8 Easy Steps to Get Started on Twitter

Twitter DashboardEven since I began tweeting -- as a non-early adopter in early 2009, btw -- I've wanted to create a 10 steps blog post for something, because, well, because that's what you're supposed to when you blog, right?  So when my Twitter dashboard became a (brief) topic of conversation at the San Diego Tech Coffee meetup last week , an opportunity arose: a 10 steps post on Twitter? Damn, that's social media gold right there.  And I'm after nothing, if not social media gold!

So I came up with 8 steps, which is 2 whole steps easier than 10!

But seriously, people.  I love Twitter, use it daily, and there is simply no doubt that I have benefited from using it.  Depending on your business, not only might you  benefit, too, but it might be required practice for you to be successful.

So if you have not taken the dive into Twitter, forget all the negativity you've heard and read on.

 

1. Determine why you want to use Twitter

I use Twitter for the following reasons (in no particular order):

  • Build my brand
  • Learn what to read from people I respect (I no longer visit my "blogroll")
  • "Socialize" (in a very broad definition of the term) with "real" people
  • Participate & nourish specific communities, e.g, the San Diego tech scene
  • Indirectly (mostly) sell products and services

I'm guessing some of your ambitions might fall within that list, but regardless, know what you want to get out of using Twitter.

2. Choose a client

I strongly recommend you don't use Twitter's web client.  In my view, you'll be more successful if you segregate your Twitter feeds based loosely on the objectives you determined in Step 1.  I use TweetDeck and have used HootSuite in the past.

3. Follow

Follow people who will help you meet your objectives. Follow writers, journalists and bloggers you read, thought-leaders in subject matters you care about, and other influencers whom you think might tweet interesting stuff.  Don't be concerned if they don't follow you back.  Follow colleagues, peers, casual acquaintances and friends, but only those that are interested in or are somehow related to subject matters that concern you.

You can follow people outside those parameters, too, but be prepared for tweets that fit the Twitter cliche, e.g., "I'm flossing, but just can't loosen that piece of beef stuck between the cuspid and first premolar."

4. Create lists

Lists allow you to group tweeters by subject matter and "Tweetability".  (Twitter allows you to NOT follow people, yet include them in your lists, which is patently absurd and leads to gaming of follows.  But that's a different topic altogether.)  Create one list for your "Top Tweeters."  I call mine "Watch" and I keep it private, in other words, others cannot see its members.  I put people in the list whom I am confident I want to read their tweets.  They are people I respect, thought leaders, influencers or simply good tweeters.  New tweeters have to earn their way onto the list.  Crappy tweeters who also happen to be "people I respect, thought leaders or influencers" are removed from the list.

I also have a list for people who tweet politics, tweeters based in Southern California, and news feeds.

Dave Churchville: In awe (with a tinge of fear) of the sheer number of columns in @brantcooper 's TweetDeck

5. Columnize your feed

Columns turn your massive, undifferentiated stream into digestible, information sources.  In TweetDeck, I have a column each for my lists:  "watch", politics, socal tweeps, and the newsfeed.  I also have a column for the standard Twitter feeds Mentions (of me), Direct Messages and "All Friends."  Finally, I created 2 columns based on custom search queries:  tweets that mention hashtags #custdev or #leanstartup; and tweets about "San Diego startups."  The number of tweets in each column is actually pretty easy to follow.

6. Commit

A change in behavior can't happen by casually "checking it out."  So maybe you don't want to change your behavior.  But you don't even know if that's true until you truly give something new a shot.  Commit time to check your feed everyday for 2 weeks.  I don't care if it's only for 15 minutes.  Read tweets, read recommended posts, learn something new.

7. Engage at your own pace

Don't tweet for the sake of tweeting.  Seriously, just don't.  RT something you like.  Reply to a tweet if you have something to say.  You might not find your voice in the first 2 weeks, but who cares?  If you find what you receive valuable, you'll come back.  Eventually you'll figure how to give value.

8. Manage your feed

Graduate Tweeps from your All Friends and search columns to your Watch (Top Tweeters) list as needed.  Demote others.  You don't have to unfollow, but if there is absolutely zero value to the Tweets AND no other value to keeping these people on your follow list, unfollow them.  You might want to follow people who are influential to you in some way, but they might suck at Twitter.  So keep them in the All Friends list.  You don't have to worry about insulting them by unfollowing, but they won't clutter your feed if you're managing your lists well.

To be honest, I look at the "All Friends" feed the least. The most noise comes from the custom query columns.  But I find these easy to ignore, since my other lists contain the Tweeps I want to hear from.

 

For most people, the most difficult part is just getting started.  I've purposefully not addressed the etiquette of social media, providing value and all that, because that's been written about several times before and is something you can worry about after you get going.  I hope to simply help you get going.  Start small, differentiate your feeds, commit to a small amount of time everyday for 2 weeks.

Let me know how it's going!

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “8 Easy Steps to Get Started on Twitter”

  1. SteveD- September 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Brant, Great post on a topic that needed to be addressed.

  2. Eduardo Teixeira September 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Listing provides a MUCH better Twitter experience by not having to read tons of tweets until you find some content you are looking for

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