What is Twitter?
Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that allows users to communicate in 140 characters. Wikipedia defines Twitter as:
“Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. It was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July. The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with over 140 million active users as of 2012, generating over 340 millions tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day. It has been described as “the SMS of the Internet.” Unregistered users can read the tweets, while registered users can post tweets through the website interface, SMS, or a range of apps for mobile devices.
Twitter Inc. is based in San Francisco, with additional servers and offices in New York City. The Twitter website is one of the top ten most visited on the Internet.”
In simple terms, I view twitter as the introduction channel, the easiest place to connect with strangers and exchange messages because you don’t need an invitation or any relationship to connect, known as “following.” This guide is a comprehensive guide to all of the features and functions of a Twitter account that will help you get started. It will help you to complete the steps listed on your own Twitter account as you go through the guide. Twitter has taken me on an incredible journey and has led to many new connections across the world, business opportunities, friendship and enjoyment that would never have been possible before this 140 character channel was created in SanFrancisco just a few years ago. I started my account three years ago and in that time I’ve posted over 50,000 tweets and gained a following of close to 11,000 people. It all started with one tweet. My first was “Can anyone see this!” Take your time setting up and start tweeting!
Setting up your account
Signing up is simple and easy. All you need to do is go to http://www.twitter.com or http://www.twitter.com//signup
You will be asked to enter your e-mail address and password. It is worth noting that you can only register one account per e-mail address. If you are considering multiple accounts you will need more e-mail addresses. G-mail and other e-mail providers are fine.
Next you are going to be asked to supply a user name. Choose carefully, because this is going to be how people know you on twitter. I use my own name with capitalisation, @BillBoorman. If you don’t want to use your own name, or your own name is already taken then choose a name that sums up what you do. Don’t go for a name that is going to be difficult to spell or easy to make a mistake or you will get plenty of missed messages. You also want to keep it short because your username will take up valuable characters in shared messages, remember you only have 140 to communicate with. Usernames must be less than 15 characters and can not include the words twitter or admin. The name you choose will be prefixed with the @ symbol. Twitter will suggest some names to you based on your e-mal address. It is worth choosing one of these unless you have a particular name in mind.
Next you get your details to check, and you may be asked for a “captcha” code to confirm that you are a human. A “captcha” code is the jumble of letters or words you get asked to complete to create your account.
The second screen is where you start to build your “timeline.” Your timeline is the tweets that you are going to see in your stream when you first log in to twitter. Your timeline will feature tweets from people who “follow” you and people you follow. Followers are your connections and the people who choose to follow you.
To get you started you have to follow a minimum of 5 accounts to follow. In the left hand window Twitter will show you accounts that you might want to follow. You will recognise some of these names based on people connected with your e-mail address, as well as a few celebrities and well known people. My personal choice is to ignore the celebs, but it is open to you to choose who you want to follow. To follow any of these people click on the blue follow button. If you want to see the detail of any of these people click on their name and a window will pop up showing you their “bio”. A bio is the 180 characters you get to describe yourself (more about writing your own bio later), the avatar picture and some useful data on the account like the number of tweets they have sent, how many people they follow and how many people follow them. “Unfollowing” anyone is as easy as following them. All you need to do is go back to the follow icon at the bottom of any tweet from them or on their account and click the “following” icon.
As you start to follow people you start to see the tweets from the people you are following appear in your timeline under the Tweets heading. When you’ve followed the people you want to get started, click on the Next icon next to “Get Started.” You then need to follow 5 well known people from a suggested list from Twitter broken in to categories like “Funny.” These are your celebs to follow including business pages like Mashable. You can choose to skip this step.When you have chosen your 5 click on the Next icon again. Your timeline will now be filling up with tweets. At the top of your timeline you will see the number of tweets visible to you since you last checked. Click on the heading to update your twitter timeline instantly. We will cover what you can do with each tweet as you go through the guide.
