My Quick Start Tips for New Twitters

It’s easy to forget how intimidating Twitter can be to new users once you’ve used it for awhile. So here are some of my quick tips to getting started using twitter.

Setting Up Your Twitter Account

If you’re not currently using Twitter reconsider! Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool for your personal learning, connecting with others and complements your blogging.

Here are two of my posts that will help you understand why you should use twitter and how to set up your account:

  1. Are You Twittering? Here’s How I Use Twitter explains how to set up twitter
  2. Using Your Twitter Network For Help & Providing Their Recommendations

Most important aspects of setting up your account are:Image of Twitter Bio

  1. Use a twitter username that makes it easier for others to relate to you as a real person.  e.g. Compare spwat3 with suewaters — which is easier?
  2. Your username can be changed anytime without affecting your twitter account by changing your name in the username field in your account settings.
  3. Make sure you complete your one line bio and add your blog URL (if applicable) in account settings because people use this information to decide whether they will add you to their account.
  4. Image of twitter avatarMake sure you upload your twitter avatar asap — important to fit in and not look like a new user. Upload it by clicking on picture tab in account settings.
  5. Don’t ask start inviting people to follow you on twitter until you’ve updated i.e. start writing some tweets first!!!  Why would anyone follow you if you haven’t even bothered to update?Image of not updated
  6. Easiest way to find and add people to your twitter account is to ask an experienced twitter user to ask their twitter network to add you (you can always ask me here for help).  Make sure when they do start adding them you add them back plus thank them for adding you to their account!!!
  7. If you follow me, and only follow a few people, don’t have your twitter account set on all @ replies!!! You’ll get every tweet I send and then blame me for excessive tweeting :).

Image of reply options

A bit About Using Twitter

While twitter is fun and great for conversations — keep in mind:

  1. Online is forever.  If you didn’t want it online don’t say it in the first place.
  2. It’s extremely easy for others to misinterpret your written text.  Remember this!
  3. Think about how what you say reflects on how people visualise you.
  4. @ replies go to the person you are tweeting to and anyone that is following both you and the person you are doing the @ reply.  Except if your followers have their account set to all @ replies (which means they receive all your tweets).

Remember to:

  1. Use @ replies when you are tweeting to a specific person — e.g if you were asking me a question you would start your tweet with @suewaters.
  2. Limit your use of DM (Direct Messages) to really important private messages.  These messages often take longer to access depending on what twitter client people are using and take more time to respond to.

Using A Twitter Client

The power of twitter is in the instant notification/response to tweets of people you follow.  A twitter client is a MUST; using the web interface isn’t the way to go. They provide instant notification of the latest updates and easy response to the tweets.

Which Twitter client you use is personal — experienced twitter users are known to fight in support of theirs.  Popular ones include:

  1. Twhirl
  2. Twitterfic – popular with Mac and iPhone users
  3. Snitter
  4. Twinkle – popular with iphone users which you download through your Apps Store

Twitter Tools

There is an abundance of twitter tools that you can spend hours checking out.  Here are just some that I’ve enjoyed using:

  1. Twitter Karma – an easy way of checking who is following you and who you follow
  2. Twittervision – displays tweets from twitter’s public timeline on the World map in real time
  3. TweetStats – use this to analyse the statistics on a twitter user
  4. Twitscoop – works similar to Google Trends but analyses the words used in the twitter public timeline to identify the hot topics on twitter right now
  5. My Tweet Map – displays the location of your follower’s tweets on a World map — interesting for seeing where they are based.


Twitter has so many layers.

If you are a new twitter user:

  1. Is there an aspect of twitter I haven’t covered and you would like to know about?
  2. Is there anything you would like me to explain in more detail?

If you’re an experienced twitter user:

  1. What advice would you give to people getting started using twitter?
  2. Did I miss any important points?
  3. Was there a twitter client or tool that you think I should have included?  Any why?
  4. What are your tips for getting the most out of using twitter?

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Twitter as RSS Reader and Snagging URLs from Twitter

Tonight’s insanity was motivated by Jeff Utecht’s post on Twitter as My RSS Reader especially when he says:

Lately I’ve been thinking about Twitter as an RSS reader. My Netvibes page has about 30 RSS feeds in it, but my Twitter account has over 700 people or feeds that I can learn from. What I have found recently is that I’m reading and following more links from Twitter than I am from my RSS reader.

Yes, I love Twitter (it’s well known) but I’ve been getting a touch frustrated by the number of Twitter friends that are doing exactly what Jeff highlights here. In many cases their RSS feeds aren’t being read; they’re totally relying on people to post the links in Twitter which if they’re not careful could ultimately limit their learning by getting sucked into group thinking.

Snagging URLs from Twitter

However I decided to keep an open mind and inspired by Jeff’s post work out how to effectively collect the links posted in Twitter. Off course I’d just read a post recently, in my Google Reader, which talked how snag the URLs in TwitterFrank suggested TwitBox. And if I was going to road test a twitter application – I might as well also compare my Snitter with Twhirl that Jeff likes to use (for those new to Twitter these applications make it easier to use twitter than using Twitter’s web interface).

The insanity part — it wasn’t probably the best idea to run all three twitter applications at the same time.  Unfortunately whilst I could cope with running the three applications — it appears they couldn’t (think it was an issue with TwitBin and the other two).


Have to admit – Twhirl is really, really pretty and the colours are a nice change from Snitter (this is important to some of us) — and more importantly can be used for connecting multiple user accounts.

Twitbin definitely snags the URLs from your twitter followers; but to capture them all you would need to keep it running all the time (and Frank’s right– it’s ugly looking) plus it only snags the URLs, not the entire twit which provide you with the reason to want to check a link.

Tracking URLs Posted by Your Followers

I think there is merit in grabbing links from Twitter but we need an application that makes it time effective — like a TweetScan or Terraminds application that searches for URLs within your followers and delivers the entire twits.

Meanwhile I’ve been grabbing some excellent posts to read by tracking terms using both TweetScan & Terraminds and subscribing to the RSS feeds using Google Reader.

Personally I believe I take the whole 10 signs of Twitter Addiction to an entirely different level.  Perhaps the Twitter Addiction signs should also include:

  • You’ve got more than one twitter account, doesn’t everyone?
  • You run more than one desktop twitter application
  • You track multiple terms in twitter using TweetScan and Terraminds

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Getting More Out of Twitter

Regardless of whether you are into Twitter or not, most people will acknowledge it has been the killer application for 2007. For such a simple application, Twitter has many layers, and it was overwhelming me thankfully my readers helped me out yesterday to get my Twitter magic back.

Martin Weller highlighted that effective management of twitter lies with:

  1. Processes i.e. how many people you choose to follow, how you choose who to follow and your purpose for using twitter
  2. Technical i.e. the tools you use to manage twitter


It is really important to decide, when you are starting out with twitter, why and how you want to use it (for ideas read Chris Brogan’s Twitter Revisited post and Beth Kanter’s Twitter tips for Non Profits post). How many people you follow will be influenced to some extent by how you want to use twitter. Chris Brogan, who follows close to 2,500 people makes, an excellent point:

Don’t look at Twitter as a great conversation place, especially once you have a lot of friends. Look at it as an idea bank, a place to gather information or think of new things, or see what your friends are doing.

Most comments on my post by my readers indicated that they prefer to limit their numbers of followers and be selective on who they add.

Brian C. Smith said “he tries to limit who I follow to around 150 people based Gladwell’s Tipping Point The Magic Number 150 (research suggests an individual can only have genuine social relationships with 150 people. Groups larger than 150 are prone to fragmentation, and it is often best for the group’s health that it split) and the fact that I find it simply too hard to filter from too many folks”.

Howard tips are:

  1. Rather than follow everyone in a network, select particular people in a network who are well connected with people/areas with which you are interested e.g. I choose not to follow everyone I think is important in education in the World but to pick the eyes out of the network choosing individuals who look interesting.
  2. Selectively filtering followers e.g. selecting tweeters who extend my thinking and feeling versus those who just provide online bubble-wrap/filler

Alan Levine says “he fails to reciprocate on about 95% of the following notifications I get, and only nab the ones for people I know. Maybe every few months, I go in an prune the accounts where there have not been updates in a long time”.

Susan Morgan told me her “solution is to follow people who follow me AND tend to provide good resources instead of chatter. It’s fun to get to know people, but I didn’t have time to go back through pages of tweets each morning either. If it’s important, I’ll see it somewhere!” Check out Susan’s post for more information on how she uses twitter.

They all reminded me that I needed to make the shift to accepting that I will miss some of the conversation as Martin Weller said “like blog posts – you know you can’t read them all, but accept that you’ll get enough of the overall conversation”.


What tools, and how you use them, impacts greatly on how effectively you will interact with Twitter. This was part of my problem — I was not using the best tools for managing twitter how I wanted to i.e. maximising conversation and effectively accessing overnight twitters.


Warlach suggested that Snitter would probably help and he was right. You will need to download and install both Adobe Air beta 3 and Snitter Alpha but it is definitely worth it. I have used Google Talk, Twitterific, Tweetbar, the Twitter web interface and Snitter is the absolute best of them (perhaps some may say too good because I have been very prolific on Twitter today). Thanks Warlach!

Bookmark Toolbar

John Pederson told me how to use the bookmark toolbar on Firefox and Safari for faster reading of overnight tweets. Excellent idea providing a quick and fast solution.

John said “set up a folder on that toolbar called “Twitter”. Inside that folder bookmark the twitter pages e.g. Twitter1 for home, then go one page “older” in Twitter and bookmark that, calling it “Twitter1″. Continue doing that until you get to “Twitter10″. Then when you want to quickly scan back through all pages go to the Twitter folder and click on open all in Tabs.


As John points out you can’t go back more than 10 pages by pressing on older at the bottom of your twitter page but if you ever want to go back further just type the page number in the URL (tip courtesy of Darren Draper) — interesting though you use to be able to use this to go back through your entire history but this is not possible at the moment.


Tracking Feature

Martin asks if hashtags may be useful however the tracking feature of Twitter may be the better option.

track twitter

Twitter tracking works by setting it up so that anytime someone sends a tweet containing the keyword you want to track it is sent to your IM client.

So I have set up Twitter to notify me of messages to Google Talk and have switched all the people I follow to notify off (because these tweets are already being sent to Snitter). Then to track a term I click on Twitter in Google talk then type track and the term I want to track e.g. people often use suewaters instead of my twitter name dswaters.

Mobile Web

I use to interface with twitter on my PDA.


There is sooo much to twitter that I am bound to have missed tips. Here is a couple that didn’t fit in the above categories. Gigicolo comment that “I wonder if any programmer is trying to develop an application as I can listen (Yes LISTEN) the twitt while I am driving!” was a good one. Can’t support Kevin’s solution of new twitter accounts because I would lose mine.

Please feel free to provide further tips.

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