For someone just starting out on Twitter, the social information network can be intimidating. It has its own language, limitations, and features that are very unique to the platform.
On Saturday, just before the start of my Social Media Skill for Journalists class began, I tweeted asking my followers what advice they would give to new Twitter users. After getting some great responses, I’ve highlighted some of the best answers below.
1. Choose a recognizable username
Try to avoid use numbers, underscores or any other characters that might be difficult to remember. Having a memorable name will minimize the number of mistakes users might make when typing out your username manually.
2. Learn from experience
Just like with anything, you’ll learn quite a bit by using the service and exploring. “Dipping your toe in” isn’t necessarily a terrible idea, but you’ll learn far more by taking a “swim.” Jump in and see all the features and how it can be useful to you, how others use it and from that you will develop a sense for how you might as well.
3. Follow users who add value
Follow users who share interesting information, who add value to what you’re most interested in. The quality of your stream is based on who you follow. Those first 10 people you choose to follow may determine how valuable you will find the service.
4. Lurk & listen
It’s good to start out by observing your initial followers and how they use Twitter. This is what makes the people you follow starting out so important. You want to follow people who use the platform well, so that you can learn from them. Before completely jumping in, you’ll learn a lot from veterans on the platform or users who are most similar to your industry and interests. If you’re a journalist, follow other journalists and lurk to see how they use the platform. You’ll learn a lot.
5. Be patient, it’s not all about the followers
Remember that it’s not about the number of followers you have, but the quality of the followers you have. Are they influential users, regular tweeters, users who are actually paying attention to what you tweet? Or just a follower that randomly came across something you shared once. There are some simple ways of getting more followers on Twitter, but follower counts don’t equal influence.
6. Don’t just retweet
Mix up what you’re tweeting. If most of what you tweet is simply a retweet, then you may not be adding all that much value individually but are simply amplifying another message. Retweeting is a great way of taking part in the community and resharing what someone else has posted, but it should be with tweets that are so great or so urgent that you can’t change them. If you can’t make the tweet any better but it’s something that you want your users to be aware of, that is when you retweet. In general, mix it up.
7. Be honest
Be honest and transparent when using Twitter. Twitter, like other social platforms, is very much about relationships and connections you make. Though it is largely a social information network, the connections you make create a richer experience. Being honest also means being human. Write tweets with voice, and personality. Your feed shouldn’t just be a feed of headlines and links.
8. It’s a conversation
Half the value that Twitter offers as a social platform is the conversations that you’re able to have on topics you’re interested in with other users who are knowledgable and passionate about the subject matter. It enables you to discover people who have common interests and sometimes more importantly, those whose interests don’t align with yours but who you are able to learn from. It gives you public access to people that may not have had access to prior to the existence of the platform. The conversations, though often fragmented and spilt across 140-character bites, are enriching.
9. Abide by the social code
Twitter has a social code. It’s own etiquette. It always has. Users, for example, established the rule of RTs as an informal way of crediting someone whose tweet you were reposting. They did this until Twitter created a native feature. Attribution is just one of those points of etiquette. By observing others, you will learn it. Here are 10 tips to start with.
10. Learn mobile apps
As Sree Sreenivasan, a dean at the Columbia Journalism School, always says, don’t wait for a plane to land in the river to learn Twitter. With that, I’d say don’t just learn Twitter, but learn how to use Twitter on-the-go from your phone. There are various mobile apps for both iPhone and Android phones. Take your pick and learn how to upload photos, share video and use it effectively.
11. Find lists to follow
Lists can help you discover new people to follow, but they also serve as great filters for your main timeline. Find lists based on topics you’re interested in and you’ll discover new users. Create new lists and you’ll have a refined stream based on specific topics. This will help you find the signal in the noise.
12. Verify before you tweet
If you’re mama tells you she loves you, check it out. On a platform where information can spread like wildfire, you want to make sure that information is first accurate. Verify, verify and then verify again. Did I mention you should verify?
What is your #TwitterTip?
Shoot me a note on Twitter with your advice to new beginners and I’ll add it below.
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