By Benjamin Ellis, Social Technologist & Serial Entrepreneur
A friend recently asked me what advice I’d give to someone new to Twitter. Here are my thoughts, as I await my next cup of coffee.
1. Give it a try.
[for those of you not on Twitter already, it is free and quick to set up. If you are nervous, you can protect your tweets and use a pseudonym - although if you really do have something to hide, you might want to stay away. It is a very public platform]
Twitter takes quite a bit of perseverance. The first time I used it, I gave up after a day or two. I’m glad I came back.
It took about 6 months for Twitter to really start to ‘work’ for me, in terms of understanding it, and feeling confident in interacting with people. Press in. Keep trying it.
Experiment. Talk to people who seem to get a lot out of it. Find people that you know, that you would like to hear from. Figure out what works for you. You don’t have to be Stephen Fry or the boy/girl next door. I see dozens of different ways that Twitter works for people. As long as the way you are using it isn’t needlessly annoying people, it’s probably ok!
2. Don’t try and read everything.
Seriously, your head will explode! It’s not an inbox, it is one giant, global, watercooler discussion. Stop in, grab a glass, then head back to work ;).
3. Follow people you find interesting/enjoy.
Twitter will give you some suggestions of people to follow and add some to get you started. Feel free to unfollow them! Unfollow them all if you want!
Use the search facility via the Twitter website (it’s right there on the home page) to find people talking about things you are interested in. Search, look. Click through to a person. If they look like someone you’d like to hear from follow them. You can always unfollow them later — it’s just like slipping away from the conversation — they are unlikely to take offence (and don’t be offended if they don’t even notice! It’s not a personal slight).
Lists can also be a way to get started — lists are lists of people, created by other people. When you follow a list, you follow everyone on that list. It is a quick way to find a group of people talking about a particular topic and get started.
4. Say Hello!
If you are feeling particularly bold, send them a (non-creepy!) message, perhaps say why you followed them. For example, typing: “@BenjaminEllis How many basses do you have!? I heard from @caalie it was too many!” — will create a message that I (and anyone who follows you who also follows me) will see. @caalie will see it too, and she’ll probably agree. Again, don’t be offended if the person doesn’t answer. They might not be feeling talkative, they might be busy, or they might just not be sure who you are yet!
If you have something to contribute to a conversation you see, join in. Generally people on Twitter will be pleased to meet you — It is why most users are on the platform after all. It is about meeting new people, and keeping in contact with people you don’t see enough off.
5 Listen. Lots.
Twitter isn’t about the numbers. Being followed by 4,000 people doesn’t prove anything or necessarily enhance your experience. Even though Twitter has got me on to the BBC 6 O’Clock News, national radio, US Radio, and into books published around the world, actually the most valuable thing it has done for me is in enabling me to meet new people, and to get to know them.
You get out of Twitter what you put it, and that doesn’t just mean talking. It means listening too. Many a time I succumb to the temptation to say something, when I should just listen. Some of the people I most enjoy interacting with on Twitter say very little. But they listen lots, and they share what is important, and are they with an encouraging word when it is needed.
Enjoy the journey… Always…
This article originally appeared on Benjamin’s blog, Benjaminellis.org
You can follow Benjamin on Twitter @benjaminellis
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