The Complete Guide to Using Twitter

Today, one of my honest readers, Don Andrew, pointed me to a query related to Twitter:

I've opened an account with Twitter and am following you and a few others I recognised when I first got on board. But I haven't yet grasped the point. It seems great if you have friends in the same town who live on their computer and like to meet for coffee, but I must be missing something?

This's also the query of many Web users, who don't actually grasp the full benefits Twitter offers. This comment fueled me to create this post about Twitter. This article busts many myths about it and tells you how you can successfully run a profile in this enormously popular social media service, for your promotion and earnings. Think of this as a complete guide to Twitter.

twitter logo

Part I: Basics of Twitter

First of all, let's get down to the basics of this service. Twitter allows you to post any time and from anywhere small sentences of less than 140 characters in length, called twits/tweets/posts/updates or whatever people like to call them. If you don't yet have an account in Twitter, go ahead and sign up. It's too easy!

Twitter has become very popular these days. But the reason behind its popularity is the ease of reaching out to celebrities. [Did you know that even Britney Spears tweets?]. Twitter is far more transparent than Facebook or MySpace. How many people know the Facebook account of important Internet personalities like Matt Cutts of Google? On the other hand, Twitter allows me to follow several important personalities. I can even attract their attention and get their opinions on various things. This transparency, for me, is the most important aspect of Twitter.

Here are the things you do to kick-start your Twitter account.

1. Get a Twitter Gadget

In order to tweet easily from anywhere, you can download any easy-to-use Twitter gadget. I use Digsby for the purpose, but also occasionally test Twitterific, Twhirl, TweetDeck, etc. Twhirl has recently become very popular among twitterers. Twitter has an Application Programming Interface (API) that allows creation of such gadgets.

2. Set Up Your Cell Phone With Twitter

You can set up your cell phone to receive notifications or to tweet directly through SMS. This is a really easy means to use Twitter, because you can do it on the go without even needing a laptop or full-fledged mobile device. The Twitter updates can also be set up through SMS, if you are from Canada, the US, or India.

3. Learn Twitter Commands

Here are the major twitter commands. They will come handy when you are using a Twitter gadget or mobile device.

  • FOLLOW username: Sets up a username to follow in your account.
  • LEAVE username: Leaves whichever user you are already following.
  • ON: Turns on all notifications to your mobile device.
  • OFF: Turns off the notifications to mobile device.
  • ON username: Turns on notifications for a particular user to the device.
  • OFF username: Turns off the notifications for the user.
  • STOP/QUIT: Immediately stops all messages to the device.
  • @username message: This command sends message to the username as a reply. Available to all of your followers (public message, popularly called @reply).
  • D username message: Sends a private message (called direct message or DM) to the username. The user has to be following you for you to do this.
  • WHOIS username: Gives you the information about the username.
  • GET username: Gives you the latest tweet by the user.
  • NUDGE username: Gives an alert to any user asking what they are doing presently.
  • FAV username: Marks the last tweet by the user as favorite (star). In order to favorite any individual post other than the last one, reply it with FAV.
  • STATS: Gives your statistics, such as number of people you are following and number of your followers.

Examples: Follow vjlenin; Leave vjlenin; @vjlenin I am following you; d vjlenin Thanks for following me.

Certain other commands, such as the tracking commands are disabled now; so they are not mentioned here. Also note: 'Leave' command works only for the particular gadget you use. To completely stop following an account, you must log on Twitter and click 'Remove'.

4. Create a Twitter Feed

After you have created a Twitter account, set up a twitter feed for your blog. Sign up on TwitterFeed for this purpose. Just log in, input your blog's RSS feed and TwitterFeed will automatically post any entry you make on your blog to Twitter.

5. Find People to Follow

Once you have your account set up basically, you can follow anyone of interest. You can try searching for the keyword you are most interested in to find people who tweet about it or interested in it. You can search for keywords at search.twitter.com. Follow the parties that seem to be interested in the keywords. As an alternative, you can start to follow MrTweet. This Twitter bot tells you whom you may be interested in according to the people you are already following and tweets you are making.

