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Learning Twitter – come on in, the water’s warm!

Experienced Twitter users have their own language, their own rules and they project an “in”crowd feeling which sometimes makes it difficult for a newbie to participate with confidence. On more than one occasion I have sat paralyzed with indecision, afraid to tweet the wrong thing and embarrass myself in front of my followers, or worse yet have my “oops” tweet retweeted to the larger universe. fishinwater1

Twitter pros, this article is not for you but feel free to forward it to all the newbies you know.

Twitter newbies, come on in – the water’s great!

As you join the revolution, you will most likely experience these 4 stages. Fear not, you’ll get through them quickly and hopefully painlessly.

Stage 1 – Feeling Lonely

After I opened my Twitter account I sat there and looked at the page for awhile. I sent my first tweet, which I am 100% sure is pretty much the same first tweet as the majority of first timers. It was something like “trying out this twitter thing” or “hello out there”. Nothing came back. I am not sure if I was expecting anything but I do so long for instant gratification, so after about 30 seconds, I tweeted again. Carefully answering the question “What are you doing right now?”, I said something totally inane, like “eating a peanut butter sandwich”. Nothing came back. I decided to be bold and tweeted “This twitter thing sucks”. Nothing came back. Twitter was clearly over-rated as a connecting, friend-making, info-sharing tool. I left, feeling unloved – didn’t come back for months.

Stage 2 – Finding the patience to Listen

You don’t have to talk to enjoy Twitter – a recent study says 90% of people just listen. But to listen you need to find people to follow. There are two ways to do this – find lots of people fast (and you’ll eventually spend lots of time unfollowing them later), or find fewer of the right kinds of people more slowly. Both methods work, and the bottom line is that you need to follow people to hear anything.

So at the very least, here is what I recommend to get started:

  • First pretend you have lots of followers already and tweet a few things, what you are working on, a link to an interesting article, something interesting you saw or heard – this is important as people you follow may look at your recent tweets to make sure you are legit and interesting before they decide to follow you back.
  • Then consider any or all of these tactics:
  • Go to www.wefollow.com to get some ideas on who to follow
  • Use the Find People feature at www.twitter.com to follow your favorite celebrity, chances are they are on Twitter
  • Follow your friends, and the thought leaders are in your space, the ones whose articles you read, whose blogs you follow
  • Follow local twitter users – try www.twellow.com/twellowhood or www.nearbytweets.com for local
  • Follow your favourite brand – like @starbucks, @sears
  • Follow your favourite news outlet – like @cnnbrk or @theonion
  • Do a search at search.twitter.com for a subject you are interested in, like marathon if you are interested in running, then check out the people who are tweeting about running and follow the ones you find interesting. You can also try www.twollow.com for ideas.
  • Follow @guykawasaki – many call him annoying but he does tweet about a wide range of often interesting things. You won’t be bored.
  • Let Twitter give you some ideas http://twitter.com/invitations/suggestions
  • Use www.MrTweet.com for ideas. I’ve heard that he’s slow but gives good ideas. He took 28 days and came back with nothing when I tried it.
  • Follow me – @lpartner.  Chances are I will follow you back and I’ll certainly respond if you mention me in your tweets.

Now you’ll have all kinds of tweets coming in, and best of all, a lot of these people will automatically follow you if you follow them. That’s important if you ever want to talk and be heard.

Stage 3 – Getting a response back – the hardest stage

To get a response, you need to be heard. To be heard you need people to follow you. While some people set up their accounts to automatically follow anyone who follows them, others are more discerning. Once they hear about you, they’ll go to your page and check you out. They’ll read your bio (very important that you complete this carefully with words that both reflect you and might interest others – use all the space available!), and they’ll look at your last few posts. They are trying to figure out if you are interesting and genuine and if you’ll add to their twitter experience. Do the same in reverse. When someone follows you, check them out and if they look interesting, follow them back. Don’t worry about following too many interesting people, when you get to Stage 4 you’ll know how to manage thousands of follows.

Now is definitely the time to start tweeting. In my humble opinion a good mix of tweet types is often the most appealing:

  • Show your personality – if you just ran your first marathon, tell everyone, they’ll be happy for you. Others searching on keywords like “marathon”, or “running” will see your post, check you out and start following you.
  • Add value to the community – If you just read an interesting article on-line, tweet a comment and a link to it so others can enjoy it as well. People checking you out will be looking to see if you bring value.
  • Pass it on – Re-tweet (RT) other people’s interesting tweets. RT is like forwarding an email to your group of followers. People love to see their tweets forwarded on – think the feeling you get when someone hands you a small gift. Most people track retweets and most will follow anyone who retweets their posts.
  • Reply to tweets to show that you are interested in engaging – be genuine. People who check you out will want to see that you are engaged and not just passive.
  • Don’t pitch your product or services, at least not very often.
  • Don’t say anything you wouldn’t shout out in public to a group of strangers.

