Twitter Part 1: What are you doing?

I’ve been threatening promising to blog again about Twitter. I’ve posted before introducing Twitter so this time I’ll go into a bit more detail about some uses that maybe aren’t immediately apparent.

When I was writing this I thought I’ll ask my followers for a bit of help:

Drafting a blog post about Twitter for @edgehill Web Services blog. Can anyone suggest good “getting started” pages to link to?

Within minutes a few suggestions came in to show Twitter in Plain English by Common Craft:

I included this last time I blogged about Twitter but it shows really clearly how to get started – just sign up, search for a few people, start “following” them and answer the question “What are you doing?”

Another suggestion led me to a great series of posts over on Search Engine Guide by Jennifer Laycock titled From Twits to Tweeple, Why I Embraced Twitter and You Should Too which introduces Twitter and is much more instructional than I’m going to be so check that out as well.

Here’s my thoughts on getting started with Twitter:

Dive right in. I think it’s important to start tweeting right away. You could try to grow your network first, “lurking” while you get to know people, but as ProBlogger Darren Rowse puts it:

Your Tweets are your best advertisement for people to follow you – if you don’t have any (or many) what reason do people have to follow you?

Follow the leader. When you first sign up for Twitter, the empty list can be a bit underwhelming so you need to do something about that and start following people. You might already know a couple of people who use Twitter (me for example!), or search for people you think might use it. This can be a bit hit and miss so you might want to grow your own network. Start by looking at who your friends follow. Likewise, if someone starts following you, then follow them back (providing they don’t look like spammers – thousands of “friends” but few followers). Soon you should start getting a steady stream of tweets from your friends.

Get interactive. Twitter is more than just about posting your status and watching what other people say, it’s more conversational than that. Pretty soon you’ll start to notice tweets cotaining @ signs. These are messages aimed at a particular user and show up in a special area for that user. To aim one at me, for example you’d include @MikeNolan – it doesn’t matter where in the message it goes. These are often called “replies” and they link to the last tweet from the target user, but often messages don’t relate to that message.

Replies are public so they’re a great way of finding people who are of interest – look out for people your friends are talking to. Twitter can also send direct messages which are private, but this is only possible if you both follow each other.

A quick aside on the nature of “friendship”… I came across this amusing tweet:

Twitter says I have close to 200 friends. Yet not one of you slack ass [expletive removed] has shown up to help us move. Some “friends” you are!

That’s enough to get you going with Twitter. Next time I’m going to go into more detail about using Twitter in different situations.

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