This post is for: business owners (and others) who are curious about Twitter, but don’t know where to start
Being a guy of a certain age, as well as a guy who spends a lot of time sorting through all the hype and nonsense that some people call “marketing”, I’m often pretty skeptical, and sometimes downright curmudgeonly, about jumping on bandwagons. I often wait until I see something of real substance in them, and I let a lot of them pass me by altogether.
For quite a while I was very happy to do the same with Twitter, but something about the persistent enthusiasm of those who do use it finally convinced me to take a closer look. So I decided to wade in slowly, just to see if I could figure out what it’s all about and whether or not it has any usefulness for my company and our small business clients. I’m really glad that I did, and I’m happy to report that with a few caveats (mostly about its potential to waste your every waking hour if you’re not careful to filter what you follow), I do now find Twitter to be very useful, and do recommend it to any small business that’s looking for a way to either stay current on certain topics, or to get regular messages out to their intended audience.
Though I’m still no power user myself, I do now use Twitter every day to keep up to date on the latest news and developments in the fields of web design, video production, search engine optimization and social media marketing. And I also use it to share my finds, and some of my own company’s news and advice, with other small businesses that follow me.
Here’s how I waded in slowly, and how you can do the same if you’re interested:
- Start by checking out someone’s Twitter page. Even without your own Twitter account, you can see how a company is using Twitter by just visiting their Twitter page. So for example, if you like TED Talks, you can see how they use Twitter by visiting their Twitter page at https://twitter.com/TEDTalks. You’ll see some photos and some logos and some information on the left and right, but mostly, you’ll see a list of all of their most recent messages – “tweets” – in the middle column. Most of these tweets contain a link that you can click on, and now you start to get an idea of how useful these tweets can be, both for you and for them: they’re short messages to anyone who follows them that often publicize a certain link.
- Get your own Twitter account. Having your own Twitter account does NOT commit you to tweeting anything. You don’t ever have to send out a single tweet in your entire life if you don’t want to. But it does allow you to get a sense of the next main benefit that Twitter offers: being able to “follow” people. You need an account to be able to start following any person or company that you’re interested in. To sign up, just go to https://twitter.com/ and fill out the form under “New to Twitter? Sign up.” It’s free and you just need a valid email address, a password and a unique user name.
- Follow someone. Now that you have an account, you can start following a few people or companies that you’re interested in. You can “un-follow” them at any time, so don’t worry if you choose someone that you later decide you don’t really want to follow. To do so, just visit their Twitter page and click the big “Follow” button. Now, whenever you go to your own Twitter home page (which is just at https://twitter.com/ once you’ve logged in), you’ll see the latest tweets from the person/company that you’re following in the main “Tweets” column of your Twitter page. Now you can begin to see the convenience of following someone: whenever they send out a message, you’ll see it appear on your own Twitter feed.
- Find some more people to follow. Part of the fun is discovering the best people and companies to follow, which you can either do through keyword searches on the Twitter home page, or by clicking its “Who to follow” links once you’re already following a few people. You can also visit the Twitter pages of people that you’re following and check out who they’re following.
- Check your Twitter home page regularly to see what’s new. From this point on, how much you get out of this medium just depends on how often you want to check your Twitter feed for new tweets, and how many people or companies you decide to follow. It’s both addictive and distracting though, so try to find your own best schedule for how many times a day, and for how long each time, you decide to check your feed to see what new tweets have appeared on your home page.
Of course, these are just the very few first steps in discovering and using Twitter’s full capabilities and potential, and we haven’t even discussed sending out your own tweets yet. Or how to decipher all of the Twitter-specific terms like hashtags and retweets and trending topics. Or what tools can help you to organize and tame the incredible torrent of tweets that could potentially land in your feed. Or what the best uses of Twitter are for a typical small business.
That’s all very valuable information, and it can and should all be learned in due time. A good next step, for example, might be to follow Twitter’s own Getting Started guide. But first, you have to wade in slowly just to see if you like the water, and hopefully, this post gives you a few useful suggestions on how to do just that, at your own comfortable pace.