Why are You on Twitter? A 'Twitter 101' Lesson

Mike Johansson
Mike Johansson Senior Lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology and principal at Fixitology, RIT and Fixitology

Posted on May 30th 2011

Why are You on Twitter? A 'Twitter 101' Lesson

Today I begin a short series of posts designed to help newbies understand some social media strategy behind the professional use of Twitter.

The first question is: Why are you on Twitter?

A. To talk to friends: If that’s the only reason you’re on Twitter you can do whatever you like – just think seriously about protecting your tweets so that only people you know and trust can see them!

B. Professional networking: Whether you are still in school, just starting a career or are well into a career Twitter allows you to build connections with interesting and relevant people around the world who are working and talking about topics related to your interests.

So, if “B” is your choice you will want to get the most out of Twitter – consider doing the following …

1. Make your profile public: You want to connect with people so keep your account open because you are going to be professional on this account, right?

2. Choose a Twitter name that is your entire name or at least your first name and last initial or a variation of your name. Be sure your real name is somewhere on your public profile.

3. Fill in your location with your real location: This will connect you with others in your area with whom you can network in real life.

4. Work on your bio so that it says something about your professional activities and aspirations but also displays a little of your personality. You’ve got 160 characters – choose them wisely.

5. Choose an avatar photo that is more face than anything else: Avoid the temptation to try to be too cute. Your genuine face shot is part of who you are.

6. Choose your URL wisely: If you have a complete Linkedin page link to that. If you have your own name as a URL and you use that website to highlight your skills and talents – even better – link to that.

7. Start following others slowly: Find relevant people in your business or with related interests and follow just a very few at a time. There is no science to this but if your “Following” number is more than five times higher than your number of “Followers” you may seem desperate for followers.

8. Don’t just follow anyone: Following people just because they follow you is not a requirement in Twitter. Following back should be reserved for people you are genuinely interested in learning from and about.

9. Pay attention to others’ tweets: You will learn a lot by just “listening.” When the time is right (you see something you want to comment on or you want to thank someone for sharing something send them an “@” message. These tweets are the beginnings of real conversations with people who may one day become part of your professional network.

10. Retweet judiciously: When you read something that really means something to you or you think some of your followers might appreciate retweet (RT) it. If there is room add a comment explain why you like it.

So, there you have it, the first Twitter 101 lesson. What do you think? Will this help a social media strategy newbie?


Mike Johansson

Mike Johansson

Senior Lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology and principal at Fixitology, RIT and Fixitology

Mike is a strategist and teacher who helps businesses and students understand and get the most from social media. He currently is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he teaches advertising, public relations and journalism (all with a social media twist). 

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Posted on May 30th 2011 at 6:57AM

Shouldn't there be a C option directed at businesses, with a more commercial objective - building company-client relationships? I see that as something different from Professional Networking, so that some people can promote/represent a company in their name while others can focus on and build their personal brand either for strictly professional or academic purposes, which would fall under B. Just my point of view but otherwise good article!

Mike Johansson
Posted on June 1st 2011 at 11:44AM

I see your point. I had not considered professional networking as not necessariy including more commercial objectives. Although in my humble opinion if the networking doesn't come first, the commercial objectives are somewhat unlikely to follow. But in any case, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. :-)

Posted on May 30th 2011 at 11:31AM

Nice article with important guidlines especially for biz people. I use twitter differently than some of the ways mentioned, and I don't necessarily recommend people do what I do, I follow a lot of people, find people who are not in my circle. I want to get the quirky opinions, the new ideas and connections to things outside of my world. I follow a lot of political and newsie people because it's just incredibly fun for me and also, as a biz person, I need to know what is going on in politics. I like the Red Eye crowd. The beauty of it is, social media is whatever you want it to be...

Posted on May 30th 2011 at 11:38AM

"think seriously about protecting your tweets so that only people you know and trust can see them!" - well, I would add that peeps need to consider all tweets as being in the public domain - it's *not* private and secret, and each tweeter is responsible for their tweets, whether or not their account is locked

Posted on May 30th 2011 at 12:40PM

Very good list Mike.  

Also, customize your background instead of using the standard ones. upload your own image and use the left side for additional information.  Try to stay consistent with your website is applicable.

I like to use the last couple lines of my bio to mention my last current news item.


Posted on May 31st 2011 at 6:19AM

I would also add: 

Your picture represents you.  If you want to use Twitter professionally, use a professional picture - leave the go-go boots and cleavage out.

Find hashtags in your area of interest. These show you more people you might want to follow and are often associated with interesting scheduled chats. 

Mike Johansson
Posted on May 31st 2011 at 10:01AM

Thanks for the comments - I particularly appreciate the "social media is whatever you want it to be" comment. I absolutely agree and only hope that in following that apoproach most people are thoughtful about what they say and do on all social platforms.

Posted on May 31st 2011 at 10:05AM

This a wonderful detailed, yet simple list on the Twitter 101. THANK YOU for pointing out that if you want to network your profile should be on PUBLIC and not protected - I don't understand people with a career whom protect their tweets, have 50 followers and in their bio are described as 'networkers' - there's a lot of networking being done via a protected account. Sense the sarcasm? Anyway, great post :D

Posted on May 31st 2011 at 8:12PM

Twitter is short, sweet and to the point. in this busy world we live in today it is nice to send tips, and short messages to one another. Twitter can be helpful in so many ways. It can also be a great way to even brainstorm and and flow ideas to others. You're right it's a great way to conversate and get close to others.

Posted on June 1st 2011 at 7:41AM

What an utter pile of prescriptive nonsense. Twitter, like the rest of the internet, is a medium in which people can express their individuality. They do not need 'rules' from some bloke who reckons he knows what its all about - the arrogance is amazing. For instance, I plan to subvert it - ultimately, transform it, even if that involves destruction. Don't any of you people remember the punk ethic: DESTROY

Posted on June 1st 2011 at 9:19AM

While Twitter is accessible by individuals, it's most powerful application is at the business level.  It provides a single platform for marketing and communication for small and large companies, and that may be it's greatest service - equal access for all firms.  A small eatery may not be able to advertise their services or specials via a TV commercial but they can does so over Twitter.  Likewise a large corporation can broadcast news or statistics while providing links to their home page.  A short-sighted person sees Twitter as the PR platform for egomaniacss rather than a common, accessible, FREE communication channel.  It's less social, more business. 

Posted on June 2nd 2011 at 6:03AM

Twitter is one of the best networking tools.I am personally using to sale products and i am having some success.

Posted on June 2nd 2011 at 2:28PM

This is a very well and detailed post. I didn't have those tips in mind when I started Twitter but I've somehow already followed them!

I recall when I started Twitter, I really knew what I wanted to get out of it: NETWORK! I'm also very fascinated with social media and where it's going and because of those interests I've found Twitter to be very useful in educating myself and sharing USEFUL information.



Posted on June 6th 2011 at 7:00AM

Excellent Post, I am just starting out on Twitter and am really interested on how to network and build my business via twitter


Posted on July 2nd 2011 at 4:47AM

Great post! Yes, this should help a sm newbie.


[160 characters?? It's 140, isn't it?]