Twitter New User Checklist

Check out the podcast where I’m interviewed about this article.

Here are some things to consider to upgrade your Twitter experience.

Here are some things to consider to upgrade your Twitter experience.

Are you new to Twitter, or thinking about jumping into the Twitter pool? Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you begin using Twitter.

1. Strike A Pose

Twitter is about people connecting with people. People want to see a picture of your face. Not a shot of you in the park, or you with your significant other. Not a cartoon drawing that resembles you. A real photograph of you.

The best shots should be approximately square and focus on your face. The tiny avatars won’t do justice to the mountain scenery behind you, either. If you only have your cell phone camera, you can take a shot right now. Retry until you get a clear shot. But if you are using Twitter for business, you need a better picture. Have someone take a good shot for you, and consider having a real photographer do a headshot. It’s worth it.

My follow policy is that I don’t follow people who don’t have a picture. And I’m not the only one.

2. Tell Your Story

Twitter allows you to create a profile that consists of your name, your location, and a short bio. Use them.

  • Your real name is important, especially if you use a nickname for your Twitter name (like me).
  • Provide the name of your city and your state (or province). Other Twitter users in your region want to find you, also.
  • Provide an interesting statement about yourself. If you are snarky, be snarky. If you want to just list your hobbies, that’s okay. But if you want to connect to your peers or talk shop with your community, include the kind of work you do. And yes, being a stay-at-home mom is a kind of work.

If you are concerned about your personal safety, you might think twice about listing your name and your geography. Perhaps list only your first name, or give a generalized geography, such as southwest Kansas, or greater Chicagoland. Be smart.

3. Tell Me More

Tell me more about yourself so I can decide if I want to follow you.

Tell me more about yourself so I can decide if I want to follow you.

Twitter allows you to link to another website or online presence. If you have a blog or a website, link to that. If you have an About Me page on your blog, that’s even better.

Some people (and hopefully all businesses) link to a special page, a Twitter landing page, that describes their Twitter use and some of their Twitter policies. I’ve got a Twitter landing page here for an example.

People review your link to learn more about you when they are deciding if they want to follow you. Give them good information to use.

4. Personalize Your Space

Have you noticed that some people have customized their Twitter background? You can do it, too. You can upload a photograph that means something to you, a snapshot of your dogs or kids or your favorite vacation spot all work.

If you are a business, or using Twitter for business, consider creating a customzed Twitter background (or having one made for you).

Look around at Twitter backgrounds and decide what you like. After uploading your background image, you can adjust the Twitter colors to coordinate with your picture. You can’t break Twitter, so give it a try!

5. @Replies Done Right

On Monday, March 30, 2009, Twitter changed the way it handles @replies. In fact, they changed the name to “mentions” which better reflects how people use this feature. This tip no longer applies.

One of the most common misunderstanding new Twitter users have is how to send a reply to a specific user. Every day, I see this one done incorrectly.

To send a message to a specific Twitter user (a public reply), you must start the tweet with @+username. For example:

@WorkingGirl Great news about your book release party.

This does not send the tweet to the specific user:

Hey @WorkingGirl, great news about your book release party.

If you do this wrong, there is no guarantee that the intended person ever sees your tweet.

6. Get A Room

Don't share your personal conversations in the public Twitter timeline.

Don't share your personal conversations in the public Twitter timeline.

The great thing about Twitter is that we all get to hear what everyone else is saying. The bad thing about Twitter is that we have to listen to what everyone else is saying.

If you are engaging another Twitter user in a long, private conversation, don’t make everyone listen to it. Switch either to sending direct messages (DMs) or to another communication tool like email or chat. Don’t clutter up the tweet timeline with your personal conversation if you want people to keep following you.

7. Please Don’t Tell Us What You Are Doing

I know the Twitter message box says “What are you doing?” but do you really need to announce to the world that you are having a PB&J sandwich for lunch? Even if it is true?

If you want to win friends and keep followers, think a little outside that box. Rather than share the mundane events of your life, talk about something interesting. What are you thinking about? What are you reading? What challenge do you face? If you can tell us that, and sometimes add a bit of humor and laugh at yourself, we’ll laugh with you and adore your tweets.

There’s nothing wrong with being honest. Just remember that everyone else is bogged down with the mundane details of their own life as well. We are all looking for a bright spot in the day, a reason to smile, and perhaps a reason to not take it all so seriously. Seriously.

And while I’m on my pet peeves, don’t feel compelled to tell me the name of every song that plays on the radio or or Pandora every four minutes all afternoon long. And if you do, know it will be the last thing you tweet to me.

8. Stay Spin Free

Social media is about being your authentic self, speaking with your own voice and saying your own thoughts. Transparency is the buzz word for this. If you posture in real life, if you only let people see certain aspects of your personality, you are going to have a hard time with Twitter and all social media.

Putting up your picture is one step in the right direction. But now you must take the risk to say things that are honest and true. I’m not talking about sharing your deep, dark secrets or true confessions. Having a bad day? That’s okay to mention. Having a great day? Share you news with us. Just don’t waste our time with the alibis you concoct for your partner (or boss), or the reasons why you are the victim of a vicious co-worker. Keep it honest and real. Our collective BS detectors are pretty darn good, and we vote with our feet. Or our unfollows.

9. Don’t Spam Me

Don't spam me with autofollow messages trying to sell your products and services.

Don't spam me with autofollow messages trying to sell your products and services.

If I decide to follow you, don’t reward me by sending me an auto-reply message. Especially if your auto-reply message includes a sales pitch for your latest workshop or ebook. I would rather never hear from you than to get a canned, generic spam message, the same one you auto-send to everyone who makes the mistake of following you.

In fact, if you do this, I’ll unfollow you quicker than the ink dries on your spam message.

Instead, if you really want to connect with me, take a couple minutes to review my profile. Check out my link. Review my archive. Get a sense of what I bring to the conversation. If you send me a reply or a direct message that includes a personal message from you, I’ll take notice in a good way. That’s the way to build relationships on Twitter. It’s one tweet at a time, on the other person’s topic, not your own.

10. Turn Off The Sales Machine

If you’ve got a blog, or an ebook, or a workshop, I’m not offended when you mention these things and include links to them. However, if I notice that you only ever talk about these things, or you always talk about yourself, I’m going to cancel my subscription to your tweets quickly.

Twitter isn’t just another platform for you to push your same old hypnotic marketing pitch, or to rant on about the many benefits I would receive from your amazing products. Save that stuff for your website and email campaigns. If you are not here to dialog with your community, to listen and talk, you are going to find yourself in a very small community. Maybe even a community of one.

Social media is a great marketing tool, but you have to understand the ground rules. Be real. Talk about things other than your pitch. Send me good links to great content. Retweet some of my brilliant tweets. Reply to people and engage them in conversations about the things they care about. Treat me like a real person. I’ll be much more likely to listen when you announce your workshop if I think you are one of the contributors in my community. In fact, I may even ask you about your workshop. Isn’t that a much nicer way to do business?


Everyone on Twitter today started off as a newbie. We’ll all traveled the road of experience, making mistakes along the way. Learn from our collective wisdom, and avoid these ten common new user mistakes to give yourself the best possible Twitter experience from the start.

What about you? Do you have different items on your new user checklist? Different pet peeves? Share them here, and enlighten us all.

About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

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