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How is Being New to Twitter Different in 2010?

Rows of cupcakes with the Twitter bird logo on top

I decided to write this simply because SO much has changed since I started using Twitter more than two years ago, and I can't help thinking getting started must be different now than it was back then.

It may be hard to believe, but back in 2008, the biggest celebrities using Twitter were Guy Kawasaki and Leo Laporte. Since then, I've taught several others how to use the service, but I can't help but wonder how different it is for those just getting started today.

I realize many people who read this blog are active Twitter users, but I thought some of you might have insight I don't. If you are new to Twitter, I am especially interested to hear your questions and frustrations. It's a much noisier place than it was back when I was introduced to the site.

In many ways, Twitter is a lot like other social places online — I tend to think if you've been a blog contributor, member on an active message board, forum or gaming community, you're likely to get the hang of Twitter pretty quickly. However, learning to navigate the social web is still new and intimidating for most people — especially now that Twitter updates are aggregated all kinds of places online, including the Library of Congress. Today, Twitter feels more like a stage in many ways, than a simple place to talk and share online.

How brands use Twitter is a different discussion altogether, although some of my Twitter updates on my personal Twitter account may fall under the category of “brand management” or “company promotion,” this is only because it's nearly impossible to separate personal from professional personas on the web. What I would like to discuss here is how to get started today with a personal Twitter account.

Since I'm asking you to share, I thought it might be helpful if I shared how I use Twitter at the moment for personal and professional purposes.

How I Started Using Twitter in 2008: Discovery and Participation

  • Followed online publications and breaking news accounts
  • Searched for people in my local area to follow
  • Followed people who had a lot of followers
  • Followed people who were involved in the tech community — bloggers, developers, etc.
  • Followed other PR pros and the people they were interacting with
  • Followed people who would post something interesting on the public timeline
  • Posted links to articles and other items of interest
  • Asked questions about things others would post
  • Asked for advice from others who seemed to be getting a lot out of Twitter
  • Commented on blog posts others were linking to from Twitter
  • I didn't worry about whether people followed me back or not, although when I first started getting followers, I did feel pretty excited about that and would do my best to check out their blogs/websites to learn more about them
  • I didn't follow people en masse. I did so over time — maybe 20 or so on a given day, when I felt inclined to do some poking around

How I Use Twitter in 2010: What's in it for THEM?

For better or worse, my use of Twitter is much less about discovering new people than it is about keeping up with established contacts and the flow of information. I'm lucky that more people tend to follow me, and I can discover new people by reciprocating. I also tend to follow more people I meet in real life since more of them are also on Twitter.

  • Keep up with personal and professional contacts — @replies, retweets and some general chatter*
  • Share links I find useful, interesting or funny — Or, links I think others following me might find useful, interesting or funny
  • Share links to things I've written, or articles written about me (but make sure I share LOTS of other things, too)
  • Share links and information about events I may be attending, interested in, or giving a presentation
  • Share links to resources and tools that make the work of social media easier. Since I work in social media, this is my sweet spot, you might do well to share links to resources and tools used in your line of work. For example, I regularly share links for FeedMyInbox with other social media professionals working with companies in regulated industries that need to archive information on branded social profiles. Since most social networks have RSS feeds for profile information, FeedMyInbox turns any new update posted to a social profile into an individual email message. Long story short, this easily integrates social media archiving into an existing email archive, rather than creating a need for an entirely new archiving solution.
  • Share links to job opportunities I think others might find interesting
  • Answer questions about the company I'm working for*
  • Share links about, or created by the company I work for*
  • Search for relevant keywords related to my interests —  I search for industry and topical references regularly. Google's aggregation of Twitter updates into real-time search often saves me an extra step these days, but I often search for terms when I'm on Twitter as a quick pulse check.
  • Retweet links others post on Twitter that I find interesting, or think others will find interesting. I often comment on articles posted to Twitter before retweeting when I have time and interest.
  • Answer questions others post on Twitter — informal polls, requests for help, etc.
  • Chat it up — Twitter is full of many organized chats that take place at regular times related to specific topics. Chats are tracked using hashtags i.e. #journchat, #IMCchat (integrated marketing chat), #blogchat. etc. #Journchat was started by Sarah Evans (@PRSarahEvans) as a means of bringing PR professionals and journalists together on Twitter to discuss matters related to their industries, and how they might work together better. Here is an open list of current Twitter chats on Google Docs (If yours isn't there, feel free to add it to the list).
  • Make friends and get smart — when someone posts something funny or something that resonates with me, I might choose to chime in or ask them about their point of view. I even get into some pretty heated, yet respectful, debates this way. I don't think networking always needs to be insipid cheerleading, but can involve spirited discussions full of disagreements. This may or may not be your style — I just enjoy a challenging discussion even if it means I might eat crow from time to time.

*Any time I post information about an employer or any type of sponsored information, I disclose my relationship to the company. This has always been a tenet of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association ethics, but the FTC decided to make it the law as of of December 1, 2009.

