Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission, because victory for Louisiana requires you.
We hope you enjoyed Season One of Louisiana Lefty. This month we're on summer break. So while we won't be releasing new interviews until August, we will be providing you with some Action Lefty mini-pods to fill in the gaps. Until then, one of the most requested trainings I get is on how to use Twitter. We'll eventually offer a webinar on this, but right now I want to share some basic information for folks who are either brand new to Twitter, or those who've been using it for a while and are still struggling with it.
For now, Twitter is still a great space for political engagement. One of the most impactful aspects of it is that it's heavily used by politicians and journalists. The best way to think of Twitter is as a microblogging site wherein your tweets are mini entries in your own public blog. There are some very basic setup rules that everyone should follow.
Obviously, if you're a candidate, and you want folks to know who you are, by all means, add all the info you can to your Twitter account. For those who prefer to be less in the public eye, unlike Facebook, you don't have to use your real name on Twitter. You can change your name as often as you'd like, but when you choose your handle (the name that follows the @ symbol) pick one and stick to it. Your at handle is what links all your tweets, and the tweets folks have mentioned you in, to your account.
Don't just keep the gray head image Twitter gives you when you sign up, make sure you add an avatar. Even if you don't want to have a photo of yourself on your account, you should post something that represents you and why you're on the site. It can be your favorite pet, or something that represents the state, or some other photo you've taken. But avoid stock images of other people, because that's the sort of picture we find on bot and troll accounts, which we can also discuss it more length in the future. If you don't have a photo on your account, Twitter regulars find it easy to assume you're not a real person, and dismiss your interactions.
Also create at least some short bio for yourself. And if you're wanting to advocate on political issues in Louisiana, make sure you indicate that you live here.
Likewise, if your goal is advocacy, or promoting political ideas, don't set your account to private or prevent people from retweeting you. Your presence on Twitter is to send your tiny messages out to the world. If you're impeding that, what's the point of being there?
Followers equal influence, and as you start up, the best way to get followers is to follow some folks you like and who talked about the subjects you care about. Set aside some of your social media time every day, to try to find people you want to follow and engage with. Some folks will automatically follow you back. Others will require some sort of interaction like joining them in a friendly conversation. Just remember that the more famous the tweeter, the less likely they are to follow you back.
While you're still developing a readership, you can reach a wider audience by using hashtags. Hashtags archive tweets on a certain topic, so that any tweet with that hashtag will automatically be searchable and viewable on one curated Twitter feed. Using hashtags that journalists and politicians use is a particularly effective way to reach influencers. Unlike Instagram, you don't want to add endless numbers of hashtags to your tweets, stick to 2 or 3, tops.
You can also get more eyes on your tweets by responding to tweets from influential accounts. That said, the more people who see your tweets, the more likely you are to run into everything from paid trolls to run of the mill jerks. Remember, you do not have to attend every fight you're invited to. You can politely correct misinformation or push back on nonsense a time or two. But at the end of the day, some of what these folks are trying to do is divert you from your own mission. So don't let people waste your time or get in your head. It's perfectly okay to block people and walk away. And be sure to report any truly egregious content or threatening behavior.
Amplifying candidates and allies or even curating great content you've discovered by retweeting other folks is a perfectly fine use of your account. But it's important that you also produce some of your own original tweets. The most successful Twitter accounts are creating their own content consistently. You want folks to know you're a real person, who has your own thoughts, and will interact as a human, not a program.
So that's our Twitter 101. We'll be back next week with some more social media tips and tricks. Feel free to tweet at us at @LouisianaLefty if you have any questions.
Please subscribe to our podcast and then follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thanks to Ben Collinsworth for producing Louisiana Lefty, Jennifer Pack of Black Cat Studios for our Super Lefty artwork, and Thousand $ Car for allowing us to use their swamp classic, Security Guard, as our Louisiana Lefty theme song.