twitterfollowmeAfter my post on 11 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Me to Unfollow You on Twitter, many asked that I put together some tips highlighting the best way to get started on Twitter. I’m very happy to oblige.

How you set-up and manage your Twitter account has a huge impact on how many people decide to follow you (translation: follow = subscribe and have the chance to read what you post). This is important. If you are sharing valuable content, but have no followers, how will that help you? This is sort of like asking “If you tweet in a forest and there is no one listening, did you really tweet?”

So, buckle up and let’s get going. Here are some of my quick tips to get you started…

  1. Know Thyself – The question isn’t “Who to you want to be on Twitter?”, it is “Who do you want to be online?” You cannot be one person on LinkedIn (the hire-me-I’m-very-accomplished professional) and another on Twitter (the I’m-posting-endlessly-about-every-mundane-detail-of-my-life tweeter). It is all public and searchable by anyone, not limited to those who follow you or only those who use Twitter. Twitter, like all online activity, will become part of your reputation and brand, whether you like it or not.
  2. Your Twitter Profile – Be you, the real you.
    – This means a real photo of you; not a cartoon, your dog or a logo (unless you are tweeting on behalf of a larger company). Leaving the default avatar in place is the kiss of death in terms of getting people to follow you. It tells people that you’re not even trying.
    – Use your real name and include a real link to somewhere else where I can find out more about you. This may likely be your blog or website. If you don’t have your own site, it can be a link to your profile on LinkedIn (assuming you’ve completed your profile there). And whatever you do, don’t include the link to your Twitter profile *on* your Twitter profile – seriously, include something of value.
    – Add a short bio. Don’t skip this step; it’s only a couple of sentences. Tell me a little about you and your work, but this is not your elevator pitch. It’s OK to have a little fun with it. I saw a bio recently where the guy mentioned that he doesn’t dive, he only does cannonballs. This was a clever way to share a bit about how he approaches life.
    – Customize your Twitter background. This is extremely easy to do as there are many sites which do this for free. It is yet another way to include more information about yourself and show that you’ve taken a few extra minutes to brand yourself online.
  3. “Shouldn’t I Be Protected?” – On Twitter, there are two types of accounts: Public and Protected. A public account can be followed and viewed by anyone. To view the tweets of a protected account, one must request to follow and wait until the other person allows it. This sounds like a good thing, but it really isn’t. It is a major roadblock to those who otherwise might have been interested in connecting with you. If you’re using Twitter for business and to build relationships, which would you find more inviting: an open door or closed door with a velvet rope and a bouncer? Be brave – go public!
  4. “How do I know what to tweet?” People ask this all of the time when getting started. It can be intimidating, so take it one step at a time. Once you’ve set up your profile, add about 3-5 tweets to your page to give people a sense of who you are (and that you’re not a spammer).? It can be something simple like “Excited to meet and connect with other architects on Twitter” or “Have heard so much about integrating Twitter into my marketing plan, just have to give it a try.” You get the idea; you’ll find what fits for you. Then, look for people you know or who are talking about topics of interest to you. Follow them (don’t worry, you can always change your mind later). Watch their tweets to get an idea of their style and content. When you see something of interest, reply with a comment or opinion about their tweet (by clicking the arrow to the right of their tweet). This will often begin a conversation. You’ll soon be off and running (uhm…tweeting).
  5. Mix It Up – Once you are comfortable with Twitter, I’d expect to see a mix of the following types of tweets on your page: Broadcast tweets (ranging from who you met for coffee that morning to a link to your latest blog post), Tweets sharing content from other people’s blogs, Retweets (RTs) Passing along something of value you found because someone else tweeted it first and @replies – which means you’re talking “with” others, not just “at” them. Most of the time, I wouldn’t want to see pages and pages of any one of these types of tweets at the expense of the others. This shows you are engaged, sharing content, generous in your promotion of others and interested in building relationships.
  6. Life Isn’t All Business – Twitter is about building relationships with interesting people. Yes, this is true even if you are using it for business purposes. Not only is it OK, it is expected, that you are not 100% business all of the time. We form relationships with people, not businesses. You are not expected to reveal truly private details of your life. In fact, I’d strongly advise against it. That said, talking about your kid’s soccer game, the great concert you just attended or your new favorite restaurant are all suitable topics for a tweet every now and then. This makes you more human and I’m more likely to want to get to know a human with a real life than one who only talks business all day long.
  7. Be a Good Twitizen – Twitter is a fabulous place to ask for help. People ask for travel recommendations, advice how to fix a problem with their blog and everything in-between. You’ll find that people are very happy to share their expertise. If you see a request and you’re able to answer or know someone who can, reply to that tweet and offer your assistance. Chances are that you’ll be thanked and remembered for your kindness. And, always give credit when it’s due. If you learn of helpful information or are assisted by someone on Twitter, be sure to thank them publicly in a tweet. It’s that old Golden Rule that your parents taught you; it still holds true, even online.
  8. Bust Out of the Twitterverse – Connect with people you’ve come to know on Twitter on other networking sites. Meet in person by attending TweetUps or plan to meet one of your Twitter friends for coffee one day. In a world in which business is relationship-driven, there is nothing like meeting face-to-face.
  9. Keep At It – You’ll see people who are tweeting machines – updating all day and night. It most definitely isn’t necessary to do this, but you shouldn’t let cobwebs form on your Twitter account either. Tweet at least a couple times a day, reply to a few tweets from others. Definitely reply to those who have replied directly to one of your tweets so they don’t feel ignored after they have reached out to you
  10. Don’t Count and Don’t Worry – Networking is about relationships. It isn’t a numbers game. Sure, having a network of five people may not provide enough exposure for what you hope to accomplish, but don’t focus on the numbers. There are lots of people on Twitter who have ridiculously huge numbers of followers. Chances are they don’t know many of them and I’d bet that many of those followers are not real people, rather many of those accounts are automated bots. Focus on connecting with good people who are interested in you or are interesting to you. Fewer engaged people are more valuable than large numbers of people who aren’t paying any attention to you. And, should someone unfollow, don’t despair and don’t take it personally. Focus on the people who are engaged and connected.
  11. Don’t Blow It – Now that you’re all set to use Twitter to find and be found, don’t irritate your followers by using practices which are seen as rude and easily cause people to unfollow you. Rather than list those cardinal sins here, follow the link to read 11 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Me to Unfollow You on Twitter. (Lots of great tips in the comments, too!)


I’m sure I haven’t covered everything, but it is a start. Tell me in the comments here, was this useful? What else would you include?