Part II: Advantages of Using Twitter

Just as you should benefit from anything you do online, you should benefit from Twitter. Here is the tip of the iceberg of benefits.

1. Get to Meet Celebrities: Are you a newcomer to the Internet marketing arena? Are you a newcomer to the blogosphere? Then mark my word that everyone, popular or not, from the Internet has an account in Twitter.

It's the ultimate place where you will be meeting several people who will make a difference to you. As an example, I followed Matt Cutts, and @replied him a post I made on my blog. You know what, he actually found my @reply and replied with his suggestions. There is no other way I could promptly have got his attention, which millions of people worldwide crave for. In the same way, I was able to gather attention from many professional bloggers and Internet celebrities.

2. Reach Far More People Than You Normally Can: Once you have a huge account on Twitter, you will continue to gain followers in a fairly large amount every day. Most of them will be interested in following you and seeing your tweets, if you are a valuable twitterer. You will be able to market whichever product you have to them. For more on this, read my Twitter tips below.

3. Use It for Your Research: Twitter can benefit you in your research. Simply ask questions to your followers, and anyone reading your tweets knowing about the issue you are addressing can reply you back and recommend you to any place of interest where you will get the required service.

An @reply is the easiest way to get attention from people not even in your friend list. If you know any expert in any field, but that person is not actually following your updates, then simply @reply him with your question. You are more than likely to get an answer to your query.

4. News Tweets: Did you know that CNN and BBC have their Twitter accounts? These profiles are updated with breaking news and other interesting events happening worldwide. Following them will keep you updated on any noteworthy news event.

5. Twitter in Real World: Recent Mumbai blasts have been very shocking. Every moment of this has been captured in real time by a number of twitterers (though there were fake tweets and unconfirmed reports). They continued to update Twitter from the spot through their mobile devices. These tweets have dispersed valuable information to us. Hence, it is clear that Twitter is very beneficial not only to the family and friends for continued connection, but also to people at the other side of the world. In this aspect, Twitter is perhaps the most useful social tool in this decade.

Part III: How to Build Your Twitter Profile for Marketing and Money Making

We have come to another important section. Twitter can be used to make lots of money from your blog and your affiliate relationships. In fact, ClickBank recently published a blog entry about this aspect of Twitter.

What Not to Do

You can go ahead and create a Twitter account and you can actually follow a 1000 people. You will also gain followers in thousands. You can tweet all your affiliate links to products that will easily attract attention from many people. Some will visit them and you may well make some sales on the initial days. But that's not gonna stay. Once people realize that you are only for moneymaking, they will automatically become stale followers (see below), and you will no longer attract their attention.

What to Do

Make a Twitter profile to dispense useful information and useful information alone to the followers. As CB puts it, have 80 percent useful tweets and very rarely, 20 percent of the time, post links to affiliate products and other money-making opportunities. Your useful tweets will help you gain more honest readers and followers.

You know, Twitter is very peculiar in that followers can be of two types: honest and stale. Honest followers are those who follow you to actually read your tweets. Stale ones just follow you to widen their spectrum of followers. They are interested in your following them back and nothing else. Your success is in making these stale ones honest followers. For that, simply tweet any interesting link, valuable piece of information, breaking news, etc., that come your way. You can actually keep your mobile device live and tweet from anywhere.

Once you have a fan base of honest followers, you will easily make more impressions to your ads and make more sales. You can go crazy-creative in Twitter in terms of money-making. Invent some means for that. For starters, here are a few tricks:
  • Tweet your own useful links and get visitors to your sites.
  • Build an impressive Twitter account and sell links to other blogs.
  • Charge for traffic you generate from your Twitter links (you can track traffic with link cloaking services like ClickAudit).
  • Tweet affiliate links and generate sales with well-written ad lines.
  • Tweet referral links and make a few more referrals.
  • Search for questions made by users and @reply them with specific product affiliate link that will satisfy their query.

Besides these, you can always come up with evil ideas to build links, make followers, get traffic, generate content, etc., in Twitter. These ideas are beyond the scope of this post. Subscribe to my CW RSS feed to read my future Twitter posts.

