Getting started with Twitter

Bill Fischer refers to twitter as “the single most effective learning aid” that he can recommend, and I absolutely agree with that. The way it allows you to tap into open conversations, learn new things from smart people and share (and also sharpen) your thoughts is quite unique and very powerful.

However, getting started might be a bit tricky.

This here is a little collection of tipps and information to provide a bit more context around twitter and hopefully helps you to get started.

1. First, the big picture: If you’re not sure why you should be using twitter, I recommend Bill’s article about Selfish Tweeting because it perfectly sums up the most important personal benefits that are waiting for you on this platform. It’s about conversations, fresh perspectives, efficiency, learning – and increasing the smart variance around you that could give you an edge in your professional life.

2. So, is Twitter like facebook? No.


3. What is a tweet, then? It’s a text message, limited to 140 characters. You can mention other users by referring to their twitter handle (eg. @tozehnder, in my case) and structure larger conversations by using a hashtag (eg. #redsox to talk about the game). Also, you can of course tweet links and add pictures to your tweets. All tweets are public, although there’s the option to privately write to other users via direct messages.

But of course it’s not only about writing, it’s also about following other people. Once you do that, their tweets will appear in your timeline: a (constant, public) stream of news, thoughts, inspiration.

A great example of many people tweeting with the same hashtag is the World Cup. Check out this visualisation of the amount of tweets during the game Colombia v Uruguay – very easy to spot the goal.

Twitter, World Cup 2014

Please note: Don’t start a tweet with an @mention, as this will limit it’s visibility to only the people who follow both you and the mentioned user. Use a dot at the beginning, like in this case for example. Here’s a cool short video that explains the issue.

Whom would you trust more?
Whom would you trust more?

4. After you sign up: After you sign up, it’s important to set a profile picture and write a short bio. By doing this, people will know who you are once you start following them and eventually follow back. It’s also a good idea to write some first tweets, so your account doesn’t look empty. Trouble to come up with content? It could literally be everything: Industry news, personal thoughts, interesting links – but please, don’t tweet about your lunch 🙂

5. Listen and explore: Now it’s time to follow some people and increase your network. You might want to start by following the rockstars of your industry, some co-workers, but also your favourite newspaper, blog etc. You can search for them directly on twitter, but also look for “follow us on twitter” buttons on websites.

Twitter will also recommend you some accounts that might suit your taste. A better way to build your network is to manually curate it. The best way to do that is to build upon the recommendations of the people you follow – when they retweet (share) a tweet from someone else, you can check out this other person and follow them.

Twitter’s Discover page is also helpful to see what’s going on and tap into global conversations and trends.

And talking about curation: A lot of folks collect lists of accounts into lists. It’s an incredible useful source to build your own network fast and efficient. Here’s a list of 60 accounts I recommend following, for example.

6. Do and enjoy: The last step is about just starting out and do some selfish tweeting. Test, learn, refine, interact and tailor your timeline around your needs.

7. Love it and want to do more? These are some additional ressources to get even more out of your (or your company’s) twitter experience.


I hope this introduction is useful and will help you to get started on twitter. If you have any thoughts or something is missing, please add your thoughts below. Or write me on twitter, of course.

Last but not least, here’s an amazing tweet from space.
And if you want to learn more about one of the funniest hashtag memes on twitter, I recommend reading this: #explainafilmplotbadly.

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