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How to get started on Twitter

Twitter has become a global phenomenon. Part social network, part micro-blogging service, Twitter allows users to broadcast text messages to the world – just as long as they use 140 characters or less!

After it was launched in 2006, Twitter picked up a steady stream of users before taking off in 2009. There are now over 200 million registered users generating more than 130 million tweets per day. Thousands of companies use Twitter to network about their products, and you can find good advice and useful commentary on almost any topic you can think of.

Twitter has also found its feet on the world stage. Along with Facebook, it has been credited with keeping communication lines open and information flowing during a series of major international events, most notably the 2009 elections in Iran, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the recent political upheaval in the Middle East.

But for all the headline-grabbing attention, Twitter can be a lonely place when you first start out. Picking people to follow from a choice of over 200 million is a daunting prospect. And on the flip side, it can take a while before you pick up a significant number of followers of your own.

But once you get into it, Twitter can be a hugely rewarding experience, bringing you many new online “friends”, and providing you with a fascinating stream of world news, trends, advice, and personal insights. Here are a few tips on how to get started:

  • Establish your Twitter account by filling in the appropriate information and choosing a Username. (Twitter will tell you if your username is already taken.) Fill out as much information as you can under Settings; it will help people find you and tell them more about you.
  • Take time to customize your home page and add a good photo. An attractive Twitter page is one of the best ways to build a following.
  • The Find Friends feature allows Twitter to check your e-mail accounts and LinkedIn to see if you have friends and acquaintances who already use the service. It’s a great way to let people know you are on Twitter and pick up some quick friendly followers.
  • Use the Who To Follow search box and suggestions to find people or organizations that you are interested in following – celebrities, TV shows, sports figures, your favorite columnists. A constant stream of incoming tweets is the best way to get a feel for how to use the service. (However, don’t only follow celebrities or you won’t build a following of your own. @Oprah has over 6 million followers but follows less than 50 people herself. Follow ordinary but interesting people as well.)
  • Start tweeting! Your tweets don’t have to be earth-shattering news but they should be more than just a description of what you had for breakfast. Let people know who you are and what you are interested in. Re-tweet or respond to other people’s tweets. Ask questions – the more you tweet, the more you will get re-tweeted, and the more other users will see your name.
  • Once you build a little traffic, you might want to download a Twitter-management software package like TweetDeck to help you organize your incoming and outgoing tweets. (TweetDeck is free!)

Remember, it takes time to build a following. Don’t get disheartened – stick at it and the followers will come. Besides, if you follow people wisely, you will be in on all the breaking news and will be guaranteed to learn something interesting every single day!

Comment by geekbabe, posted 6/6/2011, 9:12 PM:

Nice, easy to digest overview of Twitter, lol,I'm going to print this & hand it out, so many people are confused about how Twitter works!
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