A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

The Best Twitter Tip You Don’t Know

I absolutely hated Twitter when I first started using it. It made me feel like a stranger in a strange land and I just didn’t get the appeal.

Several months of trial and error later (fine, mostly error), I now LOVE Twitter. As I mentioned the other day, it is the single best way I have found to quickly communicate, especially with major companies, experts, and celebrities. If you haven’t read my story about how I accidentally offered sex to the Director of Consumer Services at General Mills and received free Old El Paso® coupons as a result, you should do that now. It’s a perfect example of why Twitter rocks (and why my Mom used to wash my mouth out with soap.)

For me, Twitter came with a really steep learning curve… like learning a foreign language as an adult, minus the hot tutor. I hated that feeling of “How in the hell do you DO this?” I had no idea what TY and RT and DM and FF meant, among other things. I also didn’t know the difference between a hashtag and a hashpipe, (whatever THAT is.) But I was bound and determined to figure it out; and slowly but surely, I am getting there.

I’m still a Twitter newbie, relatively speaking, so please take my advice with a grain of salt. There are entire books and websites and Twitter accounts completely devoted to helping people learn this hot new medium. But I do know a thing or two about a thing or two, so stick around.

So far, the BEST resource I have found is The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein. It’s great for newbies like me, but it also has tons of info for advanced Twitter users. In fact, I would say that a majority of it was over my head, but at some point in the future, I hope to understand it as my Twitter confidence grows.

Today, I’d like to highlight just two basic and useful tips I have gleaned from this book and my last few months of Twitter immersion.

Step one if you don’t already have a Twitter account is to create one. Here’s a tip I did not know when I created mine three years ago: the shorter your Twitter user name, the better. You only have 140 characters to express yourself in Twitter and you don’t want to burn those up with a long user name. This is especially important if you want to be mentioned and retweeted, and believe me, you do.

Okay, the next thing you need to know in Twitter is how to use the @ sign. It’s how you mention other users so they know you are tweeting about them and the two of you can connect. But there’s a trick to doing it that about 95% of Twitter users don’t know! And it’s a real gem! Ready? Here it comes:

Don’t start a tweet with the @ sign.

If you do, your tweet will only show up in that user’s Twitter stream and to any users who follow you both, but that’s it. Twitter is all about public communication. So the more people who see your tweets the better.

This is tricky and most people don’t know it or get it, so let me give you an example. The other day I shamelessly Tweeted this:

@geneweingarten What kind of a sicko Mom teaches her kids how to make fake turds? ME! See my “Pootorial” >> http://goo.gl/fb/ipKFlless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Gene Weingarten’s Twitter avatar is a picture of a swirlie turd and his profile reads:

Washington Post columnist, Philosopher, Epistemologist, Enthusiast of Excreta-Related Humor

Be still my heart! So I thought to myself, surely a man with a turd for an avatar would enjoy my Pootorial, right? I specifically started that tweet with the @ symbol though because I didn’t want to pester my own 277 followers who had been bombarded for a week at that point with my shit, literally. {I would have sent Gene a DM (direct message), but he wasn’t following me at the time.}

Well guess what…he replied! SWOON!!!!

A fine family arts and crafts project: An easy, remarkably realistic fake turd. http://goo.gl/fb/ipKFl From @TheBeardedIrisless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

And the fact that his tweet didn’t start with the @ symbol means that it showed up in all 4,134 of his followers’ streams that very moment. If he had started that tweet with @TheBeardedIris then only our two mutual followers would have (possibly) seen it. That’s important because shortly after this wonderful tweet, I was contacted by a real live published author who follows Gene Weingarten’s tweets and enjoyed my Pootorial! No lie. But that, my friends, is a story for a different day.

But here’s more proof that Gene Weingarten is THE man. A few minutes later…

Okay, @TheBeardedIris can not only make fake poop, she blogs like the wind. Read about her labia: http://bit.ly/lhdfhMless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Best. Day. Ever.

Not only is Gene Weingarten generous, but he obviously knows his Twitter too. Gene prefaced the @ symbol with a word, any word. And that one word made all the difference in the potential visibility of his tweet.

This can be tricky because when you press the “reply” button in Twitter, it automatically begins your tweet with the @username to whom you are replying. No biggie, just insert your cursor before that @ and type something. Here’s a list of words/expressions I often use for this purpose:

  • SWEET!
  • Okay
  • Yes
  • STFU
  • Yay!
  • Nuh-uh
  • Shit
  • Seriously?
  • No way
  • Thanks! (or Thx or TY)
  • Oh hells yeah
  • Geez!

