You’re ready to get stuck into Twitter but you’re not sure where to start.  Or perhaps you’ve set up your account and dabbled in Twitter before, but quickly felt lost and overwhelmed and so gave up.

If you’re ready to invest 15 minutes a day for the next 10 days, I will help you get used to Twitter to give you a better sense if it’s right for your business.

Consider this an “orientation” or induction so that you can understand the potential and environment better.

DAY 1:  DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVES & TARGET AUDIENCE

There are so many different social media platforms available, and it’s tempting to set up a profile on each, but without defining clear objectives and outcomes you could be wasting your precious time.

So on Day 1, take the time to sit down and determine the outcomes you’re wanting to achieve through your time spent on Twitter.  Is it increased brand awareness; more traffic to your website; building relationships with key influencers; turning leads into followers; or any of a number of potential objectives?

Write them down, and determine how you will measure your Twitter success against these objectives.

Also have an understanding of your target audience – your customers or potential customers – and their challenges, problems and interests.  This will help you determine the best content to share with them and the best ways to interact onTwitter.

DAY 2:  SET UP (OR OPTIMISE) YOUR PROFILE

Take the time to set up your profile completely, or to optimise your profile if you have already set one up.  Remember this is a representation of your brand on a very public platform, so it is worth taking the time to convey your brand personality in the most appropriate way.

Profile Picture

Choose a profile picture that represents your business or brand.  Bear in mind that people engage more with people rather than logos, but whatever you choose as your profile picture, make sure it is clear and easy to recognise in the Twitter feed.  The Twitter profile photo should be 400 x 400 pixels.

Header Photo

This is the picture at the top of your Twitter profile. It’s a great opportunity to convey more information about your brand or business. Take a look at some other pages and see how the header photo is laid out.   The header photo is 1500 x 500 pixels.

Link to your website

Include a link to the most appropriate page on your website – and it doesn’t always have to be your home page.  If you are running a particular promotion or launch, it might be worthwhile changing this link to a specific landing page.

Bio

Here’s where your creativity and understanding of your brand come to the fore.  In 160 characters or less, give a concise but appealing bio (of yourself or your business), including keywords that people may use to search for your type of business or industry.

Post to Facebook Option

You can link your Twitter account to Facebook so that each time you tweet it automatically gets posted to Facebook. I don’t encourage using this feature as I believe the two platforms should be treated differently.

Background

You can also change the background of your Twitter profile to further represent your brand.

Go to settings, Design and you can upload a new background picture.

The background will show up differently on different monitors and screen sizes, but a general recommendation is to design the image at 1820 (w) x 1080 (h) pixels.  It may take some playing around to get the image exactly as you want it to be to represent your brand, especially if you’re using a detailed image rather than a simple pattern.

DAY 3:  FIND PEOPLE TO FOLLOW

Twitter helps you find the right people to follow through a number of tools, but the best place to start is to brainstorm people from your “real world” contacts and search for them on Twitter.  Having a few familiar faces to interact with makes it easier to get established.

Who To FollowWhen you are on your Twitter home page, on the left hand side Twitter suggests “Who to follow” – based on the people you follow and who they, in turn, follow.  It’s worth casting your eyes over these each day to see if there is anyone of interest.

Also, if you click on the Discover link in the top navigation, you can see that Twitter provides suggestions of Who to follow, Find Friends and Popular Accounts.  It’s worth looking through each of these, always with the filter of “will these people and their information be of interest to me and/or my target audience”.

When you’re off Twitter, interacting with your customers, colleagues and suppliers, if they have links to their Twitter profile on their websites or email signatures, follow them as well.

Note:  Of particular interest is your existing customers.  You can nurture the relationship and support their social media activities (where appropriate) by engaging with the content they share.

Please note that you shouldn’t follow hundreds of people at once – if your profile suddenly follows a tonne of people, Twitter might see you as a spammer.  So just pick 20-30 to start with, and add new people every day.

DAY 4: SEARCH RELEVANT HASHTAGS

Have you heard about hashtags?  They are keywords, preceded by the hash symbol (#) that help social media users to search specific topics of interests.  For example, I often check into the #socialmedia hashtag on Twitter to see the latest posts around this topic.  The potential use of hashtag is almost unlimited, but you can get started with a few, and go from there.

Search box in TwitterYou could start by searching your location.  To search a hashtag, go to the search box at the top of Twitter and enter the hashtag – for example, #brisbane. Twitter will then show you a list of the most recent tweets featuring that hashtag.  At the top right of the results you can hit Save to save that search.  If you do that, in the future if you just click inside the search box it will show you a drop down with your saved searches.  This helps you do a quick check each day of keywords that interest you – whether they be your brand name, industry, location or product.

