How to Use Twitter: From Beginner to Advanced
Have you been struggling with how to use Twitter effectively for your personal brand or business? If so, this post has everything covered for you, start to finish.
Twitter is the epitome of the KISS strategy—keep it simple, stupid.
Not that I’m labeling anyone “stupid,” but the social network does rather successfully force its users to do what most of the internet doesn’t: self-edit.
With only 280 characters (yes, including spaces), you don’t have much liberty to hash out long-verse prose.
I mean, sure, 280 characters is a leg up from its previous 140. And yes, now that Twitter has released a threaded tweets feature it’s easier to create a series of connected posts.
But it still calls for users to think which points are pertinent, ponder syntax, and condense it all in one tweet.
And with the social site boasting of 335 million monthly active users by Q2 2018, it would be remiss of your brand to pass over Twitter.
Don’t know how to use Twitter? Feel like you’ve been underutilizing it?
I’ve got you.
How to Use Twitter Level 1: The Basics
Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, and this is where your journey in the Twitter-sphere begins:
Decode The Jargon
It’s absolutely insane how language quickly evolves, especially in the interwebs. RTs, hashtags, QRTs… These terms are not just part of millennial parlance. These are real things that you need to be aware of when you use the website:
Tweet – This is what they call your posts on Twitter. This word can be used as either a noun or a verb.
Feed – This is where you see a stream of tweets from the accounts you follow. It’s mostly chronological with a bit of Twitter adding in things that you might find interesting that have been tweeted at an earlier time.
Avatar – Another name for your “profile picture.” The ideal size for this is 1000px by 1000px.
Header image – The photo that shows up at the top of your profile. The ideal size for your header image is 1500px by 500px.
Follow – Basically, subscribing to someone’s tweets. When you follow someone, you will now see their tweets in your Feed. Unlike Facebook “friending” the other person does not need to approve or follow you back in return. This is one of the things that made Twitter so distinct in the beginning (before Facebook copied the feature).
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At-mention – An ‘at-mention’ is performed by placing the ‘@’ symbol in front of a person’s username. This signifies that you are speaking to or quoting the person designated after the ‘@’ symbol. When you do this, the user who is being named receives a notification that they have been ‘mentioned’.
Retweet – The Retweet is a way of sharing another user’s (or your own) tweet into your stream. It’s the twitter version of quoting someone or resharing their post. This feature has gone through a few iterations since the social site started. Previously, to share someone else’s tweet, you need to type ‘RT’ then at-mention the user, like so:
But now that they’ve made it a standard feature, a tweet that is retweeted will just look like every other tweet in the Feed. The difference is that if you’re not following the person who originally tweet it, you will see which of the people you’re following retweeted it, which is why you’re seeing it in your feed.
Quote Tweet (a.k.a. retweet with comment) – From the old-fashioned way of using RTs, we now have QRTs. Instead of copying a tweet and then manually adding ‘RT’ before it, you can just use the Quote Tweet function, also available at the bottom of each tweet. This gives you a bit more room to add your own tweet in conjunction with the one you just quoted.
Notice how you can see my original tweet below Kyle’s amazing comment in response to my tweet. Like a Tweet within a tweet.
DM – Short for Direct Message, this feature allows you to start having private conversations with a user or a group of users (provided that they allow it in their account settings).
Like – Hitting the heart button under each tweet. You have a ‘Likes’ tab on your profile where you can see all the tweets you’ve liked before.
Hashtag – The pound/number sign (#) used to be a keyboard character on old Nokia brick phones used to capitalize letters. Fast forward to Twitter, the # sign became ‘hashtag’ and is now used as a way to group similar topics together and make it easier for users to follow them. More on how to use hashtags properly in the content section.
Now that you can decode Twitter-speak, here’s what you need to do next.
Say My Name
It’s no longer the 1990’s, where people used random strings of obscure words and numbers to create their online alias. Nowadays it’s best to just use your name.
Friends, family, fans, or potential clients will be looking for your name. Don’t make it hard for them to find you.
Sure, you could debate how useful a “brand name” can be, but if you’re a person on social media as a person then use your person name.
Don’t Be An Egghead
An accurate depiction of Twitter no0bs… and trolls.
While Twitter no longer gives brand new users a default “Egg” profile picture, the impression of a no-photo account is pretty much the same.
There is no better way to broadcast the fact that you are a n00b than to have a default profile picture. This is Twitter’s default image when the user hasn’t uploaded their own profile photo yet.
You wouldn’t want to be mistaken for an illegitimate business or a troll, right? So, please, go and get an image of yourself. Even if it’s just something that vaguely represents or resembles you, make it your profile picture.
Whip out your phone and take a good selfie. You can also use your logo if you like. It doesn’t have to be a professionally done photo. You’re not auditioning for a feature film here. You just need something there that represents you.
Bio the Way…
Optimizing your profile doesn’t stop at photos. Your Twitter bio is an important piece of making a first impression.
