Most of my close friends do not use Twitter. I guess that’s not too surprising given the average Twitter user is 39 years-old and as a twenty-something, the average age of my close friends is considerably lower than 39 years old. Since Twitter is such a part of my daily routine, I find it difficult to relate my Twitter experiences to my non-Twitter user friends. They know my enthusiasm for the site, but they know little else. Many have asked me to teach them how to use Twitter. I encourage every non-user to join, so in honor of my non-Twitter friends and readers and anyone looking to plunge into the Twitterverse, I offer you my “Twitter for Beginners” crash course.
Twitter for Beginners: How to Join and Use Twitter
Step 1: Setting up your account.
- Pick your angle. Before you even sign up for an account, think about what you’d like to tweet about. Maybe you want to become a food blogger so you’re going to tweet about your latest food adventures. Maybe you’re new to a city and you want to meet more locals. Perhaps you’d like to tweet a little bit of everything. Maybe you’re looking to break into a new industry. Think about how you want people to know and recognize you because that will help you set up your account.
- Pick a Twitter Handle. Your handle shows up as @_____. How do you want to be identified online? Your handle is your personal brand. You can be as anonymous or as real as you want. I started out with an alias, but I am @sjwhipp because I want my name to be recognized. Whatever you decide, it’s also good to know that you can change your handle at any time without losing your page or information.
- Define yourself in 140 characters. Create your bio in 140 characters or less. When fellow tweeps stumble upon your page, they will look at your bio, see if you are interesting, and either follow you or not. Some things you might want to include in your bio: your interests, a personality trait or two, work information, especially if you are looking to build professional contacts.
- Pick your avatar. That’s your profile picture. Again, you want something that will represent you to the extent that you want to be recognized. If you’re going to be using several different social media sites to promote whatever it is that you’re promoting, it’s good to have the same avatar for all of those sites.
- Make your tweets public or private. If you make your tweets public, they will show up in Google searches and will be annexed in the Library of Congress. Keeping your tweets public makes it easier to connect with all kinds of people on Twitter. If you choose to make your tweets private, no one can read them unless you pre-approve their follow request.
Step 2: Follow and Be Followed
- Start following other users. On Twitter, you follow people. That is similar to the like function on Facebook. It’s much easier on Twitter to follow people, organizations, businesses, bands, etc., because all you have to do is click follow and you’ll automatically get their tweets in your live feed. No waiting for requests to be accepted.
- Follow your interests. Think about the kinds of things you like to do or have always wanted to try and then search for those people who share your interests. When I first joined, I searched for published authors because I wanted to learn more about how to become a published author. I follow the Green Bay Packers because I’m a huge Packers fan and I want to know their latest updates.
- Follow local businesses that you support or would like to give feedback. I love following as many Milwaukee restaurants as possible because I frequent them and they provide information on specials and deals on Twitter. I once was ordering lunch from Molly Cool’s in downtown Milwaukee and I couldn’t decide what to order. I sent them a tweet and they helped me pick my lunch right on Twitter.
- Gaining followers takes time. There is no secret formula for gaining followers on Twitter. It takes time, but remember quality is more important than quantity. It took Charlie Sheen one day to get a million followers, it took me about a year to gain around one thousand followers. You don’t necessarily have to follow every single person that starts following you, but if you find their bios interesting, definitely follow them back.
Step 3: The Basics of Tweeting
- Treat Twitter like a cocktail party. If you entered a cocktail party and didn’t know a single person in the room, how would you strike up a conversation? The same goes for Twitter. You want to engage people with the same politeness that you would a stranger at a cocktail party.
- Join the conversation. Find out what people are talking about and jump right in to the discussion. The search bar is a helpful way to see what people are saying about your topics of interest. The trending topics show you what’s the most talked about item at any given moment.
- What you should tweet. What you tweet is really up to you. It’s all about how you want to come across. I’d say as long as you avoid extreme profanity and are polite to others, you’ll be fine.
- How to have a conversation. When you want to talk to someone on Twitter, all you have to do is start your tweet with their handle. For example: @sjwhipp It was great to finally meet you. To see what @sjwhipp says back to you, click on your at-replies or mentions. These conversations show up in the live feed. If you want to say something privately, send a direct message.
- Retweet. When someone tweets something that catches your eye, you should retweet it to your followers. That’s a polite way to show you are interested in what your followers have to say. You can retweet by hitting the retweet button or by cutting and pasting their tweet and putting “RT” in front of the tweet before you tweet it to your followers. I like retweeting the old -fashioned way.
- Use hashtags. Even if you’ve never been on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen hashtags. They’re those words or phrases that look like this: #_____. Hashtags are a way to tag tweets. If I’m talking about my plans for Halloween, I might use the #Halloween hashtag. If you click on a hashtag, you can easily find all tweets on that topic. I think of hashtags as ways to file tweets in the same way you put files in a filing cabinet. Make up your own. The more clever, the better. #Justsayin
- Use different Twitter applications. Once you get the hang of tweeting, you can use other Twitter applications to tweet. The most popular ones are Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. They make it easier to organize your feeds and your tweets.
- Partake in Twitter traditions. On Fridays, you’ll probably see a lot of tweets with the #FF hashtag. #FF stands for Follow Friday and this is a way of giving shout outs to your favorite followers and fellow tweeters. List a group of followers that you think everyone should follow, say why, slap on a #FF and tweet away.
Once you get the hang of Twitter, you’ll find that it is an invaluable tool that will provide you with more information than you could ever imagine, breaking news updates, business connections, new friends, insights into every topic imaginable, new experiences, and if you’re lucky–free stuff.