Twitter Best Practices for Artists
For those using Twitter for the first time, there can be a high barrier of entry to start using it. Those who use it frequently already know the benefits of Twitter, but unless it’s already a part of your practice, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Because of the nature of the platform, Twitter favors writing, news, links, and humor—so it’s a natural fit for journalists, writers, and comedians. If you’re new to Twitter, or don’t fall into any of these categories, we have some simple procedures you can follow to make sure you’re on it, and not missing the conversation.
This guide is part of our series helping artists navigate digital marketing best practices, which includes tips for growing you audience on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and email.
Is Twitter Right for You?
In a list of the top most used social media outlets, Twitter doesn’t even rank in the top ten. However, it’s typically recognized and linked to as a premier location of a person’s digital identity because of the versatility of content that people can share. Many of the world’s top leaders, thinkers, and writers choose Twitter because it’s simply the quickest way to share their thoughts and content with a direct audience.
The volume of Tweets published in a single day can make the platform daunting when starting off. An active user can spend all day on it, and single, one-sentence tweets can drive entire discussions, even mobilize thousands of accounts to converse about a single issue. Meanwhile, even if you spend a fair amount of time on Twitter, you might find that people are not clicking on the links or seeing your work as much as you would like. Simply because it’s a very busy platform, the return might be far lower than the time you are spending.
However, unlike any other platform, Twitter allows an open conversation forum—and that’s precisely what can be volatile or exciting about the platform. You might consider the time you spend on Twitter more like a research and brainstorming part of your process. Twitter is also a great place to directly share the links and ideas that are about your work—for instance, gallery shows, screenings, Q&As or other events, or news items about the topics that you are interested in. Whereas other platforms make it harder to post direct links, Twitter encourages it, and you can join the conversations around certain topics, adding your own work to the mix.
If your work addresses a specific topic, like climate change, you might want to follow the accounts, art-related or not, that are sharing information about it. You can use the platform to test out ideas and thoughts you have with an audience already engaging with that subject.
Post Consistently, But Eccentricity Helps
Like with other social media platforms, posting consistently and regularly will help you build an audience. If you engage a particular topic, or handful of issues, you can gain new followers who will look forward to hearing your take on those topics. On the other hand, you never know what might get attention on Twitter. Even if you post about something way off-topic compared to what you usually post, that’s exactly the kind of thing that your audience might appreciate.
Twitter is the open forum of ideas par excellence. More than other social media platforms, Twitter is where people come to air their opinions, expertise, and spin on a variety of issues regardless if they’re professionally involved in that topic. Actors talk about politics, while politicians share their opinions on movies—conversations take place between people across a wide array of backgrounds on Twitter. It’s important that artists are represented in this forum, so if you have the time and bandwidth to maintain a consistent Twitter presence, do it!
Twitter has changed and evolved over the years, so the mannerisms and mechanisms that were popular two years ago, aren’t necessarily used today. Retweeting, or sharing someone else’s Tweet, to your followers is still a common practice, but perhaps less so than it was a couple of years ago. Twitter allows users to “Quote Retweet,” which allows you to put your own message above the Retweet of someone else’s post.
Images and Links
Twitter is a platform for writing and sharing links, but images go a long way to helping drive engagement. When posting a single image, Twitter has a particular image ratio that does well—16:9. If you are using an image that doesn’t fit that aspect ratio, Twitter will use its algorithm to determine how to crop the image, and it may not appear on your feed as you expected it to.
Posting a series of images will change that. Play around with the different aspect ratios used for different numbers of images, and you can research best image sizes for Twitter—this often changes as Twitter updates its platform, so just make sure the post you are looking at is recent.
When sharing a link, it can be helpful to see if Twitter is able to pull an image from the website you have posted. An image that relates to a link, or “card,” can help with engagement, and will give your audience an idea of what you are sharing. It’s often less tempting to click through links that don’t offer this preview. To test if the URL you are about to share has a card that will be pulled automatically, you can use this “card validator.”
