Everything (!) you’ve always wanted to know about Twitter

“Not another post about Twitter dos and don’ts!” I hear you moan. Um, yes, sorry. Hopefully this post will manage to give you a different slant to previous ones on the subject. Well, that’s the plan anyway.


Who should I follow?

That depends on what you want to read. For instance, I follow lots of colleagues in the industry, as well as a few editors and copywriters, news broadcasters, politicians and political parties, charities, animal welfare, wildlife and environmental organisations, tourism tweeters, etc. Whatever and whoever floats your boat really.

You can always unfollow an account if you find their tweets boring/offensive/repetitive/irrelevant. If you don’t want to unfollow them because they may notice and get upset, then you can mute them. Personally, I think this is a bad idea because if this is a friend or colleague, they may wonder when you next bump into them in person why you haven’t got a clue what they tweet about… And if they’re not a friend or colleague, you may as well just unfollow them.

How do I get followers?

By following others yourself and engaging with people. A lot of Twitter users will follow back anyone who follows them, at least for a while to get the feel of your account. Personally, I rarely follow people without a photo and description. I strongly recommend that you get those two sorted before you announce yourself to the Twittersphere.

But whatever you do, don’t be tempted to part with any money to have a bunch of empty profiles follow you to somehow make it seem that you’re popular as you have thousands upon thousands of followers.

Watch out for people that follow you just to get you to follow them back. They’re usually just trying to sell you something and will delete you a few days later.

How can I organise my followers?

Go to Lists in your Profile and settings (click on your photo top right) and create some lists. These can focus on anything you like, for example translators working in your language pair(s), your specialisms (tourism and travel in my case), interests, news, politics, etc. You can create up to 1000 lists and include up to 5000 accounts in each one. You can also decide whether to make a list public or private.

Once you’ve done that, you can then use a social media management dashboard, e.g. Hootsuite or TweetDeck, to show several streams at once in different columns, including your lists.

What should I tweet about?

My reaction to this is similar to the question “What should I blog about?”. If you haven’t got anything to say, then don’t bother saying anything. Be a lurker instead. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out on Twitter just to read what others post. After a while, you’ll probably see a conversation you want to join in or read an article you want to share. Just no need to stress about it.

If you want to attract business only, then focus on your specialisms and translation. If you want to show your human side too, include some personal thoughts and what you’re really passionate about. Twitter works best if you use it more often, which basically means you need to enjoy it to keep coming back day after day.

Some advocate that if you’re on Twitter only to attract business, then you shouldn’t tweet anything unrelated to translation/your specialisms at all and that you should run a separate personal account if you want to tweet about anything else. I get their point, but IMHO it all boils down to how you see yourself and how businessy you want to come across.

I actually run four separate accounts on Twitter, however. When I attend conferences or other translation-related events, I usually end up tweeting a massive amount, certainly too much for my non-translation connections to put up with. That’s why I created the TranixConf account*. I also run the ITI Wessex account** and another that attempts to look at the humorous side of our profession***.

My main advice is to remember that anything you do post on Twitter, as anywhere else online, can be seen and remembered by anyone. Really personal thoughts are probably best shared with your friends in person or privately on Facebook.

What shouldn’t I tweet about?

What you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Selfies. How many people followed/unfollowed you today/this week/this month. Who your top engaged bods are. In other words, automated tweets from analysis sites in general. Because they add nothing to your profile and the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Otherwise, there are no rules.

Unfortunately, some Twitter management sites create these automated tweets for you after you’ve signed up and you should avoid them if possible. I use ManageFlitter to clean up my Twitter profile. You can see who’s unfollowed you, who’s inactive, who hardly ever tweets, etc. I’m sure there are loads of other tools out there, but this is the one I’ve been happily using for years. It’s free and does the job without spamming my tweeps.

What should I retweet?

Anything that you think the people following you might be interested in. Or anything that takes your fancy, really; it’s your account after all. But don’t retweet (RT) if you haven’t read the blog post/article mentioned in the tweet. You don’t necessarily have to endorse everything that you RT, but you should be retweeting it for a reason, to spark debate, for example, or because you think your followers should be aware of the content.

What shouldn’t I retweet?

What somebody else had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oh and thank you tweets. They’re just meant for you to be polite. No need to reshare them with the world AGAIN.

