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Getting started with Twitter

Posted by Kristi Hines
Social media marketing
Getting started with Twitter from Wordtracker, the leading keyword research tools

If you’re just getting started with Twitter, or you created a Twitter account long ago and are just beginning to seriously use it for your business, then here is what you need to know to use Twitter today. In this first post in our Twitter series, we’re going to cover creating a strong Twitter profile and common Twitter terminology.

Creating Your Twitter profile

Unlike Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and other social networks, creating a Twitter profile is quite simple because they only offer a few things to fill out. Here is what people will see when they visit your profile for the first time on Twitter:

Twitter profile layout picture

Keep in mind that this is what they see if they visit you on Twitter itself. Your profile bio and photo becomes even more pronounced when people view your profile through Twitter applications such as HootSuite ...

Twitter profile in Hootsuite

In Twitter directory listings ...

Twitter profile in Twitter directory

... or in search results:

Twitter profile in Google search results

Also, if someone sees your profile in other areas on Twitter, such as in a Twitter list, it will look like this:

Twitter profile in lists

Essential Twitter profile elements

Now that you have an idea of how your Twitter profile will look to visitors from different areas on the web and Twitter itself, you can see how important each of the details of your profile really is. With that in mind, here are the essential elements of a great Twitter profile.

  • Your Username - Your Twitter @username should be your company name for good branding purposes. So if your company is XYZ Specials, then your Twitter name should be @XYZSpecials if possible.
  • Your Name - Your name on Twitter should also match your company name. In combination with your username, this should make it easy to find in search when someone is searching for your company.
  • Your Bio - Your bio is a 160 character description of your company. Make it the best summary of your business possible, and be sure to include great keywords that fit your business so people searching for you can find you more easily. Also, if you can, place a URL in it. It comes in handy for the places on Twitter or other websites where you can only see your bio without the website.
  • Your Location - If your business is location-specific, or if there are other companies with the same name as yours where the only distinguishing feature will be the location, be sure to include it on your profile. You can also be found by people searching for tweets or users in specific regions, so keep that in mind as well when listing your location.
  • Your Website - Last, but not least, don’t forget to fill out your website. You can use the same one you stick in your bio or make it two different websites if you’re trying to link yourself to two different URLs.

Custom Twitter backgrounds

Another consideration when it comes to setting up your Twitter profile is your profile’s background image. This can only be viewed when people go to your profile on Twitter, but it can have a positive effect on your business’ branding on Twitter. While Wordtracker chose to make their background simply match their color scheme, you can see other ways to brand your background. LIVESTRONG matches theirs to their brand’s theme/colors perfectly and highlights other areas where you can find them on the web.

Twitter background example

If you like design, you can use tutorials like the one by HubSpot to create your own Twitter background. If you’re not a designer, you can use services like TwitrBackgrounds who will give you a professional, custom design starting at $89USD.

Your first updates

The last crucial element of your Twitter profile are your status updates themselves. When someone visits your profile on Twitter, they will see your latest 20 status updates. On other applications, they will likely see your latest 5 to 10. This means that if you want people to follow you, you have to give them an idea of what you will be tweeting about by adding some good status updates/tweets to begin with.

The common rule for tweets is 80/20. 80% of your status updates should be tweets that will be interesting to your followers. Only 20% of your status updates should be self-promotional tweets. Depending on who you are, what your business is, and who your followers are, you might not have to always follow this rule. Some Twitter users can get away with much more in the lines of self-promotion. But always consider posting tweets that aren’t always about you, your business, your newest products, your latest blog posts, and so on. Those are all good things to eventually tweet about, but mix them up with other tweets, such as the following:

  • Tweets with links to industry/niche specific news.
  • Tweets with interesting images.
  • Tweets with helpful videos.
  • Tweets with insightful quotes.
  • Tweets with mentions of other @usernames as parts of conversations.

