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Don't Be an Egg: Be a Hatchling

How to build Twitter ProfileSocial media is huge. It's huge in marketing your business, and it's huge in everyday life. A company's social media accounts are a way for customers and fans to interact with that brand.

Through social media, a company can launch a product giveaway or even provide real-time customer support. Individuals can build and cultivate their personal brands and even meet new people through social media. This post is about all of these things -- it's a short guide that will show you how to develop your Twitter profile, starting with Day One.

Don't be an egg, be a hatchling.

When you join Twitter, you'll be walked through the basic steps of setting up your profile. If you're anything like me, you'll be tempted to rush through this. I like to learn by doing, so I want to just get in there and start trying things.

But I recommend taking some time to think about what you're doing. Below is a screenshot of the basic registration page. You've seen pages like this about a zillion times, and this one is pretty basic. One thing to note: because Twitter has over 500 million users, your name may be unavailable as your handle.

I recommend using some variation of your name that is easy to spell and uses as few characters as possible (mine is @benwachtel24, and the one I created for the purposes of this post is @purdueswim). People that reply to your tweets will have to include your handle in their tweet, and you don't want to use up their valuable 140 characters with a handle like @THISISMYTWITTER.

Other things to consider when choosing a username: your personal brand, whether it accurately represents who you are (even if @TomCruise is available, don't choose it), and whether it makes you seem like a spamming robot (don't choose @acv_9345, even if Twitter suggests it).

Choosing who to follow

Twitter forces you to follow at least five people to get started. So that's what @purdueswim did:

Don't overfollow to start out. By that, I mean don't follow 500 people before you get your first follower. I recommend picking mostly people you know, news accounts like @AP and @WSJ, and content creators you're interested in, say maybe @Mashable and @Oatmeal, and, of course, @ElementThree.

So who else do you pick? Everyone has different interests, of course, and it depends on how you plan to use Twitter. I try to find people that I can interact with, people that provide interesting things to read, and thought leaders. I also follow some sports writers and bloggers, because that aligns with my interests.

Don't think of it as a two-way street, necessarily: I'm always seeing people that will follow a handful of accounts and then unfollow if they don't reciprocate. What I post personally isn't necessarily of interest to someone that tweets content that I'm interested in.

Writing a Bio

Don't overdo it. People don't want your whole resume and they don't care about what awards you've won, unless it's, well, the Nobel Prize. And even then, you may not have to say who you are in great detail. Include what you do and what makes you stand out, because people only spend a few seconds deciding whether you warrant a follow or not.

Mine reflects my personality: I tried to make it a little bit funny while still identifying myself professionally. Give people a reason to follow you and an explanation of who you are in a unique way. It can even be fun.

Include things like the handle of the company you work for or organizations you partner with. I'm involved in fundrasing for cystic fibrosis research, so people can easily jump from profile to other Twitter feeds or websites.

Twitter Image Sizes

There are three images that every Twitter profile needs. Without them, it looks like you don't know what you're doing and that you don't belong on Twitter.

If that sounds harsh, think of it this way: if someone comes across your profile through a retweet or by seeing your profile information in the "who to follow" sidebar (pictured), they're not going to read everything you've ever tweeted and write down a list of pros and cons to decide whether or not to follow you. They'll look at you for three seconds and then decide. If I click through and take a look at a page and the person has no background, no header image, and his bio isn't filled out, I'm probably not going to follow him. 

Your profile image will always be a square. If someone clicks the image from your main page, it will expand. The same image appears on your profile's main page above the bio and next to everything you tweet. 

Your header image (which goes behind your bio and profile image) should be sized at 1500 x 500, which is a new profile image size.

Use images that fit your personality and personal brand. They don't necessarily have to be ultra-professional pictures of you. Some people even use a cartoon of themselves or a pop culture image. If you're using this account to provide valuable content for followers, rather than just for your general personal commentary, that may affect what images you choose.

But I believe that social media is a place to cultivate your personal brand, so I don't see anything wrong with, say, making your header image a photo of Michael Jordan guarding a young Allen Iverson. It aligns with my identity, my interests, and is an accurate representation of who I am. Though many of my tweets are about marketing, many of them are not, and again, that's a reflection of who I really am.

The final image is the background image. This image is displayed in many different sizes, depending on your screen resolution (or not at all on mobile). Twitter has a handful of "premade themes" for you to choose from. You can also upload your own image. 1920 x 1080 is the largest that people will view your background, and the image will be resized if someone is viewing it smaller. You can "tile" a smaller background, meaning the image will repeat. This usually looks okay if the image you've chosen is something like a logo on a solid background, but if it's more complex, it may not be as aesthetically pleasing.

You can also choose the background image's alignment. By centering it, you can (to a certain extent) control what's displayed at different resolutions, because you can create an image that has design elements on either side of the feed.

Those are some of the basics of Twitter. But there's tons more to learn. If your business is getting involved with social media for the first time, it's an exciting time - but don't expect huge results overnight. It takes time to establish a presence, even with an already powerful brand.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Tweet at me at @benwachtel24, @ElementThree, or leave a comment below.

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