Tips for getting the most out of Twitter

Federal agencies and employees would be more effective on Twitter if they more fully utilized the benefits of hashtags, according to advice presented in a General Services Administration online webinar on Oct. 31.

“I recommend you use a hashtag pretty much always in every tweet,” Gadi Ben-Yehuda, social media director for the IBM Center for the Business of Government, said in the webinar sponsored by GSA’s Web Managers University.

Hashtags are words or phrases in tweets that label the content and make it easier to search. Twitter users have developed some customary ones for various topics, although any user can create one by simply using the # symbol in front of the relevant word or phrase. A tweet about government use of social media may be tagged #gov20, for example.

Hashtags are beneficial for Twitter users because they allow you to reach a much broader audience beyond your followers, Ben-Yehuda explained. That is because users may search Twitter for content based on hashtags. If a tweet has a hashtag, it shows up in the search results for that hashtag.

“The number of followers you have is a small portion of the number of people who might be interested in your tweet,” Ben-Yehuda said.

Over time, as more audience members find your content through hashtags, more of those audience members may choose to follow your account.

Asked how a user should choose a relevant hashtag, Ben-Yehuda had two suggestions.

First, he advised exploring what other Twitter users are using for hashtags on similar types of content. This can be done by entering search terms in the search bar. For example, a user can search “government social media,” by entering those words in the search bar. The results showed popular hashtags including #socialmedia and #gov20.

Another method suggested by Ben-Yehuda is to search the website Hashtags.org, which offers users an instant view into the popularity of a hashtag. Based on information on that website, #socialmedia is a lot more popular than #gov20.

Ben-Yehuda also recommended that users provide links in their Twitter messages, and to make liberal use of the “Mention” and “Retweet” functions so they are engaging with their followers.

He also suggested using applications such as HootSuite and TweetDeck to sort followers into lists, based on the type of content they provide, for more effective following. The applications also allow for advance arrangement of multiple tweets throughout the day, and of tweets that are simultaneously broadcasted to Facebook and other platforms.

As a side note, however, Ben-Yehuda suggested a user would not want to keep the Twitter and related applications open on the desktop all day long, simply because it is too easy to become consumed in watching the Twitter feeds for hours on end.

“Don’t look at it all day, because it’s too much and you won’t get anything else done,” Ben-Yehuda said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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