10 Tips for a New Twitter User

I’ve been asked on several occasions for a new user guide for people stepping into the Twitter world for the first time. I’ve partially created one before… But the thought of developing a full Twitter guide is a bit overwhelming. It is too broad in scope.

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New to Twitter? These 10 tips will help get you on the right track.

And that’s kind of the beauty of a simple service based on 140-character updates. It ain’t as simple as it would seem. To truly be successful, it helps to be well versed in the tools, lingo, tricks and etiquette of the Twitter community. And that’s a guide that really has no start and end point and could take some time to assemble.

And, really, what new user wants such a guide? They don’t want to spend all day reading. They want to spend all day doing.

So, I present to you the 10 Tips for a New Twitter User. It’s the 10 things I wish someone would have told me when I first started using the service over two and a half years ago.

Pick the right Twitter name

I got lucky. I was the first “Jon Loomer” to think it would be a good idea to own @JonLoomer. Granted, there aren’t many of us, but there are some. I’m glad I got it.

It could be your full name, first and last. It could be your company name. Whatever it is, keep it simple. Make sure it’s easy to spell. Don’t use a bunch of numbers and special characters. It always amazes me when I see someone with a Twitter name like @Jon48538293. It needs to be easy to remember.

You should also keep the name as short as possible while also being unique and descriptive. While Twitter gives you 15 characters, those 15 characters will cut into someone’s 140 character limit when sending a tweet.

Finally, decide the purpose of the account. If it’s to build your personal brand, make it your name (if possible). If you want to be more private, create a unique name that doesn’t identify you but may describe a niche you’re passionate about (and do not create a private account!).

So there you go. Short, descriptive, unique, easy to spell and easy to remember. No, it’s not easy. Spend some time on it because while you can change your name, it’s not something I would advise doing.

Pick a niche and find 100 good people to follow

A lot of people will tell you to go to a Twitter directory, search by category and find all of the most “influential” people in that category. I disagree.

If you read my stuff, you know that I’m more than a bit annoyed by how we generally define “influential” on Twitter. It often comes down to number of followers. You’ll eventually find that some people who have a ton of followers are very interesting. Some are spamming, scamming pieces of scum.

So what I’d advise is to keep it simple. Think of the one person who influences you most in a particular niche. See if they are on Twitter. Just a simple Google search will find these people. The truly influential people will not only have a lot of followers but only follow a few hundred people back. These few hundred people are Twitter gold.

Think about it. You’re famous. You don’t have much time. You’re followed by hundreds of thousands. So if you follow only a couple of hundred, you make those count.

So go to that person’s profile and click on the link to view their followers. Take a look at their profiles. Think they look interesting? Follow them.

Along the lines of following, be careful about the people you choose to follow down the road. You’ll get new followers and the instinct will be to follow back. First look at their profile. Look at their recent history. If they interact with others and generally look interesting, feel free to follow back.

Just know that if you follow spammers, they will spam your inbox. Avoid it.

Create a descriptive bio

Twitter gives 160 characters to describe yourself. Make them count. Use key words that describe the things you are passionate about. People will find you in searches based on that description.

Also, if you have a blog, make sure to put it in the URL portion of your profile. Easy traffic.

Choose a unique and scaleable profile photo

It could be as easy as a close-up photo of yourself. Or maybe it’s your company logo. Or just a funny photo. Whatever it is, you’ll want it to be unique and eye catching. When someone sees it in their feed, they’ll know it’s you. It should be clear and easy to see when it’s a 60×60 thumbnail. But when you upload it to Twitter, it should be large and it should be square. When someone clicks on the small thumbnail, they’ll get a close-up. it should be of decent quality. And it should be square because otherwise the photo you want to represent you will be cropped.

Whatever you choose, you’ll probably want to stick with it for a while. You’ll be amazed how people will scan their timeline for images, not names, for picking out what to read. If you change your photo, you may actually cut back on eyeballs reading your content.

Find a popular hashtag in your niche, follow it and use it

I’m not a real big hashtag user, but one I use more than anything else is #Brewers. I’m a Brewers fan, and I use it whenever I talk about the team. When you add the # it automatically creates a link to a search result of that term (no special characters). So when I write the tweet The #Brewers are awesome, my #Brewers hashtag will link back to search results of every other tweet that has used that hashtag.

This is important. People who are Brewers fans will follow that search result, and that is a way that they can discover you. So find a hashtag that is important to your niche, follow it, and use it when appropriate.

Use a desktop and mobile app

Go to TweetDeck.com right now and install the Tweet Deck desktop app. I’ll wait.

While it may seem less necessary to use a desktop app if you have only one Twitter account, I’d still advise it. Very good for separating all of your content (replies, direct messages, specific search terms) and getting alerts. It also can link to other services that I’d recommend you add, like photo sharing services (TwitPic or YFrog are fine) and a link shortener (I use bit.ly).

I’m still searching for a good mobile app as I’ve had trouble with all that I try, but the Twitter branded app should suffice for ANDROID or iPhone. You can also try TweetDeck, as it’s what I used until recently. This will allow you to keep up to date with your timeline and make tweets on the go — including photos from your phone. It will help you be more interesting.

Supplement your daily tweets with photos, links and video

You want to be more than a person who tweets stream of consciousness. You want to tweet interesting info, and that often comes in the form of a photo, link or video. Again, this is where a photo sharing and link shortener tool will come in handy.

Every day, share some links. It could be retweeting something someone else said or it could be simply finding a great article and sharing it. But it will make you interesting if you can share valuable info with others. And also make an effort to share photos when you’re at an interesting event. Are you at Game 6 of the World Series? Great opportunity to share some photos.

Set a goal for number of unsolicited replies and retweets per day

When I decide whether or not I’ll follow someone, one of the characteristics I like to see is whether they interact with their followers. If all you do is tweet out your personal thoughts, you’re probably pretty boring. If someone replies to a tweet or retweets something you did, absolutely respond to them. And while you’re at it, send a direct message personally thanking the people who follow you. But even more importantly, follow your timeline closely and find good information to either retweet or start a conversation.

Get into the habit. If that means setting a goal every day, do it.

Be brief, descriptive and articulate

This is an art form. You want to be brief. They say to try and keep tweets under or around 120 characters so that a follower can manually retweet the message and add their own two cents. If you take up 140 characters all the time, that’s impossible.

But you can’t just focus on brevity, you need to actually be descriptive and interesting. I know, that’s hard. It takes practice. But make sure that whatever tweet you’re putting out there has value.

Be articulate. Avoid cursing (unless that’s your style and target demo). Avoid shortening words. Whatever you do in 120-ish characters, try to follow typical spelling and grammar rules. It still needs to make sense, and studies have shown that tweets that are easy to read and don’t butcher the English language are more likely to be retweeted.

Be active, but don’t overdo it

Inactive people are boring to follow. So make an effort to share something interesting every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but just share something. Be consistent.

But don’t overdo it. If you follow 50 people, you might not notice how annoying an extremely active person can be. Once you follow 500 or more people, you’ll get it. Don’t get into back-and forth conversations with someone that have no value to others listening in. Move it to a direct message. Before you tweet anything, ask if it will have value to those reading it.

There is no right or wrong number of tweets. I definitely wouldn’t suggest anything more than 50 in a day. And you can easily get away with five to 10. But the number can also be more — or even less — depending on the value of information you’re sharing.

In Conclusion

Like I said, this isn’t an all inclusive guide, but a lot of how Twitter is used should be figured out as you use it. Be smart, be active, be thoughtful of others, always try to find and share new and interesting information. If you follow these 10 tips, you’ll be golden.

How about you? Are there any tips I’m missing?