Would you like to try Twitter but don’t know where to start? One of the reasons Twitter is so popular is that it really is very simple. If you’re an absolute beginner, here’s a quick guide to get you started.
People use Twitter for all sorts of reasons, privately, commercially, to serve others, to learn, to meet new people or communicate with people they already know. For now, I’m going to assume you really don’t know yet why you might use twitter. You just want to try it out personally, to see what all the fuss is about.
If you’re already on Twitter, this guide is not for you – but you might want to read one of our other articles about Twitter strategies.
Five steps to get started
1. Start at twitter.com
Why not start by seeing what’s being said about something you’re interested in. Go to http://twitter.com, type a word or phrase in the white search box and click ‘Search’. Whatever you entered, there are bound to be people talking about it right now, somewhere.
Now, to set up your own Twitter account. It’s free and it’s easy. Click the green ‘Sign up now’ button.
Enter your name, and choose a username. Your name will be displayed on your Twitter profile, and your username will also form web address for your profile.
Enter a password and your email address. Your email address will not be displayed on your profile but Twitter will use it to tell you about things like people following you.
Type the words that are displayed in the graphic box (to prove you’re a real human, not a machine).
Now, before you click ‘Create my account’, read the Terms of Service by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. It’s worth reading these – they provide some helpful guidance on using Twitter.
We’re almost there. Now click ‘Create my account’ and you’re ready to start using Twitter!
You’ll receive a welcome email from Twitter, with a link to your profile and information about how to set up Twitter for your mobile phone, should you wish to (you don’t need to, but doing so will allow you to post messages on the move via SMS).
2. Your profile
Before you connect with friends, or say something on Twitter, you might want to decide how your profile appears to others on Twitter. Click on the ‘Settings’ link at the top of the screen at twitter.com (assuming you are still logged in), and you will be able to set a few options.
Here are three quick and easy things to do with your profile.
- Let people know something about you. Select your time zone, say something brief about yourself in the ‘one line bio’ box, enter your location, and if you have a website you would like to share, enter this in the ‘More info URL’ box. Then click ‘Save’ to save these details.
- Upload a profile photo or image, to give your profile some personality. You can do this on the ‘Picture’ tab.
- Choose your profile design by selecting a design or uploading an image on the ‘Design’ tab.
3. Connect with friends
Now, you’re no doubt eager to start saying something (‘tweeting’) on Twitter but there’s no point in saying something to nobody in particular, is there? So, find some people you know.
There are many ways of finding and connecting with people on Twitter, but here’s the simplest:
Click the ‘Find People’ link at the top of the page. Now type the name of the person you want to find, click search, and then select any of the results that come back (to check they really are who you think they are). Found a friend? Just click the ‘Follow’ button.
Of course you can make new ‘friends’ on Twitter too! Try following people who tweet about things you are interested in. For example, if you’re interested in digital strategies in healthcare and government, you could try following me as that’s mostly what my tweets are about: twitter.com/EngagementStrat.
4. Say something (or ‘Tweet’)
Now, Twitter’s home page asks ‘What are you doing?’. Answer that, click update, and hey presto! Your first tweet.
Enjoy being part of the Twitter community! Now you can explore the possibilities of Twitter and the more you use it, the more ideas you will have about how to use it.
Here are a few tips for engaging with other Twitter users:
- To mention, or send a public message to a Twitter user, use ‘@’ followed by their name in your tweet.
- If you prefer, you can send a direct message to a user who is following you. Use ‘D ‘ followed by their @name and the message, or go to their profile page and click the ‘message’ link in twitter.com.
- If you see a comment or link you like, ‘re-tweet’ it. Use ‘RT’ followed by the Twitter user’s @name, and their tweet.
Twitter tools for beginners
There are many tools that help you use Twitter efficiently, but you don’t have to use any of them at all to enjoy Twitter. I recently asked friends on Twitter what tools they would recommend to new users, and these are the top three recommended tools:
TweetDeck lets you organise all the tweets and Twitter friends you’re following.
Twellow is one of several helpful Twitter directories. Use it to find people with a common interest who you might want to follow.
Bit.ly is not just a tool for Twitter but it lets you shorten a web address to something that will fit in a tweet. You can also use it to track how many people click the link.
Finally, of course there’s so much more! I’ve tried hard to keep this guide very short and focused because with so much having been written already about Twitter, it would be easy to be overwhelmed. But it really is simple to get started.
Once you’re up an running, you might want to explore some of our articles about digital engagement in healthcare and government to learn about how others are using Twitter in your industry, or register to receive a copy of Engagement Strategy, our free e-journal for communicators and leaders in healthcare and you’ll be kept up to date on digital engagement in healthcare.
If you have any questions at all about Twitter, now or in the future, just ask me openly by tweeting your question and including @EngagementStrat in the tweet. If I don’t have the answer immediately, I probably know somebody who does. Go on, try it.