(If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, hop on over to Common Craft and watch this video.)
How to Start Using Twitter.
So you’ve gone over to Twitter.com and signed up. Congratulations, you’re a Tweeter! Now what? What do you use it for? How do you find people to follow? How to get people to follow back?
First things first. You must do the following 3 things when you sign up to Twitter:
1. Upload a picture (any picture will do, but one of your face is best. G-rated helps too).
2. Fill out a bio, including Location.
3. Provide a URL, even if it is your MySpace page.
A picture, a bio, and a URL go a long way in making you appear to be someone who wants to join the community. (I also advise new users to keep away from putting numbers in their username as this tends to look spammy.)
TIP: Don’t be afraid to change your bio sometimes. I personally change my bio every few weeks. It gives my followers some variety and a way to learn a little bit more about me with every tweak. Still, I keep the common elements in the bio field (e.g. “writer” and “techie geek”).
OK, you’re all set up. Now what?
Now you start following people. To follow a person means that you subscribe to their feed; you see everything they tweet out in the public timeline.
Hopefully you know a person or two to follow to get you started. If you don’t know a soul on Twitter, follow me! If that isn’t enough for you (which, I can’t imagine), then start searching for people who share your interests. You can do this in a few ways.
Search locally. An ADOBE AIR application called TwitterLocal will show you tweets from people in whatever area you specify. It doesn’t work that well but it does work enough for you to find some local people.
Search Google with the following syntax to find a bunch of people to follow: Term location site:twitter.com (replace “term” with “writer” “doctor” “juggler” or whatever you’re looking for, and put your city in the “location” part. My favorite search is writer philadelphia site:twitter.com).
Twitter Grader allows you to put in your city and see the top Tweeters (I’m usually around #12 for Philly). Follow a few that sound interesting. Tweet them (type @ then their username, no spaces. Type your message, then hit send). Start conversations. Most people usually follow back.
TIP: Under the Notices tab in your Twitter Settings is the word “@Replies” next to a little pulldown menu. [See picture]. Until you are very familiar with Twitter, I suggest that you set it to “Show me all @replies.” This helps you find new people to follow. If someone sends an @reply to someone else that seems interesting, check out the person they are @replying to. Do this by clicking on the username or typing http://twitter.com/username in your browser’s URL (replace “username” with whatever came after the @ in the person’s tweet). You may find that the person on the other side of the conversation may be just the kind of person you’re looking for. Once you are comfortable with Twitter and have found enough interesting people to follow, then you can change this setting to “Show me @replies to people I’m following.” Doing so will keep the noise in your stream to a minimum.
How to get people to follow back?
Usually people will follow back once you follow them. If they don’t, don’t worry about it. There’s way too much emphasis in the social media world about number of followers. Follower numbers are not trustworthy; as cool as Twitter is, spammers abound, which send follower rates through the roof but make those rates totally bogus. Don’t waste your 140 characters per tweet on desperate pleas for followers either. Just Tweet out things that interest you: links, quotes, musings, etc.
TIP: Under settings at the very bottom of the page is a checkbox next to Protect My Updates. Don’t check this box. If you protect your updates right away, you won’t get any followers and it will be nearly impossible for people to have conversations with you. Private tweeting is more of an advanced Twitter function and requires a little learning curve.
Don’t follow thousands of people. To start out, try about 20 people on for size. See how the timeline suits you. See if people are following back. One of the biggest mistakes that I see constantly is the Major Follow Move. Newbies start on Twitter then click follow buttons all up and down the timeline like a squirrel hoarding nuts in November. DO NOT DO THIS. That’s a dead give-away for “spammer.” In fact, the spammer Major Follow Move had gotten to be such a problem that the Twitter.com staff have now put a 2,000 person cap on new follows. You can’t follow more than 2000 people if your follower::followee ratio is too out of whack.
So, as people follow you back, follow more people. Grow your network slowly. You can always watch the humongous public timeline if you’re bored (Japanese kids are writing novels on Twitter, so be forewarned if you want to absorb the world’s public tweets).
Last but not least, the big question: What the heck do I use this for?
Great question. Once you are familiar with tweeting, you’ll have learned that the simple answers to “What are you doing?” don’t really elicit intellectually stimulating conversations. I don’t use that prompt much anymore myself. Telling my followers “I’m getting my roots done” doesn’t really keep my anyone interested. As a freelancer and stay-at-home mom, I use Twitter as my water-cooler, my board room, my lunch table, and my happy hour. I send out questions to the group that sometime roll into heated debates among many users. Sometimes I retweet a funny link someone else sent me. Just wing it for now. You’ll get into the swing of things.
TIP: Search the internet for 3rd party tools that work with Twitter (it’s ok to give your password to the apps, just make sure your Twitter password isn’t the same as your banking or email or any other password). The Twitter search functions may help you figure out what you want to do with your account and who you may want to follow. Check out this wiki to get started.
Twitter is one of those litmus tests in life: what you put into it will be what you get out of it. Find your people. Start connecting.
And try your hardest to avoid addiction. 🙂
Here’s the Better Philly video segment. It’s definitely a very cursory introduction and it is geared toward stay-at-home moms:
Second video, learn about Joey Fortman’s bubble tweet: