12 Most Basic Ways for Beginners to Rock Twitter

12 Most Basic Ways for Beginners to Rock Twitter


Twitter can feel downright intimidating to beginners. “I don’t get it” is one of the most common things I hear from people who are start starting with Twitter or are even thinking about it, but really don’t know where to start. Despite its popularity, Twitter is still brand new, every day, to someone. In 2014, it’s getting about 135,000 new users every day.

As grownups, we can feel clumsy or clueless when learning a new skill. (Little kids have a confident way of thinking they rock everything, even when they’re totally new at it. But that’s another post…) I learned to knit when I was 36. It was hard and humbling. But it was also not on display for anyone else to see. Not so in the social web. That’s one of the main reasons that social media — to those with the skills of the training-wheels set but the self-awareness of adults — can feel very scary. It’s intimidating.

If you’re just starting out it might seem like everybody else knows all the tricks. Not so. Don’t forget that we all started off on Twitter the same way: with an egghead profile “picture” and no followers.

So, have fun and read along. These 12 tips will get you rolling.

1. Learn a few important “twords”

The lingo of Twitter is, literally, a new language. But to become fluent, you need to grasp only the most important:

• Retweet (or RT) sends out to your followers content of 140 characters or less that you want to share. It gives credit to the person or account you’re retweeting.
• Handle is the name after the @ sign. My Twitter handle is @BeckyGaylord
• Reply lets you say something to another person, by using their handle.
• Hashtag is a word or phrase immediately following the pound (or hash) sign. Hashtags let Twitter users classify topics and search for them, such as #Marketing, #SocialMedia, or #Infographics. Tweeters also use hashtags as a shorthand signal (commonly sarcastic), such as #Fail, #NeedCoffee, or #Yay.

2. Have an intention — at least a vague one

Why do you want to tweet? Even if that intention is as simple as, “to figure out this social media channel,” it will let you meander without getting marooned. If you start to feel lost or overwhelmed, remind yourself why you wanted to get started on Twitter and it should help you focus your exploration.

3. Pick a good handle

Like a tattoo, making all signs vanish of a regrettable Twitter handle will not be easy or painless. As we should all know by now, deleting things permanently in the Internet age is not exactly straightforward. Yes, you can delete a Twitter account, but profiles on the social web have a curious way of being unearthed through a Google search or some other digital trail. Take some time in crafting your handle. Use your name (or as close a version as you can) and a handle you’re going to want after you leave your current job — and one that you don’t mind your employer, or future employers, seeing.

4. Be open

Twitter and privacy are not really possible in tandem. When you set up your profile, don’t protect your account. It’s a sure sign you’re a newbie or don’t really get the point of Twitter, which is a public forum with interaction. Many tweeters would never follow a locked account. Many also give a pass to accounts that use tools requiring new followers to validate themselves. Ick. This post really nails the point.

5. Get rid of the egghead

Many tweeters would also never follow an account that still uses that default egghead Twitter profile picture. Engaged interaction on the Twittersphere happens among people. If you want to really give Twitter a go, you’ve got to give a glimpse of whom you are.

6. Offer something interesting in the bio section

Even with a picture, if you want other tweeters to follow you, then you can’t leave the bio section blank when setting up your Twitter account. Share a detail or two (or more.) This part can be changed or edited, if you want to, later. But put something there.

7. Follow people whose work matters to you

After you’ve got a picture, a bio profile, a handle and some sense of the lingo, go and wander. Try searching the hashtag of a topic you care about to find accounts of the people who tweet about it. Check for handles of professionals in your industry you admire — or bloggers whose work you read regularly — or friends you have in real life or on other social networks, such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

8. Observe

One of the best ways to learn how to tweet and what Twitter is “about” is to watch, explore and observe how others do it. After you’ve followed a score or so of Tweeters, take an hour — during more than one session, if necessary — to absorb the lessons observation teaches.

9. Converse

In other words, send out a tweet! You might want to include a hashtag you searched — or the handle of another tweeter you know – or a brand you followed or like. The key here: think back-and-forth, not bullhorn.

10. Keep at it

Once you send the first tweet, it gets easier to send the next one. Promise! When someone retweets you, replies to a tweet you sent or follows you, it’s okay to send them a tweet that says, “thanks!” (Don’t go crazy with this, though…)

11. Mix things up

You want a mix of content in your Twitter feed: quotes, links to posts you found interesting, images, insights about a particular topic and so on. Sprinkling some tweets that say “thank you” to a new follower or a retweeter is fine, but more than a few each day or so will likely annoy your followers, especially if you send them out in a burst of consecutive tweets.

12. Have fun

Show some personality. Interact with new people. Retweet content you like. Keep learning by doing. But most of all have fun!

Different social media platforms have distinct characteristics. And Twitter is no exception. It’s got some quirky lingo and can seem complicated and even confounding to those who don’t tweet. It has been a great way for me to find new business, new information, new professionals whose work I follow and plenty of new friends.

How about you? What do you like the best about Twitter? And if you’re just getting going with it, what do you think so far?

Photo credit: Big Stock Photos


Becky Gaylord


Becky worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. Becky blogs about that (a few other things) at Framing What Works.

468 ad

Great article I really like it .... twitter is big social network

Rebekah Olofin
Rebekah Olofin

Great article I really like the part of having a purpose on twitter. that gave me a wake up call


I joined Twitter in 2011. I found it terribly confusing and didn't start using Twitter until a month ago. And I wish it hadn't taken me so long! I absolutely love it. It's the most fun I've had on social media. Now I'm addicted!

Thanks for these tips. I had heard about changing the egg but I don't want to look too new...


@kitchenserfblog Jennifer, I love your profile pic...it's the background shot that's got me wondering! (Did you write a blog post about what is going on with that chicken? #JustCurious) 

Not surprised it took a second run for you to get in a groove on Twitter. It took me awhile, too. I think that's pretty common. Getting the hang of things takes some time...but then, you're off and flying. 

Glad to hear you liked the post, Jennifer. I'll look out for your tweets!

PaulBiedermann moderator

Great tips, @BeckyGaylord  — and congrats on your 50th post for 12 Most! 

I especially like tips 2 and 7 — it’s always smart to know what you’re trying to achieve and following amazing people who share amazing content will pump up your own social sharing.

And yes, it’s always good to have fun! It’s easy to tell who really enjoys being on Twitter and people gravitate toward those who make them feel good.

Harlan West
Harlan West

Nice article Becky. I need to remember not to take myself to seriously and have some fun.


So, true, @Harlan West! I think it's good advice for all social channels, including Twitter -- not to mention for life in general : )

Thanks for reading and stopping by to comment, Harlan.