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From Here to Tweeternity: A Practical Guide to Getting Started on Twitter

From Here to Tweeternity: A Practical Guide to Getting Started on Twitter

Getting Started on Twitter

    Twitter is clearly the Next Big Thing. In the past couple of months, we’ve seen CNN adopting it as a way of giving living feedback during their shows, celebrities from Britney Spears to Demi Moore opening accounts, and hundreds of thousands of new users join the ranks of Tweeters.

    Businesses are getting into the Twitter game, too, using it as a way to provide near-instantaneous customer service, to promote their services, or to maintain brand awareness by staying engaged in ongoing conversations about their products and their competitors’.

    We here at Lifehack have given plenty of advice about using Twitter effectively. Dozens of other sites have as well. But a lot of that advice has focused around principles for using Twitter, and often vague ones at that: join the conversation, don’t spam, add value, be helpful – that sort of thing. What’s missing is a guide to actually using Twitter, a “best practices” guide that will walk people and businesses through the process of building up a core of followers and beginning to build a reputation on Twitter. 

    This is that guide. If you’re on Twitter just to keep up with friends and find the best parties, this guide isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to promote a business, build a brand, or keep up with your customers’ problems using Twitter, these 10 steps will get you through the early phases – and hopefully build up enough inertia to carry you through the next ones.

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    1. Sign Up.

    You can’t win if you don’t play. Go to Twitter.com and sign up. Choose a good username – your name or some variation, or your company name. Avoid “cutesy” names (unless you have a “cutesy” brand) and names that are easily confused with someone else. Definitely avoid “AOL Disease”; that’s where every possible variation of your name is taken so you end up with your name and a string of digits after your name, like “dustin73948924” – if you have a common name, use a memorable and representative handle (but make sure you use it elsewhere as well, since you’re effectively [re-]branding yourself under this name). Make sure you post a link to your Twitter page on your blog, website, emails, and anywhere else you connect with people.

    2. Download and Install Tweetdeck.

    There are lots of Twitter clients out there, and of course you can use the website as well, but for business and branding use, Tweetdeck offers several features that make it the best choice. First of all, Tweetdeck is an Adobe AIR application, which means it runs on virtually every current major operating system. Second, Tweetdeck’s multi-column view lets you view a wide range of Twitter streams easily. Third, it allows you to create groups containing the tweets of a subset of all the people you follow, so you can separate out, say, business partners, clients, and suppliers. And finally, Tweetdeck has Twitter Search built in, and allows you to create permanent columns for each search term that are updated in more or less real-time. We’ll be using this last feature a lot in step 4.

    3. Tweet 10 times.

    You can tweet all at once, or over a few days, but before you do anything else, you should start getting a history built up on your profile page. The reason is that as you follow people, they’ll be checking you out, and many people won’t follow someone that doesn’t seem to be actively using Twitter – what’s the point? Your Twitter profile doesn’t say when you joined, so they have no way of knowing whether you’re brand new or possibly the worst Twitterer ever.

    So put up a bunch of tweets right away. Make them good, but not fake – personal tweets are ok, as long as they’re substantive, but no two-word posts, or inane comments like “whee, this is fun”. And puh-LEASE avoid the urge to write “Is this thing on?” or “Checking out Twitter” as your first post. Everyone else does that.

    4. Run three searches for your keywords.

    At the top of Tweetdeck’s window is a strip of icons, one of which will say”Search” when you mouse over it. It looks like a magnifying glass. Click that and run a search on keywords relevant to your business or products. This is how you’ll follow (and join in on) conversations that are relevant to you, demonstrating your expertise while participating in the community. Tweetdeck creates a new column for each search – pick three keywords you think people are most likely to use to start with (you can also use phrases, just put them in quotes). For instance, if you’re Mountain Dew, you might search for “dew”, “thirsty”, and “extreme sports”. (You can always add more searches later – for now, while you’re getting started, stick to tree so you don’t get overwhelmed.)

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    5. Respond to 10 or more tweets.

