Twittering for creators: using Tweetdeck to build your career

I’ve been on Twitter for 13 years, or so Twitter informed me recently. I’m surprised it’s still here; there were so many attempts at social media that came & went in the early days. Anyone remember FriendFeed or Twibes? All they were was just dust in the wind, dude.

Note: feel free to skip ahead to the headlined sections. Today I’m not focused on copywriting and I’m allowing myself to ramble 😉 

Topics:

  • Who’s this tutorial for?
  • What is Twitter?
  • What’s the point of Twitter for creatives?
  • What happens when you find someone whose tweets you’re interested in?
  • How to search tweets
  • What is a Twitter hashtag?
  • What are Twitter Lists?
  • Who should you follow?
  • Twitter is a cesspool & how to control it
  • Muting words on Twitter
  • Muting people on Twitter
  • Blocking people on Twitter
  • What is Tweetdeck?
  • Customizing a Tweetdeck column

While Twitter can be an utter cesspool, it’s  been useful for me – informative, inspiring, and fun. It is what you make of it (and you can customize your experience, as I’ll cover below). It was a godsend when we lived in Costa Rica and I used it to connect with other unschoolers. (Unschooling is a homeschooling ethos that I might delve deeper into someday.) 

In broader terms, it was and still is a way to connect with like-minded people.

Today I use Twitter – and particularly Tweetdeck – for two primary purposes:

1) To follow and connect with other creators and members of the publishing industry

2) To stay up to date on politics and get that news interpreted by experts who aren’t guided by metrics or agendas

Let’s get down to business!

Who’s this tutorial for?

My primary focus is on writers and artists, because that’s me in a nutshell.

I write.

I draw.

I make comics.

But the ideas in this article will be applicable to any creator or entrepreneur. I’ll just be digging deeper into how to use Twitter best for creatives.

Also, this post  will focus only on the web application – that is, accessing Twitter via your web browser on a desktop or laptop. There are official and unofficial smartphone apps that I recommend exploring for mobile twittering.

What is Twitter?

According to Twitter themselves,

Twitter is happening.

I am not making that up. That’s  marketing jargon that’s so bad  it makes me want to stop writing this article. It even offends my dad joke sensibilities.

In normal language for humans who aren’t trying too hard to impress people: 

Twitter is a social networking site focused on microblogging. (You can find me on Twitter here.)

Blogging is updating a website with new posts & articles on whatever topic you want. You’re reading a blog post at this very moment.

Microblogging is blogging on a miniscule scale . It’s sharing short messages more often with an audience online. A post on Twitter is called a tweet. (They have a cute bird theme going.) Other microblogging services include the once-mighty Tumblr and the currently mighty Instagram.

Originally, tweets were limited to 140 characters. Today the limit now is 280 characters – and we can attach links, videos, & images.

Tweets appear in your timeline (aka Twitter’s home page), which will be pretty darn empty for new accounts. 

I have a quick confession here: Twitter helped me become a better writer.

In school I learned that the more flowery & complex my  writing, the better it was received by teachers. That didn’t work on Twitter; I had to cut my writing down a LOT to get my  points across. Twitter forced me to write simply and directly.

I finally understood the best piece of advice I got in school: “Say it & get off!” (RIP Mrs Ebling, your advice is seared  into my soul…)

Another quick aside: if you’re interested in writing in a simpler & direct fashion, checkout the Hemingway App. I’ve been using the desktop app for years for blogging (including right now) because it guides you towards good copy writing. When I first used it my writing was dominated by text highlighted in all the colors. Now the highlights are limited and my editing is a lot easier.

PS I’m trying really hard not to write a whole treatise on what Twitter is, so bear with me. Also, this is why I don’t blog that often because my blog posts tend to snowball.

Back to the article.

What’s the point of Twitter for creatives?

Twitter is the oldest & most popular microblogging network. This means that it has the largest & widest variety of users. This makes finding, joining, or creating a community possible.

