Twitter 101

tonywright_birds02_470x3501I’ve been giving tiny tutorials to friends and coworkers on Twitter, so thought I’d share with my blogging friends, too. I have to admit, I’m liking it more and more.

If you’re interested in giving it a “twhirl,” here are some first steps:

Set up Your Account

1. Log in to and select a user name.

2. Update your profile data right away. Your profile tells people about you, and helps them determine whether to follow you or not. If you don’t want a lot of people to follow you (some don’t — some would rather “listen” on Twitter than “talk”), then don’t put much info. If you do want a lot of people to follow you, however (if you want to make new friends regarding your interests, or you have something to promote), then put a lot of info. The more info you provide, the more people you will connect with.

3. Write a bio that shows what you want out of Twitter. If you want to make friends who have a similar interest (say, tiki culture or photography) and you want to find out more about events/ideas/tips/etc. about those things, let people know by putting “devoted tiki fan” or something in your bio. If you want to meet other people in your region, say where you live. If you want to connect with people over books, mention that you love to read. Your bio is what people see when they’re deciding to connect with you, so they’ll choose people with whom they feel they can share info. A good way to write a bio for Twitter is to make a list of people you want to meet and construct your own bio that expresses your desire to meet people involved in those things.

4. Put in a photo or avatar quickly. People w/out an avatar are considered total newbies, so don’t call attention to yourself that way for spammers, etc. If you don’t have a photo of yourself, you can use a photo of your main interest (soccer ball, glasses, etc.). In Twitter’s spirit of “transparency,” however, a photo of yourself is preferred. 

Using Twitter – The Early Days

Follow at least 50 people who interest you. To find interesting people, click on “Find People” and type in news groups you like, magazines you like, companies you like. Type in all your friends’ names. Type in all your favorite magazines — you might be surprised how many are on there. Follow some companies you love (Jet Blue tweets sales, Whole Foods tweets deals), or follow some celebs for fun. (For more on who to follow, check out Who I Should Follow on Twitter.) My favorite new site is, which lists people by news, sports, fitness, diabetes, books, etc. (I’m under “reading” and “writing”!) Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse and Guy Kawasaki are extremely popular social media people who give constant tips about Twitter and blogs, so almost everyone follows them. (I recommend them.) Then follow at least 20 regular people who seem interesting to you but aren’t famous (people with interests like yours, etc.). You’ll want to watch these people to see how they interact. I picked about 10 romance writers and “watched” them.

Chris Brogan suggests spending a few days just “listening” to the people you follow. Watch how people interact. You’ll soon make a mental list of what’s annoying and what’s helpful. You’ll also see the terminology used. For a quick crash-course in terminology, read Common Twitter Terms.

Load a reader such as TweetDeck (free app) from This makes it much, much easier to watch the streams. Twhirl is another popular app for tweeting easily. Similar apps are available for your phone.

Do at least one of each thing for awhile: Twitter is made up of four basic activities:

  • Regular tweets — You speak to all your followers by typing news and info into your status update bar.
  • Retweets (RTs) — Forwarding something someone else has said. Do this by typing RT, then space, then @username, then copying their tweet in its entirety. This is considered a huge compliment in Twitter World.
  • Direct Messages (DMs) — You are speaking to only one person, and only he/she can read this tweet. You DM by typing D, then space, then @username in front of the tweet. You can also DM on by using the “Direct Message” button. It will give you a drop-down menu for names, then you can just type your tweet in the status bar without any “D” code. You can only DM people if you are following them AND they are following you.
  • “At Replies” (@reply) — This is the friendliest form of tweeting. You are responding directly to one person, but every one of your followers can read it and can jump into the conversation. UPDATE 5-12-09: Twitter changed this, and now the @reply goes only to the person you are addressing and anyone who is following both parties of the conversation. Do this by typing @username, then space, then your tweet. You can also do @replies on by scrolling over the right side of a tweet message and hitting the “flip-around-looking arrow” that appears. If you would like to address a particular person, but would like it to go out to all of your followers, put another character in front of the @reply. For instance, “To @username…” or “Dear @username…”

For your first week or so, do one of each of these each day: One regular tweet; one retweet of something you liked; one DM to someone who is following you (and you are following them); and one “at reply” to a stranger to answer a question or contribute to a conversation.

Do this for a few days while you get the hang of it. Have fun! (Tune in later to Tweeting 201, where I’ll go over favorites, hash tags and more!)

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9 thoughts on “Twitter 101

  1. So many sites, hard to decide twitch one…my motto: Give me twiberty, or give me…

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  3. Oh my gosh! I am barely at step one of Lesson 101 – picking out a user name…I don’t know if I have time for this, but you have me curious about this Twitter business. So, it looks like it’s going to be a long weekend. Boy, do I feel old and out of it right now!! 🙂

  4. Dave and Chris — glad you guys found it helpful! You two have been on there for awhile — just increase your follows now to about 100 (at least 50 will follow back, then you’ll get a better sense of it all.

    M. — The good thing is that you’re not far behind at ALL. Twitter is new to everyone right now, so it’s a good time to jump in and fumble along with the rest of us! : ) You’ll be an old pro before half your friends are on. …

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