Most of us have heard stories of people getting jobs through Twitter, meeting friends and making meaningful business connections. Twitter is an information hub, facilitating the sharing of content, ideas and data.
Case in point: I became a Student Branding contributor via Twitter. I started following Dan, began sharing and engaging with him and his content, and he eventually asked me to become a part of Student Branding.
Why You Should Tweet
I didn’t start using Twitter until August of this year. Throughout college I found myself too bogged down by homework, exams and extracurriculars. I didn’t see the value in Twitter and I had no idea why I should take the time to use it. This is a trend I have seen in others: Facebook in high school and college, and Twitter in the business world.
Start using it now! Twitter is easy to use, and there are meaningful connections to be made while in college and high school. You can connect with professionals in your field or important people at your university. Twitter allows you to share knowledge, participate in conversations (yes, Twitter is a two-sided information flow), build your network, get answers to questions in real time and find the latest buzz via Twitter. During any breaking news, the Twitterverse if buzzing with updates, opinions and links to content.
Below I will give you, the new Twitter user, some basic information to set up your account and begin tweeting.
1. Choose Your Username
For personal branding consistency, your username should align with your other social networks. For most students, use your first and last name. Because other variations of Cassie Holman were taken by other users, my Twitter name is cassie_holman.
2. Create a Twitter Bio
It is crucial that you complete the Twitter bio section when setting up your account. Include in your bio: your interests or major in school, where you go to school, profession if you have one and what you tweet about. In short, let people know why they should follow you. I rarely follow anyone who doesn’t include a bio. If you don’t tell people who you are, why would they follow you?
3. Customize Your Twitter Background
A memorable and customized Twitter landing page helps further your personal brand. Twitbacks offers simple, quick and customizable backgrounds, where you can include links to your blog and other social network profiles. Visit this list of Top 10 Twitter background sites for more suggestions.
4. Become Familiar With the Twitter Home Page
In this screen shot, you can see the basic Twitter home interface.
Type your 140 character or less update in the “What are you doing?” box. Below the box, you can see the stream of tweets from the people you follow.
On the top right-hand side you will see your profile picture, your follower/following count and the Twitter lists you are a part of. Below that, you’ll see “@username”- which displays tweets directed at you by other users, “Direct Messages”, and “Favorites”. When you like a tweet, you can “favorite” it by clicking the star next to the tweet.
Below that, you will see “Lists”. Lists are a fairly new Twitter feature, and this article gives more information if you’d like.
5. Following People
There are a few ways to find people using Twitter. After setting up your account, you can import all of your Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL contacts already using Twitter. Also, look for important college contacts, friends, professors and professionals in your field. If there is a company you’d really love to work at after graduation, see if any of their staff is on Twitter and start connecting now!
6. Start Engaging
In my opinion, beginning to tweet can feel a little awkward. But, it becomes a lot more interesting when your following picks up and people start sharing and responding to your content. Note: You don’t have to literally answer the “What are you doing?” question!
Here are a few basic suggestions as you begin to tweet:
1. Use links. A valuable Twitter update could include a link and your brief thoughts. It is always thoughtful to credit the author of the post if you can.
2. Use a url shortener, such as bit.ly. Go to the site, paste in your long url and the site will generate a shortened version. Twitter only allows 140 character updates; you don’t want a long url to take up half of your character allotment!
3. Retweet. By retweeting, you are sharing other people’s content updates that you find interesting. To retweet, you simply type “RT”, followed by the person’s update. This is also a good way to pick up followers! People often follow you back if you retweet and share their ideas.
4. Using @reply. You can communicate directly with another twitter user by using the @ symbol followed by their twitter name. Normally, @ replies are not private, but through your settings, you can control whether or not you see @ replies that aren’t directed to you. (go Settings > Notices > @ Replies).
4. Sending direct messages. To direct message someone, type “D” followed by their username in the status update box. This sends a private message, not visible to the rest of the Twitterverse.
Summary of ‘Getting Started’ suggestions
- Do not make your Twitter account private! The point of Twitter is open information sharing—if you don’t want people to see it, why are you on Twitter?
- Share links. Use a url shortener.
- Give credit when it is due. Use the @ symbol to recognize other Twitter users’ content.
- Keep your updates shorter than 140 characters if you want people to retweet them! For instance, RT @cassie_holman is 18 characters, so if I want people to retweet me, I must keep my tweet below 122 characters.
- Engage. Respond to people’s questions, send @replies and comment on other people’s thoughts.
On his blog, David Risley has compiled a fantastic Twitter manual available in a downloadable pdf. It covers most of the basics I’ve touched on, but also goes into much more detail.
When you sign up for Twitter, don’t let it sit dormant. People will start following you if you regularly post interesting and relevant content. Answer and ask questions, retweet other users updates and share great updates of your own. Twitter is all about participation and furthering connections.
Next week, look for Twitter Basics Part 2!
Cassie is a May 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag Journalism graduate. She recently unfolded her passion for public relations during her short stint as a PR consultant for a Madison, Wis. area non-profit and is looking to dive into the field professionally. Find Cassie on Twitter, BrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn