Getting Started in Social Media Series, Part One: Twitter
Many of the clients we work with are just getting started on Social Media. If they have used Facebook or other Social Media platforms at all, it has been only for limited personal use. In order to help small business owners get started, we are launching a series of posts, each of which will outline how to quickly get up and running on a specific social network. Businesses can go through these posts one at a time or pick and choose which networks they want to start with. With each post we will review how to set up your account and cover some of the basics for posting and participating on that network.
PART ONE: TWITTER
We are going to start with Twitter. Twitter may be one of the easiest networks to create your account on, and it's also a network where many businesses do not yet have any kind of presence at all.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social networking site that is a form of micro-blog. Users create an account and then post "tweets" which are a kind of status update. Each tweet is limited to a total of 140 characters. When sharing links, the URL is typically shortened in order to conserve characters, leading to links that look like this: http://shar.es/tg9G7
According to Twitter:
Twitter contains information you will find valuable. Messages from users you choose to follow will show up on your home page for you to read. It’s like being delivered a newspaper whose headlines you’ll always find interesting – you can discover news as it’s happening, learn more about topics that are important to you, and get the inside scoop in real time.
Businesses and individuals can create accounts for free. Twitter is highly integrated into smart phones like the iPhone so that it is very easy to tweet updates from a variety of sources. Your goal as a business should be to be the one providing the news and topics that Twitter users find important.
Create Your Account
So, the first step in getting started with Twitter is to create your account. Fortunately, it's really easy. Just follow these 8 steps:
- Go to http://www.twitter.com
- Click on Sign Up
- Type in your Full Name (some thoughts on this in a moment)
- Type in your email address
- Type in a user name (this will be your handle - thoughts on this too in a moment)
- Type in a password for your account (choose something unique and write it down)
- Complete the CAPTCHA character response
- Click Sign up(feel free to read the Terms and Privacy policies before doing so)
Full Name or Business Name?
While this is an important consideration, know that you can change your mind later.
The correct answer to this question depends somewhat on how your going to use Twitter and you may not know that until you get started. Generally, if you want to have multiple staff members representing your business and brand on Twitter than you should use your business name. If however you will be tweeting as yourself and working to present yourself as an expert in your field than you should use your own name.
Again, you may change your handle later if necessary, though this will also change your Twitter link and profile address so avoid doing this if at all possible.
You can try to match your username to your full name or business name. You can also try to create a handle that describes your business or specialty.
Our recommendation is to use your personal name and a handle that matches that name as closely as possible. I use "Mike Allton" and Mike_Allton. This will result in a Twitter link that looks like: https://twitter.com/mike_allton
Optimizing Your Account
Once you click Sign Up, Twitter will create your account and present you with your new home screen. Before you jump into tweeting and following, let's work on optimizing your account.
First, you need to replace the default Twitter profile picture (avatar) with one of your own. You should use a professional head shot or your business logo, depending on which direction you went with your account name and handle.
Second, you need to write your bio. You are limited to just 160 characters so you should make an effort to highlight the specific industries or services you provide.
Note: one of the integrated features of Twitter is that any time you place a hashtag (#) in front a word, that word automatically becomes linked and clickable to a search in that word. This applies to both tweets AND your bio, so be sure to include hashtags in front of those keywords. You can also include links if you include the entire URL.
Third, change the appearance of your profile. You can upload a background image if you wish, though a tiled image will not likely look very good. If you want to use a custom graphic, particularly one that has additional information about you or your company on it, that's a great idea but you will need a custom graphic created specifically for Twitter. You should understand that while a lot of businesses use this graphic to display links to their website and other networks, those links will not be clickable. And, if Twitter changes their interface again, those custom graphics will likely have to be redone. Instead, we usually recommend choosing one of the standard color schemes to match your business or personality.
We have other posts that detail how to grow our Twitter following and the kinds of posts to make (see Twitter for Business), here are some specific things to do though when you are just starting.
Start to share posts. If you are already regularly creating content for your website, get into the habit of immediately tweeting a title and link to that new content. Your website should have a Tweet button on each new post to make that easy for you (and others).
Start by following other prominent people in your industry, businesses, or news sources. They will provide you with great information that you can use yourself, and in turn share with your own followers in the form of re-tweets (RT).
Your Twitter account can now be shared with others. You can email clients, partners and vendors your link. You can include it in your email signature and of course you should have a button on your website to follow you. If you have other networks set up already you should mention your new Twitter account there, and even think about a new blog post to talk about it.
Hopefully this has helped you get started with your shiny new Twitter account. As always, if you have questions or need additional assistance, please feel free to contact us. If you have any interesting stories or comments about your own Twitter experiences, please share them with us!