8 Steps to Start Strong onTwitter

Image credit: Web Treats Etc.

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.
Twitter SettingsHere are the steps I gave him for setting up his Twitter account (access these features in Settings — see image):

  1. 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.
  2. Upload an avatar. A headshot photo of you works great.
  3. Write bio. It’d take another post to describe an ideal bio. For most part, state who you are and what interests you. What kind of people do you want to connect with? If they do a search to find you, what words do you want them to use?
  4. Enter location. I live in Plano, but I use “Plano, Texas, north of Dallas” to ensure people searching for “Texas” and “Dallas” find me. To abbreviate or not to abbreviate your state is a tough one. I opted not to because “Tx” is often “Thanks.”
  5. Add a URL. Paul has a dilemma. He doesn’t have his own website. One option is to create an about.me type account that links to his LinkedIn, Facebook and other IDs. Another is to simply include his LinkedIn URL. There will be arguments for and against every option. Just avoid using a URL shortener service.
  6. Change the background. Using one of Twitter’s background designs may not win over some folks. You can use a favorite photo or wallpaper. Make sure they don’t distract from the content. Many popular tweeters have plain backgrounds, so it doesn’t have to be fancy. Want to customize a background? Instead, search for “free twitter background” and use an online wizard to create one for starters. The downside is that the service will probably add its URL to your background.
  7. Start tweeting. Yes, start tweeting before you start following. Some people won’t follow someone with no tweets as they want an idea of what kind of user you will be. Mix up the tweets by including links to great articles (Include the title, URL and an original comment), quotes, replies to other people’s tweets and tips in your area of expertise.
  8. Follow … carefully. Don’t follow like crazy. If your Following number climbs way faster than your Followers,  people get suspicious.

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?

3 thoughts on “8 Steps to Start Strong onTwitter”

  1. Thanks for the great reminders on the basics of new Twitter accounts Meryl. I have a few new ones launching in coming weeks and months (two pen names and a new account for the larger business branding change), and these are all things we can take for granted if we’re already active there. I love the idea of having a solid tweet stream built up before following people. It makes total sense, but I didn’t even think about it. 🙂

  2. Jenn, wow. I never considered that an experienced user would find this helpful. Yes, we may have forgotten and there’s always the possibility we create new accounts. Good luck with the launch.


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