Twitter starter tips


I finally signed up for a Twitter account and am very uncertain about how all of this works. What are the things that a new user should know?

- Sharon


This question was answered on June 25, 2009. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Twitter is getting more mainstream attention from some of the biggest stories of the year: the Hudson River plane crash and the election turmoil in Iran to name a few, but its important that you understand what Twitter is and isnt.

The first mistake most new users make is trying to compare it to an existing communication system; its not like e-mail, its not like text messaging and even though its referred to as a micro-blog, it isnt really like blogging.

Twitter is another way to communicate with others either one-to-one or one-to-many Most speculate that the reason that Twitter has caught on so well is that it forces users to articulate their thoughts in 140 characters or less and since we all have A.D.D on the Internet, its the easiest way to interact with a large group of people.

The numbers are growing quickly and the demographic profiles may surprise you According to, the number of unique visitors to in December of 2008 was just over 4 million and in less than 6 months the number is at just under 20 million.

Many assume that Twitter is for the younger, more Internet concentric set, but according to a recent Pew study, the median age of Twitter users skews older than both Facebook and Myspace.

Another study suggests that 21% o Twitter users are over the age of 50, compared to just 8% fr Facebook and MySpace.

I have an unscientific explanation for why the median age of Twitter users is much higher than Facebook or MySpace; ever met a teen or twenty-something that understands the value of networking or could articulate a thought in 140 characters or less? Me either!

I knew Twitter was different when my two teenagers that grew up on social media both shrugged their shoulders and said what many youngsters have said, I dont get it.

Because its a completely different approach to communicating, my first bit of advice is just start listening to the conversations of the people you are following It wont take long for you to get a feel for the communication protocols.

Here are some common mistakes made by new Twitterers:

No profile picture  this is a SOCIAL media that connects people Seeing a human face makes a huge difference in how the rest of the community perceives you Most wont follow/engage with users that havent taken the time to put a face on their profile (it kinda screams that you dont get social media).

No bio info  If you dont fill out the bio that explains who you are and what youre interests are, its kind of hard to get folks engaged with you Twitter connects people with common interests and backgrounds; make sure you make yours known.

No links in tweets  Whenever possible include a link to more info about what you are tweeting about How valuable would Google be if it brought up brief descriptions of info you sought but no links to learn more? Your dispatches with links will be viewed as much more valuable by those following you (and shorten the links by using services like )

Not validating others - Twitter is not a ME community, its an US community Dont always tweet about yourself as that often comes across as a monologue Twitter is a dialog, so you need to let others know that you agree, disagree or appreciate the information that they have posted The best way to validate others in Twitter is to retweet what they have posted with your two cents added.

Long conversations between two users  Dont alienate your followers by having long one-on-one conversations with a single user If it isnt really for the rest of the followers, learn how to use the DM (Direct Message) section of Twitter.

Use 3rd party applications  The Twitter website has limited capabilities for managing your account, but programs like Tweetdeck ( ) are indispensable for novices and veterans alike If you have a smart-phone, check around for free Twitter applications that will give you the freedom to tweet (with pictures even) from your phone

Many that read this may think I dont want to share that much about myself My final word of advice; if you arent social by nature, then SOCIAL media may not be for you.

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on June 25, 2009