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Getting Started on Twitter in Plain English

by Steve Fisher on April 24, 2009

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By now you have probably heard of Twitter. If you watch CNN, Oprah or know of Aston Kutcher, you have heard of Twitter. Recently, Aston Kutcher and CNN had a race to reach a million followers (more on what that means later) with Ashton winning and appearing on Oprah. Because of recent events like the 2008 Election, the 2009 Inauguration along with many celebrities and major news outlets jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, it has brought this technology into the mainstream. And while you may have heard this weird name, you may not know what exactly it is, how to get started using it and what you can do with Twitter. So here I present you with this easy guide in plain English to get started on Twitter.

What Is Twitter?

Twitter is a micro-messaging platform were messages are limited to 140 characters in length. Users of Twitter can send and receive these messages via the web, SMS, Instant Message clients, and third-party applications (i.e. iPhone apps). Twitter can also post pictures via TwitPic and audio files via Twittergram but primarily, Twitter is used for text.

How Do You Get Signed Up?

Getting started on Twitter is really easy.

  1. Set up an account
  2. Enter your profile information so people know who you are

Char at Essential Keystrokes adds that you could “add a photo, image or logo to help you become identifiable on Twitter and you are ready to play.  If you want to get snazzy, add a custom background to your Twitter profile (examples and how to at Spoon Graphics).”

To get great detailed, yet plain English instructions to get started, you can go to Dave Fleet’s page.

OR you can watch this excellent video from CommonCraft, putting Twitter into plain english:

Now that I am signed up, what do I do now?

Once you are signed up there are a few things you need to do….

1.) Follow people

You gotta start somewhere and don’t let people subscriber numbers of 1,000 or 1,000,000 discourage you. Start by looking at your favorite blogs. Most likely those who write a blog are on twitter. Have lots of email address contacts? Use the Twitter import tool and hook up to your email account and you might be surprised how many people are on Twitter. Have some hobbies or interests? You can use sites like Twellow.com and JustTweetIt.com to find people with similar interests to yours. You can also search Twitter (www.summize.com) for keywords, conversation topics and niche topics to find people you want to follow.

In fact, you could start by following me at http://www.twitter.com/stevenfisher

2.) Start Posting or “Tweeting”

140 characters makes you get right to the point and with practice you will be amazed at how good you get at writing in short and meaningful tweets. There are no real rules in Twitter but there is a certain etiquette that is evolving -  Char at Essential Keystrokes has examples of what you could “Tweet” about:

  • What you are doing.
  • Ask a question related to your business niche, something you want to know more about or something even more general.
  • Answer someone else’s question.
  • Respond to a tweet made by others.
  • Share your opinion on current events, shows, and topics of interest.
  • Share your latest blog post automatically using TwitterFeed.
  • You can share links to web pages you like but if the URL is too long you need to use a URL shortening service like TinyURL.com.

Chris Brogan and I share a common use of Twitter to ask for advice, directions, support, and to ask others for their open-ended interpretations to general questions. I also use my Twitter feed to share my blog writing from many sources for those that like my writing.

Additional Twitter for Beginners Resources

10 Easy Steps for Twitter Beginners – Darren Rowse (@ProBlogger)

Getting Started on Twitter – Laura Fitton (@pistachio)

Signup on Twitter Tutorial – Rich Brooks (@therichbrooks)

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