3 easy steps to get started with Twitter

By Patty Swisher Posted on July 10, 2013

w-social-small-1Twitter. Tweet. Hashtag. Retweet. What is all this gibberish about the social media platform Twitter?

Twitter is a microblogging service created in 2006 and currently has over 500 million registered users generating over 340 million tweets per day – and there are new people joining every day.

Today, Twitter has become an excellent source for networking with business contacts, connecting at conferences or events, making new friends, following celebs and TV shows, and learning about breaking news from sporting events to natural disasters as they occur. According to the Twitter Help Center, “the real magic lies in absorbing real-time information that matters to you.”

First, a little about vocabulary for Twitter. A tweet is a message that is 140 characters or fewer and often contains links to other websites, video, or photos.  A hashtag (#) precedes keywords in your twitter message, and can be used to search or follow particular topics. Hashtags have also recently been added to Facebook. A retweet is when someone shares your message with their followers, generally with attribution. An @reply is a twitter message to a particular person. Everyone following that person will see the reply. A direct message or “DM” is a private exchange between you and a follower.

Here are the basic steps to get started on Twitter.

Step 1. Set up your account. Go to www.twitter.com. Select a username, the name by which you will be known on Twitter. If possible keep it short, and as close to your real name as possible – don’t want to use up too many of those 140 characters (particularly on the re-tweet) with just your user name.  If your name is not available (i.e., JoeSmith), you can also infuse a keyword such as jsmithCPA or jsmithArchitect, jsmithLawyer – get the idea?

Go to your Twitter home page and check your settings, set the appropriate time zone, and do not check ‘protect my updates,’ unless you want to seriously limit your interactions. Click profile and upload your profile photo to help to build awareness and trust. Be sure to complete your bio, location, and include your website or blog.

Step 2. Follow. Look up family, friends, contacts, publications, and companies in the Twitter search bar. Think about who you want to follow and why. Following someone means you’ve chosen to subscribe to their updates. This may take some time initially; keep in mind that your Twitter contacts will grow organically over time. Your Twitter feed is only as good as the people you follow.

Twitter Lists. I would strongly recommend, if you are just getting started,  that you set up Twitter lists. Categorize the individuals you follow by lists. List categories may include Location, by Keywords, Coworkers, Family/Friends, Celebrities, Publications, Local, National, etc. Be as general or as specific as you want. By doing so, you are able to see your Twitter feed narrowed by the members of that list. As you add followers it will be much easier to add them to your lists. Keep in mind, individuals can be on more than one list.

Twitter also helps with “Who to follow” suggestions. In your Twitter feed, you can click on a user name, and follow and add to lists from there.  Lastly, ask friends for recommendations on whom to follow.

3. Start tweeting! Type your message into the box on the left side of your screen, or click the blue “compose new tweet button” in the top of the navigation bar. Your messages can and should contain topics or keywords that are important to you. By using the hashtag(#) on these words you can connect with others interested in the same subjects. Whether it’s #HR, #Shale #Pittsburgh or #Steelers, using the hashtag will allow you to discover others to search or follow. Make the most of your 140 characters by including links to blog posts, websites, photos, or videos – these posts tend to generate greater attention and will aid in getting you noticed in the “Twitterverse”.

One last bit of advice: not TOO much self-promotion on Twitter. It is the quickest way to lose followers. As a good guide, for every 10 tweets, only two should be self-promotional.

This should get you started. Like any activity, the more you invest, the greater return you will receive.  There are all sorts of social media etiquette rules, third party apps, tweet-chats, tips, and tricks. One of the main things to remember is that people on Twitter are generally nice and helpful. If you have a question, tweet about it.

I share a lot of #SocialMedia ‘How To’s’ on Twitter, be sure to follow me @pmswish.

Read the previous post on social media in architecture here.

Patty Swisher is a 15+ year veteran marketing communication professional for IKM Incorporated Architects (@ikminc). She holds a Masters Degree in Journalism/Mass Communication, and Bachelors in Business Administration. She is an active member of the A/E/C community, writes a social media column for the AIA Pittsburgh Chapter, is Past President of SMPS Pittsburgh, current member of the MBA Social Media Task Force (and presenter), and co-founder of Social Media Group Pittsburgh (@smpgh) – a professional organization dedicated to sharing best practices in social media marketing. She can be found on Twitter  @pmswish.

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