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TWITTER – What’s that about a year on

A year ago and completely new to the world of Twitter I sought advice from a young pal who has the type of twitter credentials that I can only (still) dream about. With his advice, posted here and the aid of an iPhone app I jumped on the bandwagon saying Ciao to Facebook along the way. As a result I obtained the opportunity to blog for ITV Wales about Take That, received a tweet from the eminent historian Professor Vickery and have enjoyed the on-tweet banter of the Royal Wedding and the XFactor (better than the programme).

So, with that said I thought it time to ask my Twitter expert for some more twitting related questions to help me improve my tweeting experience even more.

Introducing Shane Andrews:

Ginger, gay, gadget boy from Cardiff. BBC Radio 1 addict. Loves music and gadgets. Works in transport and owns '' / @railhelp. #4N newbie.

Twitter name @gingio
Number of Tweets 48,082 (17,914)
Number of followers 1,182 (823)
Number following 1,014 (1,028)
Listed 33 (35)

Twitter name @railhelp
Number of Tweets 1,902
Number of followers 344
Number following 89
Listed 17

Welcome back Shane how did 2011 treat you?

Hi Sarah, great to be with you again. 2011 was a great year, of which the most memorable event is still the Royal Wedding.  It feels like only yesterday that I stood on Whitehall awaiting the Royal procession, it was such a fantastic and memorable occasion.

Yeh, but not only that you set up Railhelp, which is brilliant,  Congratulations for that!  How has using Twitter helped you with that?

Thank you. Twitter is helping by raising awareness as well as giving advice to our clients. Clients can tweet us, on the move, with any query that they have and then we respond as soon as we can, usually within the hour. The feed is also directly published onto our homepage of the website, which makes the advice available to web users as well as our 300+ followers. 

What’s the best thing that has happened to you as a result of Twitter?

I think it still has to be winning the Eurostar tickets early last year thanks to a Twitter competition. We went not long after the Royal wedding and had an absolutely fantastic time.

I still don’t get Hashtags, why can’t you just string a few words together and put a hashtag in front of it, like #Idontgetit?

But you can Sar!  For instance I could tweet #SarahandGingiointerview, well, maybe that's a bit long, but yes, you can make a hashtag from anything. A lot of people use them incorrectly, such as by adding punctuation which then breaks the hashtag but people still keep doing it! The point of a hashtag is to make the tweet easily searchable, so for example if I tweeted regularly with "#GingioParis" when I was in Paris, you could type #GingioParis into the search and all the tweets with that hashtag would appear - so I guess, it's kind of like those little fluorescent tabs you could purchase for bits of paper within an a4 notepad!

If the hashtag is infrequently tweeted it does disappear after around a fortnight I'm lead to believe, but I'm not sure how accurate this time scale is.

Also, I still don’t get Follow Friday, what are you meant to do?

Follow Friday is a historic thing, from the early days of Twitter. It's a way of showing gratitude to somebody for tweeting things you enjoy, so, on a Friday, people would post their gratitude which is ultimately a recommendation of whom you should consider following. I don't participate every week, I don't believe it's as effective as it used to be, but I do as often as I can because it's nice to do. It's good to give a positive thank you and help someone gain more followers when deserved.

When you get a new Follower should you send a Thank you, what is the twit-etiquette?

There's no twit-etiquette as such, a lot of people seem to tweet on a Friday evening with things like "hi newbies, thanks for following, so say hello". The reason for the impersonal approach is likely to be as a result of so many spam followers, you tend to feel a bit silly if you've tweeted someone as a thank you or followed them back immediately to find you get a tweet back about penis enlargement or a fake spam offer for a "free walmart gift card".

Have you un-followed anyone and why?

Yes, various reasons. Lack of common interests, lack of positivity, offensive jokes or unnecessary rudeness being just a few. Plus I don't like following robotic auto feeds, I prefer to follow humans, that's why it is called social media after all.

Can you give me any tips that you have picked up last year?

Be yourself, tweet often and don't make it all one-way traffic. I've started recently tweeting a quote of what someone tweeted me and replying below it, if it's perhaps a question I'm unsure of as this allows others to perhaps join in.

One big tip to remember is, when you tweet, your tweet is seen by all your followers and potentially retweeted to their followers and so on and so on, the viral effect. If you're replying to somebody, thus beginning your tweet with @ followed by their username then that tweet is only seem by the person who receives it AS WELL AS those on your timeline who follow both you and the person you've sent that tweet too.

I try to explain this regularly to people, I've even explained it to Jeremy Vine from the BBC who asked me via direct message what I meant by my tip! That's the biggest tip I'll give any user, it took me a while to grasp it.

My other tip is to bare in mind that 'Direct Messages' (private inbox) can only been sent to someone who follows you and only received from somebody you follow.

Does it matter what your following / follower ratio is?

I think it's down to personal opinion. Some people follow every single person who follows them, which is silly, you end up following spam or could be helping people build their follower count quickly (some will follow you and then unfollow once they've received their reciprocal follow-back). I tend to follow people who are recommended or people who I tweet a few times back and forth, I guess in the same way as having a conversation at the bus stop. If you get talking regularly, you get closer and maybe give out your mobile number - similarly if you start tweeting someone regularly, you get closer and then the follow-back allows the conversation to go more private via direct message (private inbox).

How do you think Twitter can improve?

I think Twitter could improve for businesses and am aware of plans in the pipeline over the next few months. The new website design was a big improvement and it'll soon move to allow companies to design their page to be part of their brand, which is a great idea!

Other than that I think there's certainly scope to improve their procedures with dealing with spammers - I report so many, there must be a way of limiting tweets for newbies perhaps until they verify a genuine email address? I'm not sure, but something needs to be done.

Another way they could improve is more accessible hints and tips to people maybe such as YouTube videos.

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