The Technophobe’s Guide to Twitter

Social media trainingThis week a client asked me if he should be on Twitter. My answer was : “Definitely, if you’re prepared to commit the time to learning how Twitter works, and to persevere in using your Twitter account through the initial period when you will find it very unrewarding. If you’re not, and you’re going to abandon your Twitter account then don’t bother.” He decided to go for it, but warned me that he’s not the most technical person in the world. So, for his benefit (and that of anyone else who’s interested), I have produced this technophobe’s guide to Twitter.

Why should I use Twitter?

Twitter is great if you would like to:

  • Be the first to know about news or developments in your industry.
  • Improve your own profile.
  • Build better relationships with stakeholders.

How do I set up a Twitter account?

Use your computer, not your smart phone for this, as it will take forever on your phone.  Go to In the New to Twitter? Sign Up enter your name, email and a password you would like to use. Then choose your Twitter username. This will become your Twitter handle, preceded by an @ or the end of the link to your profile. Mine is @TopLineFounder or Try to make it memorable.  Click Create My Account and, Voila, you’re on Twitter. Follow the 60-second quick-start guide to get started. 

What should go in my profile?

When updating your Twitter bio, you should include your full name and what you do, so that people can easily find you. Don’t forget to add a pic of yourself, so that people know they have the right person when they search for you.

Who should I follow?

The start-up wizard will help you find everyone in your email contacts to get you started.

Then, search for people by keyword. For example, if you are interested in finding specific people, enter their names into the search field. Or if you are just looking to generally follow people with an expertise in, for example, Higher Education, then enter “higher education” into the search field and see what comes up.

Then, find your favourite journalists from your favourite papers, magazines and blogs as it’ll be useful to engage with them on Twitter.

You will continue to find people to follow, as they start following you and Twitter will start to recommend people for you to follow.

How do I get people to follow me?

Tell them you’re on Twitter. Add your Twitter handle to your email signature and your business card.

How do I use Twitter?

You’ll have to work out for yourself how you want Twitter to work for you, but to get you started, I would suggest you

  • Add the Twitter app to your smartphone so that you can start to use it on the move.
  • Commit to tweeting 3x a day for a month. Try 1x original Tweet, 1x retweet and 1x @response. That way you’ll get a feel for how Twitter works, and will be able to develop your own Twitter strategy.

What type of tweets do well?

The tweets that get the most engagement tend to be informative, funny, or controversial. It’s kind of like media relations.

What does all the jargon mean?

RT or ‘Retweet’: You could call it the social media equivalent to quoting. ‘Retweeting’ is basically re-posting someone else's original Tweet, completely unchanged. This feature helps you as well as other twitter profiles quickly share that Tweet with other followers.

MT or ‘Modified tweet’: When you see MT as part of someone’s post, this signifies that the poster of that tweet has modified an original post in some way before republishing to their followers.

#tag: ‘Hashtags’ are used within a post before a significant word or phrase to help ‘flag’ or categorise the post, enabling it to show up better in a twitter keyword search. Proven to be particularly powerful during real time events.

Trend: Trending topics appear on the left hand side of the page. They are subjects that have been algorithmically determined as the most popular topic or ‘trend’ being posted on twitter.

@: This is used to acknowledge a specific twitter user, for example ‘Hello @TopLineFounder’. This links your post to that particular twitter profile.

Tweet: This is the ‘act’ of posting a message on twitter. Keep it concise. Your post can only contain up to 140 characters.

Follow: To ‘Follow’ someone on twitter means that you are subscribing to their twitter profile allowing you to follow their updates and tweets.

Unfollow: To ‘Unfollow’ a twitter profile means that you cease your subscription to their updates and tweets and no longer receive their posted content on your timeline.

‘Timeline’: This is the real-time feed of tweets from all the profiles that you follow on twitter- this timeline is on your twitter home page/dashboard. Also known as Twitter ‘stream’

Handle: This is the username and accompanying URL a twitter user has selected for their profile (See above for mine!)

Mention: You can mention another Twitter user in your tweet by using the @ followed by their username to your tweet.

DM: Stands for ‘Direct Message’ that can be sent privately to users in your twitter network.


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