Twitter 101

Written by: AliasGrace // November 9th, 2009 // How do I..., Social Media

Twitter is my social media poison of choice. However, I come across a lot of people who simply don’t “get” it or see the value in it. Fair enough. Truth is, I didn’t see the point either until I tried it out almost two years ago. What is it? Micro-blogging? Is it like updating my Facebook status?

That’s how some describe it. But, truly, it can and has become much more than that. It’s a wonderful way of building a community. Whether you’re a foodie, love to travel, enjoy knitting or music or any number of niche interests, there are people out there who share your interests and would love nothing better than to have a conversation with you.

I’ve compiled a few tips for beginners to help navigate around Twitter.

1. Have an avatar and a bio. In an age of spam bots, these two things will at least help others determine if you’re for real or not. It’s also a calling card that identifies you as an individual. There are some simple backgrounds provided but also a host of free designs around the web if you’re so inclined to check them out. Just remember: don’t log in to a third party site unless you’re 100% sure you can trust it. It’s one of the most common ways of getting your account hacked.

2. Follow who you want to follow. The best use of social media is not to amass the most number of friends or followers. It’s to create a community to which you want to belong. At first you may be shy about not following someone back automatically but think about the long-run. Do you really want to read a stream of of tweets you have little or no interest in? If the person following you drops you because of it, what odds. You’ll find other people who are interested in what you have to say without having to listen to their inane tweets about [insert inane topic of your choice here].

3. Don’t be afraid to ask about the jargon. There are plenty of people around who are more than happy to help you out. Two common ones you’ll come across right away:
a) An RT is a Re-Tweet. It’s what you do when you quote someone directly and want to give them props. Sometimes an RT will be longer than your allotted 140 characters. As a rule of thumb, you should minimally include the person who originally made the statement (not necessarily the person RT-ing that person).
b) A hashtag is a way of following a particular conversation. If you’re a writer, for instance, you can use the hashtag #amwriting to see what other authors are working on.

4. Think about best practices. For instance the #followfriday or #FF hashtags, properly executed, have a lot of value. You name one person and a reason for following that person and insert the hashtag within the tweet. A weak execution of these hashtags is simply a list of people. Would you follow someone without knowing why?

5. Provide value. If you’re a foodie, it probably makes sense to write about what you’re having for breakfast. For everyone else, unless you’ve had a #breakfastfail, it’s probably best to skip tweeting about it. What’s the most important meal of the day doesn’t always translate to the most important tweet. Not that all your tweets have to be profound, but you’ll just want to keep the mundane to a minimum.

The key thing to remember about Twitter is to treat it like a conversation. An RT is like a pat on someone’s back. If someone gives you props, thank them. Likewise, be sure you’re not just broadcasting about you. Respond to what others are tweeting about. Let your followers know you find what they have to say interesting. After all, the mascot for Twitter is a bird. So tweet like one, in harmony with others, and pretty soon you’ll have a flock of new friends.


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  • I like what you say here about only following those with whom you are interested in having a conversation. Many people automatically follow back but i see no point to that unless it's a popularity contest. I just discovered you all! Looking forward to your posts and camps!
  • Thanks for stopping by to read and thanks for the comment!
    Great comment - I believe that first you need engage and be engaged, and those who do not want to engage, well, then maybe they just are not walking the walk.

    Make sure you are signed up for the newsletter - always good discounts and news for the Geek Girl faithful there! ;-)
  • aliasgrace
    Thanks for leaving a comment. Geek Girl Camp is a great spot and I'm happy to be able to guest post on their blog. I've been able to connect with a fabulous community in Halifax thanks to Twitter and I genuinely believe the auto-follow back dilutes the level of engagement.
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