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My A to Z Twitter Basics Guide

Jan 26th 2011 at 9:59 AM

I am on a lot of social networks and a member of a ton of groups. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is peoples lack of understanding of how twitter works or the way to properly use it in marketing.

I can understand with some networks like facebook where a person has clearly never been introduced. I don't understand how the smaller social sites like this one end up with members that don't know a lot about twitter. I was on twitter long before I heard of faceplate.

Anyways, because of peoples lack of understanding, I decided to write up a complete guide and share it with all of you. This is, for the most part everything there is to know about using twitter - at least everything I deem to be relevant anyways.

The Basics - What twitter is.

This is where most people seem to get confused. The truth is there is not definitive answer as to what twitter is, and the creators of twitter left it that way intentionally. Twitter means different things to different people. However I have found that almost all uses of twitter fit into two categories.

First, and what creates a lot of chaos on twitter is that a lot of people use it as a social network. This is in fact about 50% of the usage on twitter I believe. The reason I say it causes chaos is because the people who use twitter as a social network tend to think thats the only reason to use twitter and they believe any other reason results in "twitter spam".

The second major use of twitter is more like that of a micro-blogging platform. A micro-blog is a form of multimedia blogging that allows the blogger to send brief text updates or micromedia such as photos, audio, video, and links. A micro-blog is just like that of a regular blog only there is generally short blurb of 150 characters or less per post.

Major sites like CNN and NBC use twitter as a micro-blog. They have a corporate profile that they update with links to their latest news stories. Many marketers also use twitter as a micro-blog. They publish short blurbs about a topic or product, then link to it.

So what is twitter spam?

Twitter admits they will close down accounts of spammers. So what does one deem as spam vs what one deems as a micro-blog post? Well twitter has a few basic guidelines. First of all, they say do not post the same link and text over and over. If you do, its no different then running a blog and posting the same post over and over. Yes I would call that spam.

Also posting only to a certain link would be considered spam also. What I mean is if you make 100 tweets on twitter (a tweet is a twitter post), and each post has different text, but every single one all contain a link to the exact same site, that is spam! If you don't ever repost anything anyone says, engage in any conversation, or have anything but 1 single link, twitter will consider that spam. By definition its probably not, but I can understand why they don't want such a person on the site.

Basic twitter usage

Regardless of what type of account you wish to try (I personally recommend setting up two accounts - one for social interaction, the other for a micro-blog) there are a few basic rules to using twitter you should understand.


The first of important things to know about are called hashtags. Hashtags are nothing more then keywords preceded by a # sign. The reason these little tags exist is for search capabilities. For example, if I make the following post: "Im faceplate is the best social network for #marketing join at http://short.url" when someone uses the twitter search and searches #marketing will see my post.

Without the hashtag anytime anyone makes a post with the word marketing it displays in the search, even if it has nothing to do with marketing. So for example if I made this post: "My friend joe is in marketing" when someone searches marketing they will see about my friend joe, probably not very useful to them.

Retweet - the old way

Before twitter made an official retweet button, members of twitter figured out a means of being able to retweet other peoples posts. In act were in not for this, there never would have been an official retweet button. Many people still use this method and prefer it to the retweet button. The reason is the only way is twitter search friendly, the new way is not.

If you have no idea what a retweet is - retweeting is a means of sharing information on twitter. On twitter the only people who can see what you say are those who follow you, so if you follow someone who makes a great tweet on twitter, the people you follow won't see that, unless they also follow the person who made the tweet.

Because of this, people retweet. So if James follows joe and sally follows james, and joe makes a great post, sally won't see joes post. So instead, James has to retweet the post for sally to see it.

The old method of retweet is as follows: "RT @originalpostername copy of original message"

This is search friendly because now whenever someone searches @originalpostername they will find all the people who have retweeted posts by that person, as well as that persons posts.

Retweet - the new way

Twitter has created an official "retweet" button. The retweet button is displayed at the bottom of every tweet made on twitter. When you press it people can see what the original person who posted the tweet said. However because twitter has integrated this with the site, no longer when a retweet is made does it display your name for retweeting. This means when someone searches twitter for @originalpostername you do not show up for retweeting.

Because of this, many people are not flattered with this new retweet button. However there are also some major advantages to it also. Twitter has added some features that allow people to have paid for sponsored tweets now. So these show first in the search and encourage everyone to retweet them.

So there are some new good things with the new retweet button.

Chatting and socializing

To talk back and forth on twitter is really rather simple. Its a simple matter of @persons_twitter_name whatever you want to say. They reply back to you in the exact same manner. A person does not have to follow you to chat with you, nor you them. If you use the twitter search and find a person has said something interesting, you can instantly reply to that person about it.

Building your following

The wrong way

There is a wrong way to build a following on twitter. In fact its also the most popular method of building a following and I want to advice you against using the practice. The practice became popular in 2009 with a software called hummingbird. Hummingbird has been banned from twitter over and over again and so have the peoples accounts who use it. Why? Because its the wrong way to build a following and its the reason so many people complain about twitter spam.

The method I am referring to is that of the "follow/return follow method".

I wouldn't normally share the wrong way to do things, but because this method is SO POPULAR I want to warn you about it, and spell it out for you. So the way the follow return follow method works is that you use the twitter search to find people talking about a specific targeted topic for example #marketing. Then you follow the person who made a post, then you start following everyone who follows them.

You wait approximately 72 hours, then unfollow anyone who did not return your follow, and start the practice all over again.

