With a daughter in her senior year of high school, almost anything regarding college catches my attention. I caught a tweet about saving for college with a hashtag worth following. I sent a link to the Twitter hashtag to my husband so he could check it out.
“I have never followed twitter. Where would I set that up?”
I replied, “Can’t you see the search results without logging in?”
“I have never used twitter. How do I follow?”
[Insert proverbial jaw dropping moment here]
He’s never been into social media beyond the occasional Facebook friending and commenting. No, he’s not a Luddite — far from it. In fact, we met online the pre-Internet way through a bulletin board system (BBS). And his entire career has revolved around working in IT.
I loved his question because it revealed how someone someone new to Twitter thinks about the service. He obviously knew that following people was something you do in Twitter. But he didn’t know that it wasn’t the first thing he should do after signing up. He could, but people would unlikely follow back.
While there’s no right or wrong way to start using Twitter, you can take a few steps to make the most of it. For example, if you start following people before adding an avatar, you’re less likely to see people following you back. Having the default avatar has become an unconscious signal that the user isn’t serious about Twitter, and in some cases, could be a spammer.
Here are the steps I gave him for setting up his Twitter account (access these features in Settings — see image):
- Make a list of names using his real name. Millions have already claimed Twitter IDs including @PaulEvans, which happens to be his name. Why a real name? It’s a connotation thing. His name is common, so it will take a few tries to find one that isn’t taken and consider the following guidelines:
- Avoid numbers. No one remembers them and spammers like them.
- Avoid punctuation like _ and -. While some favorite tweeters use them, it’s hard to tell what they are.
- Keep it as short as possible. Whatever your name is, it affects how much room others have in tweeting replies with your name.
You may have friends and colleagues already in twitter. If so, follow them and interact with them first.
What tips do you have for someone setting up an account in Twitter for the first time? What notes would you add or change in these eight steps?