Twitter 101: An introduction

Twitter is an annoying, omnipresent, love-it-or-hate-it, really hard to ignore part of our strange world. A big part of the problems is that so many people don't understand what it is really good at and therefore either have unfair expectations or use it incorrectly. I have put together a beginner's guide for all those who are doing it wrong, however I imagine the only people who will use it are just regular old beginners who aren't sure where to start. That's ok too, as long as we have some properly trained people out there!

A quick note: I am not a professional. I just have been using Twitter under use case 4 for 5 years (on and off). So I am happy to hear any feedback and I also don't promise any fame or fortune from my tips. That being said, you should drastically reduce your odds of looking like you don't know what you are doing if you abide by some of the basic rules I outline in these posts.

First of all, Twitter is for INFORMATION. It is a social information culling tool. It allows users to create feeds from people, institutions, brands, etc. which might have interesting, useful, entertaining, etc. information for very quick digestion. This is the point of the 140 character limit - not to restrain your communication but to make it as efficient as possible. The goal with each of your tweets is to say as much as you can and get it in front of as many relevant eyeballs as possible. 

So, how does one go about creating short, sweet informative relevance? Here are the first few steps.

Your goal

As with any project, start first with a clear intention. As my dad always says, 'prior planning prevents piss poor performance'. Ahh, the tried and true 6 P Principle. Anyways, why do you want to be on Twitter? Is it to be cool? To find new customers? To get an audience for your own content? To keep on top of breaking news in your field? Depending on your answers, your profile and activities on the site will be very different. There are other reasons to be on this site, but I'm not going to go into any but these four.

1. Being cool on Twitter

You will need to have the it-interests of the moment and you will need to follow the very minimum number of extremely hip people. Your picture should probably be with sunglasses or otherwise not showing your eyes and consider for your background a piece of street art. Or whatever kind of underground content is applicable to your brand of cool. The key thing for you will be to get waaaay more followers than you follow (a follower to following ratio of well over 1). We will discuss that in a later post.

Example: Kendrick Lamar. Shit, he's cool.

2. Finding new customers on Twitter

This will require making your offering extremely obvious, easy to acquire and surrounded by relevant content. You will not attract new customers by posting exclusively about your product or service. To be honest, it is pretty unlikely that Twitter will ever be a profitable sales channel for you. However, it can be very useful for spreading the word and establishing internet credibility. To do this, you will need to attract followers who fall into your target audience. This can be done by following them yourself and hoping they follow you as well as by providing stellar content that attracts them to you. You may want to have a high follower ratio, but you won't actually have one until you are pretty established, so settle for something below 1 and that's ok.

Example: Herbs for Health. You think this will never be your Twitter page, but watch out. I see it every day.

3. Sharing your content on Twitter

Do you have news to share? Yay! You are what drives Twitter. We like you. If your content is really good or really fresh or really obscure (yet, of course, still relevant) then your job is easy: just share it using the rules of tweeting I talk about in Twitter 104 (coming soon) and watch the followers flock (literally). Lucky you. One thing to make sure of: is your content right for Twitter? This site is good for text-based, short-form and time-sensitive material. Photographs? Use Instagram. And don't use Twitter to link to your Instagram, that is basically spam. Personal updates? Use Facebook. And don't use Twitter to link to your Facebook, that is basically spam. Get it?

Example: Launch provides the play-by-play at their conferences.

4. Keeping on top of breaking news on Twitter

This is really the best reason to be on this crazy website. If you are just here to make yourself a perfectly relevant news feed of happenings in whatever realm you are interested in (and they are nearly all represented as long as you are in the US - things are a little sparse outside the borders) then you can just quietly follow whomever you like and never have to worry that you don't have enough followers or your profile picture isn't hip enough. Just consume and enjoy! This is the most incredible place to learn about what is happening RIGHT NOW. A side note: this is a place to find breaking news, not reliable news. Outcome of the presidential election? I watch TV. Update from a conference I couldn't attend? Twitter. The rules of journalism are different here and Boehner aside, there fewer consequences to tweeting utter bullshit than, for example, printing it in a newspaper. Keep that in mind.

Example: I am here to get news, hence my not-so-cool follower ratio.

Next post: Your profile.