A better way to reply to people on Twitter

BufferApp lets you set up time slots, and then automatically places whatever you tweet now into the next available time slot. Many people use it in conjunction with other apps that allow scheduling, e.g. see “How to Automate a Twitter Feed with Hootsuite and Bufferapp.”

I’m experimenting with using BufferApp to let me send dozens of @replies each day without overwhelming people who read through @TweetSmarter tweets looking for tips. I set it up for ten minutes slots, so my replies go out every ten minutes (or so). Many people have told me they have a column in TweetDeck or elsewhere exclusively for TweetSmarter tweets, and they mostly skip reading the replies to get to the “good stuff” :)

It’s working very well, and it’s even fun to use! I would say BufferApp is one of the most enjoyable Twitter apps I’ve ever used.

Any downside?

Not really. The average time for one of my replies to go out is well under ten minutes. It’s very close to the kind of real time I usually interact in on Twitter, and I can set up Buffer for any time interval I wish if I desire faster interaction, or fewer tweets per hour.

And generally, when I want to have a longer back-and-forth conversation with someone I switch to messages (DMs/Direct Messages) anyway. New Twitter does a good job of showing a conversation in the messages tab, and I prefer it to trying to converse via tweets, since the inevitable time gaps and digressions make it harder to follow.

A tip I follow is to go ahead and start conversations by tweets, but switch to DMs/messaging if it goes on. That way people can still see that a conversation has begun and chime in if they want to, and there is a public record that yes, these two people converse. It’s important to be public whenever you can on Twitter because that’s how people get to know you.

Hidden Benefits

Editing tweets after sending

By buffering most of my replies, I have a chance to edit them before they go out. I can use that advantage not only to correct mistakes, but also to look up additional resources that I might want to add.

Sending fewer tweets, and introducing people

Or, in my case, to add other people to the tweet—often shortly after I’ve addressed an issue for someone I find someone else with the same question, and I can add them to the reply, instead of sending multiple tweets on the same issue. Plus, then people with similar issues become aware of each other. Putting multiple usernames in tweets is a kind of stealth introduction service Twitter offers :)

How I Set Up Reply Times

Outside of BufferApp, I schedule tutorial-type tweets on the hour and half hour for most of the day, so I have Buffer set up to skip those times and tweet four times each hour at :10 :20 :40 and :50 (avoiding :00 and :30 when the tutorial tweets go out). This way my replies are spread out between my regular tutorial and news tweets, and a tweet goes out every ten minutes when I am sending replies (otherwise there are just the two tutorial tweets each hour).

I normally send out a few miscellaneous “thank yous” at the end of each day before I go to bed, and so for the hours that I normally sleep, I only set up buffer times at  :45 once each hour. This way these non-time-sensitive tweets can be spread out even further overnight. A side benefit is that a new person checking my tweet stream is more likely to see replies mixed in with regular tweets, and so realize that there is a real person behind @TweetSmarter.

Prioritizing @Replies

Some people need help urgently. For them I skip Buffer and reply immediately.

For people I just want to touch base with, it doesn’t really matter when I reply, and I let Buffer fill them into the next upcoming slots.

For a few people who it would be good to  reply to soon but not immediately, I buffer my reply to them, and then use the “Drag to re-arrange” feature in “My Buffer” to move their tweets to the soonest available time slot. I scroll-wheel click on the link to the Buffer dashboard that (temporarily) appears when buffering to open “My Buffer” in a new tab as needed to rearrange upcoming tweets.

(Didn’t know you could click—not scroll—on your mouse’s scroll wheel? When you click on a link that way, most browsers treat this action as “open this link in a new tab.”)

Changing Retweet into @Replies

I have created a macro via keyboard shortcut that automatically edits the Tweet created via BufferApp’s Twitter integration, since I use it to send replies, not retweets. It reformats approximately like this:

RT @AltHealer7: @TweetSmarter How do u check ur Twitter rating? Thanx ; )
 becomes:
@AltHealer7 re: “How do u check ur Twitter rating?” …

…and then I edit from there. I start from a Twitter search page of people contacting @TweetSmarter.

Interestingly enough, by not using Twitter’s “reply to” function, the tweets become more understandable. It’s especially a benefit when I’m helping someone with a question, and I have to restate the problem and give the answer, because that means anyone who sees the tweet can instantly benefit from understanding what the answer is in reference to.

Summary

One of the great side effects is that I feel more comfortable replying to some people that I would have avoided before, because I don’t have to worry about dozens of replies clumping all together, or trying to schedule them all manually to avoid the “clump.” So it allows me to interact with more people…always a good thing! And even though I’m replying to more people, my stream looks more balanced.

Also, I now can segment my efforts across different levels of replies:

  1. Immediate engagement;
  2. Near-immediate engagement;
  3. Non-urgent messages.

Using these features together has made Buffer absolutely indispensible to me for replying to people:

  • Allowing me to have dozens of scheduled daily times (I have about 75 time slots scheduled, but of course they are empty unless I am buffering replies to people);
  • Twitter integration;
  • Temporary link to Dashboard that appears when buffering;
  • Drag to re-arrange feature in “My Buffer.”
  • Editing the built-in retweet feature to turn it into a reply

3 thoughts on “A better way to reply to people on Twitter

  1. Very good blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
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    Any recommendations? Thanks!

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