To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Posted on July 21, 2011

Managing Editor of Independent Lens Brooke Shelby Biggs shares best tips on how to setup and leverage your twitter account.


So far in this series we’ve focused on Facebook strategies, and that’s because Facebook, when used optimally, has finer controls and options. But Twitter deserves your attention too, whether you are a station, a studio, or a producer. Yes Twitter is more akin to a sledgehammer than to Facebook’s dull knife, but there is potential to engage a completely different group on Twitter and network with similar people, target particular interest groups, and even drum up buzz for promotions, premieres, funding initiatives, and plenty more.

First Steps

  • Set up your Twitter account early on to build buzz and investment in your project.
  • Keep your Twitter handle (i.e. @IndependentLens) as short as you can while still being effective as branding. It has to be all one word.
  • Create a description of your project that makes you searchable to those who you want to connect with. Include keywords that people who would be interested in your information are likely to include in a search.
  • Create a background image for your profile page with your logo or film imagery, plenty of descriptive information, and links to your website, Facebook page, etc. To change your background image select “Edit your profile” and then click the “design” tab.
  • Now you’re ready to start following similar or related accounts. The best way to begin is to search for accounts that you would expect to find relevant. Follow @PBS, @kartemquin, @ITVSindies, @CAAM, @IndependentLens, @WGBH, @SwellCinema, etc. And look at their profiles and see who they follow. You might find some like-minded Tweeters on their lists. 

Time to Tweet

  • As you’re probably aware, Twitter allows you to post messages no longer than 140 characters. Packing information into that space can be tough. As Strunk & White advised, ”Omit needless words.”
  • A good way to build goodwill and get on people’s radar is to retweet other people’s messages at least as often as you send your own. Find and participate in conversations on the topics your content relates to. Don’t only tweet about yourself.
  • Use hashtags. A hashtag such as #pubmedia, #lgbt, or #egypt is a general keyword for the topic of the discussion, making it easier for people to find all of the recent tweets on that topic.
  • Consider using an automated tool like HootSuite to schedule your tweets throughout the day and track your impact. But just checking your twitter profile for the times you are mentioned and retweeted will give you a good sense of whether your tweets are finding your audience.
  • Include links in your tweets. Tweets with links are twice as likely to be retweeted.
  • Use a link shortener. A tool such as to shorten your links, so they don’t take up as much space in your 140 character limit.
  • Tweet often. Twitter moves in real time, so your tweets don’t necessarily have a long shelf life. While it is almost impossible to tweet too much, if you tweet too little you can easily get lost in the Twitter surf. We’ll get into more fine strategy next time. Meanwhile, get tweeting.

Read Brooke’s previous entry on how to track engagement levels on Facebook. 

Follow Independent Lens on Twitter.

See Brooke’s tips in action and LIKE the Independent Lens Facebook page.


From our blog

  1. Independent Lens Raises Awareness of Harms Caused by Kentucky's Persistent Felony Offender Law

    June 30, 2022

    Independent Lens and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Louisville Courier Journal (LCJ) raised awareness of Kentucky's Persistent Felony Offender (PFO) through a collaboration between independent filmmakers and journalists. The investigative series drew a link between the law's enhanced sentencing terms to the state’s high and growing prison

  2. Independent Lens Releases Stories for Justice Impact Report

    June 1, 2022

    Documentary storytelling increased understanding about the inequities in the U.S. justice system.

  3. The Supervising Producer Partnership: How CJ Hunt Found the Arc for "Neutral Ground" While Working with ITVS

    April 12, 2022

    How do filmmakers and ITVS supervising producers work together in their back-and-forth partnership?To best explain CJ Hunt's partnership with ITVS, we wanted to have him in the same room with three-time Emmy-nominated ITVS Supervising Producer Shana Swanson to explore what it meant to work together as funder and maker. Hunt made his feature film debut