36 Things You Should Know Before Starting a Twitter Account
A Twitter Guide For Newcomers
By Nir Ben Yona
Copyright © 2009 Nir Ben Yona – All Rights Reserved
Recently, we find it hard to ignore the hefty buzz around Twitter. It seems the service is in its peak nowadays and every news channel or media network across the globe already covered this microblogging revolution in one way or another. Not to mention the massive popularity that Twitter is getting from mega Celebes like Oprah Winfrey, Ashton Kutcher and many others, who find the service convenient enough to share their thoughts with the masses (AKA: followers). But famous people aside, using Twitter for quite a long time, made us realize there are many rules and norms people should acquire before getting into the service.
Here's a list of 36 tips and advices for the average Twitter starters: 1. First thing, figure out what exactly do you want to achieve by opening your very own Twitter account, either spreading your wisdom, increasing your online social media activity, getting more virtual friends, or simply receiving real-time news on various subjects. 2. Carefully choose the name you're going to use. Twitter is your front window and it should look accordingly. Short names are easy to remember, so find the one that suits you best. 3. It is recommended to attach a picture or an avatar to your profile page. Accounts without an image will always be considered as spam. 4. Make sure your password is not as easy as "1234". Stealing your Twitter account is almost equivalent to hijacking your identity. 5. Once creating your page, start looking for already-existing friends and family members, to share your thoughts with. You can make your life easier, by searching their Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail addresses and automatically add them to your followers group. 6. Think twice before sending your first messages. Many twitter users meticulously examine the content you generate before joining your followers list. 7. If you happened to join the service just to encounter famous Celebes (AKA: @oprah, @aplusk, @britneyspears, etc.), congratulations, you're one of millions. 8. And speaking about Twitter celebrities, occasionally (but not to often) they do want to hear your voice, although it's hard to filter so many users at the same time, so don't take it too personally, if you get no answer.
Ashton Kutcher's Twitter page 9. Now that you've started your own Twitter account, added your close friends to follow and even launched your very first tweets, maybe it's time to look for people who share the same ideas and post the exact information you coherently search for. 10. But before getting there, keep in mind there's always a possibility to protect your messages from getting to strangers, by turning your settings into "private" mode. As a result, no one besides those you were granting access to follow, will be able to watch your public posts. 11. To find people from your niche who share mutual interests, you can always use #hashtags, either searching for specific queries or using Twitter's trending lists to learn what's hot and what's not around the service. 12. Other useful alternative, finding people who share the same ideas, is saving your queries in a fixed column that constantly updates itself, whenever a Twitter user out there, is using the same words. Both Twitter's website and third-party clients have already integrated this feature into their UI, so it won't be difficult to handle. 13. Another neat feature that Twitter has assimilated into the service is the "Favorite" trait, which allows users bookmarking their likable tweets and saving them inside a separate tag. Those tweets are marked with a golden star, to make it even easier recognizing. 14. On a different note, there are some cool Twitter engines you can certainly rely on, whenever trying to maximize your query results. Personally, we'd like to recommend services like Twazzup, Tweetzi or Twitter's own search engine, which dramatically improved after acquiring Summize. 15. If that's not enough, third-party services like Wefollow, Twellow, Tweetizen, WhoShouldiFollow, Twits Like Me, or even TwitterCounter that creates regional lists of popular users, might do the job of finding people you'd like to follow. 16. Mind you, this "following" issue has recently received a different twist from its preliminary definition (when people picked up their followers with tweezers), as we're astonishingly witnessing these silly races, users take part of, running like crazy bastards after every member, trying to prove the entire world who's list is bigger than others. This all dash thing might efficiently
serve PR purposes while severely damaging quality content, which is the core of our joining. 17. Yes, we scoffingly appreciate "mass-follow" services, which offer tricky tools to gain more followers, but at the same breath decisively recommend ignoring those ridiculous alternatives and sticking with your targets, especially when most people you'd get (from using these services) will only "care" for your money, rather than for your content. (And we'll get to that later on). 18. Additionally, we urge everyone avoiding "auto-follow" behavior, whenever a stranger follows your Twitter account from one reason or another. With Twitter's rapid growth, it's just a matter of time until massive groups of bots and spammers will take over the service, try spreading their quirky merchandise all over the place. Regretfully, experienced members can already observe perturbing signs of dispensable users who sprout like fungi after the rain, indiscriminately flooding our pages. We know that Twitter puts time and effort in fighting this problem stopping those culprits from accomplishing their deeds, but truth to be told, it's just a drop in the bucket, when thousands of new accounts are added to the service on daily basis. 