So on this Day 4, think of 3 keywords or hashtags that you could start to follow.  Look at hashtags used by your clients, colleagues and competitors.  Research and see if they are relevant to you and your audience.

DAY 5:  RETWEET RELEVANT CONTENT

By now you have started following some people, and should have a stream of content in your Twitter feed.  Read through this stream and if any of the content shared would be of interest or value to your target audience, retweet it.

Always run content through this filter – “will this educate, inform, entertain or inspire my target audience?”.  If the answer is YES, then feel free to share.

To retweet, click on the Retweet button.

DAY 6:  PARTICIPATE IN CONVERSATIONS

Join in conversations.  Provide feedback or answers to questions asked.  Thank people who have helped you, and find ways to offer help or advice to others. This isn’t about selling or positioning your business – it’s about interacting and engaging.

So today spend some time reading through your Twitter stream to see if you can add value by participating in the conversation.  To join in, hit reply to tweets and compose your response.  When you’re ready, hit tweet.

Your First 10 Days on TwitterDAY 7:  CREATE LISTS

I would thoroughly recommend setting up lists early in your Twitter usage.  If you do, you can make the most of your available time on Twitter and filter out a lot of “noise”. Twitter lists are similar to Facebook lists.

So on Day 7, brainstorm some lists that will help you categorise and organise your Twitter activity.

Suggestions might include:

  • Customers or Clients
  • Colleagues
  • Competitors
  • Industry Leaders
  • Media

Or you can also create lists around topics, and include people who are thought leaders in that area, eg:

  • Fashion
  • Food
  • Entertainment

Take 5 minutes and brainstorm a list of “Lists” you can create, and then create them within your Twitter profile.

To create a list, Go into Me on the top navigation, then once your profile appears, click on More, then lists.

On the right hand side you can click Create new list.

Give the list a name (and description if you like) and decide on whether it will be a private or public list.  I have many private lists as it’s the way I organise my Twitter and the people I follow into categories.  I also have one or two Public lists that pull together interesting people who I feel might be of interest to my target audience.

Click on Save list, and that list is created.

Now go through the people you follow on Twitter and allocate them to one of these lists.  It’s a great idea to do it early – before you have too many people that you are following – and to keep up the practice with every new person you follow by adding them to a list when you follow them.  I promise it will help make your Twitter experience more manageable and meaningful.

DAY 8:  SET UP KEY SEARCHES

Twitter is a great social listening tool as well as a social networking tool.  You can keep track of news in your industry, and customer sentiment around your brand and products.

On day 8, spend some time on creating some searches and saving those searches for future reference.  As well as key hashtags, enter keywords without the # symbol.  Twitter will then deliver the most recent posts containing those hashtags.  One important search is your business name and/or brand name.

Remember to Save your searches (Save link in top right hand corner of search results) for future reference.

DAY 9: SHARE ORIGINAL CONTENT

You’ve been getting the lay of the land for over a week, so now’s a great time to try sharing your own content.  Post an insight, or share a link to your blog or website. Remember to make the link interesting and attention-grabbing – not just a sterile description or title. And shorten the link using Twitter’s URL shortener or one of the many other options available.  (You don’t want to use up too much of your valuable 140 characters with a long URL).

Also, consider adding an image to your tweet.  Statistics show that tweets with images are more likely to be retweeted.  So if you’re sharing a link to a blog post, including an image (880 x 400 pixels).  This will get you greater presence in the Tweet stream and gives you the chance to communicate more than 140 characters allows.

And remember simple rules of etiquette apply.  If someone retweets your original content, thank them for the retweet. If someone replies or comments, respond.  The people who are most successful on social media are those who take the time to engage in the conversation.

But don’t be disillusioned if you don’t get a flurry of retweets with your first attempts.  It takes practice, participation and paying attention to cement your place on Twitter.  Listen to which content gets the most engagement – and deliver more of that content.

DAY 10:  LINK TO YOUR TWITTER ACCOUNT

On the final day of this introduction, make sure you link to your Twitter account from  your key web properties.  Let your Facebook audience know that you’re on Twitter.  Link to your Twitter profile from LinkedIn.  Add a link to Twitter in your email signature and on your website.  Once you are actively engaging and providing great quality content, consider embedding your Twitter stream on your website so that people can like and engage from your home base.

Of course this isn’t the be all and end all.  After this 10 days you will have had a chance to see the main Twitter features and to feel your way around this fast-moving social media network.  There will be plenty more to learn as you get used to it and see greater opportunities, but this will get you started and set you up for Twitter success.