If you would’ve asked me a few months ago what “Twitter” was all about, I would’ve stared blankly in the air and told you that I didn’t have a clue…or worse — that it was a worthless, silly site with no value. EEK! Today, I’m eating those thoughts because little did I know how very valuable twitter is; and how viral it had become not only in these United States, but worldwide. Unlike the MySpace and Facebook revolution, Twitter is not the equivalent of your great-granddaddy’s social media network. In fact, because it moves in real time, all the time, at the speed of light (okay, maybe not that fast), Twitter may seem to overwhelm newbies as they step onto its warp-speed stage. Not for the faint of heart (I assure you) but Twitter does take some initial effort to truly comprehend its inner workings…but hold onto your hat, because as soon as you start understanding all the “RTs,” “Hashtags,” and “@” symbols — you’re hooked.
I never thought I’d become a “twitterholic,” who’d be incessantly “twittering” “tweets” for the whole “twitterverse” or “twitterland” to see…but sure enough, here I am just like Rick Sanchez on CNN, who is constantly checking the “twitterboard” to read the streams of “DMs” (Direct Messages) and other twitter posts. Sanchez isn’t the only big-time tweeter — from President Barack Obama to Senator John McCain, to Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Spears — twitter is the place to be if you want to be connected to real people and real-time news, real fast.
Beyond networking, if I could compare twitter to any one thing on this planet, I’d have to say it’s a virtual launch pad for thoughts, ideas, resources, up-to-the-minute news, personal and professional relationships, and vital information on every subject under the sun…and then some. But how did I come to this point of understanding…and better yet, how can you?
1. Start your twitter space. It’s really simple. Just click the “Get Started — Join!” tab to create your customizable twitter page.
If you’re not too graphic-savvy, don’t worry. Twitter offers a variety of backgrounds, colors, and other neat tools that you can play around with to meet your personal or professional identity. If you’re like me, you might have a creative side to you dying to get out — and twitter will accommodate you most willingly. Simply use the upload form to load your favorite photograph, artwork, or logo to create a background as unique as you are. Next, don’t forget to fill out the bio (in 140 characters or less) and load a picture that best represents you or your business.
2. Understanding and communicating with the 140-character limit. “Quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” Well, if you work online, at home, in your office, or on a job site, twitter allows you to “tweet” messages to and from coworkers, friends, family, clients, and other acquaintenances via cell phone or online. Luckily for you, there’s an online Twictionary that helps you to understand shortened terms and phrases so you can communicate with little or no difficulty. That, of course, doesn’t stop “tweeple” from getting quite creative with their messages. For instance, if I wanted to tweet that I’m writing an article on twitter, I might post something like this: “Writing article on twitter – will kyp.” However, when you’re first starting out on twitter, you may want to break the ice by using “twit etiquette.” Just like any social networking scene — whether it’s the local grocery store, the PTA, an office meeting or on twitter, individuals need to really think about what they’re going to tweet before they post — in other words, think before you speak. As one of my best friends told me, the world is full of people wanting to be heard. Don’t let your message get clouded or lost in the stream of tweets. While we all want to be heard, how we come across to others can make a definitive impact on whether or not people will “listen” or read and respond to our tweets. A good opening line might be, “Hi-new 2 twitter. I’m an artist seeking like-minded tweeple.” You may also share a link to your blog, an interesting news article, or website — keeping it clean is also a good idea.
3. Network building. Now that you’ve created your twitter site, it’s important to build a foundation from your message with followers and followees. Huh? Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t panic if you only get five followers initially. Deciding what type of followers you’d like to attract is also key to creating the growth you want. If you’re a natural healer, an avid bookworm, lawyer, realtor, poet, or starlet…or a home engineer looking for the ultimate New York Cheese Cake recipe, you need to tailor your twitter page and tweets to draw your focal group. That doesn’t mean every one you communicate with has to be just like you — but in business, the more relevant your following, the better chances of improving your online presence and popularity among search engines and web surfers. Remember, an audience is only receptive to the individual they came to see; which would be you. On twitter, you can conveniently use the search option to locate comrades via email,name, or by subject matter. The choice is yours.
*Furthermore, if you prefer to choose who follows your updates, you can opt to “protect my updates” from your “settings” page. However, if you elect to protect your updates, your tweets will not be included on the public timeline. Like other social media networking sites, at any time, you can elect to block users should they become spammers, abusive, or otherwise.
4. Symbols, DMs, and RTs. When you want to respond to someone, simply click the arrow button on the tweet and you’ll automatically see the “@” symbol show up before the individual’s name in your posting box. Just be sure to leave a space so the particular twitter gets your message. You can also address tweeple by simply placing an “@” symbol before the person’s name and it will show up in their “@username” column. If you want to send a private message to an individual, you have the option to “DM” (direct message) him or her as well. While not every one likes to receive DMs; if you know the individual on a personal or professional level, it’s good twit etiquette. Personally, I like to acknowledge followers when they join me on my twitter journey by sending them a short thank you note with a link to my blog so they can learn more about me and what I do.
The notorious “RT” simply translates into “RETWEET.” If you read something valuable or interesting, you may choose to “RT” the post. Whether it’s a quote, a funny link, or a news item (among other unique messages), make sure it’s okay to do so. In most cases, tweeple on twitter don’t mind having their messages retweeted; but in some cases, individuals may protect their updates with a visible lockbox. Before RT’ing these posts, you may wish to ask permission first. A simple RT may look like this: RT @carolannb “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” #Quote It’s generally courteous to always include the original poster in your RT to give him or her credit for the tweet. Note — pick and choose your RTs wisely; nobody likes a mockingbird.
5. Hashtags. The “#” symbol is the hashtag that is used for specific keywords or keyword phrases on twitter. What happens when you place the # symbol affront of a particular subject? As you read the RT above, you’ll notice that I included the hashtag in front of the word quote. By doing so, that particular tweet post will be compiled into a group of tweets relative to that term alone. When you begin using twitter more frequently, you’ll notice more popular terms like #Quote, #GNO, #TwitterExpress and #FollowFriday, among others. This makes for easier navigation onsite for quick reference for a particular term or phrase.
6. Popular sites that help you twitter. If you want to find out how popular you are on twitter, there’s a great site called Twitter Grader that grades your twitter page, and will also help you find other like-minded twitters to follow. Mr. Tweet is another wonderful site for those wanting to attract and build bigger networks with thoughtful recommendations and resources. There are, of course, many other Websites designed specifically for twitter to help you grow and develop your personal or professional network. The more tweeple you attract and begin to follow, the more tips you gain on how to best market yourself and your business.
Finally, there is never a dumb question. If you’re new to twitter and aren’t sure whether or not you can do or say a particular thing — ASK. If Columbus hadn’t asked the Queen of Spain for funding for his expedition, we may not be where we are today in the world.
Know this — twitter has and continues to open windows and doors for aspiring entrepreneurs, established business, news media networks, and so much more. It isn’t a fad, a trend, or lost cause — it’s a powerful and positive tool in modern communications; and reaches far beyond our greatest expectations if only you give it half the chance to help you help yourself.
6 Twitter Tips for Dummies…er…Newbies
by CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd