A start-up guide to Twitter

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Twitter. We’ve been told that we need to use it to be successful communicators, but where do we start? How do we build up a base of followers and network with professionals when we’re just getting started?

The great thing about Twitter is that it is relatively easy to learn as you go. There is a fantastic network of people out there who are willing to help guide you through this process, but you can’t be afraid to jump right in.

I first started tweeting on April 7, 2009. My first tweet was “2009 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!”

Clearly, a lot has changed in the past year. I have more than 700 followers and am approaching 2,000 tweets. I update multiple Twitter accounts, multiple times a day. So in honor of my one-year Twitter anniversary, I’ll be posting a few tips over the next few days to help you use Twitter to do more than just complain about Duke.

  1. Be professional. With Facebook you can easily edit your privacy settings so that you can control what people see your content. There is no good way to do this with Twitter (unless you make your entire profile protected, which almost defeats the purpose of putting your thoughts out there).  Anyone can see what you post, so even if you’re sharing a joke with a friend, make sure it’s something you wouldn’t mind a future employer seeing. Also try to avoid unnecessary abbreviations. I know it’s hard to say what you need to in 140 characters, but Twitter isn’t AIM, so remember to keep it classy.
  2. Follow industry leaders. Whether you’re a public relations major or not, there are so many valuable people to connect with on Twitter. Twitter has become a great way for me to keep up with the latest industry news. Not only can you learn about important happenings in your field, you can get some great networking tips and even learn about a few job openings. While we learn a lot in the classroom, most of my real-world public relations knowledge has come from what I picked up on Twitter
  3. Don’t be afraid to NOT follow everyone who follows you. You will get some random followers sometimes, but don’t feel obligated to follow them back unless they regularly tweet about something that genuinely interests you. Following too many people will just clog up your tweet stream and make it difficult to find relevant information. Make sure that those you follow are saying something you want to listen to.
  4. Use hashtags. I was amazed at the number of people who didn’t understand what a hashtag was. You’ll frequently see the little number sign before a word or phrase on Twitter, but some people don’t understand their importance. Hashtags allow for easier searching and help determine trending topics. You can use hashtags as a way to connect with people who are talking about the same things as you.
  5. Use a desktop application to manage the stream of information. I downloaded TweetDeck because I had five Twitter accounts I managed for various organizations and it became a pain to have to log in and out of all of these different accounts. TweetDeck allows me to update multiple accounts at once, without having to log in or out. It also lets me monitor what people are saying about topics that interest me (such as #prssa, #bateman, @heelprintcomm). These applications allow you to make the most of Twitter, and easily organize the information that interests you.

Amy Dobrzynski
Co-founder & Director, Heelprint Communications

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