Moreso than in blogging, the first month of Twitter can be really frustrating and discouraging. In blogging, the principles are pretty easy to figure out, though it can be hard to achieve your objectives. You write a post, you promote post, you hope people respond the way you want them to. In Twitter, you sign up and your page looks like somebody spilled alphabet soup with hashtags all over your computer. People are talking to each other in ways that don’t make sense, and you don’t even know where to begin.
With that in mind, I’ve put together 40 action items that will help you (I hope) get through that first month. If you’ve been on Twitter for awhile but still feel like you’re struggling with it, take a look at these recommended action items and see if some of them might help you out.
One quick note – the action items for week 1 will almost certainly take longer than a week to get done, especially if you need to figure out answers with other people in your company. However, knowing what I know now, I highly recommend solidifying some of the things listed for week one before you jump in. Plan accordingly 🙂
Week One – Decisions, Decisions
1. Decide if you will be tweeting as an individual, as a company/brand, or a hybrid of the two
2. Decide what you will use as your username. This sounds easy, but it’s harder than you may think, especially if you and the other folks in your company want to come up with a naming convention. Also, and I say this from personal experience, don’t try to be “cute” with your choice. For example, my choice of using “RealLifeMadMan” when I first started was totally confusing and really long. Bad combo!
3. Decide what you will use for your user picture or avatar. If you are blogging on behalf of your company, this will likely be a heavily discussed subject. A lot of companies like to use a product picture or a company logo but factually, people respond better if they can see a human face.
4. Decide what you will put in your Twitter bio. You don’t have a lot of room, and if you want to get your company’s website in there, you have even less room. However, this is super duper important! Get the most important information in there first.
5. Decide what you will do for your background. This background is not something that your followers will see on a daily basis, perhaps – people only see it when they click to view your profile. However, once you’ve been on Twitter for awhile, you know what the default backgrounds look like. Showing some effort to customize your background can show that you’re really trying hard to engage and be engaging.
6. Pin down how you will talk on Twitter. I started out on Twitter trying to blog as our company. I found that it was extremely awkward saying “We just read a post.” I worried people thought I had multiple personality disorder. On the other hand, if you are partaking in a company-wide initiative, that kind of tweet may be 100% logical. Work it out before you dive in!
7. Define what your “follow” methodology will be. I can tell you that almost instantly upon signing up for Twitter, you’ll probably get 2-3 followers. There are some accounts on Twitter that have thousands of followers and no recorded tweets. What this means is that there are a lot of accounts out there who just follow people so that they can get followed back. How will you deal with situations like that?
8. Watch a few people for a few days before you start engaging. See if you can figure out how people who might be similar to you use Twitter. Are they promoting themselves a lot, or are they talking to people casually, or both? See what the expectations are in your space.
9. Avoid the temptation of starting out of the gate following 575 people. When you first sign up for Twitter, you get all kinds of categories with big names to follow. It’s super easy to follow hundreds of people right away. However, the folks that Twitter starts out recommending are people like Yoko Ono, Michael Ian Black, and the President of the United States. I know you’re a lovely person, but these folks probably will not engage with you. Hand-pick a few, but know that this will not be your base of operations.
10. Search for words that are important to you and follow people who seem to have interesting things to say about them.
Week Two – Twitter Speak!
Twitter has very peculiar shortcut words that make following conversation pretty hard when you’re first starting out. In week two, the goal is to learn about some of these and then practice using them. If you have a hard time figuring these out, feel free to ask me either here or @margieclayman.
1. Learn what a DM is
2. Learn what an RT is
3. Learn what #ff is
4. Make sure you are clear in your head about the difference between a DM and a regular tweet
5. Watch how people RT. People have their own ways of doing this and there are good reasons behind each methodology. Find out which way makes you feel most comfortable.
6. As a piggy back to number 5 (hint hint) learn how to use URL shorteners so that you can link to things on Twitter. For example, check out goo.gl or bit.ly. Watch how people use those and see if you can practice using them yourself.
