15 Twitter tips for beginners

A friend of mine has just set up a Twitter account so I wrote him an email with some instructions on how to get the most from it.

Thinking some of the advice might prove useful to others, I genericised it and re-posted it here.

Dunno how well you know Twitter – if I’m teaching Granny to suck eggs, apologies but if you are a noob, read on…!

  1. Start off by posting a few innocuous posts – “trying out Twitter”, “Recently moved to Vancouver, anyone here from Vancouver?”, and some stuff introducing yourself your interests & why you’re using Twitter, e.g. “I hope to learn more about cleantech”, that kind of thing.
  2. Then build up your network. Start with your friends you know to be on Twitter. Start following them. But also look at the list of people they are following. You may know some of them too, if so, add them to the list of people you follow too.
  3. If you precede someone’s username with the @ symbol in a post on Twitter (i.e. “@tomraftery how is it going?”) then your post appears in the Reply tab on their Twitter page. This works whether they are following you or not. When you @reply to someone, they are likely to check out your profile and may decide to follow you. This is a very powerful way to build up your network with people who don’t necessarily know you but with whom you want to connect.
  4. Check out the TwitterGrader page for your area, for instance, if you are based in Andalucia, in the south of Spain, like me, check the TwitterGrader page for Andalucia and you’ll find some interesting people you may want to connect to, to get into the local scene.
  5. Follow some of the people there, check who they are following and talking to (@ replying to) and consider following them too.
  6. Sidenote: if you precede someone’s username with “d ” (i.e. “d tomraftery how is it going?”) this sends a private message only to them – called a direct message or DM. You can only send DMs to people who have chosen to follow you.
  7. Also, don’t be shy about asking your friends to pimp you to their followers!
  8. Then, using Twitter:

  9. On the computer – download & install Adobe AIR (if you don’t already have it installed). Then use either Twhirl or TweetDeck for posting/reading posts. I prefer TweetDeck. The Twitter web interface is still prob the best for checking people’s profiles and seeing who they follow.
  10. On the iPod Touch/iPhone use Twitterfon, on Blackberry I hear Twitterberry is good and
  11. On any other phone use dabr.co.uk – a web based mobile Twitter client
  12. Always remember, if you @reply someone looking to get their attention or hoping they will follow you, they will likely click through to check out your Twitter page. There are many bots on Twitter so to weed out real/interesting users from bots I always look at a persons most recent posts to see what they are talking about (if their posts are all links to one site, forget it!), I look at the number of people they follow vs the number of people following them. If they are following 1,000 say and have very few followers, it is a sure sign that they are a bot who just auto-followed lots of people.
  13. I also check out what the person says about themselves in the bio and click on their site, if they have one.
  14. If you want people to follow you, then ensure your updates are not protected. Someone coming to your Twitter page and seeing Protected Updates is very unlikely to decide to follow you.
  15. Purely a personal preference, but I think it is far better to use your own name on your Twitter account than some handle. It is a matter of personal branding but to my mind, a Twitter account called @JohnDoe tells me more about the user than @stargazr49!
  16. Finally, a photo is also very important on your account, be sure to add one to your profile
  17. BONUS EXTRA TIP!!! – Use your Twitter username everywhere – add it to your email sig, put it on your business cards, leave it in blog comments – don’t spam, just do it where appropriate.

Hope some of that is useful!

If there are any other tips I missed out on, feel free to add them in the comments…

Post updated after helpful feedback from JAdP and RichWalsh on Twitter!

54 thoughts on “15 Twitter tips for beginners”

  1. Tom, It seems to me that your points 1 & 11 are just a tad contradictory. I believe that your initial posts should express both your interests and the reasons that you’re using Twitter. They might even set the tone fir your future conversations on Twitter. Your Tweets, coupled with your Twitter bio & URI help people decide whether or not to follow you and lead the people to you through Twitter searched, with whom you might like to connect.

    You do need to be careful though. Twitter is like a cocktail party and if you’re too rigid that might turn folk away. For example, in my first bio, I used every buzzword & TLA [three letter accronym] for my interests that would fit. This resulted in tweeted comments asking if I could squeeze any more hype into my bio. πŸ™‚ My bio is now much more informal but still about my main interests.

    Your initial Tweets should match your bio too, be about what interests you and what your doing. Here’s some examples I might have done.