If you have a good variety of tweets that are applicable to your industry or niche and demonstrate the fact that you engage with your followers by conversing with specific people’s @usernames, you’ll have a well-rounded selection of tweets!

Getting around Twitter

The next step to getting started with Twitter is learning to navigate the network itself. Here are some things you’ll want to use.

The main menu

Whenever you log into Twitter, at the top left you will see your three main menu options, basic statistics about your account, and a spot to enter a new tweet.

Twitter main home menu

Beneath this, you will also see current trending topics on Twitter.

Twitter trending topics

It’s a good idea to keep up with trends as you can incorporate the listed keywords, phrases, and #hashtags into your own tweets for additional exposure. Click the 'Change' link to see trending topics for specific cities and countries throughout the world.

When you click on '@ Connect', you will be taken to a page with your latest interactions. Click on 'Mentions' to see the latest tweets that include your @username.

Twitter connect section

When you click on # Discover, you will be taken to a page where you can see the following:

  • The top Twitter stories.
  • Latest activity by those you follow on Twitter.
  • Suggested people to follow on Twitter based on who you already follow.
  • 'Find friends' which allows you to search for people on Twitter via your email connections on Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL.
  • Categories to help you find people to follow with similar interests.

Twitter search

Next on the top menu bar is the search box where you can search for people by their usernames or particular keywords. Search results will include top tweets, people, videos, and images.

Twitter search results

Be sure to click on 'All' or 'People you follow' when looking at tweets to see all of the latest tweets or tweets just from those you follow.

Your personal menu

To the right of the search box, you will see a person icon. Clicking on this will give you a dropdown of personal menu options.

Twitter personal menu

Here you can access the following.

  • A link to your profile page.
  • Your direct messages which are private messages sent to you by those you follow.
  • Your Twitter lists including those you have created and those you are a member of. You can create Twitter lists with up to 500 people in them, or follow pre-existing Twitter lists to see status updates of any members of the list. Listorious is a site that helps you find popular Twitter lists based on keywords - see the search results for SEO as an example.
  • Twitter Help Center.
  • Keyboard shortcuts you can use to quickly navigate popular areas on Twitter.
  • Settings which will allow you to update your username, name, profile information, notification settings and applications which have access to your Twitter profile.

Learning the lingo

Last, but not least when getting started on Twitter is the lingo. Here are some common terms and abbreviations you will see referring to Twitter activity as well as in tweets.

  • Retweets - This is when someone tweets a status update that another user has tweeted. You can hover over any tweet on Twitter to have the option to retweet them which will post their status update and username to your account. If you are manually retweeting another user, you would typically start your tweet out as RT @username then include the portion of their tweet you would like to share with your followers.
  • Mentions - This is when someone has sent a tweet with your @username in it. It’s good to monitor your mentions and respond to others as needed.
  • Hashtags - This is when someone uses a keyword with a # sign in front of it. You can include hashtags in your own tweets to give them additional exposure as other people tend to search for tweets with specific hashtags. Browse the search results for #SEO to see what we mean.
  • Hat Tip - This is when you tweet something like a link or image you found as a result of browsing another user’s tweet stream. By tweeting the link, image, quote, etc. with HT @username, you are giving them credit for their find.
  • #FF - Going back to hashtags, one of the most commonly used ones is #FF for Follow Friday. This is where Twitter users recommend other Twitter users to their followers on Fridays. For example, you could tweet #FF @Wordtracker for great #SEO tools and resources! to introduce Wordtracker to your followers.

In conclusion ...

There you have it - the basics of what you need to know to set up a great profile on Twitter, navigate the network, and figure out what others are talking about when they say retweet, hashtag, hat tip, and other Twitter lingo. In our next post on Twitter, we’re going to cover different strategies you can use to build a relevant following on Twitter.

Meanwhile, are you following @Wordtracker yet?

This is the first in our Twitter series. Also read:

Building an engaged audience on Twitter
Manage & Analyze your Twitter account with the top Twitter tools