Next up you get to import your contacts. Contacts can be imported from any e-mail account including g-mail, outlook and Hotmail. This takes you in to a secure window and matches the e-mail addresses of your contacts with the Twitter database to show the people you already know who have accounts. You have the option to follow all users listed with one click, to follow each person individually and to invite any of your connections not on Twitter to join and follow you. This is a great way to get started by following the people you already know. It helps to have a few friendly people to send your first messages to (and receive replies) when you are getting started. When you have completed this stage click on the Next icon and you get to the really important bit, creating your bio and “avatar.”
First option is to upload the picture that you want to use as your avatar. This is how people are going to recognise you and the image they see when choosing who to follow. A face is always better than a logo. In Twitter, people tend to connect with people rather than brands unless you are a super brand. The image you can upload must be no bigger than 700k and can be a j-peg, gif or png file. When choosing which image to use remember that it is going to be viewed in thumbnail, so nothing too detailed. My opinion is to use the same picture in all my social media accounts because this makes recognition much easier, and I use a picture where I am wearing a yellow shirt because this stands out. If you elect for an image of just your face, tilt your head slightly away from the camera as research shows that people don’t trust a full on face. Your image will automatically resize to fit in an avatar.
Now you need to create your bio. This is going to be important because it is your calling card. Start by thinking about who you want to be found by and what they might be searching for. This is keyword based, and you can include links to other places on the web like your website or LinkedIn profile. The more places you can connect with people, the more likely you are to build a relationship in their channel of choice. Make your bio keyword rich, and divide each keyword with a comma. Add at least one personal detail to your bio e: g: Dad to two. In everything you do on Twitter you want to blend personal with professional. When you have completed your bio click the “done” icon. Twitter will send you an e-mail with a link to confirm you are a real person and not an automated robot. It is important that you click on this link to unlock the main Twitter features. This authenticates your account and takes you back to the main Twitter account. Below your profile you will notice the heading “who to follow.” Click the “see all” option. Now that you have a bio, this feature matches the information and keywords on your bio with others that are similar, or shared with the people you follow. As you gain followers, you will come up in more of these recommendations to others, this is why the keywords in your bio are so important. The more focussed they are on your area of interest, the more followers you will gain.
On the left hand side of the top bar you will notice three icons: Home, @Connect and #Discover. The home screen is where you can view your timeline. @Connect is where you see all the messages sent to you in the public stream. There are two streams for messaging, @messages which are viewable to anyone who is following you or the recipient, and “Direct Messages” which are viewable by only you or the recipient.
You can put an @ name anywhere in a post depending how public you want to make the message. The way @ messages work is as follows:
Putting the @ name of the recipient at the beginning of the message. This message is visible to the recipient and anyone who follows both you and the recipient. These messages will also be visible to anyone via search.
Putting the @ name of the recipient anywhere other than the beginning means the message can be seen by anyone following or being followed by either of the accounts.
We will cover direct messages in more detail later in this guide. The @Connect icon displays “interactions” which are the exchange of messages in the form of conversations in Twitter, and “mentions” which are any tweet listing your @name. It is good twitter etiquette to always reply to mentions even if it is just an acknowledgment. The interactions tab will also list your new followers (message them to say “hi”), and any of your tweets that get a “favourite” rating by anyone. A tweet marked as favourite gets shared and highlighted to the followers of the person who chose to favourite the tweet. You can make any tweet a favourite by going to the bottom of the tweet, selecting favourite and clicking on the icon.
Interactions also feature any of your tweets that have been “retweeted.” A retweet is a share amongst followers. The action known as an RT is completed by going to the bottom of the tweet and clicking on the retweet icon. When you click on the icon the tweet opens in a separate window and you can add your own comment (provided it is within the 140 characters including the @name of the original tweeter.) When you are happy with the content of the update press on the retweet and the tweet gets shared. It is good twitter etiquette to thank anyone who has shared any of your tweets or content.
