here on my personal blog, but since different people learn different ways (and it doubles the number of blogposts I can squeeze out of the same topic) I thought I would include a Cliff's Notes version here.
Now, just in the interests of full disclosure, I am by no means a tastemaker or power user on Twitter. So if you are, please, by all means let us all know some better ideas in the comments. But here's what's worked for me in the past:
1. Always follow back.
That means if somebody follows you, you should follow them back. I make exceptions for the following: spambots, porn stars, obvious right wing loons, and when their bio says something like "cheap sunglasses" or "I can help you find thousands of Twitter followers overnight." Those are usually bots, too. And everybody probably has different tastes. You might despise left wing loons or pickup artists. Don't follow somebody distasteful just because of the followback "rule."
2. I tend to avoid following back foreign language accounts, too.
Occasionally I'll follow back a French or German speaker because I speak French and German, so at least I can know what their deal is. But when the account is in a language I don't speak, I have no idea who I'm following. And these accounts tend to conglomerate. When I follow one or two foreign language accounts, sometimes I come back the next day and there are hundreds more following me and I have no idea what any of them are saying. It's nice to have followers, but for all the good having a bunch of followers who I can't understand is doing me they may as well be bots.
3. A "favorite" is basically a dry hump.
It doesn't do anything for anybody. It's basically like saying "I saw what you did there and I acknowledge it." Favorites don't improve somebody else's tweet. The only time to use a favorite by itself is when you mean to say, "I have nothing more to contribute to the conversation, but I acknowledge you said something."
4. I always retweet any time someone shares a link related to me.
I actually keep a regular search for the name of each of my novels, as well as the urls of my blog and Across the Board. When I find somebody shared something of mine, even without tagging me, I favorite, retweet, and say "thanks!" I look at it this way: what you ultimately want is exposure. If you share your own stuff too often, it looks narcissistic/spammy. If you share somebody else sharing your stuff, you appear gracious and the end result is the same.
5. Always tweet a thank you when somebody else mentions you in a link.
By which I mean: a reviewer reviews one of my books I always say "Thanks, @carriebeckort, for the great review: (link)." Similar to above, you want exposure but you don't want to seem self-centered or spammy. So you act grateful, make sure to include the person's handle (and they'll most likely retweet you because it's exposure for them, too.)
6. Don't ever start a tweet with a handle.
At a minimum, put a period before the handle if you can't figure any other way out how to do it. Basically, any time you start a tweet with a handle it treats it as though it's a private conversation. People can still see it, but they have to go look (by clicking on "tweets and replies.") And what you really want is for as much of your stuff as possible to be public, in case any of it catches someone's eye or ideally goes viral. If you truly want to have a private conversation, Twitter has a direct message feature.
7. Make an account on ManageFlitter, CrowdFireApp, or another app that lets you control your followers.
With Manageflitter and CrowdFireApp you can unfollow 100 people every 24 hours. Make it part of your routine to do so, too.
8. Here's the (basic) deal with building a followership.
There are hard limits to the amount of people you can follow. It starts at 2000. Then when you break 2000 followers it becomes more algorithmic. So you should go out right away and follow 2000 people. You can do a search for accounts that contain the sorts of things you're looking for - say "reader," "YA," "NYT" whatever seems good. Another method is to find somebody you want to be like, and just go down their follower list (or their following list if it seems better curated) and follow everybody on there. Here's what's going to happen. Due to rule #1 above, a certain percentage of those people are going to follow you back. It might only be 50%, but people are usually pretty good about followbacks. You'll also suck in some flotsam and jetsam. People (and bots) will see that a whole flurry of people are following you, and they'll go to follow you, too. Then you just use your Manageflitter or CrowdFireApp account to unfollow 100 people every day until you've unfollowed all of the jerks who didn't follow back. Then you go back and follow a bunch more. In this way you'll gradually expand your followership. Ideally we'd all be Stephen Colbert and have a million followers while only following 1 back, but it just doesn't work that way for average joes.
9. Engage in (and seek to join) conversations.
Keep them going as long as possible, too. If you see someone chatting about something interesting, just jump in. Or strike up a convo with someone you know. You can go down their feeds and respond to one of their tweets that sound interesting, or you can just start cold. The other day I just cold tweeted one of my friends because I know she hates braggarts on Facebook, so I spontaneously started faux bragging to her on Twitter. So what happens is people will see that you're not just a bot, you're a human being. And if you say something clever in a convo (again, make sure not to start with a handle or it won't get seen) maybe that'll get some retweets.
10. Use hashtags.
Honest to God I wish this weren't a rule, but it is.
11. Don't misuse hashtags.
If you're not sure what something means, google it. It's usually out there. You don't want to accidentally be using "#tcot" or "#notallmen" and not know what those mean, or the implications they've picked up. When in doubt, just use something simple that can't be misinterpreted. I tag most of my posts "#horror" and "#zombies."
12. Don't overuse hashtags.
They say two is ideal. Too many hashtags and it just looks like gobbledygook.
What about you? What have you found to be tips and tricks and best practices for using Twitter? Let us know in the comments below!