How to get started on Twitter

So, you’ve decided to start using Twitter, but you’re not sure exactly what it’s for or how to use it? This article – the first in a series of guides exploring the most popular social media tools – will help you learn how to tweet like a pro. 

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a massively popular social media platform on which users post short messages – using no more than 140 characters – known as tweets. It’s particularly useful for sharing ideas, news and promotions, gathering quick responses, and building a following.

Setting up your Twitter profile

Before launching yourself into the Twittersphere, it’s worth taking a bit of time to make sure your profile reflects your business in an appropriate and appealing way. Here are a few tips:

  • If you have a business name, use that as your Twitter name. In general, try to keep names as short as possible.
  • For your Twitter picture, use either your logo, a professional photo of yourself, or just an eye-catching, relevant picture that works well in that size. It should be distinctive, memorable and recognisable when it shows up in your followers’ feeds.
  • If your business is creative (or has visually important elements, eg related to food, fashion, design, travel etc), make sure your background image reflects this.
  • Keep your profile short and relevant, and include a link to your website. There’s no harm in being a bit quirky here if that fits in with your brand.
  • Make sure you add a few tweets before you start following other people, so they can get an idea of what to expect if they follow you back.

Some general pointers about using Twitter

There’s a lot of advice online about how to use Twitter effectively – these are just a few tips for those starting out:

  • Search to find relevant people/businesses/organisations to follow. Who is going to be informative, interesting and potentially useful to you? (And who are they following?)
  • Don’t automatically follow everyone that follows you – you just won’t have time to keep up with your Twitter stream.
  • If you still find it hard to keep up, try organising the people you follow into groups, using the ‘lists’ feature.
  • Try and set aside time each day – or several times a day if you can – to post and read tweets, but don’t tweet too much in one go.
  • If you have/want an international following, bear in mind different time zones when tweeting.
  • Only a small percentage of your tweets should be about you. The rest should be retweets, links to interesting news stories etc.
  • Use hashtags to tweet on particular themes – but don’t overdo it (never use more than two). See what hashtags other people are using.
  • A good way to get a response is by asking a question – eg if you’re doing some research for a blog article, ask for ideas, tips, recommendations.
  • Engage your followers by including a call to action (eg go to website, sign up for newsletter etc).

And here are some specific tips on retweeting (which is when people share your tweet with their own followers):

  • Encourage people to retweet by keeping your tweets short, so that there’s room for them to add their own comment.
  • Equally, when you retweet, consider how you might personalise it by adding your own short comment.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people to retweet – and remember to thank them if they do.

What are the benefits of using Twitter?

You can use Twitter to:

  • Drive traffic to your website, increase newsletter sign-ups etc
  • Promote events/competitions/deals/publications
  • Share ideas/news/opinions
  • Network with like-minded people
  • Get to know your competitors
  • Keep up to date with what’s happening in your field
  • Get quick feedback and comments from your followers

Jenny Brindley is a freelance writer and editor who specialises in working with SMEs to enhance their web presence. Contact jenny.brindley@gmail.com for details.

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