One of the first things that anyone should do when building an online presence is to join the conversation on Twitter. Twitter is NOT just a place to post status updates about what you ate for lunch today or how your baby just started walking. It is also not a billboard for advertisements and promotions. Those things are perfectly fine to post, but if that is all that you post, you will find that not many people are interested. Twitter is a conversation about your industry, about your product, and about life in general. If you view it as a conversation, you will be much more successful.
Here is a basic dictionary of Twitter terms to help you get started. The terminology can sometimes be the most confusing part of Twitter.
Tweet: A post or update on Twitter.
Retweet (or RT): When you forward, or share, someone else’s Tweet with your followers or when they share yours.
Followers: People who follow you, or your “friends,” on Twitter.
DM: Direct message. This is how people message you directly and privately on Twitter.
Hashtag: All hashtags begin with the pound sign (#) and are used to mark key words or topics in a tweet. This was created to have an easy way to categorize tweets.
@: The @ symbol is used to call out user names within tweets. When the @ symbol is used proceeded by a user name (@cheshirescribe) it then becomes a link to that user’s Twitter page.
@reply: A public message that is sent to you via a tweet. They are distinguished by calling out a user name at the beginning of the tweet. You will typically see conversations happening this way:
@cheshirescribe: I need one more follower to reach my first goal of 200!
@KelleeMagee: @cheshirescribe YAY! Am I #200?
@cheshirescribe: @KelleeMagee You are either #200 or #201. Thanks!
Mention: When someone calls out your user name within a tweet, it is called a “mention.”
SMS: Short messaging device or text messaging.
Trending Topic: The most popular subjects on Twitter at that particular moment. Twitter determines these by how many people are using that particular hashtag.
Tweeter: A Twitter account holder that sends out tweets.
Widget: Code that can be placed anywhere on the web (web site, Facebook fan page, etc.) that shows a live feed of your tweets.
URL Shortener: Tweeters use sites such as www.bit.ly or http://ow.ly to shorten links so that they take up less tweet space. You only have 140 characters per tweet, so shortening links is a must! These sites, particularly www.bit.ly, will also provide you with analytics on how many people clicked on the link and shared the link.
So, how do I get started? Here is Twitter’s page on signing up.
Once you’re registered, the best way to start the conversation is to search for lists, groups, hashtags, and other users that are in your industry and who would be interested in your content. Of course, you should also be interested in what they are posting. I recommend going to Twitter’s advanced search site. The site allows you to find tweets based on subject matter, specific people, location, dates posted, and even the “attitude” of the tweet (did the person put a smiley face or a frowny face in the tweet?). Search for your industry/subject, people that you know within the industry, and people in your general geographic area, and follow them. You should also follow major players within your industry. For example, if you are a writer, you would want to follow Writer’s Digest, other famous writers (i.e. Stephen King) and Publisher’s Weekly, among others. Also, look through the followers of the people you are following and through the people that they follow. This will give you a plethora of users to follow.
Once you’ve started following some key people within your industry, start retweeting them. Search for blog posts and articles online that are relevant to the conversation and tweet links to them. And, every so often, tweet about your baby having his/her first steps or about that chatty lady behind you in line at the grocery store. The best way to gain legitimate followers on Twitter is for people to know a) that you’re a real person and b) that you have something relevant to say. A good mix of tweets that proves those two things are your best bet to success on Twitter.
Some other quick tips:
- Make sure that your bio includes your web site and is relevant to what you are doing. You don’t want a bio that says “I love ice cream!” You want to make sure it is professional and that it includes as much information as anyone would need about you. This is what people will read to determine whether or not they want to follow you. You only have 160 characters, so you want to make them count.
- Make sure that the photo you use is professional and is not a logo. Using a logo for your photo will make people think that you are a spammer. At the same time, make sure that you’re not using a photo of yourself drunk at Mardi Gras.
- Make your profile public. The reason you are on Twitter is so that people can find you. If your profile is private, they won’t be able to do so.
- You do not have to follow someone just because they follow you. If what they have to say does not interest you and is not relevant to the conversation you wish to be a part of, you have every right to not follow them.
- Do not set up automatic DM’s when someone follows you. You do not want to send messages that say “Thanks for following me! Check out my website at —-.” This comes across as spammy and may make the person question following you in the first place. If they decided to follow you, it’s because they have an interest in what you are doing. They likely have already been to your web site, and if not, they can find it in your bio.
Here are some other resources that will help you get started:
Also be sure to follow @Twitter_Tips to get regular tips on using Twitter. And, follow me! @cheshirescribe. If you DM me and let me know that you read this post, I will follow you as well! You should also stay tuned weekly for my Tweetly News with the Mad Hatter and check out the Social Media/Technology section, where you can find additional tips/tricks.