Twitter is a fantastic marketing tool that bloggers can’t afford to ignore. Unfortunately, it does have quite a steep learning curve. This post is a quick guide to Twitter for beginners. If you don’t know your @replies from your @mentions, read on and all will be revealed! If you are one of the many Twitter beginners, these seven steps will get you up and running in no time.

Seven Steps to Start Tweeting for Twitter Beginners

1. Create Your Account

Go to Twitter and click sign up to get started. Enter your name, email, and a password. Click Sign up.

You will then be asked to select a username. This is the name by which you will be known on Twitter and will be preceded by the @ (at) symbol. What name should you use?

Your real name is a good choice if it’s available. If not, try adding a middle initial or prefacing it with something like ‘the’ or ‘real’ (TheBobJones or RealBobJones). I don’t recommend using numbers in your Twitter username, it looks a bit amateurish, so don’t use your birth year such as BobJones79.

Now click on the Create my account button and your account will be created. Twitter will then take you through a few setup steps where it will ask you to follow some people. Just tick whatever boxes it asks you to. You can always unfollow them later.

Twitter can also check if your friends are on Twitter by checking your email address book (if you have an account with Gmail or Outlook) against their users. However, you’ll only see users who have allowed their accounts to be found by this method. Don’t worry too much about this. You can add your friends later.

2. Adjust the Settings

On your Twitter home page, click on the egg icon at the top right of the screen and select settings.

Twitter-toolbar - The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

You should be on the Account tab and you can see a number of other tabs down the left-hand side that you can play around with. Here are some of the most important settings by tab:

Twitter-settings - The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

Click the Save button to save your changes.

Now, on your Twitter home page, click on the icon at the top right of the screen and select view profile, then click edit profile. Here you can change your display name, which can be different from your username. Fill in the bio, location, website and choose a theme color. Upload a profile photo. This is really important. Having a photo proves you aren’t a spammer. Use a good headshot with no gimmicks. Upload a header photo too. This can be anything you like, but it’s a great space to use for promoting your blog or products.

When you are finished, click the Save button.

3. Follow Your Friends

There are a couple of ways to find your friends on Twitter. 1) Use the find friends feature in the settings tab (see above). 2) Search for your friends using the Twitter search field. If you know your friend’s Twitter name, try entering it in the search field now, like this:

Twitter-friend-search - The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

You’ll get a list of users who match your search criteria. Click the correct one to go to their Twitter home page.

Twitter-follow - The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

To begin following them, click on the Follow button as shown above.

4. Learn the Jargon

Twitter is a bit like a party with all of your friends in one room all talking to each other at the same time. When you tweet, you are speaking to the whole group and everyone can hear what you say.

Replies

A reply is a response to another user’s tweet that begins with the @username of the person you’re replying to. You can reply by clicking the Reply button on a tweet. Any tweet that is a reply to you begins with your @username and will show up in your Notifications tab. When a tweet starts with a @username, the only users who will see it in their timeline (other than the sender and the recipient) are those who follow both the sender and the recipient.

This is what a reply looks like:

@BillJones I’m going to Mario’s for pizza tonight. You up for it?

Everyone who is following @BillJones and me will see the message (anyone not following both of us will not see the message), but I am directing it to @BillJones.

Mentions

A mention is a tweet that contains another user’s @username anywhere in the body of the tweet. (Yes, this means that replies are also considered mentions.) These messages, as well as all your replies, are collected in your Notifications tab. If you include multiple @usernames in your tweet, all of those people will see your tweet in their Notifications tab.

I’m going to dinner at Mario’s with @EdMiller and @SingletonJim. Anyone else in the area around 9?

This tweet will show up in the timeline of everyone who is following me. @EdMiller and @SingletonJim will get a notification to say they’ve been mentioned in my tweet, but it is not directed at them.

You can turn a reply into a mention by putting a character, usually a period, in front of the recipient’s name:

.@BillJones I’m going to Mario’s for pizza tonight. You up for it?

This tweet will show up in the timeline of everyone who follows me, and @BillJones will receive a notification telling him he’s been mentioned in a tweet.

