The really, really simple guide to using Twitter

There’s a lot of absolute bollocks written about Twitter, usually by self-styled social media evangelists, clueless hacks on rubbish newspapers or self-important ‘communicators’.

In addition, I’ve noticed a lot of friends I’ve recommended Twitter to use it for a few days and then drift away, clearly non-plussed.

I don’t blame them, it took me a couple of goes to get Twitter, and I’ve lost interest in a few other social media sites before getting to grips with them, but Twitter really is worthwhile.

So, I thought I’d compose my own guide to Twitter that isn’t filled with self-promoting nonsense. It won’t make you rich, get you a better job or guarantee you 1,000 followers, but you’ll gain a valuable and interesting tool to play with when you’re supposed to be working.

I’m sure there are other, much better guides out there, but hopefully any old dunce can understand this one.

• Decide why you want to use Twitter. If you only want to post about your breakfast, your trip to work, your dislike of work, your vague feelings of alienation, your illness, your tea and your bath I’d suggest you try Facebook instead.

If you want to make contact with people in a particular profession or interest, Twitter is definitely for you.

If you just want to promote yourself, that could work too, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

• Create your profile, and bear in mind the kind of the image you want to project with your handle, picture, bio and website link. This is how you’ll be judged when people decide whether to follow you in return.

If people don’t follow you, you can’t interact with people, which is the whole point of Twitter.

• Do not, under any circumstances, protect your updates. What’s the point? This is social media. No-one will follow you.

• Search for 50-100 or so people in the area you’re interested in. I followed people in journalism, motoring, Liverpool, sci-fi and music.

• Watch what happens for a few days. Get to grips with the rhythm of things, and particularly the etiquette. Work out how direct messages, @ messages and retweets (RTs) work.

• Post a few introductory tweets explaining what you’re doing on Twitter and why you’re there. Post a few interesting links, RT those of others and offer some comments.

• Start to interact with people: asking questions, praising links, offering comments.

• Don’t ask for more followers or for others to retweet your links. It just makes you look like a bit of a twat.

• Celebrities: Don’t expect them to follow back or reply.

Where you take it from there is up to you. I use Twitter to promote links, to build networks, to tout myself around for freelance work and make connections, but in the main I use it because it’s fun and informative. It helps me in my job, and it amuses me in equal measure.

If you take the same approach, I reckon that’s more than half the battle.

I don’t claim that this is the be-all-and-end-all, and if you disagree that’s fine. But I reckon it’s a good primer for the social-media novice.

If you want to follow me I’m @robinbrown78 and @motortorque.

Other posts of mine on Twitter:


Who is behind Twitter denial-of-service attack?

Is blogging dead? Why do I blog?

Americans confused by Mrs Slocombe’s pussy

Twitter bums Daily Mail Online

What would my Twitter page look like if I were a social media evangelist?

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