An Introduction to Twitter

With the list of social media outlets seemingly increasing by the day, many have a hard time deciding where to start. Which social media platform is right for you? With so many options, where should you focus your energy? One tool, which I’ll discuss below, is Twitter. While Twitter has been around since 2006, there is still a large population unfamiliar with its mechanics or purpose. This post is one that I originally wrote for my office’s blog, but social media basics are often worth repeating.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social media platform that is set up for micro-blogging. Users publish updates, called “tweets,” of up to 140 characters. Any users choosing to “follow” you on Twitter will see your tweets. Likewise, you are able to read the tweets of other users that you choose to follow. This video by Common Craft does a great job of explaining what Twitter is. And this post by Dave Fleet offers tips for getting started, including how to set up your profile and what desktop clients are available.

Getting Started

So let’s say you sign up for a Twitter account and start tweeting. Now what? How can you make Twitter work for you?

If you’re using Twitter in a professional setting, you may benefit from following users who share content of interest to you. For example, search for users in your career field. Search for tweets about topics relevant to your job, and follow those users. Twitter can be a great resource for the latest articles and news in your trade.  Some search resources include:

  • Twitter Search: Search recent tweets by keyword.
  • Twitter Advanced Search: Construct advanced searches of tweets using criteria like words, exact phrases, users, or location.
  • Twellow: The “Twitter Yellow Pages” allows you to search for users by category and more.
  • Monitter: Search for keywords and see real-time results.

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you search for Twitter tools online, you will find a nearly-endless list.

Ready, Set, Tweet

Many users post tweets via the Twitter website. However, a number of desktop applications allow you to post to Twitter and see others’ updates without visiting A fairly exhaustive list of desktop options for Twitter has been compiled by Mashable.

Increase Your Following

Surely, tweets feel more purposeful if you know there is someone out there reading them. There are many ways to gain followers on Twitter. Some basic tips include:

  • Make sure your Twitter profile is public. Otherwise, other users may never find you.
  • Direct people to your Twitter profile from your other online profiles (e.g. Facebook, blogs).
  • Tweet often.
  • Be conversational.
  • Contribute content that others will find meaningful.
  • Follow other users and they may follow you in return.

Twitip offers many more tips for gaining followers, as well as how to contribute meaningfully.

Happy Tweeting

Once you immerse yourself into the world of Twitter, you may find a number of ways to use it to your benefit. Monitor what users are saying about you or your company, respond to customer services issues voiced by users, or build a network for sharing resources and information.

A version of this post originally appeared on the UM-Flint University Relations blog.
Image source: onextrapixel.

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