Direct Messages

Direct Messages (DMs) are the private side of Twitter. You can use DMs to have private conversations with Twitter users about tweets and other content. You can start a private conversation or create a group conversation with anyone who follows you. Anyone in a conversation can send DMs to the group. Everyone in a group can see all messages, even if everyone doesn’t follow each other. In group conversations, anyone in the conversation can add other participants. Newly added participants won’t see the prior history of the conversation.

I only use DMs in a similar way to SMS messages to close friends and family. I don’t use them to thank people for following me. I don’t use them to tell people to visit my website. If you send me a DM and you are not a close friend or family member, I won’t reply to it. I like to conduct my Twitter business in public and I suggest you do too.

Hashtags (#)

The hashtag (#) symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages. If you click on a hashtag, it will show you all the other tweets associated with that hashtag.

For example, someone might say:

Saw the best movie ever with @AngularAngela tonight! #inceptionmovie

#inceptionmovie is a hashtag for the movie Inception and anyone searching for information on the movie can find your tweet. You can use hashtags to search for people who tweet about similar things to you and follow them. When they see you tweet about similar things to them, they may follow you back.

5. Start Tweeting!

Now you’re all setup, it’s time to start tweeting. Just click the tweet button on the top left of the toolbar, write your tweet then click Tweet. You can attach other media to your tweet as shown below:

Send-a-Tweet - The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

Compose-Tweet - The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

The maximum length of a tweet is 140 characters and the number of characters you have remaining are displayed when you are composing a tweet.

How often should you tweet? It depends on how much value your tweets have. I’d say consistency is also important. Don’t send twenty tweets one day then nothing for a month. Around ten every day is a good target. Don’t bombard your followers with a barrage of tweets once a day. Instead, spread your tweets out throughout the day. You can use one of the third party apps described below to schedule your tweets.

This is no different than a face-to-face conversation. You want to say something that is interesting, helpful, or just plain entertaining, then pause and allow the other parties to absorb the information and respond. You don’t say your entire side of the conversation and then walk away from the conversation.

6. Use Discretion

You may have heard in the news of people being prosecuted and even imprisoned for comments they have made on Twitter. Just because you are behind the screen does not mean you are protected from the law. Don’t put anything in a tweet you would not say to someone’s face.

Don’t share personal information on Twitter. Don’t tell people where you’ve parked your car or that you are going on holiday for a week and your house will be empty. Don’t send anything information or photos you wouldn’t want a complete stranger to see. Use your common sense and you’ll be fine.

7. Twitter Third-party Apps

Once you’ve got the hang of Twitter, there are many third-party apps out there that can help you make the most of it. Here are a few for you to consider:

HootSuite

This app is great for managing Twitter on your desktop. You can also manage Facebook, LinkedIn, and several other social media services. If you have more than one Twitter account, you can register them all and manage them from one screen.

Buffer

This app can spread your tweets out over the day so you don’t bombard your followers. It gives you a lot of control over how your tweets are sent, such as how often you tweet and at what time. You can also buffer your Facebook status updates.

SocialOomph

This app is great for bulk-scheduling tweets. It’s fantastic for directing people to your best-converting posts. For example, identify your top fifty converting posts (that ones that make you the most money) and write a tweet promoting each one. You can then set SocialOomph to send out one tweet each day for the next 50 days. Just schedule the tweets and forget about them.


Twitter gets easier the more you use it. Just jump in with both feet and start tweeting. If you accidently send a tweet you didn’t mean too, you can easily delete it by clicking on the three dots at the bottom of the tweet and selecting Delete Tweet.

Twitter-delete-tweet - The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

For Twitter to be a truly effective marketing tool, you need followers. See my post, Get More Twitter Followers with These Twelve Tips to learn how.

Do you have any tips to help beginners ease their way into Twitter? Are you a beginner and have a question? Feel free to ask in the comments below or drop me line via the contact page.

About The Author

David Borrowdale is the founder and editor of Blog Cogs, a blog about making a living from blogging. Learn more about him here.

Related Posts