If you’re a creator or an entrepreneur it always help to have peers to talk shop, or get some feedback or support. The discussion doesn’t have to be that deep, sometimes it’s just nice to have some to relate to.

Creators can also develop followings of fans who enjoy their work. Consistently putting out good work can result in a large following over time. These fans are more likely to support a creator by buying merch or becoming patrons.

If you’re an agent, you can find a network of peers or find new clients due to people sharing their work. Animation studios have been using Twitter & Tumblr to find new talent for a few years now.

This is an amazing time to be a creator – you might find an agent, a job or grow a fanbase big enough to let you quit that day job. You just have to work it – and work it consistently.

What do you do when you find someone whose content you’re interested in?

If you want to see someone’s tweets in your timeline, you can follow them (unless they have a private account, in which case you can ask to follow them).

If someone wants to see your tweets in their timeline, they can follow you. That’s the most basic part of connecting & building relationships with people.

My profile page. Note the little tabs above my tweets. Peeps can see your likes; I use this to see if someone is not as nice as they seem.

How do you find people? Through Twitter search, Twitter hashtags & Twitter lists.

How to search tweets

Surprise – there’s a search box in the upper right corner.  Here’s the search result for comic books, with the search term bolded:

You’ll notice that search results have various tabs:

Top: supposedly the ‘top’ tweets as by their algorithm. It appears that recency is the biggest factor, along with the size/reach of the tweets.

Latest: the most recent tweets including the search term in chronological order, regardless of the reach of the tweets.

People: the list of users who include the search term in their name, username or bio.

Photos: only tweets with photos attached that include the exact keyword.

Videos: only tweets with videos embedded that include the exact keyword.

A simple search for topics you’re interested in is a good way to get started on Twitter. I regularly search for new-to-me creators who I then proceed to follow so I can enjoy their art on my timeline.

What in tarnation is a Twitter hashtag?

If you go back to the Top search tab, you’ll notice something interesting about the bolded search terms. Some of them look like this:

#comicbooks

A word prepended by the number sign # (also known as the pound sign or a hash symbol) is called a hashtag. That number sign tacked on to a search term turns into link that connects to a search for that hashtag. 

Note: hashtags cannot have spaces or punctuation. #comicbooks is a hashtag; ‘#comic books’ is the hashtag for ‘comic’ followed by the word ‘books.’

Unlike the search for ‘comic books,’ the hashtag #comicbooks shows a search where all tweets MUST include the hashtag #comicbooks

The idea behind hashtags is topical conversation. Hashtags help other people find your tweets about a topic. If you want to attract more people to your tweets, use hashtags. If prefer a more limited audience, don’t use them.

If you’re a creator trying to build a career or network online, you must use hashtags. They help other people interested in the same topic find you, whether it be peers, industry members, or fans. You’re not allowed to blow off using hashtags until you have a ridiculous number of followers.

And don’t be shy about hashtag use either. Twitter as a platform is ephemeral. Old tweets rarely get any interaction, unless they achieved some level of minor or major fame. There’s nothing wrong with stuffing a tweet with as many hashtags as possible – just make sure they’re relevant.

This isn’t like Google where you’ll get penalized for keyword stuffing. Maybe some judgemental ass will turn their nose up at excessive hashtag use but the fact remains: judgemental asses don’t matter.

(Tips on dealing with such people are below.)

I have a ginormous list of writers, artists, agents & others that I’ve been curating for years.

What are Twitter Lists?

A Twitter List is a curated group of Twitter accounts.

Who curates them? Anyone. 

Anyone can make a list, either public or private. If a list is public, anyone can follow that list

A list is good for people whose content you want to see, but perhaps not in your timeline. Adding someone to a list is separate from following them; if you want to see them in your timeline, you still have to follow them.

A list is also good if you only want to see a specific set of content. I do this for politics (a private list) and also for comics. I have a list of artists, writers, creators, agents, etc. right here.

If you follow someone else’s  list, content from the list members will appear on your timeline. Following a list is an easy way to get started or find people in a ‘friend-of-a-friend’ sort of way.

Now that you know how to search, who should you follow?

This, along with what you should post, is the million dollar question. And – as you might expect – the answer is different for everyone.

Ask yourself what you want to get out of Twitter.

Community?

Knowledge?

Work? 

Fans?

The answer is going to be different for everyone.

I’ll give you my reasons why I follow people as a writer, artist, and entrepreneur, and you can apply them to your own bad self. I follow people  because:

  •  I like their art
  •  I like their writing
  •  I like their political views or knowledge
  • I want to learn from them (they could be an agent with insight into the publishing industry, an expert in counter intelligence, an inspiring person, etc.)
  • They are an interesting industry professional related to graphic novels in some manner (an agent, editor, author, etc.)
  • People I just want to follow (musicians I like, local businesses, etc.)

You can see the above reasons in plain sight if you check out who I’m following. And you can also see there’s some overlap in the reasons.

Twitter is like any other network: it is what you make of it. If you want to be inspired by other artists, follow artists. Same with writers, entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, etc. 

Fill your timeline with the stuff you want to see, be inspired by, be motivated by. If you want to find community, be supportive and helpful to other creators (give freely, without any expectation of reciprocation).

Twitter can be pretty cool.

Twitter can also be a cesspool – but one that you can control

There are people with nothing better to do with their time than to mess with other people. Arguing for the sake of arguing, being jerky, wallowing in pessimism, you name it.

And there are bots – accounts that look like real people but whose goal is to just start shit. Someone makes a valid point, they swoop in, kind of agree, then engage in whataboutism to derail the discussion. Or they just respond with utter assholiness (you know of what I speak).

Twitter has tools do deal with these clowns and let you keep your sanity: muting words, muting people, and blocking people.

One piece of advice: don’t take anything personally from strangers. If it’s not someone you’d ask for advice, their opinion is irrelevant.

Muting words on Twitter

Twitter has a section of settings for Privacy & Safety; all of their settings can be accessed via the More link on the left. This is where you can protect your tweets (meaning make your Twitter account private & permission only), choose whether randos can DM you, etc.

I don’t play Animal Crossing, don’t care about Dancing With the Stars, and have zero interest in seeing other people’s horoscopes (especially, I guess, someone I follow who’s a Scorpio).

If you scroll down to the Safety  section there’s an option for Muted, with a sub option for Muted words. This is where you can set words to not appear for you on Twitter, with various options.

For example: I don’t give a rat’s ass about Kanye West. I don’t care who he is, I don’t care what he does. He appeared in my timeline & lists last weekend because of his publicity stunt ‘presidential run.’ I’ve muted the word Kanye from my timeline forever. 

The useful thing is that Twitter hides the content of tweets with a little note that it has a word I muted – and gives the option to read the tweet. Thus I might be interested in what someone is saying and still have Kanye blight my eyes … by choice.

Muting people on Twitter

Muting people (ie unfollowing them) is similar to muting words, except you can do it quickly from any tweet they’ve made. Click the little downward caret in the upper right corner of any tweet to see this action menu:

Hey Brett – I’m not unfollowing you! Your tweet was just the first one in my timeline when I needed to make this screenshot.

Muting people is for a simple purpose: to not see tweets from people without unfollowing or blocking them. It’s a way to not hurt someone’s feelings if they post a lot of drivel – especially if they happen to be a mutual (a mutual is someone who follows you and who you follow).

Muting people is good for annoying people too, like that person who always makes mom jokes. Or that person who has to draw attention to themselves in every discussion.

The big thing to note is that muting people is a one way street; they don’t know you’ve muted them. They can still see all of your tweets.

Click the 3 dot button on someone’s
Twitter profile for this menu.

Some folks retweet incessantly, but their own posts are useful. Twitter allows you disable retweets from people to deal with this. Go to the profile of the person in question, click on the dotted icon by the Following button and you’ll get the menu on the right.

