Advice for New Twitterers 

29 April 2009  
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A much loved client has asked me for some tips about using Twitter. He’s new to it.  Here are my thoughts:

Like a blog, you must define your intended usage for Twitter.

  • If you plan on using it for business, then keep your tone business-like and do not bring your home life/what you’re having for lunch/any other personal data into it.
  • When I started using Twitter, it was only a few early adopters.  For that reason, I use Twitter to engage with like minded souls.  It’s a valuable place for me to get people contact especially as I often work alone.  I don’t use it for business and therefore I don’t promote it on my marketing materials.

“The talking convention”. If you wish to promote the fact that you’re now on Twitter, first wait a while!  Spend the first couple of weeks finding people you wish to follow (some of them will follow you back).  Start talking to people.  That’s what it’s all about.

  • The way you talk directly to a person is by addressing them with an @ sign.  @maryrose means I’m going to listen.
  • Due to the huge numbers on Twitter, many people have now disabled the follower email notification, so it is unlikely that they will know you are following them.  The way to engage is to talk to them.  If you use the @ convention, they will probably pick that up, click the link to your Twitter page and decide whether or not to follow you.

How do people decide whether or not to follow you? I’ve chosen a random Irish Twitterer that I found by selecting the 20th follower on one of the ones I follow.  It’s Barry Hand.

  • I look at the profile details on the right hand side. His bio is marketing, so I’m interested.  There’s a little glitch with the use of ampersand – he should fix this.  Often if you copy and paste text directly from Word into web tools these kind of coding errors can occur.  So the lesson here is to always check your work!  He’s got a healthy number of followers/following.  If you see ‘someone’ who’s following thousands and has not many following back, they’re generally a spam account so ignore them.
  • Next I click the link provided in the profile.  He’s got a nice blog, with content that would interest me.  *Benefit of Twitter 1* If I see a really interesting blog at this point, I will add it to my RSS.  So simply following someone on Twitter can lead to a more sustained relationship where they subscribe to your blog.
  • Other things to look out for is frequency of posting.  I don’t really want to follow someone who’s on once a month.

The real secret to making Twitter work for you, I believe, it to choose a good application for making it work. Similar to ‘favourites’ on browsers, we simply don’t remember to go back into the web version and see what’s going on.  Therefore you’ve got to get yourself a good Twitter app. The following are some of the popular Twitter tools – there are literally hundreds out there, so this list is not exhaustive:

  • Tweetdeck – what I’m currently using.  Stylishly designed, I like it because it enables me to set up searches by keyword, then it delivers to me every single tweet that’s made with that keyword.
    • You download Tweetdeck as an application and open it on your computer when you come in in the morning.  It’s got a tiny notification box that appears discreetly on top of your screen whenever someone you follow tweets.  It also shows you when you’ve got a direct message, or a reply.
    • I use it to manage followers.  I have a search with my name and anytime someone addresses me directly I can see it.  If someone talks to me, I follow them back.  This simple method has freed my inbox from hundreds of follow notifications.
    • Set up searches using hashtags.  Whenever there’s an event on, hash tags evolve.  These are the characters that delegates will use at the end of any tweets they’re making about an event.  This week the Future of Web Design is taking place in London, I will most definitely be setting up a search using #FOWD
    • The real time saving power of Tweetdeck is that it gives you all the functions you need in 1 click: reply, direct message, retweet, follow, unfollow, and some more that I never use.  This is better than previous apps I used to use because you had to log in to the web version to follow or unfollow people which seems kind of archaic now.
  • Twitterific – I used to use this. It’s an application for mac users.  Open it, resize the box to your preference, and drag it to somewhere on the edge of your screen.  It’s like an old school news ticker, except the news is controlled by you and who you choose to follow.
  • Thwirl – the PC equivalent of Twitterific.
  • Tweetie – lots of people are waxing lyrical about this one.  It’s fairly new, I haven’t tested it yet.

If you’re interested in how you rank in the Twitterverse, there are plenty of tools out there.  I’ve never been interested in that kind of thing; in fact I think it’s a rather male way of looking at things.  How big is yours?  Ranking I mean.  Like Technoratti of old, I never paid much heed.  But here’s an article you can read if you’re interested in it.


These are just some of the basic facts being passed on by an old hand!  If you’re serious about using Twitter for business, you must ensure that you allocate the resource to it.  Ideally you need one person in your organisation who is going to sit on Twitter, track searches about your company and your competitors and respond to them.  If you do it well, it can be extremely powerful.  Recently I tweeted something about Vodafone and within an hour Vodafone Ireland tweeted to me asking if they could help me.  They did.  I was impressed.  It’s an extremely low cost way of ramping up customer service.  In these fiercely competitive days, being the first in your industry to use Twitter properly has amazing customer service, brand reputation, and marketing advantages.


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  1. I think some people may find this line confusing “The way you talk directly to a person is by addressing them with an @ sign. @maryrose means I’m going to listen.” – as there’s Direct Messaging in Twitter using “d maryrose” – which would be private rather than public, and would only go through if they are following you.

    Also, isn’t it the law that your first tweet must be “trying out this twitter thing?”

  2. Hi Maryrose,
    Excellent! Just what I needed, an insiders guide to the world of twitter. I have just joined Twitter and I am introducing a number of Tourism SME’s to the concept tomorrow in a Web2.0 workshop. This blog will be on the reccommended reading list.
    I was aware of Twitter for the last year or so, but did not really like the thought of the ‘texting’ style of this application. Anyway it was one of our discussion forum members which highlighted the benefits of Twitter for business and the PR opportunities that arise.

    My first impressions were that it was either a personal messaging service or an alternative to RSS feeds. A lot of the various tourism or news members from Ireland are only provide links to their latest blog / news updates. I am not sure whether this is good or bad, but I do get the message that some genuine effort is required to use twitter to comunicate, but I cannot help thinking that I will use it to provide links to the most interesting discussions on our forum about Tourism industry info.
    By the way, I also enjoyed your messages relating to various national & international Net ‘Awards’. I just think we have a long way to go in Ireland in respect of encouraging smaller businesses to maximise their online potential and these awards an essential motivating factor for many. I am delighted to be shortlisted under the tourism category and hope that we can encourage greater participation from all SME’s.
    Thanks from a ‘follower’

  3. Stu – you’re right. And you’ve explained it perfect, so I don’t need to amend the post.

    John – thanks very much for your kind words. Why don’t you send me a message on twitter? That way, I’ll find and follow you and we can be twitter buddies!

  4. Maryrose, great post. I’ve been using the standard twitter app. and downloaded Tweetdeck, it’s looks like it going to be so much more useful compared with the standard app. The pop notifications (there’s another one) are very handy.
    Thanks for the recommendation.
    Is it possible to set up 2 accounts in Twitter, similar to having a private & business blog?

  5. @Fran – glad you liked it. It’s possible to have 2 twitter accounts and most of the apps have tools to allow for management of that. But I would ask you – why? If you’re on Twitter most of the day as made in hollywood, are you really going to have the time to go on at night as yourself? Unless you are going to be talking to dramatically different groups of people about radically different things?

    My advice would be to keep it simple – get one going, see how you like it. Then later add another.

  6. Very useful. I’m a complete novice and was cynical and couldn’t see the point. You convinced me when we spoke that I should get into it and this posting is very helpful. Thanks

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