Twitter is a social networking craze that has become very popular over the last few years. It is also proving to be a rich source of comps - I first wrote this in mid-December 2009 and for the previous two weeks I had won an average of more than one prize a day through Twitter.
So how do you join in? First of all you will need to register with Twitter. Go to www.twitter.com and sign up. When you choose your username, bear in mind that the messages, or “Tweets” sent through Twitter are limited to a maximum of 140 characters, and if somebody sends you a Tweet, your username is part of the count, so try to make it short and snappy. I didn’t realise this when choosing my own name of @janesgrapevine so anyone who Tweets me has only 125 characters to play with.
Once you have your username it becomes part of the address of your Twitter profile page so mine is http://twitter.com/janesgrapevine - this is where you can tell your friends to find you. At the top of the page you will see headings - Home, Profile, and Settings are the ones you need for now.
The Home page is where all the Tweets from the people you follow will show, as well as your own. So that is the page you will need to look at most. On the Profile page, only the Tweets you have sent will show. The Settings page is where you can put a few facts about yourself, and when you are used to Twitter, add a photo or a background to personalise your page.
Go to the Settings page before you start thinking about trying any comps, and make sure “Protect my Tweets” is NOT checked. Why? Because if you protect them, your Tweets don’t appear in public and that means if you enter a comp by Tweeting, the promoter won’t know you’ve entered so you won’t be in the draw.
Now go to the Home page. You will see a box near the top that says “Compose new Tweet”. This is where you write your messages. They must be no more than 140 characters long, and there is no limit on the number you can send but if you send several identical ones close together, Twitter thinks you are a spammer and might block your account.
When you Tweet a message, it will show up in your “Timeline” - the messages on your Home page. It will also show in the Timeline of everyone who is following you. If you want to send a message to somebody who is not following you, start it with @ immediately followed by their username (no space) eg @janesgrapevine but if you want your followers to see it as well put something before the @ - popular choices are a . or a * . If you want to reply to a message from somebody else, hover the mouse at the bottom right of the message until the Reply button appears.
The messages which show in your timeline are:
all those you have written, ReTweeted or replied to
messages to all their followers from people you follow
@ messages to you from anybody, whether you follow them or not
@ messages from people you follow to other people you follow
ReTweets (RT) from people you follow
You will soon find that there are more messages in your Timeline than you can keep up with, so you can make sure you haven’t missed any messages mentioning you (for instance saying you are a winner) by clicking on the @connect header at the top and selecting "Mentions" from the left hand menu.
If you want to say something that doesn’t appear in public, such as sending your address details when you have won a comp, you need to send a Direct Message (DM) which will only go to them. You can only send a DM to somebody who follows you. To send one, click on the cog wheel at the top right and select “Direct messages” from the drop down menu then click the "New Message" box at the top and type the person's Twitter name into the top space and your message into the larger, bottom space . You can set Twitter so that you receive an email when you receive a DM.
A ReTweet is a message from somebody else that you send again so your followers can see it too. For instance if I get a message from Fred telling me he is running a competition, I can click on the ReTweet button at the bottom of his message and send it, so more people can read it, This way, comps (and other messages) are quickly spread throughout Twitter.
Following and followers
Almost as soon as you send your first Tweet, you will start to get messages from Twitter telling you that people are following you. Don’t feel obliged to follow them back - click on the link to their profile that will come in the message and see whether you are likely to want to read what they have to say. If it looks at all pornographic, choose the Block option. There are automatic robots out there trawling Twitter accounts and following them in the hope that you will automatically follow them back so they can send you ads for porn services.
So who should you follow? If you want to find as many comps as possible, the best thing to do is find another comper and follow them - you are welcome to follow me. When you visit their profile, you can look at lists of people they follow and who follow them - you may well find more compers on these lists, so follow them too. Compers are also likely to be following Twitter feeds of businesses that run regular comps, so you can follow them too. Don’t be afraid to follow lots of people - you can always Unfollow them if they turn out not to interest you.
You can find a list of compers, comping websites and businesses that encourage compers to follow them at http://wefollow.com/twitter/competitions
Many businesses make it a condition of entering their comps that you follow them, which makes it easier for them to monitor entries and to contact you if you win, so you will soon build up a long list of followers and people you follow.
Finding and entering comps
Once you are following a few compers, you will have no problem finding comps, as a lot of comps are entered by RTing messages and most compers are generous about RTing other comps to their followers too. This is the best way to go about finding comps, even if you are used to using Google to find Internet comps. Twitter comps tend to be very short lived and the Google robots don’t visit most websites regularly enough to pick up on comps that might be only open for a matter of days or even hours.
When somebody RTs a comp you are interested in, go to the profile of the user actually running the comp and decide whether it is the sort of business you want to follow and possible be followed by. And before clicking the Follow button, check that they are
based, unless the prize on offer is something like web services or a download. I have noticed a lot of UK UK compers are Tweeting comps run by American companies, who might be reluctant to send a prize to the . Even if they do, you may be asked to pay carriage, and if your prize is worth more than about £25 you will also have to pay duty and a whopping £8 administration fee levied by the Post Office for collecting it. These charges could wipe out the value of a prize. UK
To enter a comp, you may be asked to RT a message, to send a Tweet containing an answer, or to visit a website or blog. Make sure you do exactly what it says. You may also be asked to include a Hashtag in your Tweet - this is a particular word, chosen for the comp, that starts with a #. Twitter has a system for storing all Tweets containing the same hashtag in one place, which makes it much easier for the promoters to monitor entries. If you are asked to include a hashtag, your entry won’t be seen unless it is there.
And of course, check when the comp closes, how many entries you are allowed and whether there are any restrictions that might rule you out - all the usual things you would check when entering a comp.
Top tips to be a Tweeting Winner!
- Make sure you are RTing the right tweet! If you retweet another comper's entry, your tweet will show up in their own timeline and NOT that of the place running the competition, so you won't be in the draw. To make sure you are RTing the right thing, click on the name of the sender of the original tweet, to take you to their Twitter page, and scroll through the timeline to find what to RT.
- You are sometimes asked to tweet a hashtag, and the promoter will use this to seach for entries. In theory, all you need to tweet is the hashtag, but from running my own Twitter comps I have discovered that tweets only containing a hashtag don't always show up in the search, so it's a good idea to write something, even if it is only "hello"
- Do post some original messages and interact with other people from time to time. Twitter occasionally suspends accounts that do nothing but retweet, and you don't want that to happen!
- When you win, you may be asked to send a Direct Message to the promoter, with your name and address. Not all promoters realise that they have to be following you in order for you to be allowed to DM them, but a polite tweet to them saing "please will you follow me so I can DM you my details" almost always sorts it out.
Have fun and good luck!