6 Simple Steps to Start Twittering

Today I decided to create an easy guide to help those who have ever asked, “What Is Twitter?” or “How do I start using Twitter?”.

Perhaps you have already created an account but have never saw any use for it.

This is a beginner’s guide for Twitter.

Step 1: Create an account

Browse over to the Twitter website, and click the ‘Sign Up Now’ button.

twitter sign up screen

Fill in your details and click confirm. If successful, you will be asked to search your Gmail or Yahoo contacts for friends who are already on Twitter.

Otherwise, you can just click on the “skip this step” link.

You can skip the suggested accounts as well.

You have created your Twitter account!

twitter account created!

Step 2: Update your settings

Use the settings link to setup your account preferences.

Some items to update are your time zone, your website URL, a short description about yourself and your city.

Most important of all, you should upload a picture of yourself.

You may also want to change your email notification preferences.

Another option you may select is to restrict your messages only to your followers.

Step 3: Follow

Click on the ‘Find People’ link at the top right corner of the screen.

Key in a name, email address or Twitter account name in the search box.

twitter - find people to follow

Click the follow button to follow that person. The  follow button has the icon of a person with a plus sign.

Following someone means you will be able to see their twitter updates. Think of it like a subscription.

There will now be messages in your Twitter stream!

twitter - twitter stream

One of the coolest things about Twitter is finding and following your favourite celebrities.

Step 4: Post your first Twitter update!

Many beginners (including myself!) do not have any idea what they should update, or tweet about.

It is actually up to you. Generally, you would tweet about the cool websites you are visiting, your thoughts and feelings, or interesting happenings in your life.

Think of it like a micro-blog.

twitter4a

Warning: Unless you choose to secure your Twitter updates, they are visible to public, and can be picked up by search engines!

Some tips:

To reply someone, just key in that person’s Twitter account name before your message.

@adinochang Yes, I agree with you about durians. They should put them on Christmas trees!

  • Remember to put in some context to your answer. Otherwise your other followers will not know what you are talking about!
  • Replies can only be seen by people who follow you and the person you are replying to.

To send a private message to someone, use d followed by the person’s Twitter account name

d adinochang Ok, we go ahead with the durian robbery at midnight

To retweet means you are republishing someone else’s Twitter update. There are no standards, but generally it looks like:

RT @adinochang: Why can’t I have a holiday today? | Look on the bright side, weekend is almost here!

  • I like to place a vertical line, then add my own message after that.

To shorten website addresses, you can use is.gd to generate a short URL. This is important because you only have 140 characters per message.

Step 5: Install a Twitter Client

You might want to install a Twitter application so you don’t have to view your Twitter updates from the website.

A popular client for your PC or Mac desktop is Tweetdeck. I prefer to use TwitterGadget because it sits in my Gmail window, which is open all the time.

The choice is up to you. There are even browser extensions for Twitter clients!

There are clients for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and mobile phones as well.

Step 6: Create and Subscribe to Lists

A new feature in Twitter is the list. A list is a collection of Twitter accounts. Anyone can create a list. You can follow lists like you follow a Twitter user.

twitter - lists

List messages will not appear in your Twitter stream.

I like lists because they help you organise the people you follow into groups. It is also a quick way to find new people to follow.

Bonus Tip: Beware the bots!

There are people abusing the Twitter system to get a large number of followers. The objective is to spam these large number of followers to get income.

They may use bots (automated programs) to scan Twitter for messages with certain keywords. Then, it automatically follows that person, hoping to be followed back.

There are those who follow hundreds of random people per day. This is a common tactic to gain a large number of followers.

Just be careful who you follow (make sure it’s a real person). You don’t have to follow someone who follows you.

You can block spammers and bots so they don’t bother you again. Just go to your followers list, and choose the “block this person” button.

Conclusion

I hope you found my guide useful. Take a few minutes to get on Twitter and join the fun! Do follow my account @adinochang.

Have you started using Twitter? How do you use it? Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?

Feel free to discuss and share in the comments.

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