I meet folks everyday that wonder what Twitter is, how to get started and why it is valuable. Additionally, we are reading and hearing mentions of Twitter on a daily basis through traditional media. I want to share a few tips and tricks to get started for those interested in Twitter.
What Is Twitter?
First it’s important to understand what Twitter is. Who else but CommonCraft to provide the insight in plain English.
Note: Twitter has evolved beyond the “What are you doing?” as described here. This is now a tool to promote your expertise, authenticity, business, brand, and overall value. Don’t get me wrong, this is a social networking site, but not in the same vein as Facebook or MySpace.
How to get started on Twitter:
Visit www.twitter.com and create an account. Use your full name or company name as your username. I see so many people who try to come up with funny names, not taking advantage of an opportunity to brand their own name.
Upload a good head shot if you are an individual. If you are a business, upload a legible and clean logo. If you do not have a good head shot, then have a passport picture made at Kinko’s or hire a professional photographer. I personally need to invest in these as well. I recommend you also use this photo on all of your social media sites for familiarity.
Settings: Take some time on this step. The most critical piece is the Bio. You can think of this almost as an elevator pitch about who you are. Many will list their title or hobbies. If you don’t have a personal website or blog to link back to, use the URL in your LinkedIn profile to provide more insight about yourself. Please put your location. This helps dramatically with authenticity and feeds many of the location based applications that I will refer to below. I turn off all emails and handheld updates and use different applications to interact with Twitter as I also describe below. As for the design, just Google “twitter backgrounds” to learn how to build a good twitter background. What I find though is very few people use the Twitter online interface.
Start Following: Search for and start following your friends, company and coworkers who are already on Twitter so you can follow their conversations. This will give you a feel for the conversations that are taking place. You can find some of the most popular Tweeple on Twitterholic.com
Spread the word you are on Twitter: Post your Twitter URL on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, your blog and anywhere else such as your email signature to let folks know you are on Twitter. This goes the same for your LinkedIn URL as well.
Start tweeting: Start by sharing articles, events or ideas with folks following you. Anyone who is following you will see your tweets if they are on at the same time or decide to scroll back through tweets in the day.
ReTweet (RT): If you see a post that you want to share with others, place the letters RT then the @username of the person’s tweet you are sharing in front of the text. This is much like forwarding a message. TweetDeck and Tweetie automate this for you.
Tip: If you want your messages to be ReTweeted easily then limit to 120 characters.
Direct Message (DM): To send a direct message type the letter D and @username and only they will receive the message. They must be following you though to send them a message. Often times you will see tweets like “@username, please follow so I can send you a DM”
These are just the basic steps to getting started.
Key Applications To Maximize Productivity:
Desktop: The online Twitter interface for tweeting may be ok when you are starting out, but there are a plethora of applications available for updating and engaging Twitter. I personally use TweetDeck. Most available on your desktop are developed in Adobe Air, which is a software plug-in. This will require an additional download but I think it is worthwhile. While the Twitter website is ok to use on occasion, there is great power to be seen in TweetDeck, Hootsuite and various other applications.
Mobile: Many of you may have started thinking you would just use the text messaging feature and send Twitter updates to you phone. I learned within about 2 minutes that model didn’t work. A tremendous value twitter provides is the ability to comment on Twitter when you are away from your desk. This has been very popular at events as folks post comments about speakers and new ideas and share with the Twitterverse. It is as if we were there in person. I experienced this first hand with SXSW. I was able to follow the conversation via Twitter. More importantly, the mobile applications allow you to add pictures and location to your tweets.
iPhone – Download Tweetie, Twitterfon or
Blackberry - Download Twitterberry
Web Apps: Because Twitter has opened up the API, there is an abundance of Twitter applications out there to provide more insight into what is taking place. Here are a few.
Advanced Search: This is one of the main reasons Google is interested in Twitter. It is a powerful real-time search engine of news and happenings. Unlike Newspapers, news sites, and blogs that have to go through an editorial process, Twitter happens as life happens.
I have given you some very basic information to get started. If you are like me, you will not only want to connect with and follow leaders in a specific industry, but may also want to connect with local individuals.
Tweetup: If you want to connect with others on Twitter face to face look for Tweetups in your hometown. Visit http://www.twtvite.com and search within your city. I did this early on. It’s a great way to meet folks who are Twitter celebrities as well as folks new to Twitter. More importantly, you may want to just organize your own. If you are in town, please join us by RSVPing to my Tweetup here.
NearbyTweets: Search for local tweeple in your area using this website. If you do business locally or are just looking to network, this is a key tactic to create relationships online with the plan to connect at an upcoming event.
TwitterGrader: This is a great tool to not only measure your Twitter grade, if interested, but to also find out who are the elite in your local area. This website is run by HubSpot and they offer a wealth of tools and tips for social media.
Checkout this post by Microgeist for other insight and tips to help boost your identity.
Mike Merrill is Director of Marketing at ReachLocal and Chief Bacon Maker and Marketing Strategist of Bacon Marketing. He is also Chairman of the Social Media Club of Dallas and co-organizer of Ignite Dallas.