Learning Twitter – Come on in, the water’s warm!

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Fishinwater1-300x279 Experienced Twitter users have their own language, their own rules and they project an “in”crowd feeling which sometimes makes it difficult for a newbie to participate with confidence.

I know, I know – you are all about to tell me that it’s fine to make mistakes, it’s all part of learning but I also know that many times I have sat paralyzed with indecision, afraid to tweet the wrong thing and embarrass myself in front of my followers, or worse yet have my “oops” tweet retweeted to the larger universe. 

Twitter pros, this article may not be for you but feel free to forward it to all the newbies you know.

Twitter newbies, come on in – the water’s great!
As you join the revolution, you will most likely experience these 4 stages. Fear not, you’ll get through them quickly and hopefully painlessly.

Stage 1 – Feeling Lonely

After I opened my Twitter account I sat there and looked at the page for awhile and then sent my first tweet, which I am 100% sure is pretty much the same first tweet as the majority of first timers. It was something like “trying out this twitter thing” or “hello out there”.

Nothing came back.

Not sure if I was expecting anything but I do so long instant gratification, so after about 30 seconds, I tweeted again. Carefully answering the question “What are you doing right now?”, I said something totally inane, like “eating a peanut butter sandwich”.

Nothing came back.

I decided to be bold and tweeted “This twitter thing sucks”. Nothing came back.

Twitter was clearly over-rated as a connecting, friend-making, info-sharing tool. I left, feeling unloved – didn’t come back for months.

Stage 2 – Finding the patience to Listen

You don’t have to talk to enjoy Twitter – a recent study says 90% of people just listen. But to listen you need to find people to follow.

There are two ways to do this – find lots of people fast (and you’ll eventually spend lots of time unfollowing them later), or find fewer of the right kinds of people more slower. Both methods work, and the bottom line is that you need to follow people to hear anything.

So at the very least, here is what I recommend to get started:

  • Go to www.wefollow.com to get some ideas on who to follow
  • Use the Find People feature at www.twitter.com to follow your favorite celebrity, chances are they are on Twitter
  • Follow your friends, and the thought leaders are in your space, the ones whose articles you read, whose blogs you follow
  • Follow local twitter users – try www.twellow.com/twellowhood or www.nearbytweets.com for local
  • Follow your favourite brand – like @starbucks, @sears
  • Follow your favourite news outlet – like @cnnbrk or @theonion
  • Do a search at search.twitter.com for a subject you are interested it, like marathon if you are interested in running, then check out the people who are tweeting about running and follow the ones you find interesting. You can also try www.twollow.com for ideas.
  • Follow @guykawasaki – many call him annoying but he does tweet about a wide range of often interesting things. You won’t be bored.
  • Let Twitter give you some ideas http://twitter.com/invitations/suggestions
  • Use www.MrTweet.com for ideas. I’ve heard that he’s slow but gives good ideas. He took 28 days and came back with nothing when I tried it.

Now you’ll have all kinds of tweets coming in, and best of all, a lot of these people will automatically follow you if you follow them. That’s important if you ever want to talk and be heard.

Stage 3 – Getting a response back – the hardest stage

To get a response, you need to be heard. To be heard you need people to follow you.

While some people set up their accounts to automatically follow anyone who follows them, others are more discerning. Once they hear about you, they’ll go to your page and check you out. They’ll read your bio (very important that you complete this carefully with words that both reflect you and might interest others – use all the space available!), and they’ll look at your last few posts.

They are trying to figure out if you are interesting and genuine and if you’ll add to their own twitter experience. Do the same in reverse. When someone follows you, check them out and if they look interesting, follow them back.

Don’t worry about following too many interesting people, when you get to Stage 4 you’ll know how to manage thousands of follows.
Now is definitely the time to start tweeting. In my humble opinion a good mix of tweet types is often the most appealing:

  • Show your personality – if you just ran your first marathon, tell everyone, they’ll be happy for you and they’ll admire you for it. Others searching on keywords will see your post, check you out and start following you.
  • Add value to the community – If you just read an interesting article on-line, tweet a comment and a link to it so others can enjoy it as well. People checking you out will be looking to see if you bring value.
  • Pass it on – Re-tweet (RT) other people’s interesting tweets. RT is like forwarding an email to your group of followers. People love to see their tweets forwarded on – think the feeling you get when someone hands you a small gift. Most people track retweets and most will follow anyone who retweets their posts.
  • Reply to tweets to show that you are interested in engaging – be genuine. People who check you out will want to see that you are engaged and not just passive
  • Don’t pitch your product or services, at least not very often
  • Don’t say anything you wouldn’t shout out in public to a group of strangers

This is the longest stage. Be patient. Keep going, don’t stop, be consistent. Enjoy other’s tweets and add your own over time. Celebrate the times that someone retweets or replies to your tweets.

Stage 4 – Build out and enjoy your experience

Now you’re following a lot of people and chances are you’re worried about missing replies or tweets from the people you enjoy the most.
Get organized!

  • Use a twitter organizer like www.TweetDeck.com or http.Seesmic.Desktop.com so you can easily see your RT’s and replies. It also lets you group selected people so you can focus your limited time on the people you most enjoy.

Keep following people –

  • Check out who your friends are following and follow them too.
  • Look at who your favourite followers are talking to in their tweets and check these people out. If your faves like them, you might too.
  • Follow those who follow you whenever possible. A recent tweet from @stephanie2c – “Twitter Term of the Day: Twitterphoria – The elation you feel when the person you’ve added as a friend adds you back.”
  • Look for #followfriday referrals from people you enjoy
  • Use a tool like www.topify.com, which will send you by email enough information on everyone new who follows you that you can decide on the spot if you want to follow them back. If you do, it’s as easy as replying to the email

Take your twitter experience up a notch –

And with all of this, it’s just the beginning of a journey to finding friends, getting feedback and ideas, learning, generating new business, getting your ideas heard and much more. We’re all learning as we go, some of us just have a few months head start. Oh yah, and why not follow me at @lpartner!

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