Twitter for Beginners Part One: Getting Started

This is the first post in a series on how to get the most out of a Twitter as a new user. It is intended to be a very basic introduction on joining the site, its uses and getting started.

We have released this post to help new users get to grips with the site, which we believe has a number of uses to individuals and businesses alike.

We have published this in the run up to the Cornwall Twestival – a global event organised through Twitter to raise money for Charity:Water. The event promises to be an insightful and enjoyable get together of the diverse users (and potential users) of Twitter. For more information or to book a ticket please click here.

The Basics – What is Twitter and Where Do I Start?

Twitter is a social network and messaging system which allows its users to post short messages (140 characters in length) with information on their movements, interests, links to articles, websites or other content that they feel will be of interest to others. [Click here for the Wikipedia entry for Twitter]

Each user of the site needs their own account which is available free of charge at Twitter.com. Once an account is setup the user can choose to ‘Follow’ others, enabling those users of the site to send direct (private) messages to you. (Often referred to as a Tweet).

As you use the service to post your own messages, those interested in what you have to say will begin to follow you. Likewise, as you read the messages of others you will see people that you may want to follow.

This process occurs because all messages you send through the site are openly available to other users of Twitter (unless you have selected to keep your updates private). Users can use the Twitter Search System to identify messages (Tweets) that mention words or keyphrases of interest to them.

Those that you follow on Twitter are listed under ‘Following’ on your Twitter homepage and those that follow you are called ‘Followers’.

Why should I be interested?

There are a number of ways Twitter can be useful to you.

As a business it creates opportunities to extend your network and meet new people, cultivate a group of people with similar interests or expertise and keep ahead of news or information relevant to your business interests.

Further still, Twitter can be useful in marketing your own products or services; however, it should be noted that some care is advised to avoid spamming (over marketing products in a ‘buy, buy, buy…’ kind of manner).

As an individual Twitter can help you meet people with similar interests, follow your favourite celebrity, talk to your MP, keep abreast of the news and much more. It has the potential to be a great social network, news site and search engine all in one.

We will uncover more on these areas in future posts.

How do I use it?

It’s really very simple…

1. Create an Account

Go to Twitter and create an account. You will need to specify a Username (Twitter ID). This name will be the name that appears on your messages and the name used by other members to message you.

You will need to add a short bit of detail about yourself (your bio) and you may want to add a website address or link to a blog or other site.

*Remember to keep your updates public if you want others to be able to find you. If you select to protect your updates other members of Twitter will not be able to read your messages.

2. Follow People

Once your account is set up search for people that you think would be of interest to you.

If you’re a business try searching for others in your industry.

If you’re an individual try looking for people listing similar interests to you.

In both cases have a look and see who else in your area is using the service.

You can perform searches to find these people or businesses by visiting http://search.twitter.com and selecting the ‘Advanced Search’ option. Using the Advanced Search you can look for locations, interests, message content and much more.

3. Listen to Others

Take a while to see what others are messaging. Where you find a member interesting continue following them and where you find a member’s messages boring or irrelevant drop them off your list be clicking on their name and selecting ‘Remove’.

You are looking to cultivate a group of users that you find interesting and you in turn can be of interest to.

4. Start Messaging (Tweeting)

Once you are comfortable with the site start messaging.

Try to avoid sending erroneous messages about the content of your lunch or what time you woke up this morning. Try to make your messages interesting and relevant to the people ‘following’ you.

People can message you directly by typing the letter ‘d’, then a space followed by your Twitter ID i.e. ‘d arengrimshaw This is a direct message’. Likewise you can do the same; however, the person you are messaging will need to be ‘following’ you before you can do this.

You can send a message out to be flagged as a ‘reply’ to a particular person or number of people by adding the prefix ‘@’ to a Twitter username i.e. ‘@arengrimshaw You can find that information here – www.uknetweb.com’.

Where ‘@’ is used, the message will be publicly available to everyone and will show up on the referenced user’s ‘replies’ when they log in to Twitter.

This concludes the first in our series on Twitter for Beginners. In future posts we will look at using Twitter for business in more detail, Tips, tricks and tools you might find helpful and other subjects that will help you get the most of this exciting service.

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