Five things you have to do before you get Twitter

May 5, 2008

Like most everyone who uses Twitter, I seem to be totally unable to make non-users understand how it’s useful.

I’ve finally figured out that this is because Twitter is all about interests — once you follow (and are followed by) a base number of users who share your interests, you start to see the magic happen — you learn about new things that are important to you as they happen (because the people you are following are twittering about them), and you have people who can offer you advice and talk to you about the things that are important to you, because the people who are following you share your interests.

But when you first sign up for Twitter, it seems to be impossible to see how to get from point a (following one or two people, not being followed by anyone) to point b (having Twitter as a useful tool).

I’ve finally decided that there are five things new users have to do before Twitter becomes useful to them, and they can start to “get it”:

  1. Follow at least 50 people who share some of your interests.
    Twitter is all about sharing interests. Search on keywords at Tweetscan to find people posting about things that interest you, and start following them.
  2. Get at least 50 followers who share some of your interests.
    You get followers who share your interests by posting tweets related to your interest — even if nobody is paying attention at first. When you follow new people, many of them will check your recent tweets to see if you’re talking about things that interest them, and if you are, they are likely to follow you back.
  3. Reply to people you follow.
    Even if the people you follow don’t follow you, they will receive replies that include @username (where username is their username). Don’t be a pest, but if you have something to contribute, or can answer a question, or even would like a clarification, post a reply. If you’re participating in the conversation, more people who share that interest will follow you.
  4. Tweet regularly.
    Again, don’t be a pest, but do try to tweet at least a few times a day. Nobody will follow (and many will unfollow) users who haven’t tweeted in a month and a half.
  5. Use a desktop Twitter client.
    It’s a lot easier to pay attention to your twitterstream (or ignore it when you need to) if you use a decent desktop application. Good clients will also make it a lot easier to reply, direct message, view your replies, post pictures, etc. I recommend Twhirl. It runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, and provides lots of ways to make using Twitter easier.

Do you have any tips on how to make Twitter more useful? Share them with us in the comments!!

(And don’t forget to follow me!)