Category: microblog

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!

Twitter vs. FaceBook

While everyone talks about the power of FaceBook as a cool means of getting a message out, you hear very little about the power of Twitter as a communications tool.

I inadvertantly compared the two in recent months and found that Twitter was by far the more potent communications tool (in my unscientific test, at least).

What happened was, last November and December I changed the status on my Facebook profile to reflect the fact that I was looking for a job. My profile displayed that info for several weeks. In all that time I had one person approach me offering me some possible contract work. No more.

However, two or possibly three times since Christmas I have mentioned on Twitter that I am looking for a job and from that I have received 6-7 strong expressions of interest some of which are at the stage of swapping proposals.

The very first time Will Knott asked me why Twitter was so powerful was at the first Cork Open Coffee meeting back in March 07 and I remember telling him that the power of Twitter is in the network. Twitter continues to prove me right.

Blame it on the Twitter!

I have been very quiet on this blog for the last few weeks – apologies for that but I can’t promise on the pace returning to the two or three posts a day I was averaging at times last year.

Why? I have been spending a lot of time on the micro-blogging site, Twitter.

Twitter is a site where you have a maximum of 140 characters per post but instead of a traditional blog site, these posts are typically conversational. Because of the immediacy of writing 140 characters, reading and responding to ‘Tweets’ is relatively trivial and so conversations are born.

Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a great article last year explaining how Twitter is now paying his rent.

And because of the still early nature of the application, it is possible to very quickly build up a powerful network of highly influential users who are only too happy to converse with you. I have met several people recently who, up until now I only knew through Twitter.

Another way I use Twitter is I often pose questions to Twitter and get great replies back from highly qualified people in minutes.

My Twitter Replies tab

Twitter has an open API so it is possible to use third party applications to post to and read from Twitter. Currently I am using twhirl on my laptops (twhirl is a cross-platform desktop client for twitter, based on Adobe AIR) and twibble on my phone. Snitter is another cross-platform Twitter desktop client which gets a lot of good reviews.

Dave Weinberger called it “continuous partial friendship” but I think it goes beyond that. The term Ambient Intimacy has been coined to cover one of the aspects of Twitter – it brings you a lot closer to people you might ordinarily never get to know (if you decide you don’t want to know them, you simply stop following them!).

Whatever it is, it is growing in popularity steadily and it was how I and many others chose to remain connected over the holiday period.

If you want to follow me, here is my Twitter profile.