Twitter 101: beginners guide to Twitter

I’ve had a few people ask me this week on how to get into Twitter and where to start. It suggests that Twitter is hitting a tipping point similar to when Facebook went mainstream, and people are hearing about it from their friends and wanting to jump in. So I am putting my noobie hat back on and imagining I was starting again on Twitter with what I know now and give some simple tips on what to do when you are there. Even Twitter has a beginner page now, to help you find ways to use this amazing platform. After all, Twitter is a great open digital channel with thriving conversations, lots of smart and passionate people with either information, experiences, opinions or relationships to share.

Step 1: Work out what you can do for Twitter and what Twitter can do for you
What’s you’re area of interest? Direct Marketing? Events? Promotions? Football? Restaurants? Twitter is a big fat channel of millions of people with different interests, and the best off line metaphor is “Twitter = ham radio”.  So in amongst all the tweets are the subject matter experts, the aficionados, the mavens, and the randoms. Easiest way to find people to follow who have the same interests as you is to go to Twitter Search and search for a term or word e.g. “Ministry of Sound”. Twitter Search will go and find every Tweet with that in it. My search turned up people listening to MoS as well as going to the parties in the UK, reviewing the iphone application and doing remixes! Straight away I want to follow @theyoungpunx (the MoS remix person) because I like what I see when I click on the profile link. So click on the “follow” button and bang you are on your way to starting your network. Incidentally, “network” sounds a lot more involved and important than it really is on Twitter, it sums up the people you follow and who follow you. And helping people out on Twitter via public return messages (@replies) is a great way to start networking and build confidence.

Twitter learner

Twitter learner

Step 2: Enable random serendipitous things to happen on Twitter, by following a variety of people. You can be a purist if you like, but you do get a more rounded experience by following people out of your immediate network (as you start to build it). I love my AFL Sydney Swans network @franksting, @andrewsayer @sydneyswans as much as I love the mega influencers @mashable and @guykawasaki. Then there are my friends on Twitter such as @markpollard,  as well as straight information feeds such as @sydtrainservice.

Step 3: Work out what style you have- are you a listener or a talker? If you are a talker, sign up and start Tweeting. If you’re a listener, sign up and start following (and Tweet too). The best thing about Twitter is you can “unfollow” those who don’t ring your bell. @trendingtopics is a great one to follow to find what topics are coming and going. Also @twitscoop which feeds trends straight into Tweetdeck.

Step 4: Tweet on the go wherever possible and that way you get to tell everyone about what is happening around you. If you have an iphone, use Twinkle and you can see who is Tweeting around you from 1km all the way out to Everywhere. GPS and Twitter is a great mashup combination, (see earlier post). You can aslo use mobile web browser Twitter on any web enabled phone. Twitter have stopped Tweet updates via SMS here in Australia, so 3G phones are the go.

Step 5: Find your favourite Twitter client (desktop application) because now you are spoilt for choice – there are a stack available. There are cool AIR clients such as Tweetdeck and Twhirl, others swear by Twitterriffic which is on iphone and desktop. Yes you can still view via a good old fashioned browser, but the there are lots of cool features on Twitter clients that increase the whole user experience. I’m into Tweetdeck at the moment because of its easy to scan 3 column view and the ability to create groups that are relevant to the way you use Twitter. Tweetdeck can also be set so you get an alert everytime you get a new tweet from someone you follow.

Step 6: Jump in and join some conversations. If you are concerned over Twitter etiquette versus other social networks have a look at this handy social media etiquette guide. Don’t stand by –  start by telling Twitter what you are doing right now.  Just like Facebook – only now the whole of the Twitterverse is a possible audience. And then, when you get into the swing of it, you can even use Twitter to update your status on Facebook! Enjoy!