10 Tips to really "getting" Twitter – Don't be a Fail Whale

I recently led a social media strategy presentation for a multi-functional marketing team.  I asked how many people were on twitter.  Almost every hand in the room went up.  Great (I thought).  I asked how many people were active on twitter.  Only a few hands went up.

With twitter quickly gaining popularity more and more people are joining, yet a lot of them are having trouble “getting it”.  I have to admit, when I first joined twitter I didn’t get it either.  Jeremy Pepper got me to join in 2007 after we met at the blogher conference.

I created an account but I didn’t get it. Twitter was a Fail Whale for me.


Now, nearly 2 years later I’m on twitter nearly every day and have 3,500 followers and love it.

Twitter is a powerful tool once you “get” it.

When you join facebook you know what it is for – connect with friends.  When you join linkedin you know what it is for – connect with business people.  When you join twitter it isn’t so clear.  Twitter is a flexible tool that allows you to talk to anyone and the basic question “what are you doing?” in 140 characters or less is completely vague.

If you are having trouble getting started or finding the “value” on twitter, here are some tips.

1. Decide why you are there.

What is your reason for getting on twitter….. Is it social (connect with friends), business (talk to customers), professional development (talk to people in my industry), interest based (connect with people with similar hobbies), etc.  You might have more than one reason for joining (or be unsure as to why) but thinking about what you want to get out of twitter will help you get started…. plus you can always change later.

2. Decide who you want to be (in 140 char or less).

The first thing that you have to do is set up your profile.  ALWAYS upload a photo (preferably a real one of you).  Next, think about who you want to connect with and what you are using twitter for.  Let that guide your profile description.

3. Connect with People you know.

Import your email contacts and see who you know that is already using twitter.  Add them first.  This will give you a starting point of people to follow.  Since they already know you they will probably follow you back.

4. Connect with people you DON’T know.

This is what makes twitter valuable.  I have made a TON of great friends through twitter (seriously).  Use a service like www.twellow.com to look for people in your city or with a similar interest/job as you.  Follow them.  Listen to what they talk about.  Engage in conversations with them.  This is the real value of twitter – you can expand your network and meet people with similar interests.

5. Share your life.

Don’t twitter stuff like “getting coffee” “picking up kids”, etc.  This is boring.  People often focus on the noise of twitter (which are the boring random posts) vs. the value.  Post links to things that you are reading that are interesting (share with the community), post funny stuff that you see online, post about funny/interesting stuff in your life (just saw a guy in a fannypack or wondering why people in Cincinnati don’t understand how to merge onto the highway)….

6. Ask questions.

Not stupid ones.  Yes, there are stupid questions; they include things that you could google.  Your twitter community can be a great resource for all sorts of questions: “Going to dinner tonight – question: What is the best hamburger in Cincinnati?” or “Anyone have reco’s on where I can get custom T-shirts made? ” or “I’m trying to learn more about SEO – can anyone recommend a good blog?”.  The community will help you (you need to have some followers for this to work) and you’ll begin to see the value of twitter.

7. Be committed, at least long enough to give it a fair shot.

Go on twitter a few times a day for your first few weeks and tweet.  Give it a fair shot.  If you still hate it after a few weeks then quit.  At least you *really* tried 🙂

8. Mobile tweets

– Get twitter on your mobile phone – there are plenty of apps for the iphone and twitterberry for blackberries.  Try tweeting when you are out and see something funny/amusing/interesting/relevant.  This will also improve your “twitter productivity” since you won’t have to be attached to your computer.

9. Tweet Photos

– Sign up for www.twitpic.com and tweet photos.  People love photos.  It will help them connect with you.  When you are out and see something funny/interesting/random snap a photo and tweet it.  Not only is it fun but you will also get people joining in your conversation on twitter.

10. Use tweetdeck or twhirl to maximize productivity.

These tools will take 15 min or so to set up and understand but they can dramatically improve your experience.  They are both software programs that allow you to tweet more efficiently – they notify you when you get messages, you can create groups and tweet directly from them without having to go to twitter all the time.

Any other tweeple have tips/thoughts/ideas?

What experience helped you to really “get” twitter?


  1. Two other tools that are really helpful for a jumpstart are MrTweet and Tweet Replies.

    Mr. Tweet (mrtweet.net) helps you find other Twitterers who follow the same people you do, are located near you, or tweet about similar topics.

    Tweet Replies is a really good way to make sure you stay on top of messages sent directly to you. Sign up at tweetreplies.com and you’ll get an email whenever someone @’s you.

  2. It’s funny how there isn’t really a “guidebook” from the Twitter creators – it’s almost like they made a sandbox and said “Go enjoy yourself kids!”

    I guess the only real thing to add is just do what you want – at the end of the day, everyone uses it differently, who’s to say what’s right or wrong? That’s the beauty of the unfollow option 🙂

  3. Thanks to http://www.accessibletwitter.com as a blind person I have the chance to also experience the wonderful world of Twitter. I appreciate the great tips you have provided to us.

  4. Hi Krista!

    Thank you for this post. I signed up for twitter and didn’t really “get it” – now I have some more to go on and I’ll give it another shot.

  5. Hello Krista,

    Love your site! Is there a way to get new posts e-mailed to me.

    Thanks, John

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