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Twitter for Beginners – 5 Things to Do as a New Twitter User

Yesterday I added all 538 Twitter users that submitted their details in our Social Media Love In. It took me a couple of hours to do – but I’m glad I did it because already there have been some wonderful conversations emerge.

As I was adding new people to follow I noticed that there were a real range of people in the list. There were Twitter users with thousands of subscribers and others with 20 or so.

Among the list there were quite a few who had literally just started using Twitter in the last 3 days (they’d started because of the Love-In itself).

I’ve had a number of these people contact me to ask me where to begin as a new Twitter user. As a medium it can be a little overwhelming to know how to use it – so I thought I’d put together this list of things to do as a new Twitter User (this is definitely pitched at the beginner).

update: Check out my new Blog TwiTip for more Twitter Tips.

1. Work Out Why You Want to Use It

One of the key things to do early on is to work out what your goal is. It could take a little while to work this out but the sooner you nail down what you’re going to use twitter for the better. There’s no right or wrong with how to use Twitter – your focus might be:

  • to use it on a personal level to share what you’re doing with real life friends and family
  • to build up you and your blog’s profile in your niche
  • to unwind and have fun with new friends
  • to build up your network in a niche

The list could go on (and it could include multiple goals) – however knowing them up front will help you as you explore how to use it.

2. Start Tweeting

One of the things that I noticed yesterday adding all 538 twitter users is that a number of them had only ‘tweeted’ once or twice (and a couple had never tweeted at all). I asked one person why this was and they said that they wanted to build their follower numbers up before they started using it.

The problem with this thinking is that one of the best ways to build your Twitter network is to be active. Your Tweets are your best advertisement for people to follow you – if you don’t have any (or many) what reason do people have to follow you?

So start updating your Twitter account. Don’t just write about anything – remember that every Tweet you make can either take you closer to or further away from your Twitter goals.

3. Start Following Others

I spoke to one new Twitter user yesterday who told me that the ‘Love-In’ had brought them over 100 new followers – but that they’d increased this even further by finding other interesting people to follow herself.

This user had discovered the power of adding followers on Twitter. She’d invested time into seeking out other twitter users who were Tweeting interesting stuff.

This process is a bit of an experiment and involves following people and then seeing if their tweets ‘resonate’ with you. Sometimes it means you’ll follow someone for a while and then unfollow them – but you’ll eventually find a group of people that you enjoy conversing with. Which leads me to my next point….

4. Get Interactive

OK – so you know why you’re using Twitter, you’re actually tweeting, you’re following what others are tweeting – the time now is to start reaching out to others and getting a conversation going.

This happens on a couple of levels:

Firstly it’s about writing things that others will want to interact with. The best way to do this is to ask a question. People are wired to reply to questions so start asking some. Keep them relevant to your goals and be willing to reply to people’s answers.

Secondly it’s important to respond to what other people are saying. The ‘reply’ feature on Twitter is key and should be used regularly, otherwise your use of Twitter will be quite one sided.

After a while you’ll find that the conversation becomes quite natural as you get to know others that you mutually follow and track what they’re doing, what your common interests are etc.

The beauty of being as interactive as possible with other Twitter users is that you’re talking to them in public and you’ll find your other followers and their other followers will chime in and make the conversation a little more multi-dimensional – it’s a great way of finding new friends to follow also.

5. Don’t Spam

Another thing that I noticed happening with a few of those that I added yesterday is that the only thing they were using Twitter for was to promote their own content. While it’s possible to do this I wouldn’t advise it. I do promote my posts on Twitter – but I try to balance them with other natural and organic conversation as well.

Another tip is to not just promote your own links, promote others. Keep them on topic and interesting and your followers will thank you for the links that you suggest.

But Wait – there’s more…

There’s a lot more that can be said about using Twitter – but I want to keep this as basic as possible for those just getting into the medium. Start with these five basic things, work on them for a week or so and then you’ll start discovering your own way.

For more reading on using Twitter you might also like to read my previous posts on the topic:

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. This article couldn’t have come at a better time for me. As someone who is just learning about micro-blogging (I know, I’m behind the curve) these are some nice basic tips I can reference.

    I can’t say if it will become a staple of my existing blog, but it’s worth a try!

  2. writer dad says:

    I understand the need for things like Twitter in the world of blogging, I’ve just been hesitant to dip my toe for some reason; I guess because, just like mentioned above, I’m waiting for numbers to begin. Maybe if I begin, my numbers will be there.

  3. Pollarizer says:

    It was quite unexpected to hear, that so many people just started using twitter. I thought that is was already widespread and that most people already had decided to either use it or ignore it.

