Twitter has become a micro-blogging giant. With more than 5 million followers since its birth in 2006 and an estimated value of $27 billion, it is very much a household name. The average user spends 170 minutes per month on Twitter. It therefore makes sense to utilise Twitter as part of your marketing and communications strategies. For more information on how social media can be helpful for this, follow this link.
Twitter is an information and social network made up of ‘Tweets’ – short, 140 character messages. Twitter accounts can be individually tailored to only display messages from other users they wish to follow or topics they find particularly useful and informative. According to Twitter itself, ‘you can discover news as it’s happening, learn more about topics that are important to you, and get the inside scoop in real time’. It’s not only an excellent method of advertising and communication; it is an especially useful way to view your competitors, stay up to date on relevant news in your areas of interest and see what people are saying about you! Below is a basic ‘How-To’ guide to setting up and using Twitter:
In order to use Twitter, you must first create an account. To do this, visit the Twitter homepage and fill out the New to Twitter? box:
- Your ‘full name’ is meant to help people to find you, so whilst it doesn’t have to necessarily be your actual name, use something relevant and simple. You are allowed a maximum of 20 characters and can use spaces and special characters if necessary.
- Choose an email address and a password. You will need these to log in to your account once it has been created, so it’s important to remember them! Make sure your password is at least 6 characters long. You will be told the strength of the password on the next page.
Once this has been done, click Sign Up for Twitter.
Now you will need to pick a ‘username’. This will also be the URL for your Twitter profile so, like your ‘full name’, it is best to keep it relevant and simple – it needs to be easy for people to find and memorable.
- Again, like your ‘full name’, you can use numbers. However don’t use punctuation, particularly hyphens and underscores – this makes it easy for users searching for you to go to the wrong page.
- Usernames are not case sensitive, so it doesn’t matter if you use capitals or not. For example, if your username is UniversityOfKent or even UNIVERSITYofKENT, your URL will still be www.twitter.com/universityofkent.
- Existing examples of relevant names are ‘WebSol_UniKent’ for the Web Solutions team, ‘KBSMedway’ for the Kent Business School at the Medway campus and ‘KLSResearch’ for the Kent Law School Research Support Team.
After you have finished this, click the Sign Up button. You will be redirected to a page confirming the creation of your Twitter account. To continue, click Let’s Go.
Twitter will now assist you in getting started with a number of steps, such as explaining what a Tweet is and giving you the opportunity to “follow” a few friends, popular people or brands. If you want to opt out of these steps for now, click the Skip this step link.
Once on your Twitter home page, click on your profile picture in the top right hand corner and select the Settings drop down. The Account tab also allows you to set your time zone, change email notification settings and privacy settings.
- Whilst ‘Protect my updates’ is very important for personal Twitter accounts, it can be limiting for University or departmental accounts – in order for people to view your Tweets and updates, you will have to approve them first.
- Remember to click Save once you have finished making changes!
Once on the Edit Profile tab, you can upload a profile picture and header photo, enter information such as your location, website and a brief bio (no more than 160 characters). These are all important so you are not flagged as a possible spammer. Your Twitter account can also be connected to Facebook here. This will post all of your Tweets directly to Facebook.
You can now follow key people of interest, including students, staff and competitor Universities. Click on the Search field at the top of your home page and search for usernames or full names. You will get a list of users who match your search criteria.
You can also do a more advanced search by clicking on Refine results or going directly to the Advanced Search page.
You can then begin ‘following’ by simply clicking the Follow button. You will be able to see the Tweets of everyone you follow on your Twitter home page.
Learning the lingo
Twitter has its own words to describe the site’s tools and functions. In order to use it as successfully and easily as possible, it’s necessary to first understand the terminology:
- Retweet – to forward a tweet posted by someone else to all of your followers
- Hashtag – a number sign (#) placed before a word or a phrase in the text of a tweet. This categorises tweets, allowing users to see similarly-themed messages by clicking on it
- Reply – responding to an existing tweet by clicking the reply The reply automatically begins with @username (the username of the person you are replying to), All replies to a user’s tweets are logged under the @Mentions tab on the user’s home page
- Mention – a tweet update that contains @username (of the person you are mentioning) anywhere in the tweet. Both new tweets and replies can be considered mentions
You are now ready to go ahead and start tweeting. Remember tweets can only be 140 characters long and less if you are adding a link or an image; these count for 22-23 characters.
For links to specific users, use their full URL so it is clickable. Remember to use hashtagging and mentioning to increase the visibility of your tweets and encourage new followers.
For more guidance about Twitter, look at these sites: