how hard can it be? But I was basically just bashing out simple tweets with no real aim in mind.

Nowadays I’m hardly a social media guru but I think I’ve finally got the hang of using Twitter as a handy tool for keeping up with the language-learning community and translation industry, whilst being part of an ever-growing network of like-minded people. Honestly, I don’t know what I did before I started using it!

So here are a few of my tips incase you’re considering starting an account or you’ve not quite got the hang of yours yet.

Do:

Have a clear profile:

Let people know who you are, what you do, and why they should follow you. I recommend using your real name or name of your agency. (I’m Alexandra Turner on Twitter, but you could use something professional and relevant like Alex Translations). Use a nice and reasonably professional photo (think the same sort of thing you’d put on your LinkedIN account, although you can show your personality a bit too, e.g. using a photo of yourself in a favourite place). Alternatively you can use the logo of your blog or business. And write a quick but snappy description of what you’re all about. I don’t like using hashtags here, but you can. If you’re a translator maybe state your language combinations and a quirky fact about yourself, or a quick summary of your interests. Think of it as a mini professional summary, but not too formal.

Find your niche:

My main issue with Twitter used to be that I didn’t see the point in it. I thought it was full of tweens tweeting their love of One Direction and bored office workers tweeting their lunch. But the real beauty of it is that you can find the little community that cares about what you care about. So, tailor your account to your profession or interest. So, if you’re a translator, tweet about your projects, useful tips and articles, your languages, cultures, interesting news from your specialisms…

Find the right hashtags for your industry: If you’re a translator, some of the key hashtags to use are #xl8 (translate), #t9n (translation) and #l10n (localisation). If you tweet a lot about a certain thing or within a certain industry, try to find out the popular hashtags and keep up with what’s going on.

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Follow great accounts:

The main point of Twitter isn’t just to bombard everyone with your current thoughts, but to listen. Twitter is an amazing source of links, videos, pictures and opinions from other people who are interested in the same things as you. I follow some more experienced translators for tips and information, other young translators to swap advice and loads of fellow language learners and polyglots for a combination of links to everything from funny language comics to serious articles. Follow a lot of people and hopefully many of them will follow you back. You can always remove them later if they don’t follow you back or you don’t enjoy their tweets. It’s also best practice to follow-back anyone that seems relevant and has already followed you.

Give your tweets some visibility:

This means hashtags, people! But not all hashtags are created alike. Don’t hashtag random words in a sentence like ‘#what do you think about this article?’ – this means the only word that other users can search for is ‘what’ which doesn’t tell anyone anything. Don’t over-hashtag. Piling ten different hashtags at the end of the tweet is attention seeking and distracts from the message.

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Post regularly:

Not necessarily 50 tweets a day. But at least a few tweets more or less every day. I like to get out about 5 tweets a day, spaced out as evenly as I can manage, although of course I don’t always hit that target. Don’t leave your account fallow for weeks on end, make an effort to check in at least once a week at minimum.

Interact!

Twitter is a community after all, not just millions of people shouting into a void (hopefully). Once you get an idea of who you find particularly interesting, start a conversation with them. There are several ways in which you can do this:

  • Join a Twitter chat (normally a set period where people will chat using a designated hashtag)
  • ‘@ mention’ someone in a tweet – either start the tweet with their name, which means only they will see it (you can add a . before the name (.@ioanaland …) to make the tweet visible), or add the @ mention later in the tweet to make it public.

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It’s good practice to always credit the ‘source’ of articles, quotes, pictures and other snippets. Add ‘via @soandso’ to give a mention to the author of the piece if you know where it came from.

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  • Retweet cool stuff. This is a super easy way to share awesome content and give spread the news about an interesting account. Just press ‘retweet’. If you post great stuff too, hopefully someone will RT you which is a great way to become known by more users. Generally try to thank people for RTs.

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  • Reply to tweets and even get a conversation going. If someone says something interesting, reply to them! Maybe you can thank them for sharing an article of yours, or you can comment on something interesting they’ve mentioned, or add something to the discussion. Just press the reply button. Make sure you reply to anyone who @mentions you.

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  • Show some appreciation by liking posts. Or by RT-ing or commenting on them.

Mix it up with pictures and other media:

Try to post a nice mix of stuff. Your own comments and thoughts, links to great articles and blogs, pictures and even videos. A picture, quote or infographic can say more than 140 characters can. Even if your account is professional, you can still add an element of personality to it.

Tweet the same content more than once:

This seems counter intuitive, but Twitter is such a crowded market with people tweeting new stuff constantly, no one minds if you post the same thing a few times. Ideally re-word it a bit, but if you’re trying to bring attention to a particular blog post, or let people know something about your work availability etc, feel free to post again the next day or at a reasonable time interval from the first one.

Don’t:

Spam – don’t post 10 tweets in a row, it just looks spammy and clogs up people’s feeds

Post too many inane tweets – I don’t mind the odd silly or mundane post, but when someone goes on a tweetathon about a TV show they’re watching, posts way too many mundane day to day things or posts constant links to Buzzfeed, I get a strong urge to unfollow…

Be rude – this should be obvious but some people get into very unprofessional and childish arguments and slanging matches on Twitter. If your account is in any way linked to your job, keep everything polite and professional. If someone is being rude and obnoxious, you can block them. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t like your boss to see. Watch out for anything that could be construed as offensive, overly personal or displaying extreme opinions.

Use an identity validator – if you’ve ever followed someone and received an automated DM saying that you need to confirm you’re a real person, you’ll know that it’s pretty annoying. If the odd bot follows you, so what? You can probably manually identify them anyway. Forcing everyone to go through a fiddly validation just looks like you don’t even want followers.

Overdo the gratitude – it’s great if you thank me for sharing your content, but filling your feed with lists of greetings to new followers and ‘thanks for the retweet’ is just boring and spammy. If you’ve got a lot of followers you don’t need to ‘shout out’ every time. It’s not an interesting tweet for others to read. Maybe I’d be better to say ‘don’t send automated tweets’.

Send automated direct messages – this might be a personal issue of mine, but I hate receiving DMs, full stop. Especially automated ones. You don’t need to thank me for following you and I don’t need to be linked to some other website either. Anyone who follows more than 100 other accounts will never keep up with the DM inbox anyway.

So, that’s it for now! I’m happy to answer any questions you might have 😀 – Happy tweeting!

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