    I abandoned my twitter account and focused on friendfeed, but perhaps I`ll rethink and join this Love-in twitter sing up movement.

  4. Live Crunch says:

    I started using twitter about 2 months ago and today I reached 500+ followers , I don’t know if it’s due to my blog popularity or is it just the way I tweet? .

    Thing is what I would recommend also is to interact with people from public timeline, find same interest and follow people that are interested in same things as you are. I most likely don’t follow people that write something like “I am in college, I am doing my dishes” all the time. I like to follow someone like Darren, who posts questions, answers, blog posts and more. Since I am tech guy , 85% of my followers are technical blog owners as well as tech people.

    Good post Darren very informative.

  5. Cog Ramsey says:

    You have no idea how much this helped me. I tried to use Twitter twice in the past to no avail. I would set out the Twitter widget and hope someone would come along and want to follow me. I eventually gave up not knowing there’s a whole other side to the equation. Thanks!

  6. UltraRob says:

    Good point about new users needing to get active and start tweeting. I’ve had people follow me but when I got to their page they haven’t updated. Unless they’re actually somebody I know, I rarely follow them back because I have no idea what I’ll be getting if I follow them.

  7. Taylor Blue says:

    I know I was using Twitter to only spam…but someone told me last week to stop that. And yesterday was my most active day so far! IT’s fun! And joining in the conversations with other mom’s is great. It’s a nice distraction to a day when I am working at home and taking care of the kids….

  8. Wonderful as usual, Darren!

    (stumbled)

  9. Marc Beharry says:

    it has uses and benefits that are hard to describe and quantify, not to mention its fun…. so if you havent joined yet, hurry up! then get a twitter client like “twitterfox” or “twitterffic” or “spaz”

  10. Tim says:

    One of the best things a new Twitter user, or even a veteran Twitterite, can do is to engage in conversations. Don’t just tweet your blog post. Converse with others, and don’t be a Twitter Snob!

    One of the greatest things about Twitter is the diversity of people and the quality of discussions. Jump in and start tweeting!

  11. Raag Vamdatt says:

    Apart from the writing for your site, there are so many things to do…

    Digg, StumbleUpon, FaceBook, Twitter, Squidoo, HubPages, and now, even Knol….

    At times, I wonder how much help are these….

    Won’t it be better if we just focus on writing better, and more frequently instead of spreading our efforts on all these?? Won’t solid content naturally attract more people?

    Just wondering….

  12. QualityGal says:

    I just started following you yesterday; I guess I missed the big Love-In!

  13. Jesse says:

    I’m just exploring the Twitter thing myself and have certainly been reading more than writing. It’s nice to be able to get a pulse on my niche — invaluable actually!

  14. Doris says:

    Wonderful article, and I’m glad that there are resources out there to help newer bloggers! Thanks!

  15. carnellm says:

    Excellent article. I find the more people I follow of interest, the more who follow me back. And that leads to other traffic. Twitter has been a great source of information for me. I pick up on people to follow at conferences and such, and then I can ask them questions later on and get fast and meaningful responses. Of course I try to do the same back, and not waste a lot of time talking about what is for lunch…

  16. Gary Knox says:

    Interesting post Darren, as you rightly say about using Twitter it is vitally important to understand what you intend to use it for whether business or personal..

    This is the same for all Social Media and Networking sites.

  17. I missed the list but have been following a few of the ones on the list each day. Many of those return the follow.
    Not everyone you follow will be suited to you. That’s the great feature of Twitter, just follow the ones that interest you and if you find bad ones, drop them.
    You will get more followers just by posting though. After all, if you do not post, people will have a hard time finding you exist.

  18. TimW says:

    I’ve tried to find a use for Twitter, and just don’t see it. It seems like a colossal waste of time…really, do I care about what you are doing right now, in 140 words or less? No. And I can’t really see why anyone would be interested in me stating “trying to figure out the best way to increase sales”, or even asking “how can I…” as a question. Nobody knows my business like I do, and short of explaining everything I’ve done to date, no answer will really be helpful. Sorry, but Twitter just is NOT all that and a bag of chips.

  19. Sara Mariani says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m one of the new additions to Twitter this week and have been learning some of this through trial and error. Initially, I planned to share information with family and friends, but found–as I did with blogging–that I wanted to use it to network and find a specific niche instead. Great tips.

  20. I really think twitter is quite a cool web application. I’ve been using it for quite some time and i know i’m gonna use this for quite a long long time.

