A Beginner's Guide to Twitter

A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

Joining Twitter wasn't a decision I made lightly. Whenever I finally decided to pull the trigger, I didn't know what I was getting in to. I didn't know how Twitter worked, and I didn't know how to make it count for my brand or for my business.

I want you to enjoy Twitter and see it as one of the best ways to connect with your audience and your friends. I want you to enjoy Twitter like I've learned how to, and use it as an effective social media tool to build your brand and business online.

Beginner's Guide to Twitter

Photo Credit: oggin via Compfight cc

As if we needed further proof great ideas come from unlikely places, we have Twitter. Now one of the most popular social media sites in the world, Twitter began as a side project. When it was created, it was meant to be a short text messaging service. It rapidly evolved into one of my favorite ways to communicate and connect.

No longer just for tweeting what you're doing or where you're eating, Twitter is a really fun tool for growing your network. To help you get started, I've created a simple “beginner's guide to Twitter,” that will help you get started.

Step 1 – Creating Your Account

When you sign up for Twitter, don't make the mistake I did. Don't sign up with something cute or clever in your username, aka a “handle.” Your handle should be your name, or as close to it as possible. I first had EmpoweredEllory, but changed it to ElloryWells earlier this year.

If you need to use underscores or “The” in front of your name, you can do that too. Get your handle as close to your name as possible and make sure your actual name is in the “Name” field under your profile settings.

Step 2 – Personalization

Upload a current headshot to your profile. If people are searching for you, you want them to be able to recognize your picture even if they don't remember your handle.

Your profile picture also shows up next to every tweet you send. Your picture serves as a good identifier when people scroll through their feed looking for inspirational quotes, updates, and tips.

Keep your profile picture updated too. And if you're over 35, please don't use a picture from 20 years ago. Scratch that – never use a picture from 20 years ago no matter how old you are.

Like usernames, profile pictures are a great way to personalize your profile, but not a good way to brand yourself. If you want to incorporate some branding, use your header. The recommended dimensions of a Twitter header are 1500×500 which is a really wide rectangle that's not very long.

Make sure you add where you are in the world. You don't need to share your exact location, but put the general area so people know they've found the right “John Smith.”

Don't forget to put your URL in the website field. You can direct people to anywhere on your site with this link. My website link takes you to http://www.ElloryWells.com/about/twitter. That's an about page tweaked to greet visitors directly from Twitter.

The last personalization step is to update your bio. Here you have 160 characters to describe yourself, what you like, and define who you are. Ok, not quite that dramatic, but you do have limited space.

Use your bio to tell people:

  • something professional
  • something personal
  • something interesting

My bio says: #1 Bestselling Author | Business Coach | Host of the Empowered Podcast | Video game addict | Aspiring world traveler | Sci-Fi Fan | I love a good story

Step 3 – Finding Friends

Twitter will be infinitely more fun (and useful) if you connect with your friends.

After you've logged in and confirmed your email address you'll be taken to your Twitter feed. Your feed is where you'll eventually read tweets from the people you follow. To connect with your friends, currently the best way is to use the Search box at the top of your feed. You can search for names, topics, specific hashtags, etc.

What is a hashtag? A hashtag is the word or short phrase that follows the # sign. If you search for #leadership, all tweets that have #leadership in them will pull up. Hashtags are Twitter's filing system.

If you're looking for someone to follow, connect with me!

Step 4 – Building Your Community

As I mentioned in Step 3, building a community on Twitter will make your time there much more fun. Similarly, to use Twitter as a marketing and connecting tool for your business, you need to build a community of followers.

Find and follow people who tweet interesting things. Connect with people who are doing what you're doing in life, or who are doing what you want to be doing.

Tweet things you find interesting. Links to great blog posts and YouTube videos are perfect. Inspirational quotes work great too. Tweeting images that “wow” is a perfect way to break up your text-dominated feed.

One thing you don't want to do is auto-follow everyone who follows you. Guard your feed. Every tweet from the people you follow will be visible in your feed and vice versa. Some people use this strategy to gain followers, but I disagree with it.

NOTE: People who follow you and whom you follow back will be able to Direct Message you. You're giving them instant text-message-like access to you all hours of the day.

Build your community right. Build it organically. Develop real relationships with your Twitter followers and the people you're following.

Step 5 – Learning the Language

Like any social platform, Twitter has its own language. In fact, not understanding the idiosyncrasies of Twitter is why I wasn't on the platform until 2013.

Twitter limits each tweet to 140 characters or less. That restriction will force you to be creative with your text and intentional with your copy. You'll need to convey your message in fewer words than you may be used to.

Retweets are simply you sharing someone else's tweet with your followers. They're like shares on Facebook. If you retweet, known as an RT, someone, you're saying you like or approve their message.

Hashtags allow you to describe your tweet, your image, the video you're linking to, etc., with a single word or phrase. As a general rule, don't use more than 3-5 hashtags. Too many and it becomes not only annoying, but distracting as well.

