Welcome to Twitter – a free guide for beginners

Twitter is easy, right? We’ve all been here for years, and the newbies pick it up in no time. Well, recent experience has confirmed that isn’t necessarily the case. So here’s our free intro guide to getting started on Twitter.

We recently struck up a Twitter conversation on a personal account with a Twitter newcomer. They asked about terms they’d seen – RT and #FF. When we offered explanation, they also asked what we meant by BTW…

That got us thinking, a basic beginner’s guide might be of use to a lot of people who are afraid to ask those questions.

There are plenty of guides already, of course, but they are soon outdated. We note that Mashable’s superb guide hasn’t caught up with the fact that #FollowFriday has become #FF.

So, here we go. We hope it’s useful, and we’ll welcome your comments.

About Twitter

Twitter is found at  http://www.twitter.com/ and is a free social networking service that allows users to publish “updates” (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) on the Twitter website.

It is sometimes known as a micro-blogging site, because each post (known as a Tweet) can be seen as a mini-blog post.

Twitter was founded in March 2006. It has 100 million monthly active users. 50% of them log-on daily.

Twitter for your business

If using Twitter for your business, it will enable you to engage with your stakeholders (eg customers or suppliers) in a forum where they already operate. It will provide a platform for you to post news, drive traffic to your website, listen to your stakeholders and engage in discussion.

Measuring the impact of your Twitter involvement is a challenge, but the rather crude measure of “followers” at least gives an indication of how many users want to see your posts.

Don’t worry if this isn’t a huge number. If your business is selling electrical fittings in Tiverton, 100 Twitter followers may be as many as you could expect. If you’re selling soft drinks to the world, you might expect a million.

In order to grow your following, you might consider:

Following relevant users

Posting Tweets which will be of value

Being active on Twitter every day

Engaging in conversation by replying and ReTweeting others

Twitter for you

If you set up a personal, rather than a business, Twitter account, you may want to mention in your profile that you are [job title] at [your business] but also that your Tweets are your own and are not posted on behalf of the business (unless they are, of course).

This needn’t stop you posting business-related Tweets from your personal account, but if using Twitter privately, do take into consideration that Tweets about partying, TV programmes, sports teams or politics could cause damage if seen to be associated with your business.

Similarly, just as you would not talk to the media about internal work issues, it is good practice not to air these in social media. A Tweet has the potential to be seen by many more people than the readership of any newspaper!

Your Tweets

Any Tweet which you post is potentially visible to all 100 million users, but only those who follow you will see them automatically. Your Tweets will also be seen by users searching for particular words or phrases in your Tweet, especially if you use hashtags (see below).

Unless you are a celebrity, you will need to work to gain followers. As discussed above, you can do this by following others (some will follow back) and posting Tweets that will interest people. Typically, these might be observations or comment, or links to interesting articles or resources.

Because Tweets cannot exceed 140 characters, you may need to use a url-shortening service in order to include a link to a web page. A popular one is www.tinyurl.com – which will reduce any web address (url) to 26 characters.

It is considered bad form to use Twitter just to announce or sell. You will be considered part of the Twitter community if you try to engage with others – reply to them, ReTweet (RT) their posts (see below).

Some Twitter terms

RT – ReTweet: ReTweeting a post will make someone else’s Tweet visible to your followers. Typically you might RT a Tweet which you agree with, or which you think your followers will like. If space allows, you can add a comment to the Tweet when you RT it.

Reply: Take care – if you reply to a Tweet, your reply will also be visible to all users (though it will only appear in the timeline of users who follow both you and the person to whom you are replying).

If you want to reply privately, you need to send a direct message (DM), but you can only do this to people who follow you.

Hashtags: A word with a # in front can be used to find or group Tweets on a common theme. These may be broad, such as #business or #biz, or much more specific.

Hashtags are often used to discuss “live” events, such as a conference, or a TV programme. Some hashtags are “official” – created by event organisers or broadcasters, others emerge organically.

Follow Friday: On a Friday, you may notice Tweets which include #FollowFriday (or, more often nowadays, #FF ). These are recommendations of people to follow and include the Twitter user name (always preceded by @ ) enabling followers to click straight to that user.

If this has been helpful, please share with friends. If not, please let us know or post your comments below.

Weltch Media provides social media guidance to organisations and individuals. You’ll find us on Twitter and Facebook too.

Photo by Photostock

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2 Responses to Welcome to Twitter – a free guide for beginners

  1. Pingback: Welcome to Twitter – a free guide for beginners « forestsmm

  2. Pingback: LinkedIn – a guide for beginners | Weltchmedia's Blog

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