The Beginners Guide to Twitter

As I said in my blog on Friday, Social Media in general can be very daunting so to help you manage your time and resources, I am going to share with you what is needed to get started with Twitter and how to best utilise tools available to get the best out of the second largest social network; Twitter.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social platform that allows users to share news, information or actually anything they want as long as it is within the 140 character limit. Using Twitter allows you to connect globally completely free and is a great marketing tool for any business. One thing you need to know about Twitter is that it is a very open network – there isn’t much you can do in terms of security to hide your account, unless you want to set it to private.

Before you get started with Twitter, here is some of the “lingo” you will need to understand;

  • Tweet – 140 character message which will be displayed on everyone’s timeline who follows you.
  • Retweet (RT) – A RT is when someone takes one of your tweets and shares it with their followers. They are in essence, giving credit to your tweet.
  • Feed – A feed is the stream of tweets you will see on the “home” tab. This will be filled with updates of those you follow.
  • Handle – This is another word for your Username.
  • Mention (@) – A mention is when someone has referenced your twitter handle by putting the @ sign in front of your username. You will be notified (how, depends on your settings) but will always show up in the “Connect” tab. This in most cases is conversational.
  • Direct Message (DM) – This is when someone wants to send you a message which is private and no other user can access. You can only DM a user who follows you and vice versa.
  • Hashtag (#) – This is a way to tune into a topic inside of Twitter. If you want to join a specific conversation like the x Factor, you can use the hashtag #xFactor and write your message. All those who are interested in this hashtag will see your tweet and possibly reply. It’s a great way to connect inside of Twitter.

If you want to see the full Twitter “lingo” you can do this by visiting Twitter’s Official Online Glossary.

So now you understand what Twitter is and what some of the more popular sayings mean, its time for you to sign up. To be part of the Twitter conversation, you first need an account, then you must describe who you are by writing a bio. Try and be specific as you are limited to how many characters you use. Think about what you offer as a business and what need in the market you are trying to solve. You handle is, in other words your online business card. People will read this and interact with you if they feel you can help them.

You then need to pick a profile picture and header image. These should also reflect who you are as a business. The profile picture is good for brand logo and the header image is more of a lifestyle shot of what your business has to offer.

Now you have set up your basic account, you need to start following people. It is good to be more specific when you have just started your account. Follow those relevant to your industry or those you aspire to be like. These are the people you can start a genuine conversation with and you may even find them responding back to you.

There are different ways you can find people to follow, the best place to start is close to home with your friends. It is always good to follow the people you already know. Twitter will allow you to connect with your email account and automatically find those who you should be connecting with. Twitter isn’t a machine so they won’t be able to logically suggest people for you to follow so early on in your account history. Once you are up and running with a following Twitter will give you better follow suggestions based on the industry associated with your interests. You can also use Twitter’s search functionality to find other users who you might want to start following.

Your account is set up, you have started following people and vice versa, now you need to start talking. Different things work for different accounts when it comes to posting on Twitter and you won’t know what works for your audience until you have an audience who are willing to share their experience with you. Until then, it is all about trial and error. You can just send out a tweet saying “Hi, I’m new to Twitter” but what is that really going to do for your business? Who is going to see it and really respond? No one.

Make your first bulk of tweets engaging by replying to what other people are posting (you can do this by clicking on the “reply” button). Interacting with other users is a great way to understand fully how the “@mention” works. You can also “expand” and “view conversation” on a tweet to display all of the responses that a tweet has received, including tweets from people who you are not following.

A new Twitter feature is the grouping of messages together that are in one conversation. There is a vertical blue line that connects these tweets and are displayed in chronological order from when the most recent tweet was sent. Up to three of these messages will appear in your timeline however if you want to see the full stream, click on any one to view the entire conversation.

You don’t have to always communicate with people openly on Twitter, you can also direct message them. A user must be following you to receive a direct message from you. If you want to send a direct message to a user who you are following and vice versa, go to their profile and click on the icon next to the “follow” button and select “send a direct message”.

So, you know how to tweet but do you know how to Retweet? A retweet is a common way to share an interesting post from someone you follow with your followers. Most breaking news posts tend to go viral within minutes inside of Twitter with most users saying they actually turn to Twitter for the news before an official news outlet. A retweet is in essence quoting an account. To retweet, you just have to hit the “retweet” button that appears when you hover your mouse over someone else’s tweet. If you want to add a comment before sharing someone else’s tweet you can also do that by copying the text from the tweet, pasting it into a new tweet and write your comment. Make sure when you do this you always add RT after your additional comment.

Moving on from Retweeting to Hashtags. The “#” indicates a subject matter with a conversation taking place on Twitter. Putting the “#” in front of a word or phrase indicates a subject you think is worth talking about. The wording used after the hashtag will be searchable as Twitter tracks these. Twitter has made this into a grouping mechanism that will allow anyone interested in a certain Hashtag to see every single tweet regardless of their location in one long stream.

There will be certain hashtags that have an existing feed whereas other, more unique hashtags will not. If you are going to use this as a way of sharing your business, make sure you do your research and use hashtags that already have an existing feed.

With all of the above information, you should now be able to confidently take on Twitter. Before you start typing away, you need to define your online voice. If you are a business which is considered a thought leader or an expert in a specific area, you will notice people will start to follow you and ask for your advice. How you approach this is up to how you define your online voice. Twitter wasn’t made to be another Facebook where you online connect with people you know, it’s about engaging with those who are on the other side of the world

Moral of the story: Be authentic and true to your brand and you will soon develop an engaging online community who will one day become your brand advocates. If you are still very new to Twitter and find the network daunting and would like further help beyond our Twitter Guide, why not try out our Twitter eLearning Course? To get a huge 80% discount, use code Social2013 at the checkout!

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