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Getting started on Twitter

A very good friend of mine is keen to get started on Twitter. He isn’t very technically minded, having grown up in a different world, and so he’s a little nervous about my previous advice to ‘jump right in’! Neither did he want to start his journey with what he regards as ‘advanced books’ like the brilliant Tao of Twitter – which really does cover everything you need to know!

Given his reluctance, I though it was a good idea to really get down to basics and start from the beginning.

His last email on the subject started with a question about security, and I realised, I don’t even think about some of this stuff any more, but people new to social media, and there still are some, really do need some of these take for granted things answered.

Obviously Twitter has no more a security issue than any other top quality site. A decent password regime, where you change a mixed alpha numeric password on a regular basis is still a highly regarded strategy.

Twitter has been described as a ‘firehose’ and therein lies both its strength and weakness

Strength as in its possible to sample in the live news feeds exactly what the world is talking about right at that point in time. 

But the consequent weakness is something that can become an overwhelming flow of non stop and incomplete thoughts. 

Twitter is ‘the headline media’. 140 characters or less means people are limited to posts that are simply a ‘catchy’ description and a link. It’s perfect for those looking to promote stuff, especially content.

But the question is who is it exactly that you’re talking to? 

There are a couple of ways to organise your news feed and the overwhelming stream of information. The most basic is to ‘follow’ people. This fills your feed with the tweets of those you choose to follow, rather than the entire population of Twitter.

However, you’ll soon find you are following a lot of people, possibly many thousands after some time on the service, and once again there is a sense of being overwhelmed. Though now that you are time served its a little more easy to manage. 

(There are other ways to manage the news feeds, but we can move on to that once we are past the basics) 

When it comes to writing your own ‘Tweets’ you are basically ‘shouting’ your tweet into the endless cacophony of Twitter’s firehose, and as you can imagine, its pretty difficult to achieve effective reach and frequency. 

But remember those people you’ve followed? Well, the idea is, you get your ‘target market’ to follow you. 

While that’s very much the trick, and the subject of many pages of blogs and books, it’s pretty easy to do. Let’s assume you are able to ‘create’ a following.

Note: While I have about 3,000 people following me after employing various strategies.We need to be careful as not all are genuine people with a connection. That can effect your reach too. Of Obama’s 20 million or so followers, some people have put the number of fake accounts (for reasons of spamming) at as much as 90%!

But in effect you ‘grow’ an audience for your tweets. Following people you think might be interested in listening to you, and having them follow you back is a basic courtesy on twitter. But the issue remains, you will have to build a relationship of sorts to that audience in order to cut through the noise and end up in those feeds and getting any traction.

If I were to Tweet a link to a blog post, or a comment on the recent UK election or even just a remark about how nice the day is (rain again!) then the chances are that the one-off post will get little attention. On the other hand If you are building an audience and looking to engage them you will no doubt be tweeting them several times a day. This is a strategy proven to build audience for blogs and websites – it works.

Tweeting out to your audience results in conversations with people and the sort of low-level social media bonds that are created allow for transmission of your content from one user to another. Simply put, if someone you know engages with you on Twitter, and you post a blog, there is a good chance they will share that post with their followers.

So to start – jump right in!

1) Visit www.twitter.com 

2) Create an account with the name you’d like to be seen with – nothing wrong with your own name or a variation of. All names on Twitter are preceded by the @ symbol. Its Twitters way of identifying you. Your Twitter name, or handle is then exclusively yours. Mine is @MrTonyDowling 

3) Remember to use a decent password – one with a mix of numbers and letters and a mix of cases is regarded as the strongest type. 

4) Follow the on-screen instructions – Twitter will prompt you to follow people. It finds out what you are interested in to start with and makes intelligent suggestions for people and brands for you to follow. 

5) Browse through the content and be amazed at the sheer scale of information available!

6) Interact – send replies to interesting Tweets and make conversation. This is how you’ll learn to create that all important engaged audience. 

7) Experiment with tweets. Link to content you’ve really enjoyed – copy the link and add it to a tweet. Add your personal perspective and hit send! Or just pontificate! A few days of immersion in the Twitter feeds and you will soon start to pick up the language.

8) Consciously build your targeted audience. Basically, following people on Twitter usually results in the person you’ve followed, following you back. So follow the sort of people you want to talk to – Cleverly building an audience of like-minded people for you to engage with. 

9) Read! Twitter has so much written about it. Google questions you have (Or ask me if you have the time) and read as many opinions as possible. Like everything else in life no one has the definitive answer or view on this stuff.

10) Enjoy! Twitter is literally awesome. You can easily get lost in it. Endlessly scrolling through tweets and being diverted to interesting websites and links. It’s easy to be dismissive of it, but it truly is an aggregator of the human condition. 

That’s probably enough to get started with.. 

There’s a lot more to it, but using it and becoming familiar with it is what you need to do now. Once you are comfortable tweeting, and talking to people on-line, we’ll be ready to move onto more advanced plans to build your audience and market your content.

What do YOU think? What are your basic Twitter tips for my friend? Leave them below in the comments!