Twitter: Back to Basics

Last month saw Twitter enter into its second decade, and for the 320 million people around the world who use it actively, Twitter is probably one of the better social networks.

However, it can be a bit of a minefield to navigate, understand and use, and the stats back this up.  Of the 1.3 billion Twitter accounts registered worldwide, only 120 million people use it monthly, nearly half of all accounts have never sent a tweet, and about 40% of active accounts haven’t tweeted in the last year.

Here in the UK, there are 13.1 million active users that businesses have the potential to connect with if they know what Titter is, how to use it and why it could be beneficial to them.

To help demystify Twitter, here are 10 Back to Basics tips for using Twitter for your business.

1. What is a Tweet

When looking at the Twitter feed, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of posts streaming in.  You may be wondering what the highlighted words preceded by a # are, or why someone’s name starts with the @ symbol. Perhaps you’re unsure of what the arrows mean below the post. Getting to grips with the way a post looks is paramount to getting started with your own tweets, so here’s our guide to the anatomy of a tweet:

Twitter Basics: Anatomy of a Tweet

 

2. What does the @ symbol mean?

The @ symbol always precedes an account name.  It’s like our own web address; it’s how people can find us on Twitter and the only way to reference (or mention) another user in your tweet (eg @tuminds). Users are notified when they are @mentioned. It’s how we can speak to one another on Twitter.

 

3. What is a hashtag?

We explored in-depth what a hashtag is in our blog post: Hashtags: What Are They?  Basically, a hashtag is a word or phrase that help us identify and pull together specific messages and topics of conversation. You can create your own hashtags, use established hashtags and you can monitor hashtags for conversation and information.

 

4. What are Trends?

Each day you’ll see that Twitter Trends change as a trend refers to a hashtag-driven topic that is most popular at that particular time. In other words, trends are the topics that a lot of people on Twitter are talking about that day.

 

5. Reply, Retweet, Like, Analytics and More

To comment on a tweet, answer a question or take part in a conversation, you use the first arrow below the tweet – the reply button. When you click on this arrow, Twitter will automatically open up a new post box with the @accountname you want to reply to.

To share a tweet with your own followers, you click on the second set of arrows – this is known as re-tweeting. This lets you share other people’s content that might be of interest to the people who follow you.

If you want to show another Twitter user that you have read and liked their tweet, you click on the ‘heart’ button. This was formerly known as the ‘favourite’ button (once a yellow star), but Twitter changed this to the heart earlier this year.

Reply, RT, Like, Analytics, More Features

 

Once you build up a certain number of followers, you can view data for each of your tweets to see how far your post has reached across Twitter (impressions), and how many people took an action on your tweet (engagement).

The ‘More’ button is where you can:

  1. Send the person who tweeted a DM (direct message) this is a private 1-2-1 message which appears in Messages.
  2. Copy the web link for the tweet, so you can share this across the web.
  3. Embed the tweet using a code that you can place on your website or in your blog.
  4. Mute, Block and Report Twitter accounts. These features allow you to control any unwanted or abusive tweeters or trolls by muting or blocking them. You won’t see their content and they won’t see yours. Reporting these Twitter account sends a report to Twitter to signal that the post or the account user is breaching community rules.

 

6. Following People

The best way to make Twitter useful and relevant to you is to find and follow useful and relevant people. When you find someone you like on Twitter, you can follow them easily with just a click of a button.

If you see someone in your newsfeed, for instance, you can hover your mouse over the @accountname and their profile will appear with a little icon of a person in the top right-hand corner with a + sign.  Click on that and you’ll start following that account.

You can also follow people by visiting their profile page and clicking ‘Follow’.

How to follow someone on twitter

7. Moments – The Lightning Bolt

Next to the tab for your home feed, you see the ‘Moments’ tab.  This feature lets you see what Twitter describes as ‘the best of what’s happening on Twitter in an instant.’ Moments is a bit like Trends, but focuses more on the content and conversations that are being shared across the network, and lets you see stories as they unfold. You can find Moments on your Twitter App by clicking on the Lightning Bolt.

