Getting started with… Twitter


Leanne Forshaw Jones

Since that fateful afternoon in February 2009, when Stephen Fry Tweeted a picture of himself stuck in a lift, Twitter’s something that you probably can’t get through a day without hearing about.

But as businesses and individuals have been swept up in the hype, sometimes people need to just sit down and get back to basics – and take advantage of a global conversation between 400 million people. Here’s our top ten rundown of the Twitter basics, even if you’re a user already, these tips might help polish your skills…

#1: Is Twitter right?

Ok, it sounds obvious but do ensure that Twitter is right for you. Believe it or not, people still feel obliged to have a Twitter presence for their company, thoughtlessly adding it to marketing strategies. As great as Twitter is, it’s not compulsory and may genuinely not be right for your industry… However, if it is right, and if it’s used properly it can deliver fantastic returns.

#2: Have you researched?

At this starting point do some research, see how your competitors are using it. Look at what keywords are being used to describe your product or service, look at the way customers are responding. The perfect recipe for a Twitter strategy is a mixture of this macro research added to your own corporate and marketing objectives. It’s easy to do too, Twitter has a search and advanced search function ( and you can use this to filter comverstaion regionally or from certain users so it’s a fairly accurate method of researching the market.

#3: Is this the real you?

It’s basic again but your username shouldn’t be too clever or too distorted from your business name and services. Because so many people use Twitter now, it’s search functions are becoming less and less reliable so it’s important that if a customer wants to search for your username, engage with you or send you a query, that you’re easy enough to find. You can also make user’s lives easier – and validate your account – by adding a Twitter link to your website.

It’s also advisable to have something consistent with any other online presence you have. It adds to the credence of the online presence of your brand.

You can change your handle (as a username is called on Twitter) in the ‘settings’ section, but it’s probably not a good idea to do so unless you’re fairly new to the site. You don’t want to miss out on conversations because users are mentioning a former name.

#4: Do you look the part?

I don’t think you or your business look like an egg – I want to see what you really look like! There are a few culprits using Twitter who don’t upload profile pictures – or avatars as they are sometimes called, and therefore they end up with the default Twitter ‘egg’ image.

Use this as an opportunity, it’s another window on the web for you to promote your brand. If your logo is recognizable use that. If it’s better to showcase a product then that’s fine too!

Twitter also gives you the option to add a background image onto your profile, a full size window on which you can showcase the best of what you do. Make sure that you pick a high quality image which shows your best work.

To amend any of the designs on your page you just need to go to the ‘settings’ section of Twitter.

#5 Do I know everything about you?

Another fault on Twitter is people who don’t fill out their biog sections, this can be found at the top of the page. This section gives you 160 characters in which to give me a snapshot of what your business is about. It’s your Twitter ‘elevator pitch’ by which you are judged – it’s the bait which lures a user to follow your business. Make sure it’s snappy, punchy, exciting and gives me a fair illustration of your account – and how it will enrich my Twitter experience.

#6 Are you making contacts?

Once your profile, design and username are all set up it’s time to decide who to follow. The best way to do this is using other people’s lists. Start with competitors, see who they’re engaging with and how they’ve grouped them. You can find this by looking at a profile then scrolling down the menu on the left hand side of their profile page, the bottom link should be titled ‘lists’. Click this to see lists that user has created or lists that they’ve been added to. You’ll soon start making contacts.

The intelligent use of Twitter’s filters means that you can also find relevant people to connect with by filtering through the conversation, bringing it down to a local, relevant level. If its customers you’re looking for, monitor keywords that your customers are likely to use. Maybe you’re an accountancy practice? If so, look for people on Twitter talking about tax returns and respond to them with contact details, a web link and any other information about your organisation.

#7: Are you engaging?

Once you’ve followed and connected with the people above, don’t make the fatal Twitter mistake of leaving your contact there. See what these people are saying, share their links, share their Tweets, credit them for Tweeting useful information.

You can do this by ‘ReTweeting’ another user’s information. Twitter has two ways of doing this. Firstly the automatic ‘RT’ button which just reposts their message intact.

Or, you can adopt the ‘traditional’ method of ReTweeting. You can paste the original message into your own Tweet, mentioning the original Tweeter’s username so that they’re appropriately credited, but add your own view at the beginning of the Tweet. This is the preferred method amongst hardcore Twitter users as it gives an insight into your viewpoint on an issue,

The more you engage like this, the more you’ll learn about each other and the more fruitful the relationship may become.

#8: Are you using multimedia?

If a picture tells a thousand words, how many does a video tell? The use of multimedia on Twitter is crucial and gives you the chance to express yourself beyond 140 characters. A couple of years back Twitter integrated video and picture into its own platform so you can now attach either to a Tweet. It’s very simple to do and gives you the chance to promote visuals of products, share insights into industry news (a simple 30-second iPhone video can create great industry soundbites) and help customers and users online understand more about you.

#9: Are you making life easy for yourself?

You don’t just have to use Twitter ( to manage your Twitter output.  There are some fantastic third party sites via which you can manage your account.  Some of them have features such as secheduling (whereby you can schedule non time sensitive Tweets in advance) as well as additional features such as monitoring conversations and brand or industry mentions.

Our favourites are:

#10: Are you rewarding enough?

Once you’ve build up an audience on Twitter there’s nothing wrong with rewarding their loyalty and thanking them for being an online advocate of your brand.

This can be as simple as giving people regular blogs to help their business through to special discounts through to product giveaways. Mechanics such as offering followers on Twitter a chance to win a free meal at your restaurant, or a free consultancy session if you’re a management consultant, can be received well and accelerate the growth of your contacts on the site.

The more consumer focused the reward is the better, people respond well and competitions and incentives are very much the fabric of Twitter’s existence so don’t be frightened to try a few out.


Using a wide mix of the right social media channels helps broaden your organisation’s social footprint, creating more presence for you across the web. Successful brands have a well established social footprint through engaging on a mix of channels as part of a coherent campaign. Twitter can contribute to your social media footprint and with the right language and use of brand and industry keywords can help maintain a presence online which is search engine optimised. Check each of our ‘Getting Started With…’ guides for further details.

About the Author

  • Leanne Forshaw Jones

    Leanne Forshaw Jones is a PR consultant with more than a decade's experience in delivering integrated campaigns which blend traditional and emerging medias. Leanne advises clients including Urban Splash, Manchester Grammar School, Manchester Arndale, Breville, Ballymore Group, Space0 and more on their communication strategies and has delivered seminars to national and regional groups on integrating their digital and offline presence and maximising the opportunities that new media brings.


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