So, you've set your Twitter profile up, but you still can't see what all the fuss is about? You need to start 'following' and connecting with some other Twitter users to understand what it can do and why people are so evangelistic about it.
What is 'following'?
When you follow another Twitter user, you are adding their updates (usually known as 'tweets') to the information you see on your Twitter home page - the page you see when you log into Twitter. This is known as your 'Twitter stream'. So you know what I mean, here's a shot of the top part of mine, where you can see tweets from five of the people I'm following:
How do I follow someone?
Easy - just go to their profile page and click on the 'Follow' button under their picture on the top left.
When you do this, they will receive an email letting them know that you have followed them, and this gives them the opportunity to check your profile out and decide whether to follow you back or not (whether they decide to reciprocate or not, you will still be able to follow them).
How do I find people I might want to follow?
Here are a few of the ways you can find people to follow that are either interesting or relevant to you:
- Search by name for people you already know, people you have heard of, or who are well-known and respected in your space, using the Find on Twitter option, featured in the Find People tab along the top right menu on your Twitter home page. This tab also contains options to find people you know that are using Twitter through your Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail or MSN account.
- Search for subjects that people are 'tweeting' about, using Twitter Search or Twitter Monitter. When you see interesting tweets, just click on the name of the person that tweeted in the stream of messages, look at their profile and follow them if they look interesting.
- Follow Mr Tweet - a service that, among other things, will identify and recommend new people you might like to follow by referencing people you already follow against the range of Twitter users out there. This service comes into its own when you have been using Twitter for a while and are following a few people, as Mr Tweet's recommendations become more accurate the more data he has to go on.
- Once you start following a someone you find interesting, see who they are following, check out those people's profiles and follow them too (if they look like they might be relevant to you).
- Use directories, like Twellow (here's a search for 'nonprofit' on Twellow to get you started, or you can search on any number of other keywords) or Just Tweet It (here's their 'non-profits' category), to find people listed under areas of interest and/ or specialism.
A couple more tips:
- Try to following around 20 people first of all (or as many as you feel comfortable with). You'll find many of them will follow you back, provided you have included enough information in your profile for them to see whether you might be relevant or interesting to them, and you'll begin to discover how Twitter can connect you with people and ideas you may never have come into contact with otherwise.
- Make sure your profile represents you accurately, to give people a good idea of who you are, what you do, and what you're interested in - as this will help people connect and engage with you. You can personalise your profile in a number of ways using the options in the Settings tab in the top right menu when you are logged into Twitter, including selecting a background theme or uploading your own design, and adding a photo of yourself (which makes your profile more friendly and human). Note that you have just 160 characters to describe yourself in your Twitter profile (so make each one count!), but you can also add a link to another of your online profiles, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, to help people find out more about you.
- You can protect your updates, so they cannot be viewed at all by anyone, and cannot be followed, without your express permission. This is also found in the Settings tab, under 'Account'. I would recommend that you do not opt to do this, simply because it makes it very difficult for anyone to decide whether you are worth following or not, since they can't see what you tend to tweet about, and therefore can't decide whether they will be interested in what you have to say. It also just seems a bit secretive and is not really in the spirit of Twitter, so the vast majority of people leave their updates public.
If you haven't done so already, you might want to post your first update or 'tweet'.
You have just 140 characters for each message, and the option to include a URL within that, should you wish to link to something elsewhere online.
Just type your message into the box underneath 'What are you doing?' and hit 'Update'. And, before you post your first tweet, it's worth noting that it's going to end up being listed here, so try to make it something more interesting than mine was!
Don't worry, if you don't like what you've posted, you do have the option to delete it afterwards, by clicking on the little dustbin icon at the bottom right of your tweet (you will see this when you mouse over that area).