It’s time to learn how to get started on Twitter. Many people get to the point of starting a Twitter account. They start out with a few celebrities in their feed (that they could care less about), don’t have any followers of their own, so they think , “What the hell are people finding so great about Twitter?” I don’t blame them. It is daunting. If you don’t have anyone following you, no one can see your updates. Obviously, this stops many people from making updates. Another thing stopping people is being unfamiliar with the lingo.
- Twitter handle: A Twitter handle is the @ sign directly followed by a Twitter name. Mine is @judiknight.
- Mentions @: If you want someone to see your Tweet whether they are following you or not, add their Twitter handle to the tweet. ex: Thanks for a great Atlanta WordPress Meetup with@judiknight and @rfair. This allows the Tweet to show up for me in a separate list of Tweets I have where people mentioned me.
- Mentions for Conversation @ : Using an @twittername at the beginning of a Tweet shows you are addressing the Tweet to a particular Twitter user which indicates an attempt at a conversation. This will show up in a person’s mention stream whether or not they are following you back. If there is a reply, back and forth, others following one of the conversants can follow the thread of the conversation, sort of like listening in a on a party-line. Example: @rfair are you going to be on the panel discussion at the Atlanta WordPress Users Meetup group this month? He would push reply and say: @judiknight what is the topic this month? I would reply with: @rfair it is on WP plugins, we could use you.
- Direct Messages DM: If you are following someone who is following you back, you can send each other Direct Messages that are private. To do so, you put a DM, skip one space, and add their Twitter name (without the @) and then type your message.
- Retweets RT: People love to have their Tweets retweeted (RT), because they then can be seen by the followers of the person that retweets the message as well as the followers of anyone else that retweets it.
- Hashtags #: You can use anything as a tag that can be easily searched on by placing a # in front of the word or abbreviation. Many events post an “official hashtag” for the event to their attendees so people can tweet about the event and follow what others are saying about it. ex: @chrisguillebeau just gave away 100 dollar bills to each of the 1000 attendees at #WDS2012.
A study by Semiocast examining Twitter use over a recent three-month period found only 27% of people on Twitter actually sent out tweets. And, 48% did not post updates, but interacted with their account in some other way such as following people or changing their avatar. This indicates that a large number of Twitter users choose to use it to consume information, rather than share it. Thus, a small percentage of Twitter users are the ones who are producing most of the shared content.
If only 27% of Twitter users are creating or sharing content, you can get on the radar of people you care about in particular niches if you invest some time in building a list of followers. But how do you get that started? The Golden Rule applies here. If you want to get Twitter followers, then follow others. Common sense will tell you that if you are only following celebrities or public figures, it is highly unlikely they will follow you back. So, to get followers, you must find and follow some people in your niche that are active on Twitter, but are not super celebs.
These rules are important if you are just learning how to get started on Twitter. There are a number of ways to get started with Twitter, but in order to keep spamming under control, Twitter has had to implement some rules that newbies often get caught in by mistake. Here are a few of the rules to play by so you don’t get your account suspended or irritate the tar out of Twitter users.
1. Do not use any program that offers to sell you followers. It is not allowed by Twitter and, if discovered, your account will be suspended. The other reason this is a bogus idea is that you do not want just any followers. To be effective for your marketing, you must have people following you that are actually real and are somewhat interested in your niche.
2. The only automated following behavior that Twitter allows is auto-follow-back (following a user after they have followed you).
3. Twitter does not want what they call aggressive following and follow churning, which is the practice of following large numbers of followers and then unfollowing large numbers of followers. They do not give exact numbers of people you can follow in a day but I would advise staying under three hundred. If you exceed the number you will get an error message stopping you.
4. You also cannot follow huge numbers of people without having a decent percentage of followers. For example you can only follow-up to 2,000 people unless you have almost a good percentage of that number following you. Once you’ve followed 2000 users, there are limits to the number of additional users you can follow: this limit is different for every user and is based on your ratio of followers to following.
5. I know you want to Tweet out your own information, but it is best to use Twitter to interact with others and share their information with retweets and such at least 80% of the time. Then, when you Tweet something out, it will have more of a chance to get noticed, followed up on and retweeted by others. Twitter, as with most Social media platforms, should not be a “Me, Me, all about Me” platform.
6. Twitter does allow you some automated actions. You can send your blog posts to Twitter automatically, but they sound rather canned and it is not advised. You can also send an automated message to someone when they follow you, but let me warn you that people dislike this practice and will often unfollow people who do this. Active Twitter users are very protective about Twitter being a place to develop relationships and hate smarmy feeling practices. This also supports the use of your own photo and name rather than using your logo or brand name or some high falutin’ braggy thing that sets you apart as better than, like @DoctorJudi.
Get Started Now
Now that we have covered the things not to do, what should you do? There are a lot of things that can help you get started.
1. Use the free version of Hootsuite as a central control panel to view your Twitter account (as well as other social media account) streams from one place, and to more easily create updates with shortened links.
2. You can search on a particular topic or hashtag, a word prepended with a pound sign (#), from within Hootsuite and then you can select an option to turn the search into a new stream. You can then go through the stream and follow people of interest to you.
3. You can get involved in a #Tweetchat on a particular topic and introduce yourself and tell them what you do and that you are new to Twitter. Tweetchats are virtual meetings held on Twitter. They are typically gatherings of Tweeps who share similar interests. Tweetchats often meet at set days and times during the week. They are identified by a hashtag. The pound sign makes it easy to identify the tweetchat members as well as the tweets belonging to the particular chat.
4. You can follow people who belong to organizations you belong to or events that you attend. More and more events are sharing the Twitter handles of the attendees.
5. Use an application that helps you see who to follow and unfollow such as Tweepi.
My favorite secret weapon in the efforts to find people to follow is Tweepi, a tool to that helps you manage Twitter friends and followers. This web-based application allows you to find new followers by following people other people follow. Tweepi is like getting a look at someone’s Rolodex. You can use it to find people to follow, it can locate people who are following you that you aren’t following, and it can identify people you follow that are not following you back. When you find these lists of people you can go through the lists and choose to follow or unfollow them. This allows an easy way to grow your Twitter network at an amazing rate while doing it all within the Twitter terms of service.
There’s a paid and a free version. The free version is good to get you started, but I found that the paid upgrade offers some additional features I find useful such as the ability to see 200 users rather than 50 per page, to see your entire history and to manage “My Twitter” lists from right inside the program.
If you haven’t opened a Twitter account yet, go ahead and do it. If you have a Twitter account you have never used, armed with some insider secrets, you don’t have any more excuses not to start now. You now know how to get started on twitter.