Adding Twitter to your digital footprint

If you have been thinking of getting started on Twitter but have been putting it off or don’t feel you’re getting your head round it, I hope you will find this short guide useful.

1. Create an account – Go to twitter.com and click on Sign up. You will need to make a username for yourself, which is what will show up on Twitter. Give some thought to this choice. It is part of your digital profile, and you may likely wish to keep this account going as your professional career continues.

Once you have an account, it is a good idea to fill out your profile at least to some extent, by clicking Settings. Having a good, descriptive profile including a picture that is at least fairly recognisable as you will encourage people to follow you.

2. Start following people – At some point, Twitter will begin to suggest people to follow, listed near the upper right corner of your Home page. But you will probably want to follow more than just these. Click on Find  People at the top, make sure the Find on Twitter tab is selected, and type in actual names.

Check the profile to make sure that the person you find is indeed the person you want to follow. If you know someone’s Twitter username, you can search on that and be sure to find the correct person. Follow people who have interests similar to your own.

Tip: when you find someone whose interests match yours, have a look at the people they are following; you may wish to follow these people as well. For example, you might wish to follow me (even though I am not the most exciting person). To give you some information to help you decide, I am a learning technologist at the University of Leicester and my name is Terese Bird. My Twitter username is tbirdcymru.

When you follow people, they may follow you back. You may wish to follow those who follow you. Be aware:, you will notice followers who are salespeople or who are encouraging you to visit dodgy sites. They follow you in the hopes that you will be interested in what they sell. If you are not interested, it is best to either ignore (simply do not follow them) or even perhaps block such followers.

The point is to get good people to follow you back. By good people, I refer to those who will be tweeting about things you are interested in. Only those who choose to follow you will see your tweets

Generally, the best way to build up followers is to keep tweeting interesting things, and to follow those who share your interests.

3. Now you can start tweeting Remember, a tweet can be no longer than 140 characters. Here are some suggestions of what to tweet about:

a. Comment on something in the news that is of interest to you.

b. Call others’ attention to a website discussing something of interest to you. Include a link to the site where it is discussed. See number 4 below for some great ways to shorten the URL of links.

c. You may like to say what you are doing, but ask yourself, is it interesting to other people?  If not, think of something else to tweet about.

d. Tweet about your lecture or whatever you are working on now. This is the best way to show who you are and build your Twitter  around your interests.

e. Ask a question about something you are interested in. This can best illustrate the power of Twitter. Your question may get answered by a true expert in the field. Or, you may get no response at all. Don’t be discouraged if this happens. Just keep trying and tweeting. Sooner or later those who share your interests will respond. Twitter friends can be very loyal and eager to help.

f. Reply to someone else’s tweet. This is an excellent way to make friends and build followers. If you hover your mouse in the lower right of the box of their tweet you will see an arrow and the word Reply; click on it, and it begins a new tweet for you beginning with @ and the tweeter’s nickname. 

Whatever you now tweet, that tweeter will see it as a personal response to their tweet. This gets the attention of the original tweeter. If your interests match theirs and they do not currently follow you, there is a good chance they will decide to follow you. This is a nice way to discuss things with individuals, but it is not private. Everyone can read it. The advantage is that you have identified that you are replying directly to that particular person.

Incidentally, all tweets (including replies) which include @ just before your username will be collected on your Twitter home page at the right just under the word Home. Check this every time you log into Twitter; people might be directly speaking to you using that technique.

You can also Direct Message people who follow you; Direct Messages are only seen by the sender and the recipient. Check your own Direct Messages by clicking on your Home page, on the right, Direct Messages.

g. Re-tweet someone else’s tweets. This is also an excellent way to build followers. Re-tweeting means that you repeat the tweet so that all of your followers can read it. To retweet, hover your mouse in the lower right of the original tweet, and click Retweet.

You might also want to retweet and add a comment of your own. In that case, you need to Retweet by Hand. Just copy the original tweet, click into the box where you enter your own tweet, begin by typing RT @ and then paste everything directly after the @ sysmbol.  Finally add your comment at the end; it will have to be really short! Your retweet will look something like this:

RT @tbirdcymru New iPhone app lets you check your Blackboard site. – v cool!

4. To shorten a URL so it will fit into 140 character tweet, first copy the URL onto the clipboard. Now, go to: http://bit.ly/ Where it says, “enter your long link or file here,” paste in the URL, then click Shorten. You will be given a very short URL which you can now copy and paste into your tweet.

Terese Bird

Learning Technologist and Assistant Media Zookeeper

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