Friday, 28 May 2010

Twitter - 7 Steps to Getting Started

And now, in a change to our normal blog, this is a How to Get Started in Twitter post inspired by Maria Zanini - read her post about it here. Normal service will be resumed after this messages.

I'm going to run through some basics to help other people get to grips with Twitter - if they choose to do so. 

Be aware: it can be addictive and It's Not My Fault*

Step one: Open an account.

  • Sign up at Your username will be @yourchoice (mine's @ClareKirwan) so when you see an @ symbol it's another person.
  • Only use your real name if you are saying mostly nice things, in your own time and don't mind who knows it.
  • You can have more than one identity so if you're not sure about all this Twitter nonsense, you could try a made-up name first until you're comfortable launching your real self. 

Step two: Have a look around

  • Like Facebook you have a 'profile' page where people can see anything you've 'tweeted' publicly, and a 'home' page where you can see what the people you follow have been saying.
  • From the home page you can also access your Direct Messages (private messages which can be sent between two people who follow each other) and see it you've been retweeted or mentioned. This is all in the future for now.
  • It's not cool to send plaintive messages into the ether like: 'So here I am on Twitter then' and 'Is anybody there?' but we all do it. No-one will answer.

Step three: Following

  • You can follow anyone unless they block you. They don't have to follow back.
  • Follow celebs if you must (yawn), but don't expect replies. Everyone follows @stephenfry, but spoof @mrsstephenfry is funnier. You'll soon find the popular celebs - they just follow each other.
  • Good ways to start: search for people you know, reply to people writing on trending topics, browse amongst  people your friends follow to see who you like the sound of
  • Two people who follow each other are 'friends' and can send DM's (direct messages) which aren't visible to others.
  • You can organise people you follow into lists like 'people-i-actually-know-in-real-life,' 'celebs' and 'wierdos' and select to just look at activity by people on a specific list at a time. 
  • Here are someone else's 7 ways to gain followers on Twitter

Step four: Trending topics/ hashtags/ memes

  • Bottom right on your home page are 'hot' trending topics or 'memes', but there are loads more. Click on one and you'll get a feed comprised of tweets on these topics.
  • You'll see the hashtag (#) quite a bit in tweets. These are also memes. e.g. if I had wanted to comment on the general election, I'd have tweeted: 'One Green MP, no BNP ones. People voted for the lettuce, not the slug. #GE10'  ...and anyone following GE10 (the tag for the General Election 2010) would have seen it. 
  • Hashtags can be for world events, favourite telly programmes (e.g. #cdwm when Come DIne With Me is on - i.e. all the time) or silly word games like #starwarssongs or #plantmusic 

(See an earlier post for a fine example of hashtag madness and some great people worth following imho (in my honest opinion... there's a whole language. You don't have to use it.) LOL.

Step five: But what do I tweet about?

  • Don't be boring and don't over-do it.
  • I follow people with witty, interesting, off-the-wall things to say and hope to be the same: something funny I heard, a quote I like, a response to something I'm watching or reading, banter with people I follow.
  • I've had an occasionally whinge and been cheered with support and good advice from other tweeps. It's like a virtual office complete with silly jokes, interesting facts, gossip, news snippets, tea and sympathy. Without the tea.
  • You can also tweet links to your blog, YouTube, webpages, pictures, news articles, etc. 

Step six: Manners please!

  • It's good manners to follow people back if they follow you (unless they're obviously 'selling' something) but not compulsory.
  • Other nice things you can do for your friends is to retweet them when you enjoy something they've tweeted, or 'mention' them (use their @name in a message). 
  • There's also customs like 'Follow Friday' where you mention your favourite tweeps and the tag #FF to encourage your other followers to follow them too. (Also #WritersWednesday - same thing for writers. I tried a #WirralThursday but it didn't take off. *sigh*  
  • It's also good manners to thank someone if they #FF you or retweet one of your tweets.

Step seven: Tweetdeck

  • With Twitter it gets hard to keep track of your friends quite quickly. Free, downloadable programmes like Tweetdeck enable you to view several columns (your choice of  lists, hashtags, mentions, direct messages), update Facebook status and generally Do More Stuff. There are others but I've only used Tweetdeck and it works for me in ways Twitter on it's own just didn't.

Read more: Twitter's help pages should explain the terminology, or you could check out Blogging Bits' Twitter Glossary or, for the more advanced Seed the Web's Twittonary. I'll add one here eventually, but... did someone mention tea?

Image used is from this site about Libraries using Twitter

* If you've ever used an Apple Mac (and this might just have been the old ones) an American voice used to come out of it saying this when certain errors occurred. It never said anything else. Weird huh?


  1. I'm going to remember you posted this for when I finally give in ....

  2. So when you follow a "list", you're only reading posts from a select group even though you're following lots of people, is that right?

    I think that's the part that always confused me. I never could figure out how people could follow so many tweeps.

    Still muddling through hashtags though. Sometimes I see all these posts, when I really only want to see an explanation of why. :)

    Thanks, brokenbiro. I'll update my post with a link back to yours.

  3. If you're looking at a list you just see the people on that list, yes. I don't think it's practical to follow more than about 50 people on Twitter itself. I have a 'favourites' list for people I don't want to miss stuff by, but it is my nature 'of the moment' - you engage with what's going on when you're there and you miss other stuff. Only link if you think it's useful - had been thinking of doing this post anyway :-)

    Oh, am I being a twitter bore? I can see why people try it and hate it, but I've got a lot from it in odd ways.

  4. I already have trouble keeping a handle on blogging, so really shouldn't even THINK about Twitter, but your instruction sheet is terrific. Who knows, it might come in useful one day...

  5. For me, Twitter is like crack. I go on crazy sleep-deprived binges and then I try and hide from it while I detox. Mmmm so yummy.

  6. Thanks Deb - sorry didn't comment back before.

    And Elly Lou - finally somebody who understands!!