If Twitter’s so great, why don’t I get it? – 10 tips for Twitter beginners
October 30, 2008 • Glenn Murray
When I first checked Twitter out, I didn’t get it. Like you, I’m always too busy. So I had one quick look, couldn’t see the immediate benefit, and (much to my own misfortune) I didn’t come back for months.
It wasn’t until I had the privilege of seeing Darren Rowse present at a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) conference, that the penny finally dropped. (Darren’s one of Australia’s leading bloggers, a title you don’t get without being very switched on, committed and genuine.)
The day after the conference, the moment I got into the office, I signed up to FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter (I was already a member of LinkedIn, FriendsReunited and LivingMemory). I didn’t think much of FaceBook and MySpace – and still don’t – but Twitter has been a revelation.
If you want your site to rank better in the search engines, you want more direct traffic, or you just want to engage better with customers and influencers, Twitter is a must. (In fact, 60% of Americans use Social Media, and 93% of them believe every company should have a Social Media presence. Cone)
But just in case you take one look at Twitter and say, “I don’t get it”, here’s a quick list of 10 tips for understanding it and making the most of it.
- Twitter is like Instant Messaging Broadcasting – If you’re familiar with Instant Messaging through Windows Messenger, Skype or the dozens of other tools out there, you’ll be right at home with Twitter. It works in much the same way, except that your message (or ‘Tweet’) doesn’t go to just one person, it goes to everyone who has chosen to follow you. Oh, and you only have 140 characters per Tweet.
- People Follow you if you talk about stuff that interests them – Although Twitter’s tagline and call to action is “What are you doing?”, it’s no longer really a forum for announcing what you had for lunch. The idea is to Tweet about the things that interest your Followers and, importantly, the people who you WANT to Follow you. If you’re a business marketer, your target Followers will be customers and influencers (people who influence your customers). So think about the things that they’ll find interesting.
- The idea is to build up a community of Followers – Whatever your goal (search engine ranking, traffic or engagement), the means to that end is to become part of a relevant community. In the beginning, it’s mostly about you Following other people. But over time, as you Tweet more often and add more value, people will begin to Follow you. That’s when you start to develop a community all of your own – when you start to become a thought leader or influencer, yourself.
- Find and Follow the right people – Search for relevant people. Pick a word that’s relevant to your industry, and search for it. The results will show you a list of recent Tweets related to that word, with the ‘Avatar’ (picture) of the Twitterer responsible for each, on the left. Click this pic to see the person’s bio and a list of all their Tweets. If they look relevant to you, Follow them. If not, come back to the search results, and check out the next result. Start out by Following as many thought leaders and influencers as you can – you’ll recognize them because they’ll have many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Followers. This is an incredibly effective way to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. There’s a very good reason they have such a huge Following.
- Tweet to add value to your Followers – Although you have a commercial agenda, everything you do on Twitter needs to serve your Followers. Discuss only what they’re interested in hearing, and only as often as they want to hear it. Some people Tweet dozens of times every day, others tweet only once or twice a week. Both are OK, so long as your Followers are OK with it. And if you find yourself scratching for something to say, ask yourself if there’s some relevant way you could help your Followers. Have you just read a really helpful article, or visited a really interesting website or blog? If so, Tweet it, and include a link. (There are tools for shortening links so they don’t consume too many of your 140 characters – if you use Twhirl (discussed below), there’s one in-built.) So long as it’s relevant, these sorts of Tweets will be well received. Eventually you’ll become a trusted member of the community; people will recognize you, and will look forward to your Tweets. You may even use Twitter (as many do) to announce your physical location, e.g. “I’m at such-and-such a bar, if anyone wants to catch up!”
- Understand and observe local etiquette – Darren Rowse advises people to treat every Social Media tool like a foreign country. Learn the language, the customs, the etiquette. Perhaps even find a local guide. By doing this, you won’t unknowingly offend anyone or make a fool of yourself!
- Know how to Tweet – To Tweet publicly (to all your Followers), just type your message and press Enter. To address a public Tweet to someone in particular, prefix your message with “@username”. (OBVIOUSLY, you have to replace “username” with their actual username!) If you want to send a private/direct message to someone, prefix your message with “d @username” (again substituting their actual username). If you receive a Direct Message, it’ll be flagged as such, so make sure you reply in the same way. You can even forward someone else’s message on to all of your own Followers. This is called a Re-tweet. The Twitter interface (and Twhirl, discussed below) has all of this functionality inbuilt.
- Don’t expect too much – You won’t always get an answer to your Tweets. Some people Follow thousands of people, so your Tweets may not always catch their attention. And they may not always want to answer. Everyone uses Twitter differently.
- Use Twhirl, not your Web browser – Using Twitter in a web browser becomes very difficult, distracting and inefficient. You’ll find yourself continually opening and closing your browser and visiting and revisiting Twitter.com. It’s much more efficient to use a desktop application like Twhirl. It works much like Messenger or Skype; it beeps when a new Tweet arrives and beeps differently when you get a Direct Message. It offers pretty much the same functionality as you’d get in your browser (e.g. you can Tweet, Direct Message and Re-tweet, as well as to mark certain Tweets as Favorites, and Follow and Unfollow people).
- Follow Darren Rowse. You’ll find that much more helpful than anything I’ve said in this post! And if you think my Tweets might be useful to you, you can follow me to!
The above 10 tips are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more helpful guides out there for using Twitter. Here’s a good one to start with.
In V2.0 of my SEO ebook (which is soon to be released), I discuss how you can use Twitter to improve your search engine ranking. If you want to be notified when V2.0 of my ebook is released, please email me at glenn at divinewrite.com or bookmark my ebook sales page.