Getting started with Twitter

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By guest blogger Don Lafferty

Twitter isn’t just for geeks and early adopters. Early adopters have been on Twitter for a couple of years now figuring out the best ways to use this tool, and while Twitter continues to evolve, its value to a writer is unquestionable.

Those of you who know me know I’ve been there from the beginning, watching, learning, experimenting, and making a ton of mistakes along the way.

Now I actually make a living advising people – mostly authors and publishers – on the effective use of Web-based tools like Twitter for marketing. So here’s some easy advice from the trenches:

Sign up for a free Twitter account: http://twitter.com

Use a picture of your face as your profile pic and be sure to include a link to your website, blog or Facebook page in the bio section.

Sign up for a free bit.ly account: http://bit.ly/ Bit.ly is a URL shortening tool; very important in an environment that only allows you to write in 140 character bursts.

Download and sign up for a free TweetDeck application: http://tweetdeck.com

Link your Twitter and bit.ly accounts to your TweetDeck.

Google “twitter Directories” and follow the people who represent the readers, contemporaries or connectors in your genre or area of expertise. Here’s a link to an article I wrote some time ago that’ll get you started: http://bit.ly/1uFhku

When you find somebody on Twitter in your sweet spot, look at their “lists”. These are lists other Twitter users have put together based on THEIR personal interests and objectives.

Once you have this all set up, just listen for a while. A week. A month. Whatever it takes for you to get a feel for the way this community works.

Find the authors on Twitter who you aspire to and watch them. See the way they engage their communities by providing useful links, commenting on the stuff others in their communities say, and every now and then, mentioning their own stuff.

Watch the way people use the @ reply to direct a comment at a particular person; to get their attention.

Once you feel comfortable with the dynamics of the community, start tweeting yourself. For a while don’t tweet ANYTHING about yourself. Provide value to your community by tweeting interesting links to the kind of things you know they’ll like.

How will you know?

Because you chose the people in your network based on the definition of YOUR target reader, the other authors and experts in your genre or space, and the connectors – media and bloggers – whose job is to talk about people like you.

I know it sound like a lot, but the checklist I gave you should take 10-15 minutes tops.

Getting to know your way around Twitter will take some time, but if you listen and learn, you’ll build a community of like-minded people who will actually care about you, the stuff you say AND, the stuff you write.

Still confused? Drop Don a tweet: http://twitter.com/donlafferty

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5 thoughts on “Getting started with Twitter

  1. It’s worth pointing out the pedigree of this post, that is, the domino effect and speed of the Internet.

    About 11:15 this morning, my buddy, Keith Strunk posted an article about Twitter to a Yahoo group we share, and I just happened to be sitting in front of my computer, so I gave it one of my precious minutes. (tell me you don’t feel the same way when you click on a link 🙂

    When I read the piece I figured there’d be friends in the group who might wonder what the article had to do with them, so a few minutes after noon, I offered up my two cents in a response to the Yahoo group.

    Christine picked up my remarks and thought they might help some of the readers of the Philadelphia Stories blog, so by 12:30 she asked for my permission to re-post my comments from the Yahoo group, and by 1:45 it was up here.

    In the meantime, my post in the Yahoo group has been read and passed around to more than 200 people. I know this because of the statistics kept by the link I embedded in the post, which encouraged readers to check out a blog article I write about Twitter strategy back in January of 2008.

    In addition to the US, people have clicked from England, Germany, Russia.

    So why am I telling you this?

    Not to beat my own chest; 200 views isn’t many, although our little Yahoo group only has 220 registered members, but to show you the power and reach of these free tools to spread thoughts, your ideas, and your writing.

    Now I’ll go tweet out this article and introduce my network to the Philadelphia Stories blog.

    And so on, and so on, and so on…

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