Getting Started with Twitter

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When I first heard about Twitter, it seemed really confusing. What was a tweet? A hashtag? And what did it mean when something was trending? Facebook was a familiar friend and I didn’t want to jump into another social media network. But since most of my business contacts and sponsors had active Twitter accounts, I knew it would be a good move for my blog, so I took the plunge and created a Twitter account.

The good news? Twitter is pretty straightforward. When you’ve got something to say or a link to share, simply click the “Compose New Tweet” button and start talking. That’s all there is to tweeting. People can “retweet” (re-post) your comments, and you can do the same when you want to share something you like. It’s the same concept as “re-pinning” something on Pinterest.

Compared to Facebook, the main Twitter screen is simple and uncluttered. No ads, no chat windows, no pages or groups. Just a ticker of tweets that are being posted and a sidebar on the left with your profile information and suggestions about who you might want to follow. Your Twitter handle, or the name you identify yourself with, looks like this: @zephyrhillblog.

Hashtags: A hashtag is a useful way to find tweets that are all about one particular topic. Take a word or words (no spaces) and put the # symbol in front. That’s a hashtag. Anyone can create one. It’s a way of categorizing tweets by subject or interest. Crafty types might use hashtags like #handmade or #Etsy in their tweets. I have an upcoming event on my blog about cloth diapering a newborn baby. I created the hashtag #newbornfluff to use on Twitter throughout the event. Anyone who wants to tweet about my event can use the hashtag, too. When entered in the Twitter search box, this hashtag will bring up all tweets about the event. I love using hashtags both to publicize AND to find relevant tweets.

Here are some sample tweets, just so you can see how versatile Twitter is:

  1. I am watching snowflakes fall outside….beautiful!
  2. Check out this awesome no-bake cookie recipe: (link to recipe)
  3. Enter to win a free month of advertising on my blog @zephyrhillblog #giveaway (link to giveaway)

In the third example you can see the use of a popular hashtag #giveaway. Adding that hashtag means that every time someone searches Twitter for giveaways, your tweet will appear in the results. This tweet also includes my handle – @zephyrhillblog. This is a great way to get more followers because it will reappear every time the message is re-tweeted.

Using Your Handle: You can easily go to your account settings and have Twitter notify you by email whenever your handle appears in a tweet. It’s a great way to see which messages are being shared or “re-tweeted.” It’s also a surefire way to be notified if another person includes your handle in one of their tweets. This is very similar to “tagging” someone on Facebook. It’s a way of saying to another person “hey, I thought you might want to see what I’m posting.”

What’s Trending? Twitter shows you what’s most popular at any given moment by displaying trends on the left side of your home page. They are simply words and hashtags that are being used over and over again by thousands or even millions of Twitter users. I recently checked to see what was trending, and not surprisingly “Notre Dame” was on the list. This is because of the huge SEC championship game in which Alabama thoroughly thrashed the Irish. After Hurricane Sandy the hashtag #Sandy quickly trended towards the top. People used it to go directly to all tweets pertaining to the big storm. Some government entities even created special hashtags like #SandyDC and #StormDE for people who were looking for news updates, help or relief in certain geographical areas.

If you haven’t signed up for a Twitter account, consider hopping on board. It’s easy and quick to learn and can give an added boost to your blog or business. Plus, if you like entering giveaways online, your Twitter account can afford you extra chances to gain entries!

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