If you are posting about an event, including details of the event in the image will allow you more characters to talk about the content of the event in the Tweet itself. We’ve created this simple template for you to copy and use in your own style. Since the image is often what the user’s eyes are first drawn toward, they will clearly see where and when the event, exhibition, or discussion you’re referring to takes place.
Content of Your Tweet
Twitter only allows for 280 characters per Tweet, not counting images or links—but it’s just that limitation that has allowed the platform to blossom over the years. This short amount of writing basically fits a sentence or two per Tweet, and forces you to be economical about what you say.
When crafting a Tweet, remember that your audience will see it amid a feed of many other Tweets discussing a myriad of topics. It’s important to be clear and thoughtful, considering that your audience may not immediately know what you’re talking about. You should also get to the point fairly quickly. If you’re new to Twitter, you might consider writing your first Tweets on a computer, instead of a phone, for easier drafting, writing, and editing. Well-crafted Tweets will go a long way to communicating your message.
One way that Twitter has allowed for longer forms of communication is by creating the “thread.” The thread is a series of Tweets, anchored by a lead Tweet, which often introduces a certain topic. You can create a thread by clicking the “reply” button on your own Tweet, as you would if you were responding to someone else. Sometimes, users will end each Tweet thread with a consecutive number paired with the total number of Tweets in the thread (ie, “2/14” to distinguish it’s the second Tweet in a thread of 14). Later, if one of the Tweets gets shared out of its context, it will be clear that that Tweet belongs to a series in a thread. If you continue to post to the thread days, weeks, or even months after publishing the initial Tweet, the thread will put that initial Tweet back on people’s feed, which can be helpful if they have missed it.
Like with any social media platform, hashtags are a good way to enter into a platform with other people that you may not know. However, because Twitter limits how much you can write, it’s better to use one or two strategic hashtags, rather than as many as possible. Tweets with too many hashtags will look like spam, and cause people to glance over them. But if you’re engaging in a specific conversation, or talking about a specific event, you can use hashtags strategically to gain new followers.
Use the tagging function by typing @ and a person’s Twitter handle will make your Tweet show up in their notifications. You should use this function when it makes sense, for instance, when you’re naturally mentioning a collaborator, or referring to another artist’s work. But you shouldn’t wholesale tag people who you want to read your Tweet as it also might read like spam, and just makes it generally difficult for your general audience to see the message of your post. Consider that a well-written Tweet that is more generally interesting to a wider audience will get more views if it’s Retweeted and replied to than if you just tag a bunch of people.
Pinned Tweets is an option that will help new followers or potential followers learn about a specific campaign you want them to know about. For instance, if you have a solo exhibition, you can Tweet about it, and pin it to the top of your page, so it’s always at the top of your feed on your profile. These Tweets often will get more attention while they’re pinned then the normal ones that will stop gaining visibility after a few hours.
Tweetdeck is another powerful tool that Twitter has created to manage posting. This allows you to schedule Tweets, so that you spread out your content across the calendar, and receive notifications about which Tweets users are engaging with. Using Tweetdeck can also make it easy to monitor posts made toward a specific hashtag conversation. And, if you have different Twitter accounts, Tweetdeck can help unify your control over all of them.
Honing Your Twitter Account
The best way to use Twitter strategically is to use it regularly. Everyone uses Twitter in different ways, and the way that people use it has evolved over the years. Follow people in your circle and see how they use it. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work. As you scroll through Twitter, notice what makes you slow down, and what makes you glance over a post. Think about what made one Tweet engaging, and the other not. This could be helpful as you make your own Tweets promoting your practice.
Twitter also offers a fair amount of analytics that show you how well you are doing from month to month. These analytics show an executive summary, top-level stats about your overall performance on Twitter, showing you your growth, top followers, and top Tweets.
While it’s easy to use Twitter, using it strategically, especially toward the goal of promoting your practice, requires thought and time. Twitter rewards more frequent posting, and is more forgiving of the platforms, allowing you to experiment with the medium. If you’re new to the platform, consider using it for a few months to see what works for you, then announcing that you’re on it through other channels later.