How to get started on Twitter

  • Article by: RANDY A. SALAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 9, 2009 - 4:06 PM

Tips from new and power users can make joining the online service a better experience.

Want to try Twitter but don't know where to start? Here are some tips, including suggestions from new user Betty Shin, a student at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, and power user Andrew Korf, a user experience architect at Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis.

First, go to Twitter's website (www.twitter.com) and sign up for a free account. Then:

Add. Enter the names of people you know are on Twitter, and start following them.

Search. Look up topics of interest at search.twitter.com. Among those results, follow the users and organizations that seem compelling.

Hobnob. Look up your favorite celebrities and start following them. It's fun, and it is probably the closest you'll ever get to them. There's a good listing of who's who on Twitter at VIP Tweets (www.viptweets.com).

Wait. Start just by reading others' messages -- or tweets -- before interacting.

Tweet. Once you have a feel for how things go, start writing your own messages of 140 characters or less. (The Twitter interface lets you know how many characters you've used.) Think of it as micro-blogging -- writing short notes that answer the Twitter question: "What are you doing?"

Reply. If you're stuck about what to write, just reply to others' tweets. You do this by beginning your tweet with the @ symbol, followed immediately by the user name of the person you want to address. Then the ensuing message will go right to that person, like texting on a cell phone.

Reap. The more active you are, the more followers you'll gain -- which feeds the continual Twitter cycle.

Once you get comfortable with Twitter, consider these other tips to make the most of the experience:

Connect. You can use a computer to access Twitter, but it's much more immediate when you tweet via a mobile device such as a cell phone.

Enlist. Ask your friends to join Twitter, to widen your personal network and keep in touch with thm better.

Learn. There are many ways to streamline the service, including knowing texting lingo, using helpful commands and posting tiny URLs. You can even block annoying followers. Find out about them all at the Twitter help desk (help.twitter.com).

Download. Dozens of add-on applications can make Twitter better. They can, for example, let you update Facebook using Twitter, stream job listings and help you organize your tweets. Start by exploring blogger Deontée Gordon's "47 Awesome Twitter Tools You Should be Using" (www.startribune.com/a/?4614).

Re-follow. Look at the people and organizations your favorites are following. Chances are that you will like them, too. On Fridays, power users use the code #followfriday to recommend who's worth following to other users. (See the results at www.startribune.com/a/?4615.)

Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542

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