This menu is how you can do the following:

  • Turn off retweets (you must be following them for this)
  • Add them to a list
  • See their lists
  • Mute them
  • Block them (details below)

Blocking people on Twitter

Blocking people means removing their tweets from your Twitter completely. Blocking is for people who are total jerks or fake accounts.

They won’t appear in your timeline. They won’t appear for you if they’re on lists you follow, in other people’s discussions, or anywhere. 

The only way to see the tweets for someone you’ve blocked is to go to their profile and then choose to see their tweets.

Blocking someone is a two way street. If you block someone, they can’t see your tweets and they know that you’ve blocked them if they visit your profile.

Karol Cummins blocked me for some reason. I might have dared to question her or something.

If you block someone, you won’t see their tweets at all, anywhere. If someone has blocked you, you’ll see a notice on their tweets that their tweets are protected. It’s not until you go to their profile that you learn that either their tweets are private or that you’re blocked.

My recommendation on blocking: DO IT LIBERALLY. Block the shit out of people, because Twitter is full of people with agendas and time on their hands. 

Blocking people makes Twitter a much, much better place.

That was a quick overview of Twitter. Now if you really want to jack up the usefulness, you’re going to want to check out Tweetdeck.

What is Tweetdeck and what are its benefits?

Tweetdeck’s old logo, back when they were a
Flash app and before Twitter bought them.

Tweetdeck is a Twitter web application with 4 main  features:

  1. It lets you schedule tweets for future publication
  2. It lets a team access a single Twitter account without sharing the password
  3. In additions to Lists, you can save individual tweets into Collections
  4. It shows Twitter in multiple, unlimited columns that you can drag & drop to reorder and whose content you can customize

Here’s all of the various types of columns we have available:

Instead of clicking all over Twitter, make columns of stuff you read/need regularly.

The content of each column can be customized – and this where Tweetdeck can be super productive & fun. Here’s how I have Tweetdeck setup:

Here’s a breakdown of all my columns:

Column 1: all of my notifications – likes, retweets, comments, et al

This let’s me easily respond to conversations.

Column 2: My Comics, Art & Writing list (link)

I stay up to date with creators & industry news, and see inspiring art. I only follow a segment of this list because I want to see more mutuals in my home timeline. Also, this column has been customized to show no retweets or adult content:

I forgot who was re/tweeting the pron but taking it out of my column was easy enough. I just noticed the Edit List option at the bottom, I hadn’t seen that before.

Column 3: My ‘Home’ timeline (aka what users see on Twitter’s home page)

You’ll note I put my creators list before my home timeline, because I want to see creative stuff first.

Column 4: A search of all tweets from agents looking for graphic novels

This is where things get productive for professionals. In my case, I’m a graphic novelist interested in finding an agent for traditional publication purposes. This column shows a search for all tweets that include the hashtag #mswl  AND the word graphic

When you do a search in Tweetdeck, it automatically adds a column with the search.

#mswl is the official hashtag for Manuscript Wish List,

A place for agents and editors to post what they wish they had in their inbox. It exists to help them find specific things they’d like to read, represent and/or acquire.

www.manuscriptwishlist.com/faq/

Agents & editors looking for a specific project will not only post on the MSWL website but also tweet using the #mswl hashtag. If they are looking for graphic novels, they will do one of the following:

  1. Spell out of the words “graphic novel”
  2. Spell out of the words “graphic novels”
  3. Use the hashtag #graphicnovel
  4. Use the hashtag #graphicnovels

The hashtag #gn is text-speak for good night.

I can cover all the bases by just including graphic in the search (because you can’t have graphic novels without graphics, haw haw haw). 

This column ensures that I don’t miss tweets from any agent looking for graphic novels. I read the tweets and when I find an agent looking for a graphic novel in a genre that I write in (like spooky middle grade), I do 3 things:

  1. Follow the agent
  2. Add them to my Comics, Art & Writing list
  3. Save them to a Collection called … Agents

Think of the possibilities here.

When we’re limited to just Twitter’s main timeline and their lists, it’s easy to miss content you really want to see. Being able to save searches like this is a game-changing productivity hack.

