So you wanna be a twitter superstar?

So from time to time, someone I know in real life who isn’t big into social media will join Twitter. This usually means they’ll ask me where they should start getting into Twitter. I could link them to some random social media huckster giving practical advice about to get into Twitter, but I’ve never found anything that’s as good for casual users.

I can’t imagine starting Twitter from scratch these days. I think a lot though about being a relatively early adopter that felt late to the game when it comes to most social platforms, because I generally take on the role of “bemused skeptic” when a new social tool or platform gets released. I had three twitter accounts before settling on the one I have now, so despite being all-in on twitter these days, I didn’t start there.

I’ve decided to write my own “Beginners introduction to twitter for people who have real jobs and can’t actually afford to spend all day on the internet tweeting & facebooking

Spoiler alert. This won’t be a very long list. So again, WELCOME TO TWITTER. You’re probably wondering where to start right? Maybe you should just start sending replies to people or tweeting at them? Well, you could. But chances are, you want to lie low. Here are some pointers for getting your feet wet on twitter:

1. Start slow. Think of twitter as showing up to a party where you were invited and maybe you know a friend of a friend who is gonna be there. Chances are, once you arrive you’re gonna find other people who you know, but you need to start off small. Follow a few publications, brands & personalities you know already. Maybe you have a good friend on twitter too? Don’t follow them at first, unless you all like the same stuff. If they’re anything like me, their noise will make your feed unbearable and you might think to yourself, “I can see this on Facebook already,” but this depends on the kinds of friends you have.

2. Decide how you want to use it. Everyone has different aims. If you’d like to find other people who watch Scandal on Thursday nights, Twitter is a good bet.

If you’re seeking out folks who are in your industry and want to communicate with them, it’s also a good place to see out those people. There are service industry chats centered around a particular topic. Far too numerous to mention here, but one example is #strategycar, which was conceived by some web strategists who wanted to talk once a week. There’s a Q&A. Chances are, your industry, field or interest has conversations like that happening too.

Maybe you just want to use Twitter to follow and read what people are talking about — like the newspaper of social — and not engage much. That’ a legitimate purpose too.

It’s your Twitter feed, so it’s up to you. Plus you can change your mind at any point.

3. Public or private? Twitter gives you the option to make your feed private. Which basically means you can do all of the normal stuff you’d do on twitter, except only people you approve can follow your tweets. This is totally up to you. The only real downside to a private feed is people can’t just happen upon you, find your tweets and start following you because your tweets won’t show up on any public timelines. This is fine if you know you’re just using twitter as a place to follow or have specific sensitivity reasons for not wanting your feed out there, but I’d strongly recommend starting off public unless you have a good reason not to.

4. Watch & Learn. Other people are out there and the best way to learn is to watch they engage. There’s no real “wrong way” to use twitter, just good ways and better ways. Ok, there are some bad ways. In general, having a feed full of replies that you send to major brands who’ll probably never respond makes you look silly. But save for that, there are so many different ways you can use your twitter account.

Say you had a problem with an airline and you’re delayed or something is happening and you’re not getting answers? In the old days, you’d just grump about it and maybe the dude at the television station — remember those old customer advocates? — would raise hell on your behalf. Now? That’s twitter and the brands are listening.

Not just for bad stuff. My friend Joel has purchased ten pairs of glasses from online eyeglasses store Warby Parker. After he bought his tenth pair, they sent him a personal video saying thanks.
Does Lenscrafters do that?

You have quite a bit of power with your spiffy new Twitter account. Use it wisely!

5. How often should I tweet? Will people stop following me? How do I get followers?

Ok, one at a time sport. On frequency, it’s up to you. Initially, if you don’t have many people to tweet with or to, you won’t tweet much. If you connect another social media tool, like Instagram (which is another story) to your twitter feed, people can follow those updates, but I wouldn’t advise it at first. Just save twitter for sharing those things you want people to see or stuff that might connect.

People follow & unfollow for reasons that cannot be explained. In general, you follow people are interesting. But I have a friend who had a dog whose twitter profile (yes, she had one for him) had more followers than both & I combined. She found a community of similarly minded people and they’ve grown closer as a result. If this is your bag, you’ll find it by seeking these folks out.

Use twitter search & Topsy to find out what folks are tweeting about. It’s not a race, though. Enjoy yourself and it won’t matter how many followers you have.

Ok, that’s great. I NEED MORE HELP!

A year ago or so, Ma’ayan Plaut got together a bunch of us and we did something called Twit Bootcamp, for people who were new to twitter. The site is still up, so you should check out the lessons as it’s really a great way to get into using twitter if you’re a newcomer.

Fear, loathing and social media

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 29:  Cars drive by a ...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It’s been a busy week for social media in places we’d never really expect to hear talking about it.

First, the US Marine Corps announced a one-year ban on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and the ilk, citing security concerns.

Then, the San Diego Chargers fined player Antonio Cromartie $2,500 after he tweeted about the poor chow at the team’s summer training camp. Teams fine players for speaking out all of the time, so this isn’t exactly a precedent, except that the speaking out in this case was using a digital media like Twitter.

So what does this all mean? Someone needs to do a bit of education.

Banning technology does little to stop the problem. I mean, it’s like slapping the hand of a kid. Even if you explain why they can’t do something, they’re just going to work that much harder to try to do it. This isn’t rocket science.

The real question is, how do organizations and institutions leverage social media and learn to control their message in a world where message control no longer exists? How do you reach audiences with the information you want them to have, while ensuring the negative stuff doesn’t run amok?

Women’s sports leagues in golf, soccer and basketball have embraced these social tools as a way to reach an audience that eludes them during the season — since their attendance tends to be lower for games — while established leagues are looking to clamp down.

Other than the somehow unpractical nature of having someone using their cell phone on the sidelines and the distraction it can be from the game and mixing it up with teammates, the real problem here — that the sports leagues and Marines share — is one word.

Fear.

If you don’t understand something, you shy away from it, rather than taking the time to understand it. You create redundant technology, because you don’t understand what people are really trying to do is reach out to people they’re closed off from. There are ample opportunities for teams and organizations to learn more about these social tools, how they work and how to create policies and strategies that help them thrive in a digital world.