  21. Tiffany says:

    I like it because it’s a great outlet for creative expression about my life (I find the 140 character challenge quite poetically inspiring). It adds another dimension to my online persona, one that makes me more real, I think.

    Here’s the question, though, that a lot of newer users like me have:

    Once you’ve followed the basic tips like above, how is the best way to use it to build a reationship with people like you? How do we get on your radar?

    That’s the secret/tip we’re dying to hear. Does it take much? Is it the initiative to ask? Hey, Darren, will you follow me at @tmonhollon – is it as simple as that?

    Or are you following all your replies, so if I reply to you and try to get into your conversations, will you hear me if you’re not following me already?

  22. Thank you for a very timely article. As a fairly new twitterer (couple hundred followers) I’ve always approached twitter half-heartedly, preferring stumbleupon (which I could understand). I knew twitter had value, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. This article and some of the great comments after it helps a lot. Dave

  23. Thanks for the tips, Darren. They will be great to use for the Social Media class I am teaching, with full credit to you of course!

    http://teachingsocialmedia.blogspot.com

  24. blogversary says:

    Thanks for the tips. I love the list you put together as well.

  25. Mike Panic says:

    After using and abusing Twitter for about a month, I’ve realized that:

    It help me get over 12,000 text messages to my phone.

    It’s really annoying.

    I have had device updates to my cell phone turned off for nearly a week and I don’t miss it.

    Some of the news outlets that I subscribe to, along with, sorry to say, Problogger and Guy Kawasaki are just too much. Sorry, but when you start to have convos with 50 people in a half an hour, it’s pointless for ME to know about it. Use a chat program, because that’s what Twitter has started to become in my eyes. Public chatting.

    I’m probably going to hang up my Twitter membership soon and just check it on my computer now and again, but the lack of real information that I NEED to know about every 2 minutes is getting to be slimmer and slimmer.

  26. thanks for the tips!

  27. *Marie* says:

    I just recently joined Twitter, and was browsing through when I found you. And then, I found this article you wrote. Lucky me! I understand all the tips you offered, and I see their purpose. Thanks for giving a good direction.

    (I listed my twitter link as my website, if anyone is interested.)

  28. Frak says:

    Step 6: Don’t use it. Their servers crash frequently, it forgets settings, and is generally a waste of time.

  29. Travis says:

    What I still don’t get about Twitter is that I already have:

    * 3 different IM clients that I don’t log onto (I can’t afford to waste entire workdays chatting … )

    * Subscriptions to a ton of different email newsletters that I never read.

    * An RSS reader subscribed to hundreds of IT publications and blogs that I wish I read – but that I never seem to get around to reading.

    * Linked-in / facebook invites in my deleted folder in my inbox (btw: there is something a bit odd about a grown man sending another grown man a facebook invite)

    * A huge stack of NYT’s at home that just keeps getting bigger (I seem to be good at SUBSCRIBING to the NYT, but I seem to have a problem actually reading it). And I don’t even have a fireplace.

    * Programs I want to Tivo, but always forget to Tivo … as well as programs I have recorded on Tivo that I forget to watch.

    Honestly the last thing in the world I need better access to is top-of-mind babble in the written form. In fact, that’s why I stopped writing on my blog (because I can’t even stand my OWN babble). Twitter is like instant spam from family and friends … content that has the nutritional value of cotton candy.

    Clearly a lot of people are either honestly enjoying the hell out of Twitter, or are scared that if they don’t play nice with Twitter they won’t be considered “Web 3.0″ hipster enough. I personally have never seen a crappier product get more unwarranted praise. I’m hoping one day it will be like the late 70′s when all those disco heads suddenly woke up, said “this is crap” and started listening to Black Sabbath instead.

  30. Daniel Smith says:

    Darren, this is a great beginner’s guide for new Twitterers. “Get interactive” is probably the best way to grow your network on Twitter, I’ve found.

    I know that in my case, I’ve never gone out looking for people to follow, I’ve just found them through other Tweeps, and let me network grow organically like that. I find it more natural that way (not that there’s anything wrong with adding 500 problogger readers to get started though! ;)

    By the way, I posted an article this morning about ten features I think Twitter should really have (but doesn’t) and there has been some great discussion there. I would love to hear what other problogger-tweeps have to say about how they would make Twitter better.

    Cheers,

    Daniel Smith
    Smithereens Blog

  31. Elizabeth M says:

    I am really into Twitter. I love FriendFeed even more. Twitter helps me have my FriendFeed just like I like it. So the new Twitter user should also sign up for FriendFeed!

