I keep getting asked about how to use twitter because, well to put it bluntly I can't see myself without it now (yes, I can hear you hollering nerd from the back thank you!). So, for those completely new to it, or those that have an account because they felt they should but have never used it because it just looks too complicated this is for you.
First things first, it's not there to confuse you but it can move fast once you follow a lot of people but we will come on to managing that later so don't panic. Might sound daft, but have a think about why you want to use it in the first place. Do you just want a social hangout, do you want to follow celebrities, do you want to use it as a marketing tool for your business? It really doesn't matter which, but it will shape how you use it so worth considering as you go along.
If you are used to playing on facebook and have built up a following twitter can seem a little lonely to begin with as it takes a little longer to build up followers and relationships, but hang in there and have a little patience.
Your account can be open or locked - open accounts mean tweets can be seen by anyone, locked accounts only by your followers. Depending on why you want to use twitter will determine which way you go, spammers don't tend to reach locked accounts but equally it can restrict people following you
Your name and profile:
Be yourself! Make sure you edit your profile setup and include a picture, even if it's only of your favourite cartoon character because leaving an egg on your profile makes others slightly nervous of talking to you. Apart from your name which is harder to change later pretty much everything can be edited so don't worry about getting it right straight away. If you are using it for business make sure you include links to your website, facebook or anywhere that people can find you.
Unlike facebook people are free to follow/unfollow anyone at any time without an invite as are you. The other aspect of this is if you follow someone they are not obliged to follow you back, and equally you're not obliged to follow them back. However, as a basic etiquette especially if they say hello to you then it would slightly ungrateful not to follow back.
If you already know someone you trust on twitter ask them for people to follow so that you can get started. My followers include some true gems who I always recommend to newbies as they will chat and support as you get going and stops you feeling like a wallflower at a busy party!
What to tweet?
This is an odd one if you're not used to twitter! You sort of want to say something interesting and end up saying 'my cat is bonkers'. Just imagine what you would do if something exciting/silly or interesting has happened and you want to tell a friend and then think of twitter as a text to lots of friends at once. But, remember that exactly as you wouldn't send a global text of something embarrasing to your aged Aunt don't do it on twitter (but then again, it might be fun!)
How to tweet:
If you put the @ sign at the front of a tweet then it goes to the person mentioned and unless people follow you and that person your tweet may not be seen by many - this is like having a conversation on a bus with the person sitting next to you but if others are in earshot they hear the conversation.
If however you include their name using the @ sign in the middle of a tweet then anyone that follows you will see it. This would be like you standing up on the bus and shouting out 'me and Jane are going into town now'.
The rule of thirds:
As a basic rule of thumb mix your tweets into three groups - talking about yourself, talking about others and general silliness. If you are a small business we want to see the person behind the business and not just hear about your new etsy listings. Just as in real life the person that never listens or engages quickly loses friends and the sames goes for twitter. It goes back to the be yourself and remember that it's social media so chat and engage with followers where possible.
These are great but limit them to 2 or 3 in a tweet if using them. It's like a directory search, you can search for a hashtag even if you don't follow any of the people using them. Sometimes tv programmes show them such as #pogdogs which stands for Paul O'Grady's love of dogs programme and if you watch the show or want to comment using the hashtag puts you into that conversation. Also you can create your own hashtag, I use #happyhippo or #sadhippo because it groups tweets, makes them searchable and for me building a brand is important. They are also used when there is a group discussion going on with members around the world such as #artisthour and allows everyone to find tweets connected with the discussion.
Twitter is full of them! Mainly because you are limited to 140 characters (or chrs) and shorthand is everywhere. A basic one is RT means re-tweet which is when someone shares a tweet with their followers or says pls RT which is another way of saying please share this. Just think back to the early days of texting before predictive text. There are various directories out there and if in doubt ask what someone meant - I still have to do that now sometimes!
Trolls and spammers are on twitter just like in real life. A giveaway is that they only have about 15 tweets that are repeated and few followers. Use your instinct, if you are uncomfortable with what they are saying then don't follow them, and if you believe them to be offensive for whatever reason then use the block and report function. Don't say 'please unfollow @twitmaster' because that just gives them publicity, just block report and move on to talking to those you do enjoy.
Linking facebook and twitter:
Personally I don't advocate this because if you are used to facebook your tweets will be too long and if you tweet to facebook they can sometimes look slightly rudely short and the hashtags look out of place. The choice is yours, but just remember that posts appear on both platforms and don't ignore reponses from both.
That should get you going, but above all be friendly! The clue is in the name social media, just as in real life if you have a friend or acquaintance that never listens or responds you slowly don't want to hang out with them it's the same on twitter. You can always find me as @littlehipposhop if you get stuck.
Have fun and see you in the ether soon, Hippo x