Finding Moments

 

7. Twitter Lists

To help organise your Twitter feed so that it remains useful and relevant to you, you should use Twitter Lists.

When you click on your profile picture in the top right-hand corner of your screen, you’ll see a link to ‘Lists’. Click on this link and you can now start creating and organising lists to add people to.  For example, you could create a list called ‘Local Businesses’ to which you would add the Twitter accounts of businesses in your area, and when you click on this list, your feed will contain only the posts from people on this list.

You can also follow other people’s lists. Do this by finding a relevant Twitter user, visit their profile and click on ‘Lists’ next to where you can see the number of tweets they’ve sent, the number of people they follow and the number of followers they have, then the posts they have liked.  Find a useful list and click on ‘Subscribe’. You can now access this list from your own account.

Twitter Lists

8. Linking Facebook and Twitter?

It’s tempting to link your two accounts together and simply send all your Facebook messages to Twitter. But try to resist the urge.  There are two reasons for this. Firstly, people want to see Twitter messages on Twitter. If they wanted to see a Facebook post, they would be on Facebook. Don’t push them towards another social media platform every time you post.

Secondly, while you have no character limit on Facebook, you do on Twitter, so not only is it obvious that you’ve linked your accounts when the sentence is broken in half and ends with a www.fb.me link, but you aren’t actually communicating your whole message to this audience. It would be like placing an advert in a newspaper or magazine and only giving the publisher half the advert. Pointless.

Linking Facebook and Twitter

9. Are you using the app?

One of the biggest advantages to Twitter is how easy it is to use on the go. You can craft quick, real-time messages to give your followers an insight into your day or work. The App has all the same functionality as the desktop version but is less cluttered.

 

10. Can I schedule Tweets?

Yes, you can. You can’t actually do it direct from Twitter, but there are online tools to help you schedule your messages. I use Hootsuite, but there are a number of publishing and scheduling tools you can also use including TweetDeckTwittimer, and Twuffer. Have a search for the scheduling tool you find easiest to use.

Twitter Basics

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Social Networks

Navigating Social Media

Social media is a hot topic for businesses around the globe and has been for the last few years. It enables us connect in more interactive ways with our customers, clients, colleagues and of course our family and friends, in ways unlike traditional online media such as email and websites. Its fundamentally changed the way that we all engage with online content, letting us comment, share and interact, and this has been reflective in the ways that we now view our online presence and marketing.

Social media appears in many different guises, as blogs, micro-blogs, forums, message boards, social networks, wikis, virtual worlds, social bookmarking, tagging, digital storytelling, scrapbooking, data, content, image and video sharing, podcasts and collective intelligence. The most well-known sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Youtube, Flickr, WordPress, Blogger and Wikipedia have all enhanced our online experience and have become influential social forces in both the online and offline world. With people now using Facebook and Youtube as a search engines, some digital marketer’s argue that without a social presence your business reputation will suffer, as increasingly more people are looking for your business on Facebook or Twitter before they visit your website.

It was back in 1971 when the first ever email was sent, and seven years later two Chicago computer hobbyists invented the bulletin board system (BBS) to inform friends of meetings, make announcements and share information through postings, this can be seen as the rudimentary beginnings of virtual communities. But it wasn’t until 1997 that blogging first began and AOL Instant Messenger hit the screens letting users from around the globe chat with one another. In the following two years Google opened as a major internet search engine and index and Friends Reunited was founded in the UK. In the early Noughties (2002) Friendster, probably the first social networking site, was opened to the US public and in its first three months attracted 3 million users. The following year saw the birth of MySpace and LinkedIn set up as a professional social networking site. At this time there were about 3 million web pages indexed on the world wide web.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Facebook made its debut on the web, started by Mark Zuckerberg while studying at Harvard College, initially it was designed to be a closed college network, and we all know where it went from there. From then on there has been a proliferation of social media sites, with YouTube storing and retrieving its first videos in 2005, and Bebo (an acronym for Blog Early, Blog Often) was started as a rival to Facebook. At this time there were now 8 billion web pages. When Twitter launched in 2006 as a microblogging site  Google indexed 25 billion web pages and 400 million queries (or searches) a day.