When should I DM?

twitter-848528_1280Send a direct message (DM) when you want to say something to your follower that you don’t want the rest of the world to see or when it’ll take you too long to say it in 140 characters, because Twitter has recently removed the limit for DMs and you can write so much more.

You can also group DM up to 50 people. This is far more practical for organising get-togethers at events or conferences, etc., than tagging people into tweets, which then leaves you with no characters left to say anything meaningful.

When shouldn’t I DM?

Auto-DMs are a real no-no, but judging by how many I’ve been receiving recently, they’re all the rage. If you want to thank someone for following, write a personal message. Don’t spam them with an automated DM promoting your website/Facebook page/course/book/etc. as soon as they follow you.

Any other don’ts?

Yes, while I’m on the subject of self-promotion, please don’t tag people in tweets advertising your latest blog post unless you’re certain they’ll be interested in the topic as a result of a previous conversation. I’ve noticed that a few colleagues have started doing this recently and I’m not a fan of the practice.

On that same note, asking specific people to RT your tweet puts them in a difficult position if they would rather not. A general request for an RT, especially for a good cause, is fine in my book, though.

Which hashtags should I use?

The ones I use the most are #xl8 = translate, #t9n = translation, #1nt = interpreting and #translation. There’s also #l10n = localisation, and #ff = follow Friday (to recommend people on the last working day of the week), among others. Sometimes you can insert these into the main body of the tweet to save characters if your message is a long one.

Conferences have their own hashtags (for example #ITIConf15, #BP15Conf, #IAPTI2015, #METM15). Clicking on the hashtag will take you to the feed so you can see what has inspired the attending tweeters. It’s a great way to get an idea of what people are talking about and the latest trends in the profession.

How many hashtags should I use?

Recently, most people seem to recommend using no more than two. However, I don’t see what’s wrong with three. More than three if they’re totally relevant is probably OK on the odd occasion as long as you don’t make a habit of it.

How often should I share my own content?

I share my own and guest posts five or six times on Twitter. I expect some will feel that’s four or five times too many, but I do this because, according to the impressions data, my tweets are rarely seen by more than 10% of my followers. I usually automate these tweets using Hootsuite so they appear on different days and at different times of the day so I can reach as many of my tweeps as possible.

Should I link my Twitter account with Facebook?

Short answer: no. Long answer: while Facebook can be useful for professional purposes, it differs vastly from Twitter and you should, therefore, vary your approach to them. The idea is engage people and make connections that could lead to work or at least a feeling of camaraderie with your colleagues that can be highly beneficial for freelancers running a business from a home office.

Anything else I should be aware of?

Yes, you need to think about who you want to see your tweet. If you start a tweet with @JohnBrown then only you, John Brown and your mutual followers will see that tweet. So if your intention is for all your tweeps to see this tweet, either reorganise the content so the @name is not at the beginning or put a full point in front of it (.@JohnBrown).


When you tweet someone else’s content (e.g. blog post) you should ideally mention them in the tweet using their Twitter handle, or at least by name. Hopefully, bloggers will have added their Twitter handle to the tweet that’s automatically generated when you click on the relevant share button underneath their blog post.

Some people think you should also include the name of the person that shared the content in the first place. Personally, I think this is overkill, especially when we are limited to 140 characters. However, if it’s a guest post, I usually try to fit in the name of the blog owner if I have enough characters left.

rage-1015611_1280If you express an opinion in public (i.e. on social media) then there’s always a chance someone will disagree with you. It’s difficult to have a proper discussion in short tweets, so sometimes people can come across as a lot more aggressive than they would be if you were having the same debate over a drink. But if it gets too heated, you can always shift to direct messages (DMs) to express yourself more clearly.

Just try to remember that people are entitled to their opinion as you are to yours. As long as they’re not attacking you personally, try not to get too wound up about it. Didn’t you go to school, university, work in an office in a distant pre-translation life? Did you get on with everybody then? Thought not. You might also like to consider that you’re not actually right. It tends to happen a lot more often that we all care to admit.

Bottom line

Twitter is a place where you can meet colleagues and even potential clients. You can find out what’s happening in the world of translation and keep up-to-date with the industries of your specialisms.