The above method does work. It does build you a following. It will seemingly be targeted. However there are also some major flaws in the practice. First of all, the only people who will follow you back, are also the people using the practice. This means most of the people following you have something to sell but likely won't want to spend money on what you sell.

Second it means you have a twitter stream that is almost impossible to use. Imagine what happens when you have 5000 messages being streamed to you at any given moment. Its a constant never ending stream that is very hard to keep up with and likely doesn't contain any useful information. In fact using that practice I have found my list filled with posts about porn, sex, and everything else you can imagine.

The right way

So what is the right way to get followers on twitter? Well I have a few methods that work for me and I will share them with you. First of all I use the twitter search to find people that are not only relevant to what I post, but have article after article of information that i don't see elsewhere. In fact when I set up new twitter accounts, I spend hours searching for the right people to follow and often times start out following less then 5 people.

After I follow a few people, I send them message. I make a commend about something they have posted and try to engage in some sort of conversation. I also pick one of their tweets and I retweet it. I do this in hopes of getting them to say thank you to me, or to comment to me at all. Why? Well thats easy.

Have you ever had to listen to a one sided conversation and been dying to know what the other side was saying? Perhaps someone on a telephone where you couldn't hear the other side? Well thats what happens on twitter. Everyone who follows someone engaging in conversation with someone they don't follow, is stuck reading a half a conversation.

For example if I am talking to my friend bill and bill says "@brucebates I think thats a great Idea" everyone following @bill wants to know what @brucebates is said that was a great idea, so they come to follow.

Now if you mix the two pieces of information I just explained together here is what you can do. Engage in conversation with someone who does not follow you, when they reply, you will get some followers! Do this practice again and again, you don't need to follow anyone!

The best part is, if your twitter stream is filled with high quality information that isn't being posted everywhere else, you become a true value and get recommendations and even more followers!

Your Outreach

A lot of people have a hard time with this. Even if you have a few thousand followers, if no one is making retweets of your tweets on twitter, your outreach is only as good as the people who follow you. Well twitter is a virus and this is almost unacceptable. To be successful with twitter you need the furtherest possible outreach. Because of this there are TONS of services out there that allow you to list your profile, set up events using twitter, and all in all help you automate things on twitter.

Picking and choosing which services actually help you build followers and spread your messages to a further reach is not easy. I have joined counteless services and I would say most of them fall short of their claims. There are a few services that will make your twitter life easier and I will share them here. Hopefully this isn't taken to be spam or an article intended to sell a product because tht is not my intent. I have opted to share these services because they allow you to spread your message far and fast.

First is a service called sokule. Sokule is a free service that integrates with twitter and allows you to post to twitter. They also have a feature called Sokens that allows you to build up followers on both the sokule and the twitter site. There ar a lot of other features as well, but I don't want to turn this into an article about sokule.

Next is a service called twitadmin. Twitadmin is a tweet exchange service that allows you to exchange tweets with people who have the same or around the same number of followers. This is not the greatest service ever, but also not the worst by any means. I get an average of about 30 retweets every 2 months using this service.

The last service is the of Viral Link Exchange. This is a new text ad exchange service that has integrated with twitter to bring a tweet exchange. There are a few reasons this service is better then that of twitadmin. First of all you are not limited to only trading tweets with people who have the same number of followers. Instead this is entirely credit based, where one member earns for posting a tweet and another spends to have a tweet posted. Also there is an option called a mega tweet. The mega tweet is a tweet request that goes out to every member of the site. So if there are 50 members on the site, your tweet may be posted by 50 people, or if there are 200 members, it may be posted by 200 people.

I say may be because there is no requirement to engage in an exchange. If someone does not agree to an exchange, credits are sent back to the negotiator. Its really a fabulous addition to text ad exchanges and I think the ultimate in twitter outreach tools.

Direct Marketing with twitter

So I hope after reading this article you have a basic idea understanding of using twitter so I want to finish up with a topic that seems to elude most people, that of direct marketing. Direct marketing is finding people who need a product you have, and delivering it to them. No site that has ever existed has made this easier then that of twitter.

The way it works is very basic. I will give you a real world example and I hope it will be self explanatory after that. Lets assume you are in the market of selling e-cigarettes (also called green cigarettes). So you log into twitter and go straight for the search.

Because e-cigarettes are claimed to be healthier a person trying to quit is a great target. So we search twitter for the following text "trying to quit smoking". On the list I see the following message returned:"@hidden_identity I am finally trying to QUIT smoking for good I know it will be harder the I can imagine But it will be worth it in the end"

This is a perfect person for a direct marketing campaign. You know they are trying to quit smoking already, so why not make a recommendation. So you reply to this person with a "@hidden_identity Hard isn't the word for it! This has helped me, maybe it will you also."

Be careful not to fill you twitter stream with message after message like this or you will lose followers. I recommend picking a very good quality high sale volume product and using this method at 3 random different part of the day each day.


Hopefully this little guide is useful to someone out there. If you find its missing anything or you need clarity about anything, don't hesitate to let me know!

Please to comment
Aug 10th 2011 at 5:34 AM by RobinD4Hypno
Bruce, Thank you so much for posting this. It is great clarification on a lot of different uses of Twitter. One question. " A person does not have to follow you to chat with you, nor you them. If you use the twitter search and find a person has said something interesting, you can instantly reply to that person about it." I have went to Private Message someone who was not a following me and that was not allowed. So, to contact "strangers" It would be a public Tweet. Correct?

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