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5 Tips: Beginner’s Guide To Twitter

February 11, 2014

When I started my Twitter account over four years ago, Twitter was relatively new and there was a lot of talk about it being useless and a fad. I told myself that I’d give it 30 days and see if I could find anything useful in reading text messages with a limit of 140 characters. What on earth could this service provide that had a legitimate business value?

Within a week I was hooked.

Twitter is an incredibly useful business tool, nevermind a social tool. Someone once described it to me this way:

Imagine you’re standing beside a heavy flowing river of information and all you have is a spoon. You dip your spoon into the water and take a sip. That’s Twitter.

I’ve used Twitter as a marketing tool, as a way to connect with people at conferences, to meet like-minded people in my own city for coffee, (tactfully) espouse my opinions about politics, and – perhaps most generally, even though it sounds cheesy – express who I am as a person and professional.

I love Twitter. Even though my posts ebb and flow with the goings-on of the day, it’s a great service.

There are things that I wish I knew when I started and things I learned along the way that proved helpful to me. So if you’re just starting out on Twitter, or considering it, here’s a list of five things I did or wished I did along the way. Note: these don’t cover the basics of Tweeting (e.g. I had no idea what “RT” meant until I asked a friend). So maybe that’ll be another post one day.

  • Keep your following list organized – on this week’s to-do list is to organize my list of people I’m following (currently at 1,863) into the custom lists that Twitter provides. That way when I’m interested in a specific subject (for example, the music bands and artists that I follow), all I have to do is click on the list. Same thing for the professional people I follow. I’ve broken them out into several different sub-categories rather than just “work” – sustainability, business strategy, entrepreneurship, and communications. If you’re really getting heavily into Twitter, free services such as Tweet Deck help you to organize your social media into a communications dashboard.
  • It’s not about the numbers of followers – According to Twitter, I have 3,361 followers. Impressive, no? I honestly don’t know. I don’t know who most of these people are or even if they’re real. People on Twitter become real when you interact with them (using the @ symbol and their name pops your message up on their account). If you want to know a better measure of your reach, I use free services such as to let me know how effective I am at social media. Here, check it out, you can view my score and see for yourself.
  • Be a person, not a bot: be interesting – Be yourself, don’t just blindly retweet what others are writing, add some commentary to a retweet. Also, people like links to articles, pictures, and video. If you include a link in your tweet you will be more likely to be retweeted.
  • Using Twitter for business purposes – Like I mentioned, Twitter is a legit business tool. But it’s also more than just a way to promote your brand. It’s a way to keep up-to-date on developments in your field or industry. Not matter how specific your industry (and let’s face it, business strategy & sustainability are two very specific industries) you can find other people who are working on what you’re working on and are in what you have to say.
  • Meet people – When I first opened my account, I thought that many of the people I was Tweeting with might not actually be real people after all. So I organized a coffee get together with a small group of people to talk about our shared interest. Many of the people I met that day are friends of mine now. In addition, there are several people that I follow that, should I travel to their city/country, I would definitely try to get together for a coffee.  So use this tool as an opportunity to network and try to bring it off-line as well.
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