    “I’m looking for more folk interested in open source enterprise applications”

    “I’m working on extending Agile software development methods to distributed, international workgroups”

    “I’m at Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co. picking up my weekly allotment of beans & enjoying a ristretto”

    “I hope Twitter can lead me to great people & resources in the Cleantech area”

    It’s amazing who you meet and how you connect on Twitter. Some folks whom I met on Twitter because of our interest in Business Intelligence really connected by discussing recipes for vegetarian Haggus πŸ˜€

    Just one other point of disagreement, Tom. I prefer TwittelatorPro to TwitterFon as an iPhone app to Twitter πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the great intro, Tom. BTW, Tom & I are already connected on Twitter, which is how I found this post. Our conversation there led to this comment. You can find me in Twitter as @JAdP


  2. #6

    ah… That explains a lot. I used to send direct messages to those who didn’t follow, and never received any response, so I thought they were “rude.” As I’ve learned from your blog post, not rude, they just didn’t receive them. Shouldn’t twitter notify us on both users that this message would be wasted?

  3. Most good Twitter client apps (TweetDeck, Twhirl, etc.) will tell you if you try to send a message to someone you are not following.

    Another clue is if you go to their Twitter profile page and there are options to
    message Username and
    nudge Username

    Then they are following you.

  4. Hi and thanks for the points.

    I am trying to increase my followers but am struggling a bit. I will note your points mentioned above and see if my followers increase.

    Thanks again for the info.

  5. George,

    another point I will also add to the post is to use your Twitter username everywhere – in your email sig, on your business card, and when you are posting blog comments!

    People seeing it may just decide to follow!

  6. @George Serradinho

    I just learned this today that may help you get more people to follow you: RT — retweeting someone else or vice versa, if people retweet your tweets. When I was retweeted twice, some people I didn’t know started to follow me.

    I’m really starting to understand that Twitter is like a filter. It’s fantastic.

  7. Tom. Thanks a million for this. Very useful indeed. Its such a strange thing to think about and I feel also get noticed on. I am steadily trying to build up contacts through Twitter and making slow progress, but hopefully your tips will help.


  8. Tom,
    Thanks for the great intro. I’d opened a Twitter account and was bombarded with solicitations from the “bots” building contacts. It seemed that there weren’t any interesting conversations going on. Your tips will help me look for those interesting conversations and then participate more effectively.

  9. Tom,

    Thanks for the explanation and tips for twitter, but I’m wondering about something, I see people using tags like #tag ? How does this work ? Whats the best way to monitor this or use tags ?

  10. Great tips. We are discussing social networking on a list Wicked Company, and a poster included a link to your article. Some of us are just learning how this all works. πŸ™‚

  11. I’ve been on Twitter for about 3 months trying to become acculturated and aware of how to use the tools.

    This weekend I felt ready to launch my first Twitter experience – “How to Stay Home and Use Twitter Tools to Network a Major Conference”
    I figured out how to network at the ASCD 09 conference remotely with Twitter tools and a live Word Cloud.
    See how it’s working and how to: http://tinyurl.com/d9qgqg
    I’ve made great contacts and expanded my PLN.

  12. Great article! I help teach the basics of social media sites (like Twitter) to my clients who are just starting out online. Although I use some additional software, I’m thinking TweetDeck and such are too complicated for their learning curve.

    Do you think it’s possible to just utilize the site by itself to get results? Or do you highly recommend they learn how to use additional software?


  13. Thanks for these great tips! I am new to twitter, I use it to follow interesting stuff but never really used it to tweet! Thanks for these tips, micro blogging is cool because it is quick and easy!

  14. I think the Twitter craze will last a few months only. It will last as long as it takes twitter to spend that MASSIVE bundle of venture capital that they have nothing else to spend on BUT advertising. I really think twitter has the makings of a case study for not having any kind of business model.
    rob @ http://www.bodyjewellery.ie

  15. I agree with Rob, it will probably pass and another will come along.

    Bebo, Facebook, Twitter et al.

    I’m sure there are plenty more in the pipeline.

  16. I’m new to twitter, I guess I should give it a try, see what I can gain from this website.

    Thanks for the tips.

  17. A piece of advice to those looking to utilize Twitter to further promote their website/product. Twitter links do not pass link juice, meaning any link to your site won’t count as a ‘vote’ from Twitter.

    Build trust with your Twitter followers. Post useful information, fun comments, and special offers. Use Twitter to create interaction with your clients.

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  19. Hi Tom,

    I am relatively new to Twitter and slowly going through the “honeymoon” stage but the bonus tip is very handy (Use your Twitter username everywhere – add it to your email sig, put it on your business cards, leave it in blog comments). Thanks for the recommendations!


  20. Tom,
    That is quite a useful post. After deciding to attempt to use Twitter it is refreshing to find a tutorial that explains the basics.



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