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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 January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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