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Twitter for Twits
Written by a Twit
What sort of endorsement is it to tell you this hub has been written by a self confessed twit? Well the idea of Twitter for Twits is to explain in straightforward language what Twitter is about and how it works. A sort fo Twitter for Beginners written by a beginner. In my experience, those people who are experts in a subject often struggle to explain things in simple enough terms for those of us who haven't a clue, things like "how does Twitter work?". So as someone who is new to Twitter I thought now might be a good time to take you through the basic stuff I've learned so far.
If you're an expert tweeter then you're not going to get anything from this hub, in fact you'll probably have a long old list of things I could be doing differently or better, but this Twitter for beginners guide is aimed at those people who have either never tried it or are just taking their first steps. If that's you then maybe post a comment or follow me and we can help each other as we find our way.
I use Twitter for 2 reasons. Yes it helps direct people to my hubs and my blog but it's also been a briliant way for me to meet and make new friends. I've met many like minded people and I really enjoy swapping stories and photos with them, we're even planning some get togethers over the coming months. So don't look at it as a chore or a pure marketing tool, look at it as a new way to meet people and you'll probably have a lot more fun with it.
What does it all mean?
When you first sign up you'll be taken through the usual ID set up process and asked to pick a user name. These days it's hard to find a good one which hasn't already been taken, but try to make it relevant to what you'll be tweeting about. Don't panic too much if you decide you don't like it as you can always change it later.
Make sure your bio tells the world a little bit about you. You've got very limited space so it's going to need to be short and punchy and you might want to try a few drafts, but again, you can always tweak it at a later date.
How long is a Tweet? In Twitter you only have 140 characters to get your message across so be concise. You can add links to websites (and of course hubs) and Twitter will automatically shorten these so as not to take up too many characters. You can also add photos to Tweets and I've found that a good pic is a good way to get re-tweeted (RT) and attract new followers.
What's the point of Twitter? The aim of the game is to build up a good number of followers so that when you tweet the links to your hubs more people will see them and, hopefully, pass the link on (RT) to all their followers. Think of it like this. If I tell two people something and they then tell 2 people, who each tell 2 people. etc.
What is a hashtag (#)?
When I started it took me a while to get to grips with hashtags. What are hashtags? What should I use them for? Well there are over 360 million people with Twitter accounts and with all that noise going on you'll need some way to pick out the good stuff.
Hashtags group topics together so you can follow them and find like minded people. For example when I post links to my blog about life and hiking in Cumbria I'll generally use the hashtags #Cumbria #Hiking #Walking. For example "Check out my new blog http//tinylink Long legs or little feet? #Cumbria #Hiking #Walking". By doing that I know that as well as potentially being seen by my followers I can also be seen by anyone searching on the terms #Cumbria #Hiking and #Walking.
How to search in Twitter: It's actually pretty easy to search in Twitter. If I want to find out who else is talking about those topics I can use the search box at the top of the page and enter "#Cumbria". This will then show me everyone else who's used this hashtag and, quite importantly, how recently they've posted. Before you use a hashtag make sure you run a search on it first to see how popular it is, no sense taking up valuable characters with a # no-one else uses.
Play nicely and make new friends.
Follow me, follow you.
If you have more followers then you potentially have a bigger audience. I say potentially because right now (11/03/11) I have around 440 followers (update 17/05/15: I now have over 5800 followers) but there's no chance of them all being online at the same time and seeing what I tweet. So how do you get followers? Well, it's called social media for a reason, so start being social!
How do I get people to follow me? Best way to start off is to use a hashtag search as I described above to find a bunch of like minded people posting about topics you're interested in, then take a deep breath and join in. Reply to someone and then follow them and there's a good chance they'll follow you back. The more followers you have on Twitter then the greater your potential influence.
You can also attract followers by posting interesting and useful links and information. Know an interesting website related to your field? Post a link. Got a good photo that is relevant/ fun/ gorgeous/ interesing? Post it up. (Note, a good # to add for any picture is #photo.) Imagine you were chatting to these people face to face, if you kept saying the same things over and over they'd soon get bored with you, but if you have something interesting to say they're going to hang around and probably tell their friends about you, which brings me to RTs.
What does RT mean? RT = Re-Tweet and a re-tweet is very straightforward. If I see a message or a link or a photo that I think will be appreciated by the people following me I simply hit the "Re-tweet" option on the bottom of the message. This will then forward the message on to all the people following me.
Hence the need to post interesting and fun stuff yourself because it will really help you if people with a lot more followers than you start to re-tweet you thus promoting you to a larger audience.
Where's it @?
What does the @ sign mean in Twitter? When you follow people on Twitter all of their tweets will automatically appear in your timeline. Some of the stuff will be interesting and some of it less so and once the number of people you follow starts to climb it can be hard to spot the stuff people really want you to see.
The @ sign allows helps you direct a message to specific people. For example if someone uses @CumbrianRambler in their message then not only will it appear highlighted in my timeline but it will also appear in my @Mentions list. It's a great way to have conversations with people, rather like standing in the corner of a noisy room and having a quiet chat with someone.
You can also use it to try and attract the attention of people you'd like to RT you, though it may not always work. Within the field I work in there are a few key influential people with over 100,000 followers and it's great when they RT me, however they do NOT want to be pestered with my @ messages the whole time, so I only use them occasionally and when I can see they're online and I only ever send them stuff I know will be of interest to them. As ever, be polite and friendly and treat people like people, don't just use them as marketing tools.
IMPORTANT NEW FACT I'VE DISCOVERED! When you start a Tweet with @joeblogs (for example) the ONLY people who will see that are you, @joeblogs and people who follow both of you. If you want all of your followers to see it then put something else at the start of the message - even if it's only a full stop.
Don't broadcast your whereabouts
Direct Messages (DMs)
Can I send a Direct Message (DM) on Twitter? On Twitter you can only send a DM to someone if you follow them AND they follow you. I've made some lovely new friends on Twitter and we often swap DMs to chat about our weekend plans etc.
Is Twitter secure? As well as all the other precautions you need to take Twitter comes with another warning. Because it doesn't have the privacy settings that Facebook has there is the potential for anyone to see your tweets, so be very careful when sending tweets relating to your whereabouts.
For example "Really looking forward to spending this w/e camping in #Cumbria" could be saying "Dear burglars, we won't be home this weekend so please help yourselves.". I chat a lot about hiking but never say when we're off out for the day and I don't use any of the location indicators so people won't know exactly where I am.
And that's just for starters.
So that's it - Twitter for Twits - a beginners guide to Twitter written by a beginner. I think I've covered all the Twitter basics, but please let me know if I've missed anything.
Twitter really did surprise me, I'm working very hard to try and build a new path in life as a writer and I thought Twitter would help me do that by being a useful marketing tool. What I didn't expect was to make a whole new bunch of friends too, which for me has been the most fun and rewarding part. So dive right in and join the fun!