Your Turn

If you're just getting started today, how do you do things differently? In 2008, there wasn't the amount of spam, or aggressive follower accounts, or even big name celebrities on Twitter. The only journalist I knew of on Twitter at that time was Jim Long. While I think others use Twitter differently than I do, I do think some ways are more effective than others to build your online presence — especially when you don't have the built-in brand equity or social capital of a global consumer brand or international celebrity.

I realize I didn't even touch on the applications and tools like URL shorteners. Is anyone still confounded by the actual mechanics of posting, or are people more hung up on the performance aspect associated with online interaction?

Do the tactics I listed above still hold true, or are things a little different for those just getting started today? What do you tell someone who is just starting out today?

Photo by Clevercupcakes


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Join The Conversation

  • Courtney Hunt's picture
    Jun 3 Posted 7 years ago CourtneyHunt

    Shannon - Thanks for the post. I am going to share it with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community via LI, FB - and of course Twitter!

    Although I'm fully engaged in social media, I still see only limited value for Twitter. In my presentations, I qualify my negative perceptions by saying that I think Twitter is great, but too many individuals/organizations that tweet misuse and abuse the platform. The worst culprits in my experience are those who seem to be the most enthusiastic about it. So perhaps a good corollary post could focus on what NOT to do, or proper Twitetiquette!

  • May 24 Posted 7 years ago RebekahPaul Hi, Shannon.

    Nice to see another Paul online!  I'm connected to quite a few on LinkedIn for kicks.  If you would like to connect, my profiles:






  • Angelique's picture
    May 21 Posted 7 years ago AngeliqueandFriends Shannon -- I have insight into the experiences of new Twitter users because my specialty is helping people who are new to Twitter -- and other forms of communicating online -- to get started.

    I started using Twitter personally before I started using it professionally. Even in the year that I have been using it professionally I have seen lots of changes, all for the better in my opinion. For example, I am very, very glad that Twitter has lists.

    Yes, some people are definitely confused by the mechanics of posting. In my experience, this is always because they are too impatient to follow my advice and read Twitter for a while before they start posting. If they were to do this, they would experience helpful and useless posts first-hand, and truly understand why they should post updates, replies and links in a certain way. What happens instead is that they post confusing or useless messages, don't get replies or followers, and get frustrated.

    I notice that you share more in 2010 than in 2008. I think that sharing links to more details information has become the most popular use of Twitter. Newbies who want to use Twitter for networking and education get this; newbies who are hoping that Twitter will get them more customers often do not, no matter who relays the message or how many times it is repeated.

    I like this post (and the great Twitter cupcake graphic!) and I'm making it the recommended article of the week in my newsletter. I'll tweet you when it comes out!


  • ShannonPaul1's picture
    May 20 Posted 7 years ago ShannonPaul1

    @Alex - Thank you. I'm glad you found the post helpful.

    @Howie - Very interesting story about how you started on Twitter. I would love to hear more about that! Also, good point on managing expectations of clients and employers - just because you post it doesn't mean anyone will actually see it -- certainly not ALL of your followers at once.

    @Patrick - Thanks for the welcome - I'm not quite back yet, but I'm working on it. I'll land in D-town soon enough :) DMs are great for catching up on a one-to-one level, but I do know people who sort of abuse them, too. It's a tough balance to strike -- while it's great to check in on people you know, it's a bit more disruptive than sending an @reply. I have DMs sent to my cell via SMS, so it can be pretty annoying when someone's sending needless DMs when they could just reply publicly, or send an email if it's a lengthy thought.

     @Chris - Great points. The thing I think made Twitter so attractive in the early days was the simplicity. There were hardly any bells and whistles and the platform crashed daily. The maturity of the tools and more sophisticated uses are great for individuals and businesses in a variety of ways. I think this is also what makes it a bit more intimidating for new users. I wrote this post as a means of sorting through my own thoughts so I might empathize better with those who are just starting out.




  • May 20 Posted 7 years ago ChrisOgle

    Hi Shannon,

    Great post... twitter has become a really noisy place, but there are tools to sift and sort people into groups and also to search on tweets to home in on what it is that we are interested in...

    I especially like Twitter as it is the web 'Live', what real people are saying and doing, not what others choose for us to read... so to get started in 2010, there is so much stuff out there a clear focus on what Twitter is to be used for ... if it is finding out things, then search... if it is connecting follow also, if it is to promote start blogging on others sites or get into a conversation...

    Twitter is a method to connect... start a conversation and therefore engage with anyone, anywhere in the world... used properly it is a most amazing device...

    Chris Ogle

  • May 17 Posted 7 years ago PatrickReyes Shannon, great post!  Before I continue, congrats and welcome back to Michigan!!!

    So my turn, how do I use Twitter today?  I'm moving more to where you are in 2010.  I'm trying to use Twitter to build relationships that ultimately meet in face to face introductions.  For me, that is the icing on the cake of the social web.  As many of us who play in this space, it's all about relevant content ("what's in it for them?") and building relationships.  It's taking the tried and true notion of face to face networking and using the social web to open doors that ultimately lead to in person interaction.

    I also now try to use the DM more frequently to build on those relationships.  There is just something with a one on one conversation that allows people to really get to know one another and look for opportunities to work together.

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