People will go read your bio. So make sure to fill it out with relevant information that:
1. Tells people what you’re passionate about (ie. what you’ll likely be tweeting about when they follow you)
2. Gives them a way to identify with you (ie. coffee lover, gamer, vegan… some interest that your audience could share with you)
3. Includes a relevant hashtag or three (but no more than three–let’s not be obnoxious, okay?)
Humor works best on Twitter, so try to make your bio at least slightly entertaining. In fact, 78% of all Twitter users consider themselves to be the funniest person they know.
(I’m kidding, this is not true… but maybe not too far from the truth?)
Spam Is Only Good When It’s Food
I don’t care how much I love you if you are tweeting five times per minute and my entire Twitter stream is consumed by your tweets, no matter how inspiring or profound, I will likely unfollow you.
If you are bombarding someone’s news feed with your banter, it will only be a matter of time before they either tune you out or flat out remove you.
You have been warned.
Know which type of content to send out and the ideal time to tweet them, so you can keep your followers from dropping the ax on your profile.
Use a social media scheduling tool to save yourself time, and spread out your tweets if you prefer to write tweets in bulk.
Keep it Short(er) And Sweet(er)
Even though Twitter increased the limit to 280 characters, sometimes, it’s not enough especially when sharing links.
Yes, Twitter now automatically truncates URLs, but there are still a great number of benefits to your business if you decide to shorten your links using third-party apps. I talked about those here.
So what are these link-shortening services available online that you can use for free?
When you want to share a link to a website, blog, YouTube video, or the like, always use a link-shortening service like bit.ly, is.gd, or tiny.cc. That way, you will have more room to share what the link is about and you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.
There’s actually a lot you can do with short URLs, so take some time and learn to use them right.
No One Likes A Snob
When someone mentions you, respond. It’s that simple.
If you want to monologue, theater is the place for you; not Twitter. Social media is called “social” media because you need to socialize.
If all you plan on doing is broadcasting your message and not engaging with your audience, you should just do us a favor, stay off of Twitter.
Even if you rack up thousands of followers, they won’t convert to paying customers if they feel like there’s a robot running your Twitter account (wait… is there?!).
The only legit reason to not be replying to all your mentions is when you’ve joined the big leagues and you already have millions of followers and simply cannot keep up with all the mentions.
Follower count is just a number. As a budding brand on Twitter, engagement is key to winning.
If your customers tweet a complaint about your business, respond ASAP. And I mean go fast-and-furious all over that. Studies actually show that 42% of consumers who complain on social media expect a response within 60 minutes. So, chop chop!
Recommended tool: Agorapulse can make sure you never miss a mention and give you one central inbox to gather all your social profile mentions, comments, and replies.
Don’t Be The Party Pooper
Come on, don’t be that guy.
Spoiling the end of each episode of Game of Thrones right after they air does not make you a star journalist. Remember, your audience followed you because they want to stay updated with your business; not to have someone rain on their parade.
If you truly must do it (for some unfathomable reason), be considerate and add a #SPOILERALERT tag at the beginning. Trust me, some people take their TV shows very seriously, and if you ruin the surprise it’s as if you’ve kicked their puppy or something.
There’s A Special Place In Hell For Plagiarists
This runs true anywhere on the internet, not just social media.
Whether it’s a blog post or a funny tweet or an inspirational quote, don’t copy and paste.
For one, the Retweet and the Quote Tweet buttons exist; use them.
Secondly, the original author may track you down and raise a huge ruckus over the plagiarized tweet.
And third, it’s just not cool, especially in the context of building a brand around your business. You wouldn’t want to lay the foundation of your online presence on a stolen tweet, right?
Avoid The Boring and The Banal
Your followers—who are probably your current and future customers—do not want to know when you’re using the restroom, tying your shoe, or taking out your garbage. Unless of course it’s got some sort of entertainment value.
A little personal touch on your tweets is great, as this will humanize your account more. But don’t go overboard.
Want to know the kind of content that they’ll engage with? Keep reading this guide.
The Grass Is Greener On The Other Side… When You Think It Is
Don’t get jealous because someone’s numbers are higher than yours. A large number of followers doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
There are various ways to measure your success via the social sphere, but follower count isn’t one of them.
You also need to look at, among others, engagement rate, and conversions (leads or actual sales). Metrics also vary depending on the kind of campaign you’re running.
As far as retweets go, if you’re not getting as many as you would like, just write better tweets!
Don’t let the green-eyed monster rear its ugly head. As my buddy Brian Fanzo says, you do you.
How to Use Twitter Level 2: Intermediate Level
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time for you to step up and begin to strategize a bit. This section is where we separate the casual Twitter users from the marketers.
You’re going to learn to step back and think through some strategy and tactical application for your brand or business to thrive.
Eyes On The Prize
In war, you can’t go in blindly. You need to know your mission and how you’re going to achieve it.
Same goes for marketing. Define your goals (your mission) and your objectives (how you’re going to achieve it).
To set goals and objectives, use the SMART framework—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
You can achieve a wide variety of goals on Twitter, some of which include increasing brand awareness, driving more website traffic, generating leads, or even generating sales.
So, let’s say, you’re a startup owner.
It’s logical that you’d want to increase brand awareness in 6 months’ time, right? Get the word out about you, let people know who you are…
With that goal in mind, you can’t just say: I want to be as huge as Lady Gaga on Twitter!