If you think you don’t want to hear a tweet about which shoelace your friend just did up, but are quietly musing that so many people seem to find Twitter compelling that you should probably try it out anyway and shoelace be damned, you may have a few questions about starting on Twitter.
Twitter’s a bit like Facebook in the sense that it can be a good way to stay in touch with people you don’t see physically very often, except Twitter’s a lot more ‘real time’ – and a lot more public. It’s also a a gigantic vortex of time-suck if you let it so watch out.
What’s going on? Even more than catching up with people I know, I find Twitter really useful as a place for catching up on news – what’s happening out there right this second – so I follow my favorite magazines and newspapers to get updates from them the instant they happen.
Because I’m a caring, sharing kind of guy, I also can’t stop myself posting links to whatever I find interesting and topical on the web: news articles, pictures, videos, blogs – anything.
Only newbies & loathsomely self-important people post the minutiae of their day People will start to follow you if you post interesting content you find on your web travels, or your witticisms if you’re naturally funny. Nobody will follow you if you’re just telling people what you had for breakfast, are always posting ‘inspiring’ quotes, or are relentlessly shilling for your own business.
When posting links you’ll need to use a url shortening service like is.gd or bit.ly. They shorten your links right down (so you can fit them into Twitter’s 140 character limit) as well as showing you statistics on who clicked on your links.
It’s also cool to re-post what someone else said if you really like it and think it’s worth sharing. Just add RT (for re-tweet) before their name (to give them props) like this:
RT @mitchellhall Why everyone seems more attractive when the sun comes out http://bit.ly/9Z1NVw.
It’s bad manners to post something someone else said without giving them credit.
Twitter founders Biz Stone & Evan Williams
Follow who? It’s tempting to start following celebrities when you find them, partly because it feels cool to have them as your ‘friend’, a bit like Facebook. But you’ll usually find they’re not as interesting on Twitter as you thought. Unfollow.
Twitter’s much more fun when you’re following a few people that you’re actual friends with; people who share interesting things you can engage in conversation with. Use the ‘Find Friends’ function to search your email address book and find your mates already on Twitter. You’ll find it’s an interesting place to meet new people with common interests too.
Don’t feel like you have to follow everyone back who follows you. Unless you’re interested in what they have to say don’t bother – you’ll soon have your Twitter stream swamped with useless shit you couldn’t care less about otherwise. If a spammer follows you don’t just keep them there to pad out your follower numbers and make you look popular; report them for spam and get them removed. Spammers clog up the intertubes!
Make it pretty When setting up your profile, add a face to the name! A picture of you and a personalized background makes it much more interesting for others to look at, and will help hold people’s attention long enough to see if you have something to say. Go into your settings and add a profile pic, interesting background image, a link to your blog/website/Facebook/whatever, and a sentence or two about you.
Twitter is a real time conversation between you and the rest of the world. It’s a bit like when you’re wandering through a park where you can hear anybody’s conversation if you want to, but you don’t listen to any of them unless they’re relevant to you. It’s a public commons. The big difference is of course, that this is a global park where everyone in the world can hear you if they want to.
Right here, right now The real-time thing means you should enable it on your mobile so that you can send a text to Twitter, or if you have a smartphone, tweet direct from your phone. If you’re walking down the street and you see a gorilla wandering the other way, you want to tweet that shit. And / or take a pic of it and tweet that too if you have a camera phone (to fend off the inevitable “pics or it didn’t happen” responses).
Punk in drublic? Twitter is completely open and public so anyone, anywhere in the world can see it. That’s important to remember. Don’t drink and tweet, or vent about anyone unless you’re really sure what you’re doing won’t come back and bite you in the ass. If you want to say something in private to someone you can direct message them instead.
Once you’ve started following a few people and have a few following you there are free software applications that help you manage your ‘stream’ of real-time information, which will start to overflow quickly enough. I like Seesmic and Brizzly but there are heaps of good ones and it’s different strokes for different folks.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter! Any questions?