I get a lot of questions from friends and colleagues about Twitter. What’s the point of Twitter? What can I get out of it? What are the risks? How to get started? Here’s a few baby steps for newcomers.
1) Sign up for an account. I recommend you use your real name. Choose a username that you will want to keep for years (for instance, I chose @philiplederer). Many people use a pseudonym, but for me, that defeats the purpose of twitter, which, as I see it, is to make real connections between real people around the world.
2) Install twitter on your phone. Assuming you have a smartphone, install the twitter app. It’s a great way to spend a couple of minutes while you are in the elevator or in the supermarket line.
3) Write a profile. I suggest you write a few things about yourself- your profession, interests, hobbies, etc. In addition, I suggest you insert a 1-2 links, to your website, blog, or linkedin profile. But be careful. Starting off, I suggest you don’t mention the name of your employer, and keep your tweets innocuous, as you watch and learn.
4) Start following a few people. You could follow famous people, like @BarackObama, or non-famous people, like me. Keep the number small, initially, as you learn twitter.
5) Make a private list. A list (like “college friends,” or “favorite authors,”) is important, because you don’t necessarily want to always be looking at your main twitter screen, especially when you start having a lot of people you are following. It’s ok to “lurk” (watch and learn). You don’t need to start interacting with other people right away.
6) Favorites. Once you feel comfortable interacting with other people, I recommend you start favoriting the tweets of people you are following. Favorites just tell the person who tweeted that you saw their tweet and appreciated it. They are similar to “likes” on facebook. It’s a nice gesture, that someone out there is reading your tweets.
7) Retweet! If you really like someone’s tweet, you can “retweet” it, which means that you broadcast it out to all your followers. After you’ve mastered the “retweet,” it’s time to
8) Tweet! Say there’s something you really want to say to the world: you saw an amazing movie, or read a great article, for example. Write your tweet (in 140 characters or less). To make your tweets more interesting, I suggest you include a link to the article, photo, or blog post.
9) Notifications tab. Click on your notifications tab to see what other people have tweeted to you. Think of these notification tweets as “140 character, public emails.” It means someone sent something directly to you.
10) Check out live twitter chats. Some are sporadic (ie World AIDS Day, December 1st). Others are weekly (an infectious disease chat uses the hashtag #IDChat and is every Wednesday night at 9 PM EST, for example). Chats are a great way to meet new people.