You can also easily contact service companies via Twitter as they monitor tweets and will pick up on complaints fast. I’ve recently had an issue at Heathrow resolved and help from Hootsuite and Microsoft.

Twitter isn’t for everyone. If you try it, but don’t like it, don’t worry. Just try to be social somewhere else, like LinkedIn or Facebook. And learn to deal with people like me who will take a few seconds to process what you hate about Twitter. Because I love it (but not enough to want a pulsating red heart instead of those yellow stars to mark my favourite tweets!).

Disclaimer: I’m not a social media expert; I’ve never taken any courses or exams or anything of the sort. I am basing my opinions entirely on common sense, experience and general reading on the topic. Feel free to disagree and carry on just as you are.

Many thanks to Claire Cox, Nelia Fahloun and Oliver Lawrence for pointing out some things I had forgotten in their comments. I’ve tweaked this post to include them and I think it’s a lot better as a result.

*I have now deleted this account

** I now no longer run this account

*** I have also deleted this account

1st photo by Kevin Phillips, 2nd by Cristian Ferronato, 3rd and 4th by Gerd Altmann, 5th by GraphicsSC and 6th by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

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17 thoughts on “Everything (!) you’ve always wanted to know about Twitter

  1. Great post, Nikki. I personally hate it when people sync their Facebook and Twitter accounts too so the same post is duplicated. By all means say it on both media, but do it at different times and using different words! There’s so much more scope in Facebook, for one thing. I also hate those “I posted a picture on Facebook” tweets with just a link, no clue to what the picture is of – what IS the point? I have the impression that Twitter has changed in the two or so years since I joined; there’s a lot more strict (and often boring!) business content now, and fewer personal touches, which I think is a shame. Like you, I just have the one account so I can post non-business-related items from time to time. It makes us appear more human and approachable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Claire, thanks very much for your comments. You made me realise that I had left a few things out, so I’ve just updated the post. Thank you! I don’t like syncing Twitter with FB either. I did it as an experiment years ago and soon realised that it just didn’t work.
      I’m totally with you on coming across as a more rounded person on Twitter and it’s true that many tweeters have become more business-like in their approach recently, which is sad because there’s far less engagement. However, I do separate some of my translation-related tweets into different accounts and I’ve now included that info in the post.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely allowed! And I’m sure you’re not posting anything boring or irrelevant. You’ll never be able to please all your followers all the time, so it’s better to just not worry about it and do your own thing. You’ll lose some followers and gain others. People also need to get better at skimming through tweets to find those that interest them. I just ignore ones I don’t want to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Many thanks for this post, Nikki. It answers very well most of the questions I get asked about the interest/purpose of Twitter for translators or freelancers in general.
    One thing I would recommend once you start following a significant number of accounts is to organize them in lists based on focus, interest, location, etc. Lists can be kept private (and should, I think).
    For example, I have a list of “favourite accounts” with less than 50 people. They may not be the most influential in the profession, but they are *my* favourites persons to follow, the ones I engage most with. I also have lists of people tweeting about law (my specialism), and others based on more personal interests, or potential leads/clients.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, and if you use a tool like Tweetdeck, you can organise things so that each list displays in its own column, which is very handy when you want to keep the editors apart from the travel writers :).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another thing: language. if you’re tweeting for prospects and clients, it makes sense to tweet in their native language. That may mean having a second twitter account for the other language. Again, Tweetdeck makes that quite easy to handle, as long as you remember to post the right tweets from the right accounts ;).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Nikki,
    Great post, though as you say in your last comment there are a few more things to say about Twitter, I would recommend:
    – try and make sure you spread your Tweets out throughout the day – if you Tweet five times in one day don’t do it all within the space of one hour;
    – if you only tweet occasionally use a free tool to find out when most of your followers are online and tweet then;
    – you can use ‘MT’ if you retweet but slightly modify someone’s tweet;
    – preferably shorten URLs before tweeting them otherwise they can become truncated and the link is lost;
    – before shortening an URL you can get often get rid of all that extraneous info after the main link (nobody needs to know that you accessed a link via a tablet using Hootsuite for example …);
    – trying to remember that article you tweeted? Download your Twitter archive from time to time;
    – you can use photos in Tweets to catch people’s attention.

    Liked by 1 person

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