    If you’ve picked good keywords, you should have plenty of examples of people talking about your company, your product, your competitors, or things your audience is likely to be interested in. Pick 10 of them, hit reply (hover your mouse over the speaker’s avatar and click the “swoopy arrow” button (it will say “Reply To” when you mouse over it), and talk to them. Answer their question if they’ve asked one. Point them to a website or blog post they might be interested in (not necessarily your own).  Say how cool whatever they’ve linked to is. Ask your own question. Just generally, you know, talk to them. Like a person. NOT like a PR person, like a real one.

    As you go through the next few steps, keep doing this – every day if you want, every few days or so at least.

    6. Follow 100 people.

    Now you have a track record of interesting, helpful things you’ve said – you make a pretty compelling person to follow. Some of the people you responded to in #5 will already have followed you, as well as some of your homepage visitors and others you’ve shared your link with. Now you want to wade into the general stream of Twitter conversation and make yourself known. So follow 100 people – that’s where the “magic” starts to happen with Twitter, and it’s a reasonable amount for a beginner to track.

    How to find Twitterers worth following:

    • Check out your followers, and who’s following them.
    • Pick a couple of big names and look at who their followers are.
    • Use Twitter Groups to find groups of Tweeters organized by interest, place, or event.
    • Follow Mr. Tweet who will recommend Twitsters for you to follow based on it’s analysis of your Twitter stream.
    • Check out the top Twitterers overall, or by location, at Twitterholic.

    7. Follow almost everyone back.

    At this point in the game, it doesn’t pay to be too choosy about who you follow – you can always un-follow people later. There is a kind of etiquette to following and not following people – if you have few followers and someone follows you, it looks like a pretty big rejection if you choose not to follow back. On the other hand, once you have hundreds or thousands of followers, and especially when you’re already following hundreds of people, it looks more like good time management and less like a personal slap in the face when you don’t follow someone back. Of course, if they’re offensive in some way, use your own judgment, but the general rule should be “if they follow you, you follow them.”

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    Unless you change this in the settings, you’ll get an email every time someone follows you. And unless you’re insanely famous and can expect hundreds or thousands of new followers a day, I recommend you don’t change that setting.

    8. Find at least 1 Tweet to respond to every day.

    You’re following at least 100 people, you’ve got around 100 people following you, you’re watching and participating in conversations relevant to your company or brand – now you’re in maintenance. For a while at least, make sure you’re responding to at least one person from your keyword searches a day – these aren’t people you follow, so this is how you expand beyond your network of followers, and hopefully increase its size. It’s also how you build your reputation as an engaged, concerned expert. Which is the point.

    Do as many as you feel like, but do it every day – you’re building up a habit here.

    9. Post at least one “status update” every day.

    Also post at least one fresh, interesting thing every day for a while – again, you’re building up a habit. Plus, you don’t want to appear to only respond to other people – you want to present yourself as an original voice in the Twitterverse, someone who makes waves and doesn’t just react to ripples.

    10. Respond to almost every @reply or direct message.

    If people care enough about you to contact you directly, show that you care about them by responding directly, in the same way they contacted you. That is, if they @replied to something you said, @reply to them back; if they privately direct messaged you, DM them back. You’re showing respect for your audience, engagement with the Twitter community, and hopefully your extensive knowledge and compassion. All of which beat a stick in the eye.

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    Bonus tip: Enjoy yourself.

    Twitter is, first and foremost, a social environment. People use it to have fun. And they tend to be very good at sniffing out insincerity, PR-speak, and all-around social selfishness. If you’re not having fun, turn your Twitter account over to someone in your organization who will – or hire someone, if you have to. Twitter is not an advertising platform (yet?) and it is not a broadcasting platform – it’s a conversation platform, or better yet, an interaction platform. Interact genuinely and unselfishly – just like you’d like people to see you and your business.

    As you walk through these steps, your competence will grow and you can add more searches, follow more people, and tweet more. These tips are meant to get you steadily to about 300-700 followers – after that, your only limit is the size of  the audience for your niche or niches that use Twitter, and your own creativity. Remember, your niche is more than just your product’s users or potential clients – try to connect with people who live and work in your city, whose share interests with you, or even just people whose tweets you like – that’s how you’ll build your audience and, hopefully, your clientele.

    Good tweeting!

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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