Column 5: Shows all the tweets saved in my Agents collection

Collections are a group of bookmarks (and there does not appear to be a limit on collections). My list of potential agents to submit to is ready & waiting for me to finish my pitch packets.

Twitter has something similar called Bookmarks, except it’s you can’t group the bookmarks into collections – and it’s totally separate from Collections. Yes, it’s weird and confusing. Twitter should combine them, and make Bookmarks a collection.

Column 6: Shows all the tweets saved in my Art Stuff collection

I save tweets of art I particularly like, especially if there’s a technique I’d like to add to my repertoire. I also save art tutorials. 

What kind of tweets would you save?

Column 7: A search of all tweets with the #publishingpaidme hashtag

This year we’ve had a lot of protests and demands for both justice and action in response to the murders of Black Americans by law enforcement. As more people understand how systemic racism permeates every aspect of our lives, we need tangible ways to improve things.

In publishing it means hiring & keeping more Black employees, and signing more Black authors. It means working to end the disparities & forced disadvantages that Black workers and creators face.

On June 5, the author Tochi Onyebuchi posted this:

The author LL McKinney responded to and supported Onyebuchi’s statement – and one June 6 she offered up a hashtag:

The hashtag took OFF. One of the most effective ways to improve things is with the unvarnished truth. And all authors should be aware of what other authors are paid so (and our agents) can negotiate better.

Column 8: My direct messages

Twitter has a private messaging option for conversations you want to have out of the public eye. There’s a setting to only allow DMs from mutuals or anyone, if you don’t want to hear from randos.

Customizing a Tweetdeck column

Having all of these options for column content in Tweetdeck is great, but being able to tweak them to your needs takes it to another level. If you hit that little slider icon in the top right corner of a column, you’ll get a bunch of options to tweak the column to your heart’s delight.

Showing: Show either all tweets, or tweets with images, videos, gifs, or links.

Matching & Excluding: These two options let you finetune a column to however you’d like it.

In the Matching field, you can see more specific tweets by using the all-caps AND between the terms, or have a broader selection by using the all-caps OR.

  • To show all tweets with the words graphic AND novel, just type graphic AND novel into the Matching field.
  • To show tweets with the words graphic OR novel, just type graphic OR novel into the matching field (this works best in a search column)

The Excluding field is great for cleaning up your column of stuff you don’t want to see. Sick of a certain celebrity? Put their name or Twitter username in the field. You can do the same with any word/topic you don’t want to see, hashtags, people, etc.

IMPORTANT: You need to use the all-caps OR between terms to exclude more than one term. For example, if you don’t want to see anything involving Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and  Rand Paul, you need to fill out the Excluding field like this:

kanye OR yeezie OR kardashian OR (rand paul)

Note that I used Kanye’s first name & nickname, but not his common noun last name. I won’t see anything about his wife or anyone in her family. And for a term with two words, they need to be in parentheses.

And if I used AND instead of OR, it would only hide tweets that contained ALL of the words I’m trying to block.

Retweets: Retweets can be included or excluded in columns.

Tweet authors: You can choose to see tweets by or mentioning specific users or usernames. 

Preferences: Tweetdeck’s Notifications column makes a sound for each new tweet; this sound can be enabled for all columns. 

There’s also an option to enabled desktop notifications (when your browser makes a popup to notify you). This can be super annoying and distracting, don’t enable it unless you want to be notified of a tweet when you’re not using Twitter or Tweetdeck.

Lastly, you can customize the size of media in tweets, or disable them entirely.

Whew! That’s enough to get going, right?

This was way longer than I intended and I hope it’s helpful. I might edit and update it if there are things that can or need to be be improved.

Overall, the best thing you can do with Twitter is just use it. I highly recommend using Tweetdeck for professional purposes but you can get by without it if you want to start off simply.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, my username is @thisisarp (link).

I’m curious – if you saved a Twitter search as a column, what would you search for and why?

Leave your answers in the comments!

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