Well done! You are about to join the 328 million monthly active users on Twitter worldwide. But why do you want to start tweeting? Probably like most Twitter beginners you have no idea, because you don’t know the potential?!
• Purely for chatting to friends
• Sharing a passion, have a look at Gareth James who is an HR consultant – he doesn’t tweet about business but about his two great loves; performing arts and travelling
• For your particular expertise – have a look at the world’s top 100 leadership experts to follow on Twitter (I am honoured to be included!)
• Build relationships with employers as part of your job-hunting strategy
• Target new businesses and get to know them on Twitter – to win business eventually
• Search for experts as guest speakers, advisors, suppliers
• Research – I was asked by a client ‘where should internal communications sit – HR or marketing?’ It’s a great social media question so I posted it on Twitter – see where it led to in this blog (and eventually led to new business wins!)
Your first step on Twitter is to think what you want to achieve from it. This may change over time as you understand it more, but you will get more from it if you start with a few objectives. And don’t try to engage with ‘the world,’ but maybe get a dozen good conversations going with your targets initially.
Twitter has its own site that takes you step-by-step to create a profile. A few key points on the process:
• Your username is really important. This is how you are identified. You only have 15 characters, but ideally keep it to less than this. You probably know that any single tweet (each post or conversation) is 140 characters maximum. Your name will appear in re-tweets, so the longer your username, the less space you are giving yourself for conversations. Our business name ‘Northern Lights PR’ was too long (20 characters) so we chose ‘nlightspr’ – just nine characters, which fortuitously we now realise is much better!
• You want to think if your profile is for your business or you as an individual – we have gone for a bit of a mix with it being a business profile but saying ‘tweets mostly by CEO Victoria Tomlinson.’ This way we are getting more in for searches on Twitter (just like Google and LinkedIn, think of the power of Twitter as another search engine – this blog explains more)
• When you write your biography, again think about ‘keywords’ – what words might people search for to find your skills or business expertise? Again, space is limited so make this work for you – you will see in ours we have included the words ‘PR, communications, social media, leadership, international speaker’
• Geography can be tricky – we started with our location as Harrogate – our town; later changing this to Yorkshire – our region. Now we are doing business in the UAE, the Yorkshire bit seems rather parochial. So we have changed this to ‘UK and United Arab Emirates’
• Spend time on your photo – and don’t just put a logo. People don’t do business with logos! It should be professional and reflect what you are doing with your profile. You will see that both Benja and Matt below have chosen photos and backgrounds to position themselves as speakers
When you are first starting out on Twitter, it can be hard to know what to tweet about. The best thing is to follow 30 or 40 people whom you respect, rate, want to do business with.
To find people you might follow, use the search box at the top right of your Twitter account. Here I searched for Angela Ahrendts (of Burberry fame). When you have pressed the search button, you can then refine this – you will see below I ticked ‘people’ but you can also search on photos, news etc or press the ‘Advanced Search.’
Now read their conversations. You might want to set aside an hour or two every week to do this. Keep a notebook of what you like, what is useful, what you don’t like. If you don’t like some things, trust your judgement and start forming your own views as to what your profile should be about. Just because someone famous tweets silly or unpleasant comments, doesn’t mean that is the norm – stick to your own values.
Notice when you want to click on links and read what someone is tweeting about – what makes you want to click through? This will help you when you start writing your own tweets.
You probably want to start tweeting by retweeting other people’s comments and then move onto your first tweet!
Below I have chosen tweets by Primewomen to explain some of this.
You will see at the bottom of each tweet that you can:
• Reply – this can be seen just by people following you and the person you are replying to – here’s an example (I realised it was an earlier blog I did on networking)
• Retweet – this will tweet that post again in your own profile. Twitter is changing as I write, it used to show a ‘RT’ at the front of a retweet but now seems to show the name of the retweeter, as below
• And you can favorite a tweet – that saves it into your likes file. Others can see these and it is quite flattering if someone likes your tweet?
It took me half an hour to write my first tweet – even though I am a writer, published and happy communicating. It feels a bit weird putting your comments out for the world – though of course at first not very many will be following you.
Some thoughts for your first tweets:
You will notice that you don’t need to tweet about ‘what I had for breakfast’ – as you are probably thinking, why would anyone want to know that?!
What you want is a consistent brand so people follow you and know roughly what to expect from your tweets – insights, ideas, contacts, great tips.
This blog on personal branding online has more about how to create a brand online.
Most website addresses (URLs) are pretty long. If you try to put a weblink in your tweet, that will take up most, if not more than, your 140 character allowance.
Luckily a lot of clever websites have tools to shorten the link. These have two purposes, first to create a shortlink, but they also track how many people open the link so you can see which comments and tweets are of most interest.
Our favorite is bit.ly, other free sites include tinyurl.com; hootsuite; and goo.gl – but the analytics are public on this Google site. You may or may not mind about competitors looking at how successful your tweets are and what are the most popular times and so on.
Good luck, Twitter beginners, as you get going! Do let us know if you find this helpful!