And for my two UK readers, please add:

  • Shite
  • Bollocks

Enough. Nutshell: size matters in Twitter and don’t start your Tweets with the @ sign. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me because my tweets are a lot like my love making: loud, sloppy, and selfish. No, I did not just say that. Yes I did. And it’s true. Follow me and see for yourself.

sincerely and now with extra #hashtags,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


  1. Kelley

    This post was awesome!! I am loving the content, the poop bit and your funny writing! See? This is why I ask for new blogs on Twitter. Actually, I DIDN’T know that about the @ sign. You really answered some questions for me. I do a lot of tweeting of one-liners specifically for my @Favstar friends. @Favstar is a whole underground of Twitter users that use Twitter mainly as a way of enjoying other’s comedy. Those people actually DON’T like seeing messages to everyone you know. So, just knowing that by starting my tweet with the @ sign takes lots of my tweets out of their timeline makes me feel better. Also? My husband is on Twitter now. I like that he doesn’t have to see ALL of my tweets just by looking at his timeline (I know he could find them otherwise). He’ll realize that I could get a lot more done if it weren’t not for Twitter and lecture me or something. Anyway, loved this post! Thanks for sending me the link. I’m following you now!

    • The Bearded Iris

      YES! Kelley – you are so right – there are definite PERKS to starting your Tweets with the @ sign when you DO want to reply only to one or a small group of users and not bother all your followers. Thanks!!

  2. Julie

    You know you’re like my internet role model, right? You and your tacos, kale, and fake poop.

  3. vickilikesfrogs

    I don’t know you, but I’m a little bit (ok, a whole lot) in love you with right now. Here are the reasons…

    1. Those killer bad-ass shoes in your header.
    2. You love the twitter.
    3. You’re a Southern gal (I’m from a little town about 40 miles or so south of Hotlanta)
    4. My buddy Kelley from Kelley’s Breakroom likes you.

    Damn, Chica…what’s NOT to love!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Well, kiss my grits! Welcome aboard, Southern Sister! Those shoes are totally bad-ass, aren’t they?! Thanks for noticing. They were a hand-me-down from my foxy Mama!

  4. northernmum

    Am I one of your two UK followers?

    am I?

    Great tip lady…..

    • The Bearded Iris

      Sweet! Make that 3! (Hi Kate, Hi Rach!)

  5. tricia

    Devil’s advocate: Sometimes, though, the rest of the people who are following you don’t want to see what amounts to an inside conversation. Your examples here show really great tweets, but putting something before the @ should be used judiciously. (I often use .@username just because the . almost disappears and doesn’t distract from the rest of the tweet.) If a lot of people I followed started doing this all the time, I would unfollow them in a heartbeat because I DON’T want to see all those side-conversation tweets.

    And now I am off to read about poop.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thank you, Tricia! Great point. I TOTALLY agree with you. I think most inside conversations should just be moved to email or DM. I definitely don’t mean that people should use _____@username all the time, but there are occasions when you want to @ mention someone and have that tweet seen by the most people possible. Sorry if I didn’t communicate that effectively. Thanks for the great comment!

  6. Megan

    Vagina candy, dog burial tutorials and Twit tips. What don’t you do lady? You’re the best.

    • The Bearded Iris

      I can’t do a chin up.
      Or complete a load of laundry.
      Or sit like a lady.
      Or hold down a job.
      But other than that, I’m pretty talented. It’s true.
      Thanks for saying that! It makes me feel all warm and tingly.

  7. Heather

    Guess I’m going to have to fire up my Twitter account more than once in a full moon!! Crappers. If I get as addicted to Twitter as I am to Facebook there is no hope that I’ll actually get ANYTHING done in a day (and I’m already almost at a deficit… those links of crazy people at Walmart keep me VERY busy, dammit!!!)

    • The Bearded Iris

      FIRE IT UP, beeyatch! It’s fun! And you get free coupons and new friends.

  8. Laura

    When Clooney gets on Twitter, I’ll re-join.

  9. This Mid 30s Life

    I had no idea, thanks. And what a great story, the world will soon be making paper turds. You can’t be at war with a country when you’re both making craft shit, can you?

    Another very helpful twitter person (Twit? Tweeter? Tweedledum / Tweedledee?) is Nickie at http://www.iamtypecast.com/. Twitter name is @nickie72.

  10. Mamadonn

    You realize, of course, that Gene Weingarten is my favorite columnist don’t you?
    I guess I’ll have to break my own rules and start tweeting.

  11. laura

    i think dr. oz needs a craft segment…..

  12. Lisa

    Lol, I came over from Organizing Junkie. Miss 11 comes over and says “Whose blog is this? Eeeew it’s got poo’s on it Who put’s poo’s on their blog? Is it called “Oh Poo Me”? Look – there’s another one”. Too funny.


  13. MikeP


    Nice one, Iris. While known in England it’s more common in the gaelic countries. You can explain that to your new mate Gene.

    Try “Big Numpty” out for size.

  14. Lisa Galaviz

    Damn. I’m doing Twitter all wrong too. No wonder I have a conspicuous lack of Old El Paso coupons! I’m writing this stuff down. Thanks.

  15. Tom Musial

    “My tweets are a lot like my love making.”

    Frequent and public?

  16. VenusGenetrix

    “hashpipe (whatever that is).” Uh huh. Suuuuuure…

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