It is a good twitter tactic to retweet and favourite the tweets of people who are popular in your target area. They are likely to message you thanks and this will lead to other people choosing to follow you. When you first start out this is a great way to get noticed.
The # discover tab shows you the tweets that are being shared by your followers and those you are following. You get to see more than the 140 characters of the original tweet, with the first part of the “link”, the title and the opening paragraph displayed. If you look at the bottom of the story you can see the avatar images of who has shared the story. Sharing content is a big part of what has led to the rise in popularity of Twitter. It is the place where news breaks, developments get announced, jokes, pictures and all kinds of content, both your own and other peoples get shared. Links to your posts, jobs etc. drive browsing traffic to where you want visitors to go. When posting links to your timeline you need to use a link shortened so that you don’t waste any characters on the tweet. You can use one of the popular shorteners like bitly to do this, though I have set up a free account with Visib.li because this account gives me additional analytics to see what is working and I can include links to any web place including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. A great way to get extra visitors and connections by sharing other peoples content.
Twitter Tactic: Links shared in the middle of a tweet rather than the end is 5 xs more likely to be opened.
Picking up on stories that are already popular and trending among your followers and following gives you easy content to retweet. It is important to check any post you are going to share before resharing means that you can check that it is not spam and is something that you think will be of some value and interest to your followers. You will be judged by the content you share both positively and negatively.
The next tab on the top bar is the Twitter search bar. This enables the search of all of twitter for accounts, keywords or phrases or hashtags, prefixed with #. A hashtag is used in Twitter to tag content around an event or topic. A good example of this is an event, webinar or brand. For an example search for #socialrecruiting and #lumesse. Anyone can find and follow a hashtag and see tweets on the topic even if they are not following the contributors. Hashtags on events or topics of interest are good streams to find new people to follow and to share your content where it is relevant to the hashtag. If you are adding a hashtag to your tweets add it at the end of the tweet. When you search for a topic, hashtag or keyword the found tweets will appear in your timeline. You can favourite or retweet any of these in the usual way at the bottom of the tweet. The people tab will show you the bios of all the people who have posted a tweet using the hashtag, keyword or account you have searched for and you can follow them by clicking on the blue follow icon. When you are starting out, this is a great way to find people to follow in your target area.
You can also follow anyone who comes up in a search or in your timeline by clicking on their name. This will show you the bio and twitter statistics in a separate window. You can follow by clicking on the blue follow icon. Other options on the bio screen are “Go to full profile” which takes you to the twitter home page for the person you are looking at. The other icon is shaped like a head with a drop down menu. The drop down menu options is:
This enables you to send an @message to the person in the bio which will appear in their timeline and can be seen by anyone wanting following you and people who follow both of you. This message will not be seen by people following only your target unless they search for content or twitter names. You can view all your @ messages by clicking on the @Connect tab on the top bar of your home page, and the mentions tab.
Send a Direct Message.
You will only have this option if your target is following you. You can not send a direct message to anyone not following you. A direct message is a private message that can be seen by only you and the recipient. You can view all direct messages sent and received by clicking on the icon that looks like a head and shoulders on the top left hand side of your home screen. You can go in to the direct messages to see all the conversation (exchange of messages).
Add or remove from lists.
“Twitter lists” enable you to see all the tweets from a group of people whether or not you follow them. You can label and organise lists however you want to. I keep lists for things like competitors, friends, influencers etc. This tab enables you to add any account to one of your lists with one click. You can create your own lists by clicking on the head and shoulders icon at the top of your home page and clicking on the “your lists” tab. This will take you to your profile page. Click on the “create lists” icon on the right hand side of the profile page. A separate window opens with space to name your list and to add a description of up to 100 characters.
When you create your list you have the option to make your list public or to keep it private for just you. Once you have saved the list you can add anyone you want now or as you go along. When you have saved your list a search screen appears below the list. You can search for people by name, business or brand. You can also create lists from all the people following people of interest such as your competitors, trade magazines, followers of a hashtag etc.
