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New To Twitter? Cut Beyond The Hype And Use Twitter Like A Pro

Posted on 23 Mar 2009 by - Permanent link Trackback this post Subscribe to this post Comment on this post -  

So you’ve given in to the online hype and the pleadings of your friends and signed up for Twitter, but it’s not the Web 2.0 utopia you were led to believe, it’s a quiet little space with no mates, no fun and little to keep you there. Before you give up and go back to Myspace, give the suggestions in here a try.

Signing Up

Signing up is pretty straightforward if you can still find a name available. If not, get creative, try to avoid using your birth year though - that’s a bit lame.

HINT: Try to pick a fairly unique name that you’ll be able to use across different websites. It really helps other people to find you if you have a consistent identity.

If you use a webmail account (like GMail or Yahoo Mail), let Twitter look through your contacts to see if it recognises anyone. The guys behind Twitter are quite trustworthy, I’ve not heard of any privacy arising from this step.

Follower Suggestions

Twitter provides a list of people that it suggests you follow, and how you answer will affect how you use it. This list is a selection of very popular people on the site, like basketball star Shaquille O’Neil, US sitcom star Ellen Degeneres, top-flight CEOs.

It will also suggest bots like CNNs breaking news feed or Gordon Brown’s moronic list of public engagements. Some of these can be really useful - others, like Brown, are wasteful noise.

Careful though. Whilst most celebrities and CEOs often do engage with others on Twitter, they can’t talk with every one of their forty thousand followers. If in doubt, don’t follow any of these suggested people - you can always find them later.

All Signed Up, What’s Next? Who Should I Follow?

Just a minute. There’s another step that will really help you to make new friends on Twitter: Fill out your profile!

Go to the “settings” link at the top-right and (at the very least) fill out the two fields labelled “One Line Bio” and “Location”.

These are important because when you follow someone, they get an email telling them that you are following. Most users will then check out your profile to see if you’re interesting enough to follow back so spend a little time thinking about your biography. You can be informative, playful, caring etc. but you’ve got to be short.

You Need A Picture Too

After completing your profile, please take the time to add a little picture to represent you. When everyone first signs up they get a drab brown picture like this:

Default Twitter Avatar

Make yourself stand out from the crowd with a nice picture. It doesn’t have to be a photo of your face (or any other part of you) but that doesn’t hurt either. You can create a fun cartoon face with this tool, which is very popular.

Once you have the picture you want, click the “Picture” tab on your Twitter profile settings page. Then “Browse” to choose the file with your picture and “Save”.

Now Can I Follow People And Have Fun?

Yes, yes you can.

But How Do I Find People To Follow On Twitter

Good question. First, try to think of what kind of people you want to follow: artistic people, geeks, musicians, students, business people, pet lovers, parents - there are people of all kinds on Twitter, from atheists to zoologists.

Then, when you know who you are looking for, try these:


There are quite a few Twitter directories that have people divided into categories by their interests:

HINT: Add yourself to these directories so other people can find you and follow you.

Search Twitter

It’s not obvious from the homepage (yet) but Twitter does have a search function. Try searching for phrases related to your interests and click the pictures of the people returned to see if they are interesting.

Hopefully, now you see why it was so important to fill out your profile and get a picture!

HINT: You might see words starting with a hash (#) in the search results. People use these to share tweets about a specific event or subject - try finding one related to your interests and searching for it.

Search Google

Most people on Twitter have their own website or blog and they will link to their Twitter page with the words “follow me on twitter” so try googling for that and some other words to find out more about them than will fit into their short Twitter biography.

HINT: Got a Facebook page? Add a link to your Twitter profile.

I’m Following People, What Do I Talk About?

Pretty much, whatever you want but if you want a conversation you need to be interesting and engaging. Try some of these tactics:

  • Ask questions
  • Answer questions
  • “I’m reall excited about...”
  • “This is a funny picture” (add a link to the picture)

People Aren’t Following Me Back!

They will. Give it time and keep being interesting. Eventually it all snowballs and you’ll feel really important to the internet.

More Help

This post was written as a response to a (real life, not twitter) conversation I had with @JS__78 at the weekend and I hope it inspires her to give Twitter another try - please follow her and give her a bit of support.

I’ll write a followup with some more tips for intermediate users soon (and maybe an advanced one later). In the meantime you might like one of my earlier posts of Twitter Tips.

Check out other websites for lots of Twitter tips, this is a great post by @dhollings.

Finally, if you’ve still got questions, ask away in the comments below or catch me on Twitter.

Creative Commons licensed photo by davemelbourne.

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 Annika said at 2009-04-03 17:17


I think that Twitter is interesting and useful. I watched on the Internet and learned that it is a service where people follow my work and vice versa. We mutual comment and make better decisions.

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