How to get started with Twitter

If you’re just getting started with social media and the “Web 2.0” world, Twitter is a great place to be.

You don’t need to have any other presence on the Internet.

You don’t need a blog, articles, podcast, funny videos or anything else to participate.

The traffic is already there and the activity on Twitter is huge.

There’s a community of active people, and many of them are waiting to meet you. All you have to do is get started and take action.

Twitter is known to some as “microblogging” but it’s also very interactive and fast paced. Individual “Tweets” are limited to 140 characters so you need to be to the point and clear. It’s a challenge sometimes and it’s also a great way to practice effective communication.

As with all forms of social media, the twitter community doesn’t respond to spam. If you just post a bunch of messages marketing yourself, your product or your service, you’ll get squelched before you know it. Social media isn’t run by a monarchy or a republic. It’s a truely democratized system. You have no more or less right to be there than anyone else, and that also means everyone has an equal right to respond to you or ignore you.

This little guide to Twitter is intended to help you get started with the basics. It’s not intended to be a fully comprehensive guide to the entire Tiwtterverse. I am not going for a writing award here. My aim is to help you get started.

So let’s get started!

Create your account


Before you can start using Twitter, you need to open an account.

Visit, and click the button that says Get Started–Join!

New account information


In the next screen, you should see something that looks like this picture. You’ve probably seen most of this before too.

Username is your account name and this is also the name by which everyone will see you in the Twitterverse. For reasons I’ll explain later, you should keep this relatively short. Around 12 characters, or less, is a good target. If you’re interested in promoting a business, you may feel inclined to select a username like “makebigmoney.”

Resist the urge.

In Twitterland, you’re joining the community and your username is part of your public identity. So if you want to show up as the guy in the ratty tweed sportcoat with the cheap tupe, then by all means use a tacky username too. However, this is part of your brand, so use your own name, a simple nick name or something a little more creative.

For example, I think CoachDeb (already taken) is a great username. It says a lot without saying too much.

Doug Firebaugh uses DougFirebaugh as his username. Can’t get much easier than that! Good choice.

To finish your registration, come up with a password and enter your email address and then type the annoying characters (which I can hardly read at times) to prove that you’re a super-human capable of reading the computer equivalent of a 1 year old’s writing (if that 1 year old is writing with his or her foot).

Finally click, I accept. Create my account and you will move to the next page.

Are your friends on Twitter?


The next page you should see, asks if your friends are on Twitter?

Chances are, quite a few of them are.

This step allows you to scan your gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail address book to find matches for people you already know and will let you follow them automatically.

For now, my suggestion is to skip this step. Let’s finish setting up your profile first.

Click the link that says Skip >>

Your Twitter home page


After clicking skip, you will be taken to your home page on Twitter. For the above screen shot I created a new account and for some reason I was automatically connected to charlestrippy. I’m not sure why that happened, but that’s ok.

By the way, Charles Trippy makes some great videos on YouTube, so you might want to look him up later. Sometimes he’s got a bit of a mouth, so use your own discretion.

In your basic screen, you will see different areas of note.

1. Your status box is where you tell the world what’s going on, reply to others or send a follower a direct message. More on this later.

2. The updates list will show the most recent Tweets from all the people you’re following. In the example above, Charles Trippy is my only follow so all the updates are of him.

3. This is what your profile looks like to the rest of the world. Look at that. There’s no picture. No URL. Nothing about you. Ewwwwwww…

4. Everyone likes stats, so here are yours. How many people you are following, your followers, favorite tweets, direct messages you’ve sent, and updates, which is the total number of tweets you have sent from your account.

5. The people area shows the profile pictures of all the people you’re following. The Twitterverse is a big party (sometimes) so you need more than one!

Fill in your profile


Before you do anything else, fill in your profile.

Do this by clicking Settings at the top of your web page.

Account information


After you click Settings, the first thing you’ll see is the Account tab. This is where most of your profile information is stored.

Name: This should be your real name because other Twits like interacting with real people. There are a few exceptions to this. For example, CNN and JetBlue are on Twitter. It’s up to you, but if you’re a real person, try using your real name.

Username: This is the username you selected when you created your account. You can change this, but I don’t recommend you do.

Email: The email associated with your account. You will get status messages on this email address when people start following you or when you receive a direct message.

Time Zone: I haven’t noticed what the time zone setting is used for but you might as well set it from this pop down menu.

More Info URL: This is the web address for your personal web site. Because you are limited in how much you can tell about yourself in your Twitter profile, you may want to have this address point directly at a page with your bio or just point it at a blog. You do not want to set this URL to be a sales page. You’ll loose trust very quickly with your new followers if you do. If the page you send people to has a link to a sales page or information about your products or services, well that’s a different story.