This is the longest stage. Be patient. Keep going, don’t stop, be consistent. Enjoy others’ tweets and add your own over time. Celebrate the times that someone retweets or replies to your tweets.

Stage 4 – Build out and enjoy your experience

Now you’re following a lot of people and chances are you’re worried about missing replies or tweets from the people you enjoy the most.

Get organized

  • Use a twitter organizer like www.TweetDeck.com or http.Seesmic.Desktop.com so you can easily see your RT’s and replies. It also lets you group selected people so you can focus your limited time on the people you most enjoy.

Keep following people –

  • Check out who your friends are following and follow them too.
  • Look at who your favourite followers are talking to in their tweets and check these people out. If your faves like them, you might too.
  • Follow those who follow you whenever possible. A recent tweet from @stephanie2c – “Twitter Term of the Day: Twitterphoria – The elation you feel when the person you’ve added as a friend adds you back.”
  • Look for #followfriday referrals from people you enjoy
  • Use a tool like www.topify.com, which will send you by email enough information on everyone new who follows you that you can decide on the spot if you want to follow them back. If you do, it’s as easy as replying to the email

Take your twitter experience up a notch

And with all of this, it’s just the beginning of a journey to finding friends, getting feedback and ideas, learning, generating new business, getting your ideas heard and much more. We’re all learning as we go, some of us just have a few months head start.

Oh yah, and why not follow me at @lpartner!

Written by Lynda Partner

June 9th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

With 8 comments

8 Responses to 'Learning Twitter – come on in, the water’s warm!'

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  1. Lynda, this is a terrific starting-off point for Twitter novices – and a great refresher for some of us who’ve been on for a year or more!

    I’d also add a few things:

    Twitter is also a wonderful community builder. It galvanizes people from diverse backgrounds and locations to help individuals and non-profits to raise consciousness and money for all kinds of worthy causes. One fine example is @dannybrown and his http://www.12for12K.org charity that uses social media including Twitter, to help 12 causes this year.

    Another way Twitter helps build communities based on shared interests and pursuits is through various online groups that meet regularly on Twitter to share insights, tips and ideas. Many of these groups are defined by a hashtag, or # symbol. For example, #journchat brings together PR pros, journalists and bloggers every Monday evening from 8-11 pm ET. #smbiz brings entrepreneurs together every Tuesday at 6 pm ET.

    If you’re interested in a specific topic, use search.twitter.com to find references and leads on what groups may exist on Twitter. Or start one yourself. People will find you:-)

    Cathy Browne

    9 Jun 09 at 4:11 pm

  2. Cathy – these are great additions, thanks!

    Lynda Partner

    9 Jun 09 at 5:30 pm

  3. [...] 4 Stages of Learning Twitter – come on in, the water’s warm! [...]

  4. Great (and humorous) overview of what to expect.

    rick

    15 Jun 09 at 5:57 pm

  5. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for the tweet at Zone5ive about your “Learning Twitter” entry. Very interesting! I’m not on twitter, yet — but I’ve been inspired by the great information presented on Thursday as well as your suggestions.

    Thanks again,
    Lisa

    Lisa Morrison

    17 Jun 09 at 12:57 am

  6. Hi Lynda,
    You cut right through the hype to the real and immediate possibilities of Twitter as a powerful resource for newcomers. I’ll second Cathy Browne’s comment above on community building. Combined with the available organizing and search tools-those mentioned being at the top but only the tip of the iceburg, Twitter is the ideal space for this type of networking.
    Thanks for the humor and encouragement, from a novice, still. Your 4 steps reflect the best of my experience thus far.

    Diane Court

    17 Jun 09 at 10:00 am

  7. Hi Lynda,

    Not a lot I can add here that hasn’t already been said by you or the comments above.

    Excellent resource for new users and one that doesn’t confuse or try make Twitter something it’s not – great stuff!

    Danny Brown

    6 Jul 09 at 5:28 pm

  8. Thanks Lynda,
    This is great material to enhance the social networking seminar you and Gillian Brouse presented to the Women’s Business Network on 20OCT09. Most valuable to us WBN newbies!! Thanks

    Sue Smarkala

    12 Nov 09 at 12:00 pm

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