I’m going to go on record with this statement: Twitter is probably the most important social media platform for a blogger to use. I’ll also admit that it’s not for everyone; it requires constant management which can easily become a drain on your time. There’s two primary ways bloggers seem to use it:
- To simply tweet announcements of new articles.
- As a platform for socializing.
That last one includes bloggers who use it as a way access to their favorite games, developers and celebrities. Both ways of using are valid and can get the job done. Even if you don’t personally prefer using Twitter you should consider that you have readers who use it religiously and it can give them new information when something you write is published. If you use Twitter to socialize daily, it can really help you grow your audience.
So why don’t I say it’s mandatory? Because Twitter has a LOT of white noise. Filtering through all the information is a chore. Still, if you can just focus on your readers and keep the number of people you follow under control, Twitter is indispensable. And that’s the key. So many users just auto-follow EVERYONE who follows them. Try to only follow people you’re interested in or who provide content your readers would be interested in, otherwise you’ll flood your Timeline with more information than you can read through in a reasonable amount of time.
Twitter can be addicting, because it’s fun and responses are so fast. The speed of information can give you whiplash so be careful!
Relevant articles by other NBI supporters on social media: Stubborn on Blog Promotion
- Real-time networking
- Speedy communication
- Virality (yes, I think I just made that up …)
- Easy to use
- Reasonable privacy (no personal information is required and your account can be easily deleted)
- Universal platform
The only real Con is that it requires constant maintenance and interaction to get the most of it. That’s not a bad thing and in fact if you’re someone who’s always staring at their smartphone, there’s almost no reason not to use Twitter. Like I said, it’s actually really fun but it can also consume you. Use with caution!
Bookmark this page if you’re new to Twitter: Twitter Glossary. It’s a handy quick reference guide to help you get around until you’re used to using the service.
How to use it
If you’re at a computer, just go to Twitter.com and sign-up. It’s free. If you’ve done all that and you’re ready to take it on the go, you can download it at your local app store to your phone or tablet.
A lot of people don’t know this, but you don’t actually need the app to Tweet from your phone. You can do it via text, which is useful if you have a device which can’t install the Twitter app. Every phone carrier has a short code. Tweeting to that code from your phone will publish it to your Timeline. Just be sure to add your mobile phone number to your Twitter account and then you can use this service.
There are two components to your name: Your twitter handle (starts with @) and your display name. For your blog, you should try to use names that readers know from your site. For example, my Twitter is @trredskies because that was the name of my original blog. For my display name, I chose Doone. You can change either of these at any time.
When you tweet it goes into your Timeline. This is where all your tweets and the tweets of people you follow will appear. There’s also a Mentions Timeline. It will only show tweets in which you are mentioned, which can be anyone regardless of whether they are following you or you them.
Mentions (@) at the beginning of your Tweet are called a Reply. Replies are ONLY seen by you, the recipient and your mutual followers. A Public Reply works like your regular tweets. It’ll show up in you and the recipients timelines for ALL of your followers.
Using the Mention (@) symbol anywhere else in the tweet is simply a Mention. It’ll go into your timeline and into the Mentions Timeline of those mentioned. Keep reading for examples of how Mentions look and behave below!
Typing a d at the beginning of a tweet sends a Direct Message. For example, if you wanted to send a DM to @trredskies, you would drop the @ symbol and type “d trredskies”. This will send me a message that only I will receive. It’s still gotta be 140 chars or less!
Hashtags (#) are for keeping collections (or categories) of related topics, or for starting trends. Twitter actually has a great help guide which explains these features in more detail.
It should go without saying, but your profile is crucial as an author. For people on Twitter who’ve never heard of you, this is all they will know of you. Try to make it very SHORT and sweet, but informative. Remember, it’s Twitter, home of “speak your mind in 140 chars or less”. No wordy profiles!
This is also where you might want to keep your branding in mind. This might be a simple color palette or maybe you have a logo you use. On Twitter, this profile will become the image of you whenever your name is mentioned. Ask yourself: what do I want people to see and think when they see me on Twitter? Keep it simple, but keep it consistent.
Not everyone has time to sit down and design logos and branding, but there are other bloggers who may be great at it and who actually enjoy doing creative things. I can’t make promises about their schedules, but asking never hurt anyone. For example, Vidyala of Manalicious, fellow gamer and wonderful person, is the artist who made my avatar (she offered commissions at the time and a lot of readers and bloggers took the opportunity to do it). As far as I can recall, she still draws on commission and has even done work for attendees at Blizzcon.
Your Homepage on Twitter
Now, let’s interpret the Twitter UI before moving on to tools. The Twitter site is pretty minimalist, but that doesn’t mean everything on it is intuitive. To someone who’s never used Twitter, it probably doesn’t make any sense. The most important element of Twitter for the beginner is your homepage. On that page is your Timeline and it will be filled with boxes that look like this:
Your Timeline contains tweets from all of the people you follow and the tweets you send out. This particular tweet is illustrative. You’ll note it begins with several Mentions. This tweet will only appear to those people and their mutual followers. For example, if Friend A is following @trredskies and @ausj3w3l, then even though Friend A isn’t mentioned, they will see the tweet in their timeline. Let’s look at another Tweet:
Notice the period (.) before the @ symbol. This means the tweet will appear in yours and your friends’ timeline without restriction; all of your followers and theirs will see it. It would be just as if you sent an ordinary Tweet that didn’t begin with a Mention.
That .@ in the middle? Does nothing. You don’t need to do this. Since the Mention is at the middle or ending of the tweet, it will post like normal on your Timeline, the timelines of those who follow you, and in the Mentions of those mentioned in the tweet.
Now let’s talk about the links and icons on the tweet at the bottom. A Reply will behave like example 1 and a Retweet will behave like example 2 unless you alter it to begin with a Mention. I’ve noticed that RTs, TTs and auto-tweets (from other services) tend to have really large font size on Twitter.
The second half of this guide is for more advanced Twitter use! Just go on to the second page to get started!