How to start on Twitter

Let’s talk Twitter. (If you’re thinking, Let’s not, feel free to skip this post.)

Since you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard of Twitter. It’s kind of popular right now, at least online.

Some people recommend Twitter as your first social media site (a site where you create a profile and interact with other people online). They say it’s one of the best places to start online because it’s so simple.

I don’t really agree with that. Twitter used to be simpler, but now it’s a little more complex. So I suggest Facebook first, just because you’re likely to know more people who are on Facebook. But this post isn’t about Facebook, is it?

I recommend Twitter as a nice second site. It’s a great way to follow people you’ve never met before and start to reach out online. So how do you do that?

Let’s assume you already have a Twitter account, but now it’s just sitting there. You’re about to abandon the whole thing because you don’t get it. I know the feeling. I think everyone on Twitter knows the feeling. So…

[Warning: as usual, this is all my subjective perspective. Everyone uses Twitter differently. This is just what I’d suggest.]

First thing you need to know is how to follow people. For example, I’m @marshalljonesjr on Twitter. That means in order to find me, you can either type “@marshalljonesjr” into the Twitter search box or, the simpler method, type “http://twitter.com/marshalljonesjr” into your browser. That second option will take you directly to my profile (or whoever’s profile you’re looking up). From there, just click the follow button.

Following people means their tweets (that’s what Twitter posts are called) will show up in your main feed, which will end up being a stream of updates on your home page when you’re logged into your account.

Once you know how to follow people, you need to find people to follow. To start, you’ll want to connect with all the people you already know in real life.

  • If you have an email contact list, email everyone and ask them if they’re on Twitter. Have them send you their username. (Don’t send yours. That’s spammy.)
  • If you are already on Facebook, post a status asking your friends to comment with their Twitter username. (Go ahead and leave the first comment with your own username. That’s not too spammy.)
  • Finally, ask people in person if they’re on Twitter. The cool thing about social sites like this is that most people are excited to find other people who are on the same site.

Okay, so while you’re tracking down all the people you know in real life, start following people you know of in real life:

  • Your favorite athletes and teams
  • Your favorite movie stars and television personalities
  • Your favorite authors and bloggers
  • Your favorite musicians, singers, and bands
  • Your favorite brands (seriously, you can get some good deals too)

At this point, I’d also suggest learning how to make lists on Twitter. A quick Google search of “Twitter lists” should get you what you need to know to set them up. Lists come in handy for keeping track of all these different kinds of people. You can make a list of real life friends, business contacts, and then of course all the categories I just mentioned.

Once you’re following people, you can start interacting with them. That’s where the fun begins. A lot of people when they first get on Twitter see it as a place to post what they ate for lunch. That’s not all that exciting, so I can see why you might abandon it after a couple days.

Instead, you have to reach out to people. When someone posts a tweet that’s interesting, respond. All you have to do is click the “reply” button under their tweet, type up a reply, and then send it. You can see when people reply to you by clicking that @mentions button.

As you get to interacting, start individually asking people for suggestions on who to follow. Everyone has at least a few good friends they’d like to recommend. This is a fantastic way to build a core group of friends on Twitter, friends who will give you a reason to keep coming back.

You’ll notice also on Fridays that people tweet #followfridays or #ff. In these tweets, your friends will list the usernames of people they think you should follow. Try following some of those suggestions.

Last but not least, you can click that ol’ “Who To Follow” button as well. That works best once you’re already following some friends, so use it as a last resort. Still, you can definitely find some interesting people that way.

Oh, and when you follow people, don’t just follow them and then forget them. Send them a quick @mention (that’s where you type “@” and then their username with no space between the two). In other words, get to know people and help people get to know you.

Anyway, I’ll try not to get into the specifics of all the buttons on Twitter. The buttons will probably change a little over time. The basic strategy, though, for starting out on Twitter should stay roughly the same:

  1. Connect with everyone you know.
  2. Connect with everyone you know of.
  3. Ask for more recommendations.
  4. Connect with everyone who’s connected to the people in #1, #2, and #3.
  5. Get to know everyone you’re connected to.

Some people have a problem with this strategy because you’ll end up following a whole bunch of people. I’ll talk more about that in the next post.

For now, start tweeting and connecting and interacting. And of course I’d love to see you here: @marshalljonesjr. 🙂

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