The now hugely successful social media company, Twitter, was first launched in 2006 and described as a micro-blogging platform.
The number of monthly active users is now over 320 million and is as defined by them, ‘where people go to find out what’s happening in the world right now’.
Essentially Twitter is more of an information network than social network, due to it’s fast pace of content delivery and small number of characters to transmit your dynamic message (now 280). However, you can still make lasting, quality connections – when you know how.
I think it’s fair to say that out of all the social networks it is more Marmite than the others – love it or hate it. I know, I’ve been there.
However, when you have your Twitter light bulb moment you become engulfed in a stream of hashtag enlightenment. [sounds of harps & mystical creatures in the distance]
If you are still a Twitter novice and would like to get started, here are some essential basics and top tips. I’m assuming you have a Twitter account, but if you don’t and would like help creating one let me know.
- Choose a great Twitter name
You have two chances here. Your account name and your username (aka handle).
Your account name can be up to 50 characters and would normally be your own or your businesses real name in full. E.g Fiona Catchpowle (me the person) or The Painted Kitchen (an awesome #CyberHero’s business name).
The username is often the tricky one. You only have 15 characters and it’s the one people will use to tag/mention you and starts with the ‘@’ symbol e.g. @fionacatchpowle or @painted_kitchen
The @ username is unique in the Twitter-sphere and there can be only one username per account [this principle is the same across ALL social media platforms]. I was sooo lucky my full, real name is spot on 15 characters and there was no one in the whole world using it on Twitter when my account was created. Consequently my account name and username match, which should be your target when creating an account if at all possible.
However for The Painted Kitchen there was already an account with the preferred @ username. So that’s why you see an underscore in the username, as there can be only one combination of letters and alphanumeric characters. No dashes or other symbols with the exception of an underscore. (see the full rules here)
You’ll notice accounts all over Twitter that have had to use different combinations of letters, numbers characters and shortened versions of their real name to fit the username criteria.
NB. If you set up your account a while ago and now use it for a different reason and the names don’t quite fit the purpose anymore … guess what? … you can change them both without affecting any of your follower count. Obviously it would be highly inappropriate, unethical and totally pointless from a follower perspective to change your name from @CatLover51 to @ILovedogs23. But if the change is relevant and meaningful, rather than create a new account and start again, bear in mind that option is available. The caveat to changing the @username is if you have the handle on lots of printed media, as once it’s changed there is no redirect option to the new name, so think twice, act once.
2. Customize your profile
First impressions matter. Make your Twitter page your own by customizing your profile. You can upload unique images for your profile and header pictures, choose a color theme, then add your name, a brief biography, location, birthday, and website, if you desire. Canva is a great tool to use to get the sizes just right.
Personalize your account even more by pinning a Tweet to the top of your profile that other people will see when they visit.
3. Twitter Glossary
There are quite a few terms that are specific to Twitter you will need to digest in order to follow instructions to make the most of it. This is probably the hardest thing to do in the short term.
Writing a tweet is easy in comparison, but following the threads is hard if you don’t know the terms and touch points.
My advice is to sit down with the glossary in one hand and watch the screen change in front of your eyes during a sporting event. Follow a hashtag (see below) like #SixNations, stay in the Latest column and hit refresh every now and then. It may sound like a baptism of fire, but slowly and surely the penny will drop and all will become clear.
Rather than re-invent the wheel check out Twitter’s own glossary here https://help.twitter.com/en/glossary
4. Adding a Tweet and bringing it to life
Firstly, you can’t break Twitter so have a go at writing your first tweet.
Secondly, no one is watching (to start with) and no one is judging you.
If you feel nervous about writing a tweet, just watch for a while. There is no rule on how often you should tweet. No one is going to switch off your account if you never ever tweet. You could watch for life – but where’s the fun in that?
If you just can’t think of anything to say as your own original tweet, then find a tweet you’d like to comment on or reply to. Start slow and move on from there.
5. Add sparkle with Hashtags
#Hashtags are the Holy Grail of Twitter.
Please note there is a difference between a Hashtag and a Tag.
A tag is like a personal tap on the shoulder when someone uses your username in a tweet e.g Thanks for the Twitter Basics @fionacatchpowle I can’t wait to get started 🙂 (please feel free to copy & paste that one).
A hashtag on the other hand is a word or string of words that are prefixed with a hashtag symbol , no spaces, regardless of capitalisation. This is the hashtag symbol —> # – and it’s used like this …
e.g. #SixNations – used in tweets talking about the Rugby Six Nations Tournament.
#Wimbledon – used in tweets when the topic is about the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
#MenopauseintheWorkplace – used when the tweet is either by the account of the same name or when the topic of the tweet is about menopause training in the workplace.
The # prefix converts the following characters thereafter into a clickable link. When you click or tap on a hashtag, you’ll see other Tweets containing the same keyword or topic.
Hashtags should be relevant to the tweet and or the people following a the topic. Use the hashtag when you want to add a degree of certainty that certain Tweeps will read that particular tweet/reply. So, also consider they don’t just go in an original tweet but also in a reply to another tweet, or thread of tweets. If everyone uses the same hashtag then the conversation is easy to track.
The presence of a relevant & meaningful hashtag connects it with other tweets about that topic. So in the case of a rapidly developing news story a hashtag will be adopted by a Twitter user and if the community see it and think ‘oh that’s a good one it fits nicely’ others will use it. Hashtags are created instinctively most often, rather than deliberately. What I mean is, someone doesn’t wake up in the morning and say I’m going to create a hashtag about the weather. However, if they wake up to find we have a weather alert they could start a hashtag by accident, that ends up with a purpose. e.g. #TheBeastfromtheEast or #StormGloria
It’s the artistic side of Twitter and astuteness that draws me in when it comes to a clever use of hashtags.
Of course a branded hashtag or repeatable one is different as per the sporting events mentioned already. But a ‘created in the moment’ example would be #JeSuisCharlie, which in 2015 was the most rapid growing hashtag in Twitter history. At it’s peak it was used 6500 times per minute. It allowed news channels and people on the ground to track what was happening and share with others. Anyone who was affected by the terror attack that day was also offered free accommodation by Parisians using that hashtag.
Basic hashtag rules are –
- Use the symbol at the front, not the end.
- Use a string of letters or words with no spaces.
- Captialise if you like for easy ready but a # is the same with or without upper and lowercase and will take you to the same result. e.g #SusanAlbumParty is the same as #susanalbumparty – used in real life by Susan Boyle’s marketing team!
And finally one golden rule of any social media platform – DO NOT pay for Twitter followers.
- Grow your account organically and with relevant, meaningful content.
- Engage with those that fulfill common ground and resonate with you, and don’t fake it.
- Start conversations and join in with them.
- Don’t follow anyone for the sake of it and don’t expect people to do the same to you.
If you’d like some one to one help with Twitter get in touch today firstname.lastname@example.org