19. To filter those "problematic" accounts before even getting to their pages, we'd like to recommend services like Topify and Twimailer, which provide full detailed emails, allowing users distinguishing their new followers. 20. After clearing up those issues, we're finally getting to the interaction stage, where users start initiating their principal messages in collaboration with other members around. Unfortunately (or NOT) Twitter's writing box can only include 140 characters each - which means you'll have to ditch those tiresome speeches and start writing pointblank notifications, briefly explaining your sophisticated notions without any extra embellishments. 21. There's no need to stick to the perfect language, and trimming words is more than acceptable, as long as you're making your point loud and clear. 22. To start interacting, the service offers various "Twitter commands", which help collaborating with other users in different ways. A) Reply: by adding @username+message you will answer any of the tweets (Twitter messages) one of your friends was recently posting. This way, both users will publicly start talking with each other like any IM service out there. Furthermore, replying messages is even possible between non-followers (people who don't follow each other). In this case, your answer should adequately stay "straight to the point", rather than exceeding the original subject. Once sending a reply, your message will be posted in the "replies" tab. B) Direct Message (DM): by adding D+username+message you will be sending direct messages (private posts) to any of the users who follow your account, and no one else other than the recipient himself will have the chance to read its content. regrettably, you won't be able to send direct messages to non-followers and users cannot send mass DM's to a bunch of people, at the same time. Finally, every private message you send or receive will be posted into your DM inbox. C) Re-Tweet: by adding RT+username+message you will be sending a message which indicates that part of your tweet includes something you're re-posting from another person's tweet. With the 140 characters limitation, you can also add a comment of your own to the re-tweet message. And one more thing, by retweeting messages, you literally help other users spreading their posts, links, ideas, etc, and people do like it.
23. Despite considering Twitter a "textual conference call", it won't take long realizing how hard it is to converse with each other, and even harder when desperately trying to bind friends' replies with your original messages. 24. Now that you've already started filling in your page, bare in mind there's no way back, and editing messages is practically invalid. The only available solution at this point is deleting the post forever, although some users will probably get their hands on it before your "erasing command" takes place. 25. How many tweets should users send per day? It's up to you to decide. From one hand, people do like reading interesting posts, smart ideas or fascinating links, so if you plan providing quality content, the more the merrier. Otherwise, please save you the fuss, it doesn't worth bothering for nothing. But don't get us wrong, quietly seating in the course of the day won't attract users to follow, and while collaboration is definitely a valuable asset, making a balance between imperative use and "over tweeting" is almost inevitable. 26. It's very acceptable to promote yourself or your content, but please don't pour inside the entire RSS feed, no one should read every headline your Google reader is sending, unless you find it interesting enough to share. 27. Being contributive is the key to make your Twitter experience successful. Your Twitter accounts can smoothly mashup with multiple services like Facebook, FriendFeed, Linkedin and even your very own blog. Once connecting between those websites, your Twitter messages will automatically start appearing on each one of the services and vice versa. 28. You can also share pictures from laptops or cellphones, by registering one of the designated services that help uploading any of your images straight to the Twitter feed. Such services include Twitpic, Yfrog Mobypicture and many others. 29. Hooking up your mobile phone or IM application will fluently generate tweets on-the-go. Once connected, your portable devices will swiftly start receiving text messages (aka "SMS"), containing your Twitter feed. Twitter doesn't charge anything for this, but be sure to know what your text plan looks like with your wireless carrier. 30. Sometimes, the links you share include a very long address line that sadly won't match Twitter's "140 characters" limitation. In that case, using one of those URL shortening solutions will help your message fit the boundaries. We recommend services like bit.ly or cli.gs, but many other alternatives available across the internet. 31. As one of the popular services around, Twitter offers various ways to update your real-time feed, either by logging into your web-page, using one of the desktop clients, or even by sending live tweets via smartphones. Favorite clients include applications like TweetDeck, Twhirl, Seesmic Desktop and Tweetie (Mac OS only). Tweetie can also be used with iPhone devices (different app), but Symbian S60 users might find Gravity or Fring appropriate to use.