You can also subscribe so conversations with a certain hashtag. To subscribe to a hashtag, search for the word or phrase. When the results come up, click “save” at the top of the feed.

By subscribing, you can see every tweet with that tag in it, all in one feed. This is an excellent way to stay in touch with the hashtag for an event. For example, #PM14 for Podcast Movement, or #NMX for New Media Expo. To get your tweet shared in that stream, just add the same hashtag to your tweets.

Communicating on Twitter has it's oddities as well.

To send a tweet and make sure I see it, put @ElloryWells somewhere in your message.

To send a tweet to me, but want to ensure only me and my followers see it, begin your tweet with @ElloryWells.

To tweet to me, but want anyone to be able to see it, put a “.” before the username. For example [email protected]…. The period placed before an @username will make your tweet public.

Direct messages, or DMs, are private conversations between two people. If you see someone say, “just DM me the details,” they want you to send them info privately.

NOTE: You can't send hyperlinks via direct message. This is both good (for anti-spam reasons) and bad (it's an inconvenience). To get around this, put spaces between the main URL and the .com. You can send email addresses via DM though.

Step 6 – Twitter Tools

You can't automate connection, but you can automate your tweets (Tweet that!)

NOTE: The above is a Twitter tool called “Click to Tweet

Using some of these tools, you can schedule your messages to send when your followers are most likely to see them.

Buffer – I've been using Buffer for a couple of years now. After connecting your social media profiles, you can schedule your posts to share at pre-determined times. Buffer's algorithm is also one of the best for choosing the correct “featured image” you want to share. Make sure you download their smart phone app and install the Chrome extension too.

Twitter App – The Twitter app for phones is really quite good. It's simple, easy to navigate, and has all the features you'd want it to have.

Followerwonk – An analytics tool that determines when your followers are online, where they are in the world, and even a little about what they tweet about. The most useful part of Followerwonk is its ability to sync your optimal tweet times with Buffer so you can be more effective.

Hootsuite – Similar to Buffer, Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts to publish at a later time. They have a nice feature called “autoschedule,” but their process for determining optimal times is their secret. Strike 1. Also, Hootsuite doesn't allow you to use custom URL shorteners. Strike 2. Finally, Hootsuite's algorithm for determining featured images isn't as good as Buffer's. Strike 3.

Step 7 – Word of Caution

One of the aspects of Twitter that makes it so great also makes it dangerous. Twitter is a live, public platform.

Anything you tweet publicly can be seen, well, by the public. Movie start, politicians, athletes and even humanitarians have gotten in big trouble for airing their laundry or un-popular opinions on Twitter.

If you put it online, it stays there forever. If you say something on Twitter, the whole would could potentially see it.

Step 8 – Start Tweeting!

Have fun and be safe. Share other people's content before you ask them to share yours. Give before you take, and you'll do just fine.

Final Thoughts

I wish I'd gotten on Twitter earlier. It's been a great tool for connecting with new friends and meeting new ones.

Twitter is an unfiltered social platform. Where Facebook filters what you see in your news feed, Twitter does not. This is both good and bad, but it allows you to get your message in front of 100% of your followers. Potentially.

The lifespan of a tweet is extremely short. Every tweet from every person you're following shows up in your feed. If you were following 100 people and they each tweeted at the same time, 100 new tweets would line up to be read. No one can read that fast.

Therefore, it's a good idea to share tweets multiple times throughout the day to reach people when they choose to read their feed. Using tools like I mentioned above will help you schedule your tweets in advance (Buffer) as well as analyze when your followers are online (Followerwonk).

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how many times you should tweet per day. The more times you tweet, the more likely you are to get your message seen.

There's a fine line between sharing and sharing too much, tweeting just enough and spamming your followers. The best advice I have is to test for the minimally effective dose.

Lastly, using Twitter during an event is one of the coolest social media experiences I've had. During New Media Expo, tweeting with #NMX was like stepping into a live conversation. By subscribing to the hashtag for the event, you can stay up to date with what's going on, where people are going next, and get a pulse for the event itself.

Question: What has your experience with Twitter been? What would you recommend for new Twitter users?

 

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  • Brenda McGraw says:

    Hey Ellory. Found you on TribeWriters. I am going to share this on Twitter. Thanks for the info. I have really been trying to engage with my Twitter followers. Have a joy-filled day! Brenda

  • AmandaSchwabe says:

    Thanks, Ellory, that’s really helpful. I kind of hate Twitter at the moment. I find it really overwhelming. Maybe I should try some new ways of following people or something… or cut down on who I follow. Any tips for making the interactions manageable and not so time consuming?

  • AmandaSchwabe hey Amanda!! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I don’t follow everyone who follows me. I follow people who tweet things I want to see and read about, and whom I know in life.

    Do I have fewer followers because of that? Probably.

    Do I have a cleaner, more relevant feed? Absolutely.

    Connect with people where they want connect. Don’t try to force it on Twitter if Facebook is your place. =)

    Have fun with it!

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