Twitter looks fun, but you don’t understand exactly how it works?
Everyone feels that way when they first sign up. To cure those Twitter jitters, here’s what you need to know to get started:
How it Works
- You have 140 characters for each tweet. You’ll want to craft your tweets efficiently to convey your message within the character limit, but using too many abbreviations may make the tweet difficult to understand. Keep it simple, and don’t try to say too much in one tweet.
- Include shortened links. Long links take up precious real estate within that 140 character limit. If you use a third-party application like Hootsuite, TweetDeck or Sprout Social, the links will be automatically shortened for you. You can also use bit.ly or ow.ly to manually generate a short link from your original.
- Although you have 140 characters, it’s smart to leave room for ‘RT @yourusername’ so that your tweet is re-tweet friendly. Calculate the number of characters it takes to RT you and subtract that from the 140 character limit to determine your ideal character count.
Getting Set Up
- Choose a profile picture that represents your brand. If you’re a heavy metal rock star, a headshot in a suit and tie doesn’t suit you (no pun intended). Are you happy, brooding, serious or silly? Use your profile picture to convey your brand personality.
- Craft your bio wisely. You have 160 characters to explain what you’re all about. Include information about you and what you’ll tweet about. Try to make it interesting by showing some personality, too.
- Determine what you’ll tweet about. People use Twitter for different things. Some tweet industry news or helpful blogs, some tweet snarky personal observations, some use Twitter for conversation. Define your content strategy and stick to it so your other users know what to expect when they follow you.
- Create a Twitter background. If you use Photoshop or another graphic design program, you can create a custom background with dimensions of 2000×1200 pixels. If not, Twitter has some snazzy options to choose from in your profile settings, or you can hire me to create one for you (shameless self promotion!).
Understanding Twitter Lingo
- What are all these number signs? They’re called hashtags, and are used in two ways:
First, a hashtag categorizes your tweet. For example, if I add ‘#SocialMedia’ to the end of my tweet, others searching for tweets on social media will find mine.
Hashtags are also used as a way to display attitude, feeling, thought, humor, or personality. For example, a (male, non-Mom, radio) friend sent me a funny tweet asking about a Mom’s night out with the hashtag ‘#AwkwardMomsSwayBackAndForth’. (By the way, my awkward dancing has nothing to do with being a Mom and everything to do with being a sweeeeet dancer.)
Hashtags aren’t case sensitive, and you can include one anywhere within your tweet. Just don’t include irrelevant categorizing hashtags, or you’ll be considered a spammer.
- Aaahhhhh! What’s RT? MT? @? Twitter’s unique lingo may intimidate you at first, but it’s really quite simple once you get it. Here are some definitions that you’ll need right off:
- RT: Retweet, RT followed by @username indicates that the user is sharing another person’s tweet with their followers; considered a compliment to receive a RT
- @: Tags another user when followed by their Twitter user name; your tweet will appear in their Interactions or Mentions screen.
- MT: Modified tweet, a RT that is modified for character count or relevance but still gives credit to the original user
- #FF: Follow Friday, a recommendation to your followers to follow another user
- DM: Direct Message, a private message on Twitter; these are rarely used due to the high amounts of spam and auto-DMs
For a complete and hilarious list of all abbreviations you may encounter, read this blog by @PookyH.
- Give credit where it’s due. If you share a tweet or blog you saw from someone else’s tweet, credit them with a retweet or mention. Giving someone else credit doesn’t diminish your own credibility, it enhances it.
- Check your @mentions often. Users love Twitter because it is very much a ‘real time’ platform. Don’t let days go by without responding.
- Be authentic. Success on Twitter doesn’t come from copying the pros, it comes from being you. One of my favorite quotes is from Joss Whedon: “Always be yourself, unless you suck”.
Scheduling vs. Automating
There are many applications available that make it easier to schedule tweets in advance. Scheduling tweets ensures you’re reaching different people by tweeting at different times of the day, and makes it easier to share content without tweeting all at one time. Hootsuite and Buffer App both offer fabulous options for scheduling.
Automation is a hot button, and is not to be confused with scheduling. Scheduling is crafting your tweet and setting it up to be sent at a later time. Automating refers to the use of apps that tweet for you automatically. For example, you could use automation to tweet a specific blog every time a new one is published, without you ever reading that blog.
Whether you decide to pursue either, remember that neither replace real-time interaction on Twitter. In other words, you can’t schedule and run. You’ll receive @mentions and RTs from your tweets in real time, and you should engage often.
Growing Your Audience
So how do you find people to follow? How do you get others to follow you back? Here are some tips that may help:
- Tweet share-worthy content. The best way to grow your audience is to produce good content. Use hashtags to categorize your tweets so people who share your interests will see them.
- Share the content of others. Seriously, sharing is caring. Build relationships with other people on Twitter by sharing their tweets, blogs, etc. If your content is strong and relevant to their followers, they’ll return the favor.
- Use Twellow. It’s an online directory for Twitter. Sign up yourself, and choose categories that represent your brand and your tweets. Search those categories to follow people who share common interests.
Anything you learned the hard way when you first started on Twitter? Leave a comment and share your knowledge with newbies. It’s good karma.
You know what else is good karma? Following me on Twitter @StephanieWinans.