“Twitter is a social network used by millions of people, and thousands more are signing up every day to send short messages to groups of friends. But where’s the user manual for Twitter? Where do new Twitter users go to learn about Tweeting, retweets, hashtags and customizing your Twitter profile? Where do you go if you want to know all about building a community on Twitter, or using Twitter for business? How can you find advanced tools for using Twitter on your phone or your desktop? To answer all these questions and more, we’ve assembled The Twitter Guide Book, a complete collection of resources for mastering Twitter. Happy Tweeting!”
- Pete Cashmore
What is Twitter?
Twitter describes itself as, “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”
If you’re new Twitter, then that description might seem a bit vague and ambiguous. So, to help you wrap your mind around the short-form messaging tool, start thinking about Twitter as a new form of online communication. Twitter is just communication in a new shape, but it’s also a platform for listening to the communication of others in new ways.
Currently we have email, instant messenger, and VoIP tools like Skype as one-to-one or one-to-few online communication tools. For one-to-many online communication, online publishers can turn to blogs to create and distribute content rapidly and reach anyone on the web through RSS feeds.
Twitter is a combination of these various forms of communication, but its primary difference is that posts, or tweets, are restricted to 140 characters or less. As a Twitter user you can post updates, follow and view updates from other users (this is akin to subscribing to a blog’s RSS feed), and send a public reply or private direct message to connect with another Twitterer.
Though users can answer the prompt, “What are you doing?”, tweets have evolved to more than everyday experiences, and take the shape of shared links to interesting content on the web, conversations around hot topics (using hashtags), photos, videos, music, and, most importantly, real-time accounts from people who are in the midst of a newsworthy event, crisis, or natural disaster.
How to build your Twitter Community?
Your Twitter community is your life line. The strength of your community determines overall what you will (or won’t) get out of the microblogging platform. What do you want to use Twitter for? I wanted to build a community where I could engage in dialogue, stay ahead of the social media curve, and share some laughs.
I just shared my objective with you. What’s yours? Start with your community objective and then go for it. Use the 10 tips below as your guide to grow the community which benefits you (and your audience).
1. Do… Create a user-friendly Twitter ID (@yourname)
Your Twitter ID is part of your personal brand. Plain and simple. Your first choice for a Twitter ID should be your name. There is nothing stronger for creating your personal brand. If your name is taken (as mine was) find a way to keep it as close as possible. (I added “PR” in front of my name, which worked for me as it reinforced my name and my expertise.)
There are only 140 precious characters available in each Twitter post. The longer your Twitter ID, the more space it takes up, thus limiting your interactions. If at all possible, stay away from numbers or an underscore. As your community grows, you’ll have many names and IDs to remember. Throwing in numbers and underscores makes it more difficult. This could ultimately minimize your interactions.
Are you reading this and thinking you should get a new username or a stronger personal brand?
2. Do… Search for people to follow
It’s completely normal in Twitter culture to “follow” people you’ve never met. In fact, it’s encouraged. Begin by looking for people with common interests, hobbies or professions. I also like to follow people who are experts in areas I know nothing about.
3. Do… Learn the lingo. You’ll want to join the crowd. Trust me.
As with any new network there is a learning curve. Twitter has a quirky lingo all its own. But don’t let that hold you back from interacting. If you don’t understand something, ask someone. That’s how I learned!
A few of the essentials:
• DM = Direct Message
• @ = Use to reply and always include proceeding a Twitter ID in a reply
• RT = Retweet
• Tweet = Sending a message on Twitter
• Tw + any other word. A fun practice on Twitter is to develop a new twist on old words. For example, Tworld = Twitter world, and Tweeples = Those who use Twitter. You get the picture.
It’s an evolving list. Who knows, you might even invent the next “tword.”
4. Do… Know who “@” replies to you
It may not seem overwhelming at first, but soon after you gain friends on Twitter, conversations tend to move quickly. How will you keep up with it? My personal favorite is TweetDeck (however it can slow down the functionality of your PC). A great alternative to TweetDeck is Seesmic Desktop. I recommend a combination of the following:
• Twitter search – If you use Twitter search, also subscribe to the RSS feed. I set up two searches, one with the “@” in front of my Twitter ID and one without. You will get different results for each query.
• Tweetscan – I use Tweetscan as my quality check to see if I’ve missed any replies. You can also see a trends search cloud before you type in your search query.
• Google Alerts – Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (Web, news, blogs, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.
5. Do… Add your Twitter ID to all of your signatures
Pimp out your Twitter name (and not just on Twitter). As social networks like Twitter continue to go mainstream, you’ll want to be able to connect with new users.
A few opportunities to pimp out your Twitter ID:
• Add under your name when you comment on a blog
• If you friend someone on another social network, add a personal message which includes your ID
• Include a “follow me on Twitter” signature on all of your email accounts or for your social media email signature
6. Do… Reach out and say something
No one likes what I call a “virtual voyeur” (i.e. someone who watches social media interactions without responding). Everyone is putting him or herself out there and as far as my experience has shown, people are pretty darn accepting and helpful. Something as simple as a “good morning” often leads to a response. If that doesn’t work, try something a little more aggressive like, “someone say hello!”
7. Do… Read the bio of those who follow you
Know something about those who follow you. The information you get from a bio makes it easy to engage in dialogue. If someone lists knitting as a hobby, send them a link to a knitting blog you came across. It opens the door for dialogue and that is what your community is all about.
8. Do… Promote others and share your best information
Twitter is all about karma. The more good you put out there, the more you receive. When you find others with great information, don’t be shy in sharing with your community. It’s a great feeling when you promote one of your followers (instead of yourself) and it results in dialogue among your community. It ultimately reflects support for you and credibility for your follower. Win-win!
9. Do… Learn the etiquette.
Most important is to learn about when you should “@” versus DM (i.e. Direct Message):
• Sending personal information like a phone number or email address. (It may seem like common sense, but I encourage you to NEVER post personal information like your social security number over ANY public forum.)
• A conversation which will consist of multiple “tweets” or a lengthy discussion with more than three posts. (Many people on Twitter will “unfollow” someone who sends multiple “tweets” in a row. Trust me.)
• Asking multiple questions to the same person or the same question asked to multiple people. (Your content becomes less valuable when people see the same thing repeated too many times…especially right in a row.)
• Correcting a mistake you’ve identified in someone’s blog post or “tweet.” (This isn’t required, but it is considered a common courtesy. The person who made the mistake will thank you.)
• Thanking each of your new followers. (It’s a nice concept to thank each of your new social media connections, but keep in mind how many responses you’re sending out each day or within a 10 minute period.)
• Making a request to someone. (Want to ask someone to write a guest blog post or partner on a project? Don’t put them on the spot in a public forum. Once you agree on a partnership, then by all means, tweet away!)
• Constructive criticism…this is your call. (If you have some pretty serious feedback to give someone, consider the most appropriate venue.)
• Getting someone’s attention! (Want to make a connection with someone, send them a direct message to get things started. A lot of people on Twitter get direct messages sent to their email or mobile phone.)
10. Do… Find out who some of the big players are
Twitter is not a popularity contest and it’s your choice on whether or not to follow these “top tweeps,” but they do tend to share a lot of great information.