For many, Twitter is the least understood social media platform. Before I started using it, I didn’t know why I should care to know about when people were “sitting on their patio.” I soon learned Twitter is a lot more than that. It offers a great way to build an online reputation, promote a blog, engage in constructive dialogue, learn, share, and make friends. One important goal is to engage with as many relevant people as possible. This series of posts will explain a way to get started doing that. This specific post will describe how to get started on day one.
Getting started with Twitter can be a bit daunting. When one first creates an account, it has no followers and follows no one. There might be an immediate sense of loneliness as tweets are cast into the wind heard by none. Let’s fix that. Backtracking a little bit, you will need to start by setting up an account.
Create an Account:
First you will need to pick a user name. It should be:
- Short: Because messages can only be 140 characters including mentioned names.
- Have no special characters: Because these are hard to type, especially on mobile devices.
- Describe you: So people know who they’re talking to. They will want to engage with someone who sounds like a person.
My first username was @great_marketer. This violated all of those rules, so I switched my name to @herskos. Choose the right name now and avoid having to switch later.
Immediately upload a picture. No one wants to talk to an egg. Even if you represent a business, your face is preferable to a logo, because the medium is a personal one.
Fill out you account description to tell people about yourself. You should include your Website here if you want people to visit it.
Congratulations. You now are set up to use Twitter. For now, use the twitter.com Website (native client). You will probably switch to another client later.
Here are the basics:
A Message (Tweet) is sent by typing it in the message box and hitting ‘Tweet’ or Enter.
Tweets may be no larger than 140 characters in length. Abbreviations are your friend. Do a search if you find one you don’t understand.
All tweets are completely public except for Direct Messages (DM). There are privacy settings, but I’d recommend ignoring them unless you have specific concerns. Just be careful what you say instead.
Following someone means you will see their tweets. Unlike with most social media, you do not need permission to follow someone (or vice versa). People you follow are your ‘friends’. People who follow you are your ‘followers’. People in general are ‘tweeps’.
Spoiler: Hash tags are a powerful way to find people and categorize the content of your tweets. These will be covered next time.
There are three main streams you should worry about:
- Timeline (Main Stream): Everything you or anyone you follow Tweets.
- @Mentions stream: Every message where your name is mentioned. If responding to someone else this is also called a @reply.
- Messages: Private messages sent via DM.
Assume your account name is You and know the following users: Mom and Friend. The first thing you will do is Follow both Mom and Friend. Search for their account in the search box. When you find them, there will be a button to let you follow them. Presumably, they will follow you back, because they know you. However, the best way to get anyone to follow you (or follow you back) is to talk to them.
There is no point tweeting a message if it is not directed at someone or you are at least followed by people who read your tweets. Remember that Twitter is a social medium. To use it effectively, you should tweet regularly with content others might find valuable. If you do that, people will eventually read your tweets and, more importantly, respond.
How to actually Tweet:
- Anything you, Mom, or Friend tweets will show up on your main stream.
- If you include @AnyName (do not need to follow them) as part of your tweet, it will show up in @AnyName’s @Mentions stream.
- Similarly, if anyone includes @You as part of the text of their 140 character Tweet, it will show up in your @Mentions stream.
- Direct messages can only be sent to a single person at a time who must be following you.
- DM’s are sent by typing a d followed by the username. (eg. “d Mom”).
Another important concept is ReTweeting (RT). When a message is retweeted, it is shared with the followers of the person who RT’s. In the native Twitter client, a RT repeats the message exactly as typed to your own network. In other clients, it can be edited first. To RT from the native client, just click on the Retweet button after selecting someone’s Tweet.
Searches and Lists are also visible on the main stream. These will be covered in a future post.
That leaves one more important topic for starting out – Etiquette. I’m sure I’m leaving things out (respond below), and these are not everyone’s rules, but here are rules I’ve found useful:
- Do not spam or exclusively broadcast self-promotional messages.
- If someone tweets something you find interesting, either RT the message or @reply to it.
- If someone @mentions you or RT’s something you’ve tweeted, @reply to them with a thank you.
- If someone follows you, unless they look like a spammer or some other type of miscreant, follow them back.
- Don’t post your Foursquare check-ins (boring to others and not safe for you).
- Do not auto-DM (will cover another time).
Next time, I will describe how to find people to engage with, increase your number of relevant followers, and start using some tools. I am sure this post is not 100% complete or clear, so please post any questions or comments below.