Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Four P's for Twitter Newbies

This is a guide that has been put together based on personal experiences. While it is targeted at educational minded Twitter newbies, the principles certainly will apply to people from all walks interested in getting started on Twitter. These are the Four P's for Twitter Newbies.

It is rare that someone will understand how Twitter works in their first usage. Instead, newbies should be patient with themselves and with Twitter and take in advice from different websites and from users they trust. While there is no right way to use Twitter, there are certainly pitfalls and things to avoid. If you want to get something out of Twitter, spend at least three months actively reading about Twitter, discovering educational sites that tout the strengths of Twitter, and, most importantly, being an active participant on Twitter.

The people you follow will lead you to topics of interest, to follow more people, and to read blogs and websites of interest. Therefor, you will want to choose wisely. Don't be afraid to follow a lot of people and then unfollow people who don't tweet much, or who tweet things that annoy you. Are they tweeting more about breakfast than world languages? Unfollow. Are they tweeting every minute with bits of info that are unhelpful to you? Unfollow. While there are artificial ways to get lots of followers, you will not get value unless the people you follow and the people who follow you will further the discussions you are interested in. Some good ways to get new followers include:
  • Follow people who are tweeting frequently on topics that are of interest to you
  • Click on people you follow to see who they follow (and follow those that interest you)
  • Leave your account public - you can always boot people you don't want to have following you
  • Be interesting in your tweets and true to yourself and your interests
Getting involved in Twitter can be well worth the time investment. Increase your participation by tweeting at least once a day. Increase this number every couple of weeks until it feels natural for you to want to tweet about things you read and experience. Participation will be one of the top ways you can gain followers and get the most out of Twitter. Including hashtags and links to topics that interest you will draw people into your circle who are interested in similar topics.

You will also find that joining in on Twitter discussions can be a great way to participate. Every weekday there are multiple educational chats that take place on topics of all types. Topics range from discipline specific, to age level, to pedagogy and general interests. You can find the entire list  of topics on Jerry Blumengarten's (a.k.a. Cybraryman) website as well as a calendar with scheduled chats.

Finally, you can also participate by being social. After all, this is a social network. Be social by...
  • Following people and occasionally retweeting what they have tweeted (if you really like it)
  • Replying to other's tweets...if they say something interesting, you hit reply and make a comment
  • Sending direct messages to followers, and thanking people who follow you
  • Recognizing anyone who retweets you or mentions you in a way that you appreciate
Remember to use @ when mentioning someone by their Twitter name.

Increasing the probability of your tweets being read will increase the number of followers you have and the more followers you have the more influence your voice will have. Improve the probability of Twitter working for you by increasing your interactions on Twitter. The probability of any one of your tweets being read is completely dependent on three factors:
  1. How many followers you have
  2. How well your words and hashtags are chosen and
  3. The time at which you tweet
Get more followers in ways that are legitimate to your interests. This will provide the most professional value to you. Read above for ideas on how to get more followers.

People who know how to use Twitter to gain information also know how to search Twitter. This can be done through hashtags and any words included in tweets. Therefor, when people are searching, they will find your tweets if you are including appropriate hashtags and key words or phrases relevant to your topic of interest.

Timing your tweets can be an art-form. In general, if you are including hashtags or you have several followers, people will see your tweets. Knowing your followers will allow you to improve your odds with timing. In education that can mean tweeting during the school day. I find tweets that land in the mid-morning are more frequently read because there are less tweets at that hour. Therefore, whatever I have to say may stay in search results longer. The lunch hour is also a predictable time that all teachers will have at least 20 minutes to be on Twitter and more than you can imagine, actually are. You will have to practice this and get a sense of what works best in your area of interests.

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