Getting the most out of Twitter – the basics

by Laurie Anstis on January 1, 2012

This post isn’t about the mechanics of using Twitter (Twitter themselves do a good job of that here) or even about Twitter etiquette (you will find plenty of that on Google). Instead, this is my personal experience of what has helped me get the most out of Twitter.

1. Follow first

My recommendation to newcomers to Twitter is always to follow first. That is, for about 2-4 weeks don’t tweet anything – just sign up to follow people and follow what they are saying. This will give you a good basic sense of how Twitter works, and you will be able to see what others do right or wrong. Your first action on Twitter should not be tweet, but it should be to find people to follow, and spend time seeing what they have to say and how they say it.

2. Go mobile

I don’t think you can really get involved in Twitter by only using the computer desktop. Make sure you can get Twitter on your mobile phone – by using the Twitter mobile website (http://m.twitter.com) or one of the official or unofficial apps that are available.

3. Think local

When you first join Twitter you will probably find that the most interesting, most followed and most prolific people on Twitter are based thousands of miles away from you. When I started on Twitter, the first people I found who were tweeting about things that I was interested in were based in the US.  It is tempting to follow them, but my experience has been that you will get more out of Twitter if you keep things more local. What your definition of “local” is will depend on what you are interested in and what you motivations are for joining Twitter. For some, it will be their home town. For others it will be much wider. For me it is the whole of the UK. I follow very few people on Twitter who are not based in the UK.

4. Think small

It is tempting when first on Twitter to follow the celebrities and the big names. If you think being on Twitter is a good way to pitch your manuscript to Stephen Fry – it isn’t. By all means follow the celebs for their gossip, but in my experience you are likely to form much better relationships on Twitter, and get more out of it, if you think small. People with a few hundred or a few thousand followers are far more likely to engage with you in a meaningful way compared to those with a few million followers.

5. Meet in real life

I’m not suggesting you meet one-on-one with someone you have just come across on Twitter – that is not a good idea. What I do recommend is that if you get involved with a group of people on Twitter, look out for any “tweet-up”s they may be holding. These are public gatherings (usually held in bars or restaurants) for people on Twitter to get to know each other better. In my experience, they are generally friendly gatherings, and a great way to get to know people better.

Coming soon Now available in part 2 – how to find your community on Twitter.

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