Twitter for Beginners: Exploring your Interests & Making Connections

Essays by Shalon Sims on education, creative writing and literacy

Twitter for Beginners: Exploring your Interests & Making Connections

Learning & trying new things can be intimidating

Oh the Places You'll Go, by Bandita, on Flickr

Late last year, my friend Rebecca, an artist in Vancouver, told me that I needed to join Twitter because it would connect me with all sorts of people who are passionate about the things that I’m passionate about.  I had been a user of Facebook since 2007 and I enjoyed it, but I looked at Twitter as an application for 18 year olds, and ‘online addicts’.

It was around that time that I discovered Alex Samuel–one of BC’s most influential women in 2010–through some research I was doing on social media for work.  Her blog-post “10 Reasons to Stop Apologizing for your Online Life” was a breakthrough for me, and it helped me to stop criticizing myself and others for being active online and to view my online life as real, meaningful and empowering.

So, despite my reservations, I signed up for Twitter.  In the beginning it felt silly, exciting and scary: I was insecure about what I was doing and what I should tweet.  After being on Twitter for the last few months, I’ve learned that it is a place to connect with real people, and that what I should tweet about is what I like to see when I read my feed.  Of course, you don’t know what you like to read on Twitter until you have been on there a while, so the insecurity that you might feel is part of being new to this public forum/media.

The types of things you might see on Twitter:

  • Links–to interesting sites, news-articles, blogs, research, etc.;
  • Quotes from famous people throughout history;
  • Conversations (though abbreviated, you can always choose to email someone with whom you’re having a hot chat);
  • What people are doing;
  • Photos; and
  • of course, and unfortunately–Spam, or people trying to sell something (although not much because you choose who you want to follow).

I just tweeted this question:

#amwriting next post about the value of Twitter. What, besides links, photos, activity updates & quotes, do YOU find on twitter? #socialmedia

A total stranger (@senaquaren) tweeted me back and said:

“<<relationships :-)”

@psychgallica, a psychologist who I met on Twitter said:

“I find people who share my interests”

Duh… Of course!  People and relationships.  That’s exactly right.  In fact, the most valuable thing I find on Twitter is relationships with other people who care about what I care about.

What to tweet?

Here are some personal tweeting tips:

  • If you post things you are doing, I think it should be funny, informative, or meaningful in some way. Saying, “I’m going to bed now.” is… super YAWN…  and will make me unfollow a person in a heartbeat.
  • Use your bookmarks and tweet about sites that you have found interesting/hillarious/helpful in the past, and why.
  • Tweet about books you read, movies you watch, or restaurants that you eat at, etc.
  • Tweet your opinion on hot topics (don’t forget to use a hashtag–see below)
  • Look for people you follow who are asking questions and answer those questions (don’t forget to put an ‘@whoever ‘ –see below)
  • Ask a question.  Use a hashtag and keywords and you never know who might answer (ooohh… exciting)
  • Use your facebook feed, and tweet interesting things people post there.
  • Retweet interesting tweets you see on your Twitter feed.

How to Tweet?

  • Use or tinyurl to shorten any links–this is essential, or your link will take up your whole tweet and it’s important to also say something about the link you share.
  • Tweet at least once a day and more if possible (when people check out your profile, they want to see that you’re active), but not too much (more than 2 or 3 tweets in a few minutes will sometimes annoy me).
  • Hashtags: Because Twitter’s search system is so damned lame, tweeters have developed hashtags (#).  Put a hash–#–in front of any major key words in your tweet, that way people will be able to find your tweet easily.
  • The @ symbol: put one in front of anyone’s twitter name and they will know that you have tweeted ‘at’ them.  It will show up on their mentions. They are essential for conversations.  Also, check out your mentions once in a while, you might find someone was trying to talk to you!  I try to put @’s with every link that I tweet, if that person is on twitter.

So, I hope you find these suggestions and tips helpful.  I have written this post mainly for my friends, who I seem to be explaining, on a daily basis, what Twitter is and what it does and how to use it, but also for any newbies out there feeling a bit lost.

If you have other suggestions for Twitter chicks, then please leave a comment!

Extra Links

I use Twitter professionally, for my blog, but also for tweeting for other people, so the following links help me in that regard:

  • I like cotweet because it allows me to schedule tweets for when I am away and helps me organize more than one twitter account
  • refollow helps me see which of my followers is actively tweeting and who is not active, also who is following me back.  And it allows me to organize who I follow by all sorts of variables, such as time on Twitter, # of followers, etc.


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