Part IV: Twitter Usage Tips

Here we will see some tips to using Twitter successfully

1. Don't Make It Personal

This is very important if you are a starter. No one is interested in your personal life. So, don't post "I am about to go to bed" "I woke up at exactly 4 am and am having a coffee now" "My girlfriend comes at 11" etc. This way, you will simply lose followers, make the followers stale, and move your interesting tweets down the line. Personal posts can, however, be made once in a blue moon.

2. Make It Topical

Be a dispenser of topic-specific news and tidbits. Anything you tweet should be very new and highly relevant. In that case, you will be able to see readers following you more.

3. Do Make It Keyword-rich But Not Keyword-Stuffed

Did you know that Twitter statuses actually get ranked in search engines? Regardless of their size, they get good search engine rankings, so make your tweets keyword-targeted for them to get maximum reach. But Twitter specifically makes a point that if you purport your tweets solely to get high search engine ranking, your account will be terminated. Don't spam Twitter to get search engine attention. It will only harm your activity.

4. Don't Do Any Spamming Activity

Spamming means:
  • Following unnaturally large (thousand) people on the first day at Twitter
  • Making too many or only @reply messages
  • Making duplicate links or text in tweets
  • The user only tweets links and no text
  • The user only re-tweets (updates others' tweets in self account)
  • Tweets links to malware, phishing, or other harmful sites
  • Creating a large number of accounts in little time
  • Tweeting for search engine ranking as in the above

Doing any of these activities can easily get your account blocked by Twitter. If a number of people block your account, it can easily trigger action. To report an account as spam, simply follow @spam.

5. Don't Make It Too Money-oriented

Don't tweet only links to affiliate websites or products. As I said above, keep a quality content:affiliate content ratio at 80:20. Or better, follow my way: I have never tweeted any affiliate link yet.

6. Prompt Replies and DMs

Don't feel that you are too important if a few people start to follow you. @reply back or DM anyone that starts to follow you with a thanks message. This can build positive relationship with the person that starts to follow you. Also, consider following back if the person in question can really benefit you. Marketer Jim Kukral actually follows anyone that starts to follow him, but rest assured he is gonna be only a stale follower for you. I believe he automates the process.

7. Ask for Suggestions

If you are new to Twitter, then listen. You may find quite a few accounts to follow for a start. At this point, you can go to them and @reply them asking for any suggestions for other Twitter users to follow and connect with. The power user has a good enough idea of who actively participates in discussions with him. He may know who among his followers will be interested in what. If he dispenses this information to you, you will be able to target your tweets to get maximum benefit.

Conclusion

With its enormous popularity, Twitter will be the most important social media site in existence today. But what's behind its enormous popularity? Simply, the fact that it is million times more useful than any other social network or social media site. The Web's largest search engine, Google started as a search service with a plain, simple home page that had no flamboyant features. There was no complexity. Twitter also started with a plain, simple idea: updating your followers, what you are doing in 140 characters, and nothing else.

This simple idea was so simple that every lazy man on the planet just loved it. How appealing is the idea of updating your followers on the go with a cell phone? That simplicity is behind the enormous popularity and success of Twitter. And the fact that this ultra-simple tool was be enormously useful in situations like the Mumbai incident and the earthquake in Mexico, reaffirms its presence.

For more such posts, please subscribe to CW RSS feed. And don't forget to follow me at Twitter @vjlenin.

Related Entries:

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Promote Your Twitter Profile With Me!

Image from: zeroinfluence.wordpress.com

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

4 Opinions:

  1. I'm signing up for Twitterfeed right now. thanks Lenin,for the valuable info!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was a very helpful article on twitter. I was particularly interested in what you had to say about access to celebs. One question, how do you know that it really is them and not a impostor?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, SoSB, good question. It's easy to know. No one would successfully imitate a celebrity. Celebrities tend to have huge number of followers and there will be Twitter watching all the time. A little research would reveal you if it's an impostor or not.

    ReplyDelete
  4. thank you for this - I'm a new twitterer and often wonder what to do - this has given me a lot more of an idea where to take my twittering...

    ReplyDelete

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