A number of my friends have been asking for help as they get started on Twitter. Having written a bunch of emails to them, I figured I consolidate my advice onto one page. For you veterans in Tweetland, never mind. If you are still wondering why to Twitter, read Chris Brogan's guide for newbies.
1. Where to start
- Register on Twitter.com and provide a complete profile since this will make it easier for people to decide if they want to follow you.
- I recommend you use your full name since this is not about cuteness or anonymity but rather connecting with people you might actually want to meet or at least have a conversation with at some point.
- The next thing I'd recommend is that you download TweetDeck and use this to tool as home base for all your twittering instead of Twitter.com. TweetDeck makes it easy to track the folks you follow, have direct conversations and to "retweet" which I'll explain more about later.
- When you start visiting other Twitter home pages, you will notice many of have interesting backgrounds or more information. Zugara has created an easy tool to customize your background if you are so inclined.
2. Finding twitterers to follow
- The great thing about Twitter is that you can follow people from all walks of life and it is completely up to you the mix of people you choose to follow.
- To get started, pick a personal passion and a professional passion and look for lists of Twitterers in those areas. You can search for names or topics on Twitter Search.
- Send an email to your peers/friends and ask them if they Twitter. If they do, then go to their Twitter home pages and see who they follow (look for the tiny head shots on the lower right). Then click on some of these head shots and look at those people's Twitter home page to see if their Tweets interest you. If they do, hit the follow button on the upper left.
- Then look at who these people follow. Ultimately, you start to find the superstars of Twitter who have thousands of followers but only follow a select few. Here's a list of the Twitter elite according to Twitter Grader. Also, Paul Dunay has compiled lists of C Level Twitterers that is worth reviewing.
- Word of caution--be selective initially about who you follow. It takes a lot of time to follow a lot of people and it may overwhelm you to try to follow too many at first. One quick means of evaluating a potential tweeter is the ratio of followers to following--beware of the ones who follow thousands but only have a few followers.
3. Read, retweet, share links then share thoughts
- My recommendation is that you spend you first couple of days just reading Tweets to get the hang of it. If you are following people that say interesting things and post interesting links, you will find it endlessly fascinating.
- Then start retweeting or RT. This is the equivalent to forwarding an email and this is very easy on TweetDeck. Just hit the retweet button and then post. Retweeting is a way of paying respect to the author and sharing goodness at the same time..
- I spend much of my time on Twitter reading the articles that others share via links. Because tweets are so short, a whole industry (like TinyURL.com which allows you to create aliases for your shortened URLs) has popped up to reduce the length of these links. Tweetdeck has a built in tool for shortening URLs but sometimes I find it easier to use Twurl which sits right on my Firefox browser. You can download Twurl from TweetBurner which has a bunch of other useful tools.
- Now start tweeting away. My suggestion is that you only tweet about what you'd want to read about. Keep the "I'm eating bagels for breakfast" tweets to a minimum. Honestly, no one really cares unless you're Barack Obama or Britney Spears (for more celebs who Twitter click here.)
- Once you build a following, you will find all sorts of ways to make Twitter work for you (see my blog post for a few suggestions).
4. Playing catch up
- Twitip.com, Mashable and Twitfacts have tons of useful information about Twitter and will get you connected with all the latest uses, add-ons, variations and extensions.
- Both Blackberry and iPhone have Twitter applications that make mobile tracking and tweeting a breeze.
- Among the essentials add-ons is Twitpic for photo sharing.
- If you are so inclined, you can update your Facebook, Plaxo status and your Wordpress blog with your Twitter posts. I have found this to be useful since it simply extends the reach of my tweets and keeps those other pages fresher.
- Once you get the hang of it and start to attract followers, I have found it useful to create an auto response to welcome followers. Some consider this bad form but for busy people it is far better than doing nothing. Tweetburner makes setting up an auto response fairly easy.
- Since you will quickly notice a number of Twitter words like hashtag, tweme, tweetup, and twirt that may not make sense to you, you'll find this twictionary worth bookmarking.
That should get you started. Have fun tweeps.