Posted by: crustynomad | February 25, 2010

Some basic Tips for those new to Twitter

More and more people are using Twitter in a business context these days to help promote products and services. No longer is it just being considered as a banal method of telling friends and family what you had for dinner but a genuine bona fide business communication tool.

Personally I have three Twitter accounts. One is for my employer for general announcements and information with a second individual work account for more general industry chat. The third one is my own which is mostly used for simple personal updates. It will be through this account I shall explain a few of the techniques you can use if you are new to Twitter.

I felt I should make ‘the new to Twitter’ clear as this is not meant to be for the regular users who have figured out how to use the thing. This is for those who may have set up an account and seen absolutely no benefit thus far. There are several reasons why this may be the case and I will come to those shortly.

So let’s take a look at my Twitter page: http://twitter.com/jeremyorbell

At the time of writing I have over 1000 followers and I am following a good deal more than that. For my own purposes I could argue that my list people I follow has become too long but that is a discussion for another time. Where I benefit is having a significant number of followers who I can update on a range of topics whether directly related to my work or my freelance marketing and communications work.

Twitter is unfortunately not immune to the world of spam and I often see new followers who are there for completely spurious reasons. Without wanting to get too negative at the start I will cover why it’s important to keep a check on your followers in a later blog post and concentrate on how you develop your page in the short term.

For now, here are a few Twitter tips to get you started…

Make regular, relevant updates to attract followers

Remember that Twitter only works if you make regular and meaningful updates (known as ‘Tweets’). If you don’t say anything why would anyone bother to follow you?

Many accounts lie dormant purely because the user has a set up a page and just waited for something to happen. You will only gain followers if people see what you have to say and are interested in your view. For a business it might be because you offer a particular product or service and that can draw many people in who will be able to find you via the search facility.

Adding links and URLs

Adding links to your Twitter posts means that followers can find out additional information. For me I’ll use links to event registration, online documentation, industry news, press releases etc. However, some website URLs can be a little on the long side which can be an issue particularly as you only have 140 characters to play with. For this reason I suggest shortening them using tinyurl.com.

Copy and paste the full web address of the supplementary information into the field on the tinyurl.com page and click on the ‘Make Tiny URL!’ button to shorten it. For example, if we do this for a recent OrbellComms blog post…

http://orbellcomms.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/building-the-employer-brand/

…becomes…

http://tinyurl.com/ye6r3xb

That is a reduction from 72 characters to just 25 which allows a significant number of extra characters for the rest of your Tweet.

Use trending topics or start your own

Trending topics are subjects which many people could be talking about right now on Twitter. Often these relate to news stories, sporting events, celebrities  or products and services and can be a useful way of attracting additional followers very quickly. You can set up trending topics by adding the # symbol at the beginning of a subject in your Tweet. For example:

jeremyorbell New blog post: New Year Reading: #Outliers by #malcolmgladwell http://tinyurl.com/yfqug4q

By clicking on a trending topic link you will be taken to a feed of every recent Tweet featuring that subject. Obviously it requires a few people to use it for it to catch on with followers but it can be particularly useful if your post is about a hot topic of discussion.

Reply to or Re-Tweet another message

Basically this is where you add or comment on another user’s Tweet on your page. You would do this because you found the comment interesting in some way and it is a good way of promoting a message by piggy-backing someone else’s news. It sounds strange but it is an accepted part of Twitter usage.

To reply or re-Tweet just put your cursor over the post that interests you and the links will appear and click on the one that is relevant to you. If you comment you will be replying to the orinal poster about his Tweet while the re-Tweet will simply be a new message on your own page.

The formatting is done for you and your username will be seen in their feed as well as yours.

Follow other users

To get started I would recommend using the search facility yourself which is located on the right hand side of your page (remember to log-in first). If you type in a subject word that interests you this will bring up a list of recent posts that have mentioned this word.

Click on the name of the person who has made a post that looks interesting to view more of their recent Twitter activity. If looks like you’d get value from following them then click on the follow button beneath their profile picture.

It is also worth checking which other people are already following them to see if there are others who would interest you. Find the link below their profile in the top right hand corner and look down the list. By each name you will see three icons and to follow someone you click on the first one with the little person + symbol.

Update your profile with meaningful information

Twitter doesn’t allow a great deal of room for information in your profile but it is worth adding something just so people can learn more about who you are.

Personalise your profile by clicking on the settings link at the very top of your page. Here you can add a short bio about yourself and a link to a different website if you have one. Also look at adding a profile image which could be a photograph of you or if the account is business releated, a company logo. There are certain size and format restrictions so check before trying to upload an image.

A plain and simple background design will also enhance your page and this is something I shall talk more about in a later blog post.

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