It was great to receive such positive feedback on my Twitter post last week. People from all over the world have retweeted, or messaged me – which is so fantastic and exactly why I love twitter in the first place. However, I also shared the post with a few of my non tweeting friends – who said “well, that’s all well and good – but I still don’t ‘get it‘, I still don’t understand how it all works.”
Clearly I need to take it down a level. Which is challenging for me, but also fun (I like a challenge!).
My first step was to check out YouTube for any videos on how Twitter works… frustratingly, most of these were quite out of date, and didn’t reflect the recent changes to the twitter UI (which I’m pretty sure would confuse the non-twits out there!).
Back to the drawing board. Not discouraged, I went next to wikipedia and found some slightly more useful information. You can access the full article here. But this wasn’t enough… down to me to write out my how to’s mark 2 – let me know what you think…
What is it?
Twitter is a free social network.
By default, tweets are publicly visible, though senders can restrict message delivery to just their followers.
How do I join?
To join you go to www.twitter.com and click the big yellow button on the right hand side of the page that says Sign Up >
Create a username or twitter ‘handle’ (for example, mine’s @gamblegamble). Upload a profile picture and fill in your bio.
OK, What do I tweet?
Anything you want. Originally Twitter was positioned as a mechanism for sharing what you are doing at any current time. Whilst this is still something you can tweet about, more and more, users use the network to share information. Most usefully you can share links to interesting websites and posts (or your own website / posts). You can also upload and share pictures, your location, what you’re watching or your observations.
RETWEETING: You don’t have to post original content – some of the best tweeting is sharing other users tweets. To do this, you can either press the ‘Retweet’ button under the user’s tweet OR retweet with a comment by copying the users tweet, hitting reply and prefacing their user name with it with the letters RT.
The second option does seem like a lot of work, but I prefer this way as it let’s the user know that you’ve shared their tweet. Twitter programs such as Tweetdeck (or iPhone apps, like Ecofon, Tweetdeck & Hootsuite) – will automate the Retweet with comment function – making it much easier to do
REPLYING / MENTIONS: If you want to reply straight back to a user, you can hit reply button. If you don’t want to reply – but do want to make sure the user sees your tweet you need to include their user name in your tweet (no space between the @ and their username). (You’ll know you’ve got it right if the username appears highlighted in the tweet – like this one here)
SHARING CONTENT FROM OTHER PLACES: Often you’ll read a blog or a news article that you think might be great to share with your followers. Most blog and news sites have a ‘tweet me’ button somewhere (for example, there’s one below this post) – which will take you to a screen asking you to grant them access to your twitter account. Often they’ll create the tweet for you – but you should feel free to change this if you want.
The alternative is to copy the URL from the address bar and paste it into twitter. These days most twitter programs have their own built-in URL shortener, which means you can share both the link and your thoughts on it (it is always good to give your opinion or thoughts on the link in your tweet – give your users a reason to click on it). However twitter itself still won’t shorten for you. To create a short link go to a url shortener site like bit.ly – paste the URL in to the field and then copy the shortened link to put in your tweet
But no one is following me!
That’s OK! Unless you’re Charlie Sheen, it takes a good long while to get together a sizable twitter following. The best ways to get followers online are:
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Reply and retweet good content. Add your thoughts and insights. Be funny and be authentic. Don’t ask for something without offering anything in return. But it is also OK to tweet about what you’re having for lunch. Twitter is a way of people getting to know you – not just the content you like, but your interests and what is going on in your life.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION (PART 2): Find other people who tweet about what you are interested. Are they including a specific #tag in their tweets? If your industry uses particular #tags, make sure you find room for them when you send tweets too – this will allow others to find you. If your industry doesn’t use a #tag – create one! (If you’re still unsure on #tags – I do talk about them in last post, but Tech for Luddites also has a good post on this as well)
ONLINE AND OFFLINE: if you are committed to tweeting, doing it regularly and sharing good content then tell people. Real people. You know, the ones you know in the real world! Put your twitter handle on your website, in your email signature, on your business card, in your facebook profile, linkedin profile, on your blog – hell, put it in your Christmas cards! Get the word out!
How do I find people?
My tips for finding people are similar to my tips for getting people to find you.
Beg, Borrow and Steal: Who do your followers follow? Who do the people you follow follow? Who follows them? Read through the list of who they are following and follow the people who seem interesting / relevant / useful.
Who do your tweeps talk to? Have you noticed that one of your tweeps is often talking to another ‘unknown’ tweeter (either replying or retweeting their content) – check that tweeter out and follow them too
Lists! Many tweeters will have created a list of users based around subject matter (this is a great way to organise information streams, once you are following a lot of people). Have a look through the lists of other tweeters follow those who tweet interesting things. Or follow the whole list!
Look for the little blue “t”: Those who are tweeting will be referencing it in their other contact points. Look on websites, email signatures, Facebook / LinkedIn profiles, Blogs, newsletters and follow away!
Search! Whilst I dismissed YouTube earlier, I did find this pretty good video from Commoncraft explaining twitter search:
What’s in it for me?
Once you find a good range of people to follow, twitter becomes the ultimate news and information stream. Constantly updated, your twitter feed will contain funny stories, relevant and interesting content, updates and information, photos, jokes – all sorts of things!
It becomes particularly useful if you’re interested in a particular topic. I’ll often look at the search stream for #MRX and see what information is being shared. Here I will find out that there is a conference going on in the UK or US at the moment, and see both what the speakers are saying, but also what the audience things of the presentation. Companies will publish their latest findings and reports, bloggers will share their links – it’s ever moving and changing (but always pretty exciting).
Also in times of crisis, twitter comes to the fore. I was raised in Brisbane and my mother lives there. During the BNE floods I was glued to the #bnefloods twitter stream. Information, photos, experiences were all being shared – generally at a quicker rate than the news channels can keep up with (and without the media spin). It was a great comfort to me to be able to see and hear what was going on around Brisbane during that time.
It is also just a good time waster – let’s be honest here! I have no academic reason to follow anyone and everyone who ever had anything to do with Buffy The Vampire Slayer – but I do. I love knowing what the writers are doing now, which event the actors are attending, all about Nathan Fillion’s quest to buy the rights to FireFly. The Glee kids are also great. Am I ashamed of this? Well, slightly – but it is all part of the great twitter experience!
But don’t just take my word for it!
Here are some other handy-dandy resources I’ve found on Twitter in my search:
- Twitter for Dummies – A great series of posts that go into how and why you would use Twitter
- Ray Poynter at the Future Place has also written a few good blog posts on twitter, the most recent one entitled Using Twitter to Filter your Information Flow
- The Twitter YouTube page – a disappointing lack of how to guides – but some interesting videos on how people are using twitter around the world
So what else do I need to add?
What are your top twitter tips? What are your questions? What would you advise someone starting out with Twitter? Any references or other sources you can suggest?