One Line Bio: This is you space to tell the world about all that is you and you have 160 characters in which to do it. This bio tells people how you see the world. My suggestion is to talk about who you are, and less about what you do. If you do say what you do, put it in terms of how you help others.

Location: Where are you? I set this to my nearest major city. I’m sure you’re more creative than that though.

Laguage: The Twitter interface is available in English or Japanese.

The protect my updates box will block your Tweets from anyone who is not an approved follower. Before you go hide in the corner, I would suggest you jump in the middle of the room. Leave this box unchecked.

Before you move on, click Save or you’ll be annoyed when all of your changes vanish.

Set your picture


On Tiwtter, everyone will see your profile picture beside every update you send to the Twitterverse. People without profile pictures are viewed as not serious users and tend to get ignored.

You want a profile picture.

Click the Picture tab to select a picture.

1. Click Browse to view files on your local computer. A face shot is a good choice and keep in mind the picture is going to be scaled down. Something with a lot of detail is going to be hard to see.

2. After selecting a picture, click Save.

Hopefully that was easy.

Let’s Tweet!


Now that your settings are updated, let’s send a Tweet.

Click Home to get back to your home page.

Type something in the text field. As you do it the ‘140’ will tell you how many more characters you can type. If you type too much, the number will turn into a red negative number. You’ll need to edit your Tweet until it fits.

Finally, click Update and your tweet will be sent to the world.

Your first tweet!


After you click Update, your page will refresh and you should see your own Tweet at the top.

Notice the little trash can. If you have a typo or if you say something really stupid, you can’t edit a Tweet, but you can delete it.

I use the trash can a lot.

Finding people on Twitter


Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to follow some people. The easist way to do this, is by entering a name in the search box at the top of the page and then clicking the Search button.

Following someone on Twitter


In my search for “Doug Firebaugh,” I found one person matching. It happens to be the right person so all I need to do is click the follow button and that’s that.

By way way, Twitter is still kind of new and once in a while you may get an error when you click follow. Just try again later.

There are some very interesting Twitter users out there…experiment with the Search Box and see what you can find.

Hints: JetBlue, CNN, White House

Interacting with other Tweeple


I can’t believe I typed ‘tweeple’ what’s happening to me?

An important part of life in the Twitterverse is interaction.

As you read other Tweets, you will (hopefully) feel the compulsion to respond to someone or to send a message directed at an individual.

The easiest way to do this is by clicking the reply icon to the right of a Tweet.

Sending a reply


When you click the reply icon, the persons name will be entered into the text field with an ‘@’ in front of it.

(Trivia: The Germans call the ‘@’ sign “Spider Monkey,” or at least they did back in the early days of the Internet. It’s not found on their keyboard which makes sending email a pain.)

Anytime you send a Tweet with a @username, the Tweet is still sent to the entire world but that person will be able to see the message is directed at them. The replies tab shows all Tweets that have been directed at you and will even show replies that are sent from people you’re not following. This helps you know when someone is trying to talk to you, even if they’re not in your following list yet.

Exploring the Twitterverse


Click the Everyone tab and you’ll see a list of the most recent tweets from the entire world. This can be a fun way to see what’s going on and sometimes you’ll run into someone you want follow. Beside each person’s tweet is their username. Click on it to see their profile page. You’ll be able to see their past tweets, their profile information and there will be a follow button in case you want to follow them.

When you follow someone new, you should sent them an @username message to say him. People get creeped out by ‘lurkers.’

What’s next?

Now that you have the basics under your belt, start using Twitter!

If you want some advice on what to say and how to say it, read of copy of “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. The same rules apply in the Tiwtterverse as anywhere else in the world.

If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it here.

You can’t break anything and if you really, really mess up, you can always delete your account and hide under a rock.

But that’s not going to happen so have fun and join the community!

For more tips and how to’s, visit


  1. Doug Firebaugh on July 27, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Great post dave- wow- concise and right on! SWWEEEEEET!


  2. Therese on July 27, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Hi Dave,
    this is fantastic. Thank’s for explaining so well. At the moment I have to take care of something, but as soon as posible I will sign up

  3. Nicole of on July 30, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Wow! Really cool post – thanks!

  4. Carol Evans on August 9, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for posting this for us novices. You are a giver!

  5. Jackie Ulmer on August 13, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Great info and so simple. I was trying to complicate things!

    EXPECT Success!

    Jackie Ulmer

  6. Sharon Foutch on November 7, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Hey Dave! Thanks for getting me back on track! Love your clear,concise instructions and your sense of humor! Sharon Foutch

  7. karthik on March 14, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    wonderful and descriptive post. Needs to be appreciated.

  8. Frever t. on April 1, 2009 at 11:32 am

    This is right here, in the present, not the future.

  9. Sheral Skirvin on July 26, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Wow! This is a great introductory source for Twitter. Thanks for all the info.

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