7. Decide how you will thank people if someone RTs you (or says something else nice). Some people will RT any nice thing sent their way. Other people will respond in other ways out of the Twitter stream, while other people (like yours truly) usually simply say “Thanks!”
8. Observe how people do #ff (Hint, this will happen on your first Friday). There are 2 schools to this: 1 is to mention tons of people, and 1 is to mention just 1 or 2 people but explain why you are mentioning them. I prefer the latter myself.
9. Observe how people use the # symbol. Not only is this a really important thing to learn in order to use Twitter, but you are also likely to jump into some pretty good conversations by following that little symbol. *Hint: “trending topics” will give you a hint on this one.
10. Make sure you know how to talk to people on Twitter. Remember, after the @ you need to type their name exactly as it is in their handle. Otherwise, they won’t see it. To make sure you have this down, tweet out a hi to me and let me know how your action items are going so far. You’re halfway there!
Week Three: Jump into the pool
1. Introduce yourself to five people this week. If they don’t answer right away, that’s okay. Practice pushing yourself into the stream.
2. Practice promoting someone else’s blog post this week – this is very important to a lot of people who use Twitter. This will introduce you to people and will also help you practice linking to things using URL shorteners.
3. RT something someone says – and make sure you know now what RT stands for 🙂
4. Try to come up with a question that would be pertinent to other people learning Twitter or relevant to your business niche. Questions are a great way to start conversations and meet people. Again, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get any answers – just focus on learning how to engage.
5. Try to find another person who is learning the ropes – help each other out as you go along. It’s great to have a buddy!
6. If you have someone to mention for #ff, give it a go. I have to warn you that a lot of the big names don’t like being included in those kinds of mentions just because they get absolutely flooded with them. If you do mention them, don’t be sad if you don’t get a huge thank you 🙂
7. Tweet something out that is of interest to you, whether it’s one of your own blog posts, an article you read that’s interesting, or something you learned at a webinar. If you do the latter, see if the webinar has a # so that you can tie your comment to other people doing the same thing (there, I gave you more of a hint for your week 2 homework!)
8. On Saturday night at 9 PM EST, search for #tweetdiner. This is a Twitter chat that my friend Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial) and I started. Its goal is to help people new to Twitter talk with people who are new or who have been on Twitter for awhile, and it’s also a place where you can ask questions and be assured of getting lots of help.
9. Look for a question mark and see if you can find a question you can answer. Now you can help someone else and maybe meet someone new at the same time.
10. Take stock of where you are. Do you feel like you are moving in a good direction? Send me a tweet and let me know how you are doing!
Week Four – Start building your Twitter house
1. Learn how to use lists on Twitter – you may be listed on a few already. Some are automated, some are created by other users. See if you can tell the difference. Are you ready to create your own lists yet?
2. Begin to watch the content of your tweets. The golden rule is to make sure you are promoting other people more than yourself. The unspoken rule is that interacting with people person to person is a lot more interesting than just tweeting out links. Now that you’re getting the mechanics down, learn how to translate your personality into 120 characters.
3. Try to find and join a new chat that interests you. There are tons of chats every day and night of the week. Jump in, introduce yourself, and meet some new people!
4. Try to meet 10 new people this week, either by answering questions, via chats, or through searching for terms that are important to you and seeing who is talking about them.
5. Turn your attention to beginning to build relationships now that you’re getting used to the wacky world of Twitter. If you see someone talking about a movie you love, jump in and talk to them about it. Get your humanity involved!
6. Check your “following” list. Are you staying true to what your follow-back policy was? Why or why not?
7. Take stock of the kinds of reactions you’re getting. If you are not getting a lot of traction yet, is it possible that you are not engaging enough? Does your profile not say enough about you? If things are going really well, try to isolate things that are working well for you and keep those going!
8. Try to introduce two people to each other this week. If you don’t know enough people yet, that’s okay. Keep this one in mind though. Introducing people is a great way to start building a community.
9. Try to find a person who is newer than you are now to the world of Twitter. Try to help them out.
10. Let me know (if you could) how this program worked for you! Are you feeling okay about Twitter after your first month or are you still kind of unsure? I’d love to get your feedback.