Getting started with Twitter: 5 simple steps

One of the most fascinating web services to come out of the noughties,
Twitter continues to enjoy phenomenal growth. Powerful in its
simplicity, the social networking platform is one of the quickest and
easiest ways to engage with your customers. However, coming complete
with its own distinct jargon, etiquette and cultural norms, Twitter can
be a confusing place for the beginner.

Don’t let this mean that Twitter remains an untapped resource for your business. Brands, corporates, not-for-profits and individuals are constantly finding new ways to leverage the platform and there is always room for one more. Follow these 5 simple steps to becoming a confident and well-respected Twitter user.

1. Brand your profile

An unbranded profile is a sign of an inactive or unprofessional account. The first step after signing up to Twitter should be to change your avatar – this is what represents you in the Twitterverse. Choose carefully, as changing your avatar too much or using an obscure image will reduce the ability of your followers to recognise and engage with you.

Your 160 character bio is the only static text on your Twitter profile, so use it wisely. Visitors to your Twitter profile will use this to make a quick decision whether or not to follow you, so be sure to include who you are, what you do and why people would want to engage with you i.e. include a call to action. Finally set your location if it’s relevant, add a custom background and customise the colours of your profile page.

2. Start Tweeting

Your tweets should be both regular and relevant. How often is seen as regular, and what content is relevant will depend entirely on you and your audience. Try to tweet something every day, and certainly don’t leave it more than a week. 

If you are representing a brand, leave your personal stuff out. Try to imagine if your audience will enjoy your content – is it either industry related or suited to the interests of your followers? Experiment with different content: asking questions, quick polls, news articles, deals & offers, competitions and general updates and see what your audience responds to. Twitter is great for getting instant feedback.

3. Follow relevant people

Twitter works on a system of “following” – you follow someone you’re interested in and their updates appear on your Twitter homepage. Twitter doesn’t really do anything until you follow people and also if you want to reach people with your updates, you’ll need to build a following of your own. The best way to do that is to follow lots of relevant people they will hopefully follow you back.

There are many, many 3rd party tools for finding relevant people to follow, some of which suggest lists of users and others which will auto follow people who tweet certain keywords. After lots of experimentation I’ve settled on Twellow as my favourite. It’s like the Twitter Yellow pages, and allows you to search by category and location as well as providing you with lists of suggested users. In addition it provides useful breakdowns of users who you aren’t following back, or who aren’t following you back etc.

4. Listen carefully

Twitter provides several ways for people to talk either about or to you. There are standard public updates which might mention your brand name, mentions or “@replies” which are still public but aimed at you directly and direct messages which are private. In order to engage with your customers you’ll need to monitor all of these different channels. is not the best place to keep track of all this information. Instead, make use of one of the many desktop applications which allow you to control what you see. Tweetie, Seesmic and TweetDeck are three of the most popular applications.

Personally, I love TweetDeck because it lets me configure different columns for keeping track of different things. It automatically creates individual columns for mentions and direct messages, plus I recommend setting up a column to search for your brand/company name, and a column to search for your principle location as this is a good way of getting news relevant to your audience which you can then pass on through the wonderful art of “re-tweeting”. Another great way to keep track of what people are saying about your brand and products is TweetBeep, which will send you email alerts.

Remember that people often use Twitter to get customer support, or to build a relationship with their favourite brand. Providing you listen and respond (using the tools to help you do this) you should always be able to use this to your advantage. I highly recommend responding to anyone who mentions your brand, even if it is a criticism and especially if you are asked a question – it shows you care.

5. Track your influence

Once you’re tweeting away happily to a great collection of followers, it’s time to look at measuring your influence and the success of your Twitter campaign. One key trick is monitoring how many clicks your tweeted links get by using a *clever* URL shortener such as or which provide you with handy stats.

I recommend as the perfect partner to TweetDeck. Once you’ve created a account you can integrate it with TweetDeck, and then all URLs you tweet via TweetDeck are automatically shortened and tracked for you. Log in to your account for a full breakdown of how many clicks you got via your own links, and links retweeted or otherwise used by others.

Another key question is: are you successfully driving traffic to your website? Keep track of how many referrals you are getting from Twitter to your website via Google Analytics or any other analytics tool and compare this to the number of clicks you are getting according to This will tell you how much traffic you are driving from Twitter vs how much traffic others are creating for you on Twitter.

There are tonnes of other fun and interesting tools for measuring your influence, reach and success on Twitter. Use TwitterCounter to keep track of your follower growth, and check out Klout or Twitalyzer for some interesting statistics on engagement and reach. Finally use Grader to find out your ranking in relation to others in your location as well as some interesting analysis and tips for improvement of your Twitter profile.

So there we have it: 5 steps to Twitter success. No one said it was going to be easy! I’m always experimenting with the latest and greatest tools and hope that my favourites are useful to you. If you’ve got a recommendation of your own, I’m always interested to hear about new and better tools.

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