The BMON step-by-step guide to Twitter

Until now, you really haven’t had much interest in Twitter. I can understand that. Even if you suspect it might be vaguely entertaining, you can’t see how it can be relevant at work, to a serious company like yours. I can understand that too.

And yet every week, you’re noticing more and more about Twitter being used in the business world. You think it’s time to find out what it’s all about.

I agree. So grab yourself a coffee, and we’ll have you up and running in a few minutes. By this time tomorrow, I promise you’ll “get it”. And by this time next week, you’ll understand why your business might want to start “twittering” to your customers and prospects.

Twitter started off as a way for people to say – briefly – what they’re doing right now. Pointless? Maybe. But it’s changed. Twitter has become a way for people to say – briefly – what they find interesting right now. And that can equally well be expressed as “what I think the rest of the world might find interesting right now”. At this point the penny should be dropping as to why it might be useful for your business. Isn’t telling the world what’s important to your company right now exactly what publicity is?

A quick exercise. Go to the Twitter home page and you’ll see how it’s become a giant, real-time search engine. “See what people are saying about…”, it says. OK, type in something which your company sells, such as “transducers”, or “microscopes”, or whatever. You’ll probably see people “tweeting” about it. What you do is important to plenty of people.

So what makes Twitter work? Quite simply, personalisation. There are millions of people and organisations out there posting tweets. Some add dozens a day, others one a month; it doesn’t matter. As a user, you decide whose tweets you want to read, and these all get merged for you. Not only will this combination of people be unique to you, it’ll almost certainly be quite different from anyone else in the world. And it’ll probably be extremely diverse.

Have a look at my Twitter home page. Here you’ll see the most recent posts I’ve made. On the right, you’ll see a bunch of tiny pictures showing you just some of the people whose tweets I’m following. If you hover over them with your mouse, you should see their names. I guarantee nobody else will have that same collection of people. But then again, I’m quite sure there’s nobody else in the world with the same combination of interests and friends as I have (at least, I hope not!).

I don’t “follow” all of my friends. Some of them post boring tweets, or too many. Conversely, I do follow several people who I don’t know at all, and who don’t know me, but I’ve stumbled across what they’re saying, and I find it interesting.

Right, let’s get you on Twitter yourself. This is nothing to do with your company, this is just for you to see what it’s all about. It’s all free and will only take you a few seconds.

Go to http://twitter.com and click “Sign up now”. Twitter just needs your name, email, a “user name” and a password. If you can get your name as your user name (e.g “JohnSmith”), then do so. Twitter isn’t about being anonymous or hiding. If your name isn’t available, you could try an underscore between the words, a nickname, or adding in an initial or a title.

When you’ve finished the page, your account is set up.

Twitter will then ask if you want to search any webmail accounts to see if friends are on Twitter. Feel free to do this if you wish (it’s not necessary) or more likely, click “skip this step”. Then they’ll ask if you want to follow any of a selected group of people – definitely “skip this step” (don’t click “Finish”). You’re done!

At this point you’re taken to your Twitter home page, where you could type something in. Add this page to your Bookmarks or Favourites. You can return here at any time to add a tweet, but restrain yourself and take a moment to fill in some information under “Settings”. This helps people know it’s really you. In particular, under “Account”, fill in the “One Line Bio” and “Location”, and under “Picture”, upload a photo.

Now let’s “follow” somebody: this blog, to be precise. Don’t worry, you can always “unfollow” it later. Visit our home page and click “Follow”. That’s it! If you know other people using Twitter who you might want to follow, click “Find People”. If you think you’ve got the person you want, click on their name to see their home page, and if you still want to “follow” them after reading what they’ve been tweeting, click “Follow”. Wherever you see someone’s Twitter name (the user name with a “@” on the front), you can click on that to see that person’s home page, and “follow” them if you wish. Easy.

To really see what Twitter is all about, you’ll probably eventually download a Twitter client such as Tweetdeck, but let’s start with a web-based approach: Hootsuite. Sign up here, add your Twitter account details, and confirm. When done, you’ll be confronted with a fairly complicated screen, but it’s not as bad as it looks. Add this page to your Bookmarks or Favourites. On the left are the tweets from the people you follow; in the centre will be tweets mentioning you; and on the right, “direct” (private) messages to you. At the top is a space for you to write new tweets. Give it a try, even if your first tweet is just “Testing this out”!

That’s all there is really. I haven’t gone into the various bits of Twitter etiquette (there are hundreds of good getting-started guides if you want to Google them), but the best way to understand Twitter is to play with it for a few days. Find plenty of people to follow, and post your own tweets to see who follows you. I hope you’ll find it as intriguing as millions of others clearly do – including many of your customers and prospects.

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