  32. Ari Herzog says:

    Adding to what Darren said, there are many third-party applications you can use with Twitter that you’ll either hear about from people you follow or see in their messages, i.e. if they are posting from Twirl, TweetDeck, TwitterBar, etc.

    I’d like to focus on one browser app called Shareaholic, which you can download at http://shareaholic.com enabling you to view any website – html, video, audio, anything – and by clicking a button in your browser’s toolbar, you can Digg the content, StumbleUpon it, Reddit it, or Twit it, among other options.

    So, for instance, I routinely find myself reading some article or laughing at a cartoon and I invoke the “twitthat” tool to share what I’m reading or laughing, with snipped URL, with my followers and the world.

    That’s another thing. You’re not just sending messages to those who follow you but anyone who visits a Twitter search engine and types in your name or a keyword you may write about. So, always remember whatever you put online stays online.

  33. Twitter is an interesting service and I am just learning how to use it now. Not sure how to but im learning. Thanks for the post

  34. Ed says:

    I’m still not overly convinced by Twitter. I can see some benefits but it seems to need to be backed by being quite an established blogger. I have used it sparingly so far but am photographing a big 2 day music festival in Australia this w/e (Splendour In The Grass) and plan to use it to post micro-reviews and notes from the site, more as an aid memoire for myself for writing the more indepth blogs a day or two after the festival.

  35. Zna Trainer says:

    Thanks for this timely article. As a “newbie” on Twitter, Facebook, and the whole Internet marketing process, it’s been wildly awakening. So much trivia can be quickly sorted through to good information for any niche or purpose. It’s worth it to also acknowledge and appreciate those sharing.

    You’re right on on all the components I find necessary!

    Enjoying what I read about you, from you, you’re appreciated!

    You’re a breath of fresh air, have so much to share & THE ONE to follow;-D You can be sure your provocative, content rich articles’ll be in my searches in this learning curve.

    Respectfully,

    Zna Trainer

  36. Ina says:

    I’m not even one of the 3 that just started. I’m heading over there now to join, so this is perfect timing for me – thanks!

    Ina
    http://www.InHouseDollars.com

  37. Graham says:

    Count me among the Twitter skeptics. I don’t get it. It seems that Twitter is blogging for the lazy. It takes much less effort than a blog post, so it appeals to more people. The downside is, of course, that the signal-to-noise ratio plummets. No thanks!

  38. David Mackey says:

    Great article Darren. Thanks! I’m still getting a handle on Twitter myself.

  39. I joined Twitter just 2 weeks ago..!
    Thanks for the tips Darren.

  40. Sonia says:

    Great tips. I’ve been using Twitter for some time to update my personal blog with little tidbits on what I’ve been doing. My friends and family like it. But I wanted to know more about how to use it, so this is very helpful.

  41. Great Entry. This same logic can be applied to any social networking site.

  42. Simon says:

    Crap, wish I’d have seen this before I started using twitter, lol!

    However, at least now I understand the concept a little better. Thanks for the tips, Darren. Now let me check out the other posts regarding twiiter.

  43. I was disappointed to see that I can’t sign into twitterfeed without using OpenID. For the life of me, I can’t see why I should have an OpenID. Seems like just a way to track someone’s subscriptions on various sites. It doesn’t seem to add one bit of security.

    Oh, well, guess I don’t need twitterfeed.

  44. your tips are very practical and useful. I like the words written by you —- I do promote my posts on Twitter – but I try to balance them with other natural and organic conversation as well.

  45. Ken Kaufman says:

    I am new to Twitter and I have found your article very helpful. Even more helpful were all of the links to additional information. Thanks.

  46. I haven’t been on twitter too long and so I haven’t really seen the benefit of it yet. Thanks for the info and I am going to take a look at some of the other twitter posts you highlighted here!

  47. Matthew says:

    I think that twitter will help my exposure. However it can be overwhelming at first. Your tips are a great place to start.

  48. Suzy Schwarz says:

    Darren, thank you for this article. Although you wrote it 8 months ago, it’s still very relevant for me today. Thanks for the education.

  49. Mohit says:

    Quite a nice article for Twitter beginners at any time

  50. Amanda says:

    Darren, your articles in regards to Twitter are all wonderful and I’m currently reading through them all. I am finding a great deal of wonderful information which is something I usually do not find in other articles. I am a Twitterpated Twitter addict that just signed up a few weeks prior, I use it for everything as a detail to my random life. I suggest that users who are new find their nitch and they always can find one if they look inside to find just what they wish to use Twitter for. It’s 140 characters but there is nothing that says, it can’t be random. http://www.twitter.com/glamorousamanda