4 simple steps to getting started on Twitter

There’s much debate about the value of social media. Many leading experts say you’re better off and will be happier without it.

While undoubtedly true for many, my experience has been the opposite.

My participation on Twitter for 11+ years has forged friendships, opened job and volunteerism opportunities, catalyzed learning, offered motivation, given a platform for advocacy, and helped me find my authentic voice. In fact, many of you reading this right now have likely arrived here from Twitter. (Past analytics tell me so.) You, too, can find value in joining Twitter.

Getting started can feel daunting, so daunting that many people stop with the idea. It doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are 4 simple steps to getting started on Twitter.

  1. Determine your handle. I advise starting with your name (or a derivative of it, like mine). Unlike in the days of AOL instant messenger where something cute or clever was standard, Twitter is generally a platform for people to speak with their unedited voice, so it might as well be attributed to your name. (Exception: snark or anonymous accounts.) If that is unavailable or if you want something less personal, go for a catchphrase or something of significance.
  2. Set your bio, picture, and banner image. Pictures should be clear (high quality) and without an obvious crop. Keep your thumbnail to just your head so people can see you. Your banner image can be of a place that means something to you, an action shot from your life with you in it, or something else of significance to you. For your bio, determine what’s critical for people to know about you, and keep it simple. Try to answer one or two of these questions:
    • What are my values?
    • What role and/or parts of my identity are core to who I am?
    • What do I want to learn about?
    • What am I knowledgeable about?
    • What are my passions?
    • What’s my driving motto or mantra?
    • What am I publicly known for?
    • What disclaimer or identification (if any) does my professional role require me to share?
  3. Set goals. You need a vision of where you want to go to help you get there. Start simply with two aspects of visioning. First, what do you want to say or share, and how often do you want to say something? Start with a cadence that you know you can commit to, and by sharing content that you’re already consuming in a way that feels comfortable to you. You can always up the ante once you get going. Your second goals are around the information you consume. Reflect on how often you want to read your feed, what you want to learn, and what type of people you want to meet/learn from. Again, start with manageable goals; don’t try to do it all at once.
  4. Find and follow people. Follow a blend of people that you know and people who are active on #hashtags that you care about. You can also subscribe to lists that other people have created around certain themes. Don’t follow too many people too quickly, because if you’re not used to it, it will quickly feel like information overload.

With that, you’re ready to start tweeting. To set yourself up for success, you should also download the Twitter app to your phone. The Twitter format lends itself very well to mobile use, and having the app on your phone, at least temporarily, will help you get into a habit of using it.

One other best practice is to block time monthly to reflect on your Twitter use and check in on your goals. Are you hitting them? What’s working, and what’s not? What benefits are you noticing? Are there any downsides? Are you seeking out alternative and diverse points of views? Take notes, iterate, and keep going. Bonus: Engage your followers by tweeting out your insights for others to learn from and react to.

I’ll leave you with a last offer: if you join Twitter using this post, let me know. I will follow you and help amplify your voice.

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