Now in 2013, only 9 years after the launch of Facebook at Harvard, the site has 1.11 billion users, and if it were a country it would be the third largest in the world, behind China and India. It overtook the US three years ago.  YouTube topped the one billion monthly user mark and 4 billion views per day this year. Twitter has 500 million registered users with more than 200 million active users. LinkedIn has grown to amass 225 million accounts, while MySpace somewhat dawdles with 25 million users. Pinterest, one of the newest sites to hit the scene as a social scrapbooking network has approximately 49 million users, while WordPress now accounts for 16% of the worlds top websites with 74 million hosted blogs. Social media has become such an ingrained part of our daily lives that even Astronauts aboard the International Space Station regularly tweeted and posted videos to Youtube live from space!

Mobile is now playing a massive role in how we check up on our favourite social networks, with more than half of us regularly accessing Facebook and Twitter from our smart phones while on the move. People living in cities spend the most time on social media, and women tend to spend about 10% more time on social networking sites than men.

In the UK 33 million of us are on Facebook, this is up 3 million on the last year, that’s over half of the entire population, in fact proportionally there are more people using Facebook in the UK than in the US. Overall the highest proportion of users are between the ages of 25 and 34 (26%), with 18 to 24 years old’s the next largest group (23%), but the demographic for people over the age of 55 using social media has grown significantly in the last year.

As for Twitter, its estimated that around 34 million of us have live accounts in the UK, which is a huge jump from last years estimate of 26 million. It’s suggested that the heavy coverage and discussions around big events like the Olympics and Jubilee may have been the driver in recruiting new Twitter users. Twitter seems to attract a slightly older grouping of people with 60% being aged between 25 and 54 years old.

Then there’s LinkedIn, the total number of UK users passed the 10 million mark back in 2012, it is now around 11 million. This is about 11% of the population, for a niche networking site this is pretty astounding. Pinterest, although it’s one of the most talked about social networks this year there is only an estimated 200,000 of us using Pinterest here in the UK, and most of these are women.

And these are just the UK stats, when you begin to look at the global usage of social media, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine your message will be seen at all. Which is why it is becoming increasingly more important to really think about what you want your social media to do for you, who you want to be talking to, and how you want them to interact with you. As a marketer it comes relatively easy to me to talk about strategy planning, implementation and monitoring, but for people running small or medium businesses, when you have everything to consider from creating your products or services to running the financial and administration sides of your business, you’d be forgiven for not thinking too strategically about your use of social media. But as more and more people start to look to social networks, blogs and microblogs not only to talk to their friends and family but to get advice or seek out products and services they want and need, we have to think somewhat realistically about how social media fits into our overall marketing and promotion.

It was said to me a few years back that if a business didn’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account (or if they did and there were no postings or interaction on the profiles) that potential customers would be turned off the business all together. Although I can’t prove how accurate that statement is for every customer out there, it did make me think that I do prefer to see a business with a social side (whether done well or not) then none at all. Ultimately social media has helped put ‘people’ and ‘customer service’ back into business. So what are you doing to put the ‘social’ into your business?

And here’s a little something which makes me smile, and probably encapsulates why I genuinely do love how Social Media is changing the world;

Sian provides Social Media training, consultancy and strategy development for businesses across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. If you’re interested in finding out what she can do for you then please get in touch with her via;

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The fantastic online sources used to inform this piece:

How to Use Twitter

To follow on from ‘How to Use Facebook’ check out these excellent videos for using Twitter.

Twitter in Plain English

Getting Started with Twitter

Twitter Lists in a Nutshell

Twitter Tools Explained

How to Create an Attractive Profile

Finding Followers

How to Tweet from your Phone

How to use Twitter for your Business