Twitter is a powerful tool to connect with people. It's the world's largest conversation, where you can send messages to one or many. We highly recommend having a personal Twitter account and, below, we'll give you some pointers on how. (We actually dedicate more "how to" space on Twitter in this guide than on how to use Facebook because Twitter is still in unknown territory to many.) Additionally, an organizational Twitter account may be a nice complement to your campus group or club. There is no special "business account" for Twitter; you'd just create an account for the business using a separate email address.
Creating Your Account
Rather than duplicate the wonderful how-to efforts of Twitter in this guide, we'll refer to this official How to Sign up on Twitter guide.
While the above tutorial shows you how to create your account, we'd like to provide some pointers here.
- USE YOUR REAL NAME if possible (it may not be available if you have a common name). Social media is all about transparency. Use your real name if you can or something that people will associate you with.
- Avoid using underscores in your username; they are hard for people to remember.
- Remember to include your location; include a photo of yourself (not your cat or car); and fill in your 160-character profile. This legitimizes your Twitter profile. Again, the key here is 'real people'.
- Don't protect your account, that is, make it private. This option exists, but the use of it is frowned upon in social media circles because it inhibits the very notion of Twitter: sharing.
- If you've created a Twitter account for your organization, it's a nice idea to put the name(s) of the account admins in the profile. Or you can even create a branded, customized background. (See the E-town College Twitter page for an example.)
Using Your Twitter Account: A Look at Lingo
Once you get the basic concept down, Twitter is a lot easier than it may first appear.
- A post on Twitter is called a "tweet."
- To talk to someone on Twitter, simply use their username with the @ in front. (ex: @etowncollege). You can use this "mention" to talk directly to someone, or simply mention them.
- You can retweet, or RT, someone's post by using the retweet button, or paste the tweet into your status update; this approach allows you to make a comment (Always use the RT @username to give credit). If there is not enough room to include the whole tweet in your RT, you can use "MT", which stands for "modified tweet."
- Once you have a Twitter account and are logged in, you can now take advantage of the "share" or "tweet" button you see on nearly every blog, website or online media outlet.
- If you would like to add a link to your tweet but it is too long for the 140 characters, Twitter will automatically shortens links.
- You can direct message people if you'd like to contact them privately; the caveat is they must be following you back.
Finding and Following
The value in Twitter is finding good people to follow. Here's how:
- Search Twitter for tags (ex: #highered or #lancaster or #etowncollege) or for keywords to see who is talking about topics you'd like to follow. You can also use services such as www.wefollow.com to find like-minded people. Once you start following people, you will see who they are talking with and can subsequently find more people to follow. (All usernames are clickable!)
- To find more people to follow, check out the following and followers lists of people you currently follow; this will open you up to similar people.
- Follow people back. While you don't have to return the follow for everyone who follows you, it's good practice to follow people.
- Create and use Twitter lists to organize the people you follow. This way in one click you can filter out your colleagues, your friends or local businesses.
Tweeting and Retweeting
Twitter is not, contrary to what many believe, about sharing what you had for lunch. Rather, it's become an explosive community-building haven for like-minded professionals. There are all sorts of Twitter users—including those who tweet about their meals—but the beauty is that you only have to pay attention to the ones you wish to follow.
- Post links about upcoming events, talks or discussions in which you are involved/attending.
- Share links to articles, stories and other websites you find interesting.
- Retweet posts you've found interesting.
- Follow industry thought leaders.
- Upload pictures.
- Participate in industry chats (For instance, there are regular Twitter chats for many industry professionals. Higher ed examples we've seen include admissions, campus life, and marketing).
- Follow conferences in real-time. Common practice, today, is that any major industry event has a hashtag (#). While at conference, people will often live tweet as they learn.