18 Twitter tips for newbies

Twitter can be a baffling frontier at first. Here are some guidelines for getting started—and gaining traction—in the realm of the 140-character update.

Those of us who’ve been using Twitter for a while might forget that there are new adopters every day. Trying to figure out Twitter back in its early days was bad enough; can you imagine what it’s like today?

Here are 18 Twitter tips for newbies. They include tips on how to get set up with and effectively use a social network I love.

1. Use a real photo of yourself for your avatar. (I know, sounds like a duh moment, but you’d be surprised).

2. Make sure your avatar is “SFW” (safe for work… and yes, you’d be surprised again).

3. Use your real name, or some variation thereof, as your Twitter handle. Leave your inner Hotlips Houlihan alone.

4. Try to keep your Twitter handle to as few characters as possible. This gives you more “real estate” to use when actually tweeting.

5. Fill out your 160-character bio. Creativity is fine, but don’t overdo it.

6. Use “Twitter-speak” in your bio, such as other Twitter handles to refer to organizations and appropriate hashtags. These show as live links on Twitter.com, so they can flesh out your bio, not to mention show you understand the lingo.

7. Include a link in your Twitter profile. If nothing else, use your LinkedIn profile, your personal website or blog, or, if it’s a business account, your company’s preferred URL. People like to know whom they’re talking to (and might end up doing business with).

8. Don’t have an overly complicated Twitter background that makes your profile hard to view. It’s distracting.

9. Use the “Mom” rule when conversing on Twitter; if Mom wouldn’t like it, don’t say it.

10. Acknowledge and reply to @ mentions as soon as possible.

11. Attribute blog posts, news articles, or other curated information to the original source using their Twitter handle.

12. Leave at least 10-12 character spaces in your tweets, so others can easily retweet you if they wish to.

13. Use “MT” to indicate you are retweeting another’s post, but with modifications of your own.

14. Use hashtags wisely; they can be a great way of broadening a conversation and audience, but they’re irritating if overused.

15. Don’t use auto-DMs or verification programs to welcome new followers. The best way to welcome someone is to start talking to him or her on the public timeline.

16. Don’t constantly DM your followers asking them to share news, promotional events, etc. Use your requests sparingly, and they will be more likely to be well-received.

17. Don’t automatically RT tweets, especially those of a “breaking news” nature, without first verifying the source and accuracy of content.

18. Don’t click on suspicious links in your DM stream that urge you to see “what they’re saying about you,” etc. Instead, send your friend who supposedly sent that message—on the public timeline, or another network, if you are connected there—to let them know their Twitter account has been hacked.

Shonali Burke is president and CEO of a micro PR agency that successfully helps businesses take their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool. She founded and curates the popular #measurePR Twitter chat and is an adjunct faculty member at The Johns Hopkins University’s M.A./Communication program. A version of this article first appeared on her blog, Waxing UnLyrical.

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