#5: Twitter for Beginners – An All-Inclusive Guide, Part 1

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All of my resources were collected since I joined Twitter from fellow Tweeple, and are credited by way of @link to their profile.  I encourage you to also follow these fine Tweeple!

This Post is Part 1:

  • What is Twitter?
  • Why Use Twitter?
  • What to Tweet
  • How to Follow
  • Tweet Etiquette: @reply, RT, DM

Read Part 2 Here:

  • Sharing Tweets Elsewhere – Widgets,RSS
  • Twitter Management Apps
  • Twitter Terminology
  • Linking in Tweets
  • Bonus Twips

What is ?

According to Twitter’s very own FAQ, “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.  People write short updates, often called “tweets” of 140 characters or fewer.  These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.”

For those familiar with Facebook and MySpace, Twitter is like posting only status updates.  It’s also considered a micro-blogging system because each tweet is like a micro-blog post.  You could also compare Twitter to SMS (short message service/cellular texting), but in an online format (although your followers can opt to receive tweets as texts).

Twitter is most recognizable by the blue twitter “t.”  Avid twitterers also often make or use custom twitter birds to highlight their twitter streams on their blogs or websites.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Tweeted by @mayhemstudios.

Why Use Twitter?

Unlike other social media networks like Facebook or MySpace, Twitter has evolved into a more professional space.  Many companies have started to use Twitter for PR, customer relations, and a quick response to consumer questions.

I use Twitter because I’ve found many other graphic designers/social media gurus/marketing and advertising experts that are more than willing to connect with me, answering questions and providing feedback on my latest projects.  It’s instant, reliable, and hugely helpful in so many ways!

Fellow Tweeple Have Said:

@falkencreative: I find Twitter useful because it gives me the opportunity to feel better connected to other designers and developers in the industry, and to build relationships with others that have similar interests. There are all sorts of people to follow, with a wide variety of talents, so there is a great opportunity to learn new things and keep up with recent trends. Of course, Twitter is also useful for building my personal brand online, driving traffic to my site and finding potential clients.

@joshuawithers I love twitter because it enforces the truth that we’re all just human; celebrity or not

@ kst8er76 I luv Tw because I can pick who to follow and learn a great deal about different subjects All in once place.randomly. It is beautiful.

@janmaran: as a marketer, I want to grok social media, not just read about it. Need 2experience. Have found info, friends, inspiration, laughs, ideas

@oaknd1: I use twitter to extend the number of designers I know. There aren’t a lot around me. I use it to interact with real, interesting people.


What to Tweet

Unlike normal blogs which can be absurdly wordy, Twitter forces you to get to the point in 140 characters or less.  Of course, you can tweet as often as you like, so you may still pass on large amounts of information.

Tweets may consist of personal info (lunch, romance, grocery list), helpful tips (recipes, fix-it ideas), niche resources (design links, stock suggestions), professional (job listings, networking), advertising (promote services, latest blog posts) citizen journalism (ex: article on Hudson River Tweets) and everything in between!

From my observations, the three keys to tweet success are:

  • Interaction – Keep the conversation open to response, and always respond to those who respond to you!
  • Information – Provide tips and link resources and items related to your field of expertise, or that a wide audience can find useful/relevant/interesting/entertaining.
  • Frequency – No one likes a lazy Tweeter! If you are going to obtain and maintain followers, you must tweet often to retain interest.  If your followers are following many people, your single tweet will quite likely get lost in the mix within seconds.

How to Follow

  1. Use Twitter search to find people near your area or with similar interests.  Or, check out your favorite blogs and websites; chances are good they will have a link to their twitter stream!
  2. Once you are on the profile page of someone you would like to follow, simple click the “follow” link below their display picture.
  3. DONE!

I also recommend this video tweeted by @mayhemstudios: How To Turn Twitter Followers Into Friends

Tweet Etiquette:@reply,RT,DM

First of all, you may be wondering what each of those strange things are!  All will be explained…

@reply
In tweets, placing an “@” before the screenname of ther person you are responding to creates a link to their name.  It also means they can easily view your tweet via their @Replies tab from their home page.  @replies are used to directly respond to another person in regards to their tweet, or to initiate and manage conversations between each other.

RT – retweet
This abbreviation, which may also appear “r/t,” is ALWAYS to be placed before an @reply of a person you are copying and reposting a tweet from.  RT’s are the easiest and fastest way for information to fly across the Twitterverse!  Many consider it an honor to have their tweets RT’ed because it means someone thought their tweet was good enough to pass on to others.

Example:
@5t3ph: Check out this cool link! http://www.something.com
@SomeoneElse: RT @5t3ph Check out this cool link! http://www.something.com

See this post tweeted by @mayhemstudios about more RT Etiquette.

DM – Direct Messages
From your home page you also have a Direct Message tab.  DM’s are only seen by you and your recipient, similar to e-mail.  However, the 140 character limit is still imposed.

A huge debate (twibate?) is on whether Auto-DMS, which are offered by many 3rd party twitter applications, are a good or bad thing.  My advice on Auto-DMs is to consider your audience and goals: If you are a service brand, then your followers know you might try to sell them something, so an Auto-DM may be appropriate.  In all other cases, Auto-DMs are usually just considered impersonal, defeating the purpose of honest twitter interactions.

See this post tweeted by @mayhemstudios about How to Promote on Twitter

Continue to Part 2!

Don’t forget to add me on Twitter! @5t3ph

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