Twitter Tactic: Lists are useful for organising content in focussed streams. You can check in amend and add to lists whenever you want to. Create lists for any topic or group you want to see without getting distracted by other tweets or content.
You can also follow any other public list. If you find profiles for people you are interested in it is worth checking their lists and the lists they are added to. To do this, go to the bio or home page of any person of interest. To do this, click on any name and the go to full profile option. When you arrive at the profile page click on the lists tab on the left hand side. This will show you all the lists they have chosen to follow. Click on the name of the list of interest and this will take you to the list screen. The list screen shows:
Tweets from listed people
Members on the list
Number of subscribers
You can go through each of these groups to see who to follow or add to your own lists if you don’t want to subscribe to the full list from the individual bios. You can also send @messages to any of the people listed from the head and shoulders icon next to the bio. You have the option to add the account to your own lists by clicking on the add or remove to lists tab. Clicking on this tab brings up a small window with your lists (to add just tick the list you want) or create a new list.
Subscribe – This lets you follow the entire list with one click. The list will be added to your lists.
Back to the head and shoulders icon on your home page. The next tab is:
Help – Twitter help is easy to use and search and contains all the answers you might need. Although twitter is more intuitive than most internet platforms, if you get stuck on anything go to help. If you still can’t figure out what you need to know tweet them directly on @support, you will find them very responsive, quick and helpful. Even after you start getting the hang of twitter it’s worth checking in to the “Announcements and new stuff” section in the help centre as the platform is in permanent Beta, with changes most weeks to improve the user experience.
Keyboard shortcuts – If you want to speed up how you navigate around twitter or perform the main functions, this sections gives you quick keys for the main functions for example, the F key will favourite a tweet and the space bar is page down and enter will open tweet details. There are a total of 24 quick keys and you can find the menu behind the shortcuts tab.
Settings – This tab takes you to your account settings so that you can organise what twitter functions you want to add. The options in addition to what you have already entered in set up are to add the location you are tweeting from. If you add location to your tweets you get the benefit of coming up in localised searches. Twitter also uses location to connect local people with similar interests, content and keywords in their bio, adding location will get you recommended to more people and build your follower list quicker.
The next option is to display media that may contain sensitive content, or mark your content as sensitive. Leave both of these tabs blank to avoid tweets getting blocked.
Tweet privacy is the function to block all your tweets from public view except to the people you are following. I would advise against setting this feature if you want to build any type of following.
Finally set the country that you want, Should you ever want to deactivate your account you can do it here with a few clicks at the bottom of the page, although Twitter will check if you are sure.
On the left hand side of the account screen you have the following options:
Password – You can change your password on this tab by entering your current password, new password and verifying the new password and one click to save changes. It is important to change your password, and the password of any applications you are using like Tweetdeck if your account gets hacked.
Mobile – the mobile tab enables you to get notifications of @ messages, direct messages or new followers by text. If you set the text option you can reply to twitter by text without going in to the channel. Whilst this might be useful when you first set out on Twitter, it will get annoying as your messages and follower numbers grow. To set this feature up add your country and mobile number under the tab.
If you have an i-phone, i-pad, android, Blackberry or Windows7 phone you can download the mobile twitter app here. If you are accessing Twitter by mobile you can download directly or if you are on your PC you can send a link by e-mail to your phone. It takes minutes to download and import your twitter settings from your main account and means that you can access your account from anywhere.
Notifications – This is where you set what you want to be notified by e-mail about and how often. You can set to receive messages when you get a direct message, an @ message, your followed by someone new, a tweet is favourite, one of your tweets gets retweeted, updates about new Twitter products, features or tips, product or service updates related to your account and a weekly update of the stories and tweets from your network. When you set up your account all of these notifications are set to default. This can be useful so that you know you need to reply to a message or welcome a new follower, but if you do not want to clog up your in-box with all of these notifications then you will need to turn off the ones you don’t want by unticking the fields in the notifications section and saving the changes.
Profile – The profile tab is where you can revisit your profile and upload a new profile picture, your bio and website location. At the bottom of the page you have the option to add your tweets to your Facebook account. If you want your tweets to appear in your Facebook timeline click on the blue icon and log in to your Facebook account. You will get the option to post tweets to your personal timeline or any pages you might have. Consider carefully if you want your tweets to appear on Facebook as they are very different channels. As you build relationships on Twitter you are going to start having tweet conversations with back and forth @ messages. This is a great way to develop relationships but will make no sense on your Facebook timeline as only your tweets will appear on your timeline.
Design – The design tab enables you to customise your Twitter home page to stand out. The options you have are:
Premade thing – you have a choice of 20 themes to set as your background. Below the premade things you have the option to access Themelon to further customise your profile. Themelon gives you a host of options including themes, colours, style, layout and patterns. With over 5000 combinations there are plenty to choose from to give you a unique look to your page by choosing the options and saving your profile.
The last option is to fully customise your profile by uploading images and text and adding them to the background with customised links to the images.
Apps – this tab gives access to a list of all the third party apps that you have granted access to such as Tweetdeck. When you first open your account you will not be using any apps, but you will quickly find that you are increasingly granting permission to applications to improve your experience of Twitter. I have included a list of useful apps that you can take a look at when your account is up and running and you have added and gained more followers. It is worth checking the app tab every few weeks to check that you are using the apps listed, and remove any that you are not using.
The blue icon on the top right hand corner of the home page is where you can compose and post new tweets. (There is an alternative place to do this on the window below your twitter statistics.) Tweets are up to 140 characters. You can add pictures or images to your tweet by clicking on the camera icon below the tweet window.
There are 5 ways to gain followers to your account:
Registering your account with Twitter directories including Twellow.Com, WeFollow.Com, Twellow.Com and JustTweetIt.Com. Registering in these directories will enable others to find and follow you.
Follow backs – 25% of people you follow will follow you back within a week.
Reference points – Add your Twitter account to all your social places particularly your LinkedIn profile (you can download a twitter icon), e-mail signatures, business cards, stationery etc.
Applications – You can use paid for applications to gain followers to your criteria according to bio keyword, location or other specification. The most popular of these is Tweetadder.Com which is priced at $55 for a life time licence. Tweet adder works by following all the accounts that meet your criteria and removing those who choose not to follow back after a set period. I have never used an application to grow following because I believe that the relationships from building an organic following are much stronger, but automation will gain you volume following quicker.
Content – The best way to get a real following is through your content. Create good content, share things that you think will be interesting to your followers, reply to all @ messages and join twitter conversations with others will all lead to gaining followers.
Over time, your ratio of people you are following to people you choose to follow will even up. The ideal ratio is 2 followed to 1 following, but you will sort out what works out best for you. Another good place to start building following is to follow all the people you are connected with on LinkedIn by going through each account and clicking on the twitter links where they are listed. It is also useful to add these accounts to a “LinkedIn connections” list. Whilst this might be time consuming, your LinkedIn connections are usually your most focussed professional network.
Once you are up and running, you can look at the following applications and tools and choose which will suit you best:
Twitter Clients – Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Seismic
Twitter Analytics – SocialBro, TwentyTwoFeet
Posting tool – Buffer.Com
Twitter list building – List.Ly, Listorious.Com
Follow tools – MassFollow.Com
Enjoy your tweeting and follow me on @BillBoorman.
Recently added members – this shows you the most recent additions to the list with the one click option to follow.
Other lists created by the list editor you can follow.
Lists are a great place to go when you are first building the people you want to follow. If you are finding lists useful visit http://www.listorious.com where you can search for lists by topic, popularity and size for other options.