Monday, 24 January 2011

Tips for the Twitter-curious. 1: To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Hi there you.

Welcome to the first day of class, I expect you to have sharpened your pencils and your wits in preparation!

If you're someone utterly non-plussed by the whole tweeting thing or are simply a complete sceptic then please read on ... today's especially for you!

My plan is to discuss a different aspect of Twitter here each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next 3 weeks, allowing plenty of time in between 'lessons' for you to explore Twitter and to test out the tips for yourself.

Lesson 2, on Wednesday, is a full photo tutorial / orientation guide to using the Twitter site itself; eg. which buttons to press when and what to click where etc. But before I delve into the ultra-practical 'how' side of things, I want to use this first session to address the more general point of 'why' you might consider using Twitter.

So, let's put Twitter on trial for the next few minutes and you can consider this my case for the defence [just excuse me while I get over-excited at acting out a life-long fantasy of being a lawyer...]:

I know there's always a new trend vying for your online attention and I know each additional site you take-on involves an investment of your time and efforts. And I won't pretend that when you're fresh to Twitter it won't feel like yet another 'time-suck', an unworthy drain on your precious free-time ... but eventually, once you've got into the habit ... it can certainly begin to repay your efforts.

The Evolution of Online Information
Do you remember when you first began viewing websites and blogs regularly? It's probably a while ago now but cast your mind back to how you used to keep track of the sites you liked to visit.

  • At one time I used to keep a note book next to the computer where I'd jot down web addresses I wanted to refer back to.
  • That was until I got the hang of using the 'Favourites' button.

But while that certainly was quicker than using pen and paper I still had to spend time clicking through each 'favourite' on the list, checking for updates and then trying to remember which ones I'd looked at already.

  • And now we have blog readers to do all that for us [not people who read our blogs for us, [!] but rather sites which search the blogs you're interested in so you only need visit that one place to read through all new content].

And while these readers are hugely useful [I still refer to my Google Reader every day] and have simplified blog browsing no end, they still work on the basis of you having to go and check to see there's anything new to read.

  • But now there's Twitter ...

Think of it as the online equivalent of "If it's Important Enough They'll Ring Me Back"

Have you ever said 'If it's important they'll ring me back' right after missing a call on your phone? It's usually what you say just before deciding not to spend your time money checking to see whose number it was and then phoning them back to see what they wanted.

Well, that's now become my Twitter philosophy ...

  • what do YOU [the people I follow]want ME to know?
  • Via Twitter, if somebody has information or a blog post, photograph, project etc etc which they consider important enough, interesting enough for me to come and look at ... then they will take the time to bring it to my attention by tweeting a link to it.

In effect, they ring me back.

And I know this is how things work ... because I spend an equal amount of time posting my own links on there ... vying for the attention of people I'm following; in the equivalent of me ringing them back. It's not all one-way.

So it's a highly effective method of having the information and inspiration you are interested in, finding it's own way to you. Seeking you out!

A simple visit to your Twitter 'TimeLine' can easily become a one-stop-shop for all those updates which could otherwise take you time to catch up on. After all you choose who to follow on there ... therefore those people who are posting links to get your attention are only those people who you deemed interesting enough to follow in the first place.

Still thinking you don't have time to tweet?

Maybe you truly don't have time. Who am I to say otherwise? But maybe, just maybe, you do ...

Do you have time to leave the odd blog comment? Or to Facebook? Or post on forums? Or write emails to friends? Because since using Twitter regularly I've been able to borrow back time I once spent in these activities and now use the time building up a Twitter network.

And so have many millions of others.

Which means that it's quite likely that many of those people you are spending time contacting via five different sites can actually all be found on Twitter where you can talk to them all at one time, all in one place!

And no, it can't, and doesn't, replace the occasional long, personal email or phone call or real-life meeting. But you can consider it more like popping your head around an office door to say 'hi', or a quick chat to a neighbour on the drive.

Your tweets don't get overwritten or deleted [unless you delete them yourself] so everything you tweet is there for your friends to catch up on in their own time, as and when they drop by Twitter. Even if yesterday they missed you tweeting about how fed-up you were ... they can still read about it and attempt to cheer you up tomorrow or even a week later. And vice versa.

Twitter allows you to keep in touch at your own pace. When you have the time. And whenever that is ... you can keep you up-to-date with each other's news, keep in the loop, keep yourself surrounded by life and chatter and company and nonsense and all the passing details of life which someone chose to sit still for a moment, take a breath and type out in 140 chacters or less... to share with you and anyone else who follows them.

And that's essentially why I love it.

Measuring success.

In the days to come I'll share with you some of the more obvious Twitter-related successes I've had but really, in my two years there, my biggest successes have been exploiting the simplicity, accessibility and speed of tweeting to maintain relationships with two very good friends who I knew before I ever tweeted but who are busy people ... and aren't we all? While we still keep in touch using other methods of communication as well, having somewhere to quickly say 'hi' or catch up on what they've been doing and 'hearing' their voice through their tweets, has been such a welcome way to remove that guilty 'oh-my-goodness-I-keep-forgetting-to-reply-to-that-email' feeling.

'Social networking' is such a cold term for what I've found on Twitter. It simply doesn't convey the level of true communication and friendship I've discovered and nurtured over there.

If there's someone whose face, hands, friendship, listening ear, words of wisdom, sense of humour you miss ... someone you wish you could smile at more frequently, share your day with, cheer-up or laugh at rubbish TV alongside ... then, trust me

... sign up to Twitter, get them to do the same and pick-up where you left off.

It is that easy. I do it every day .. and I have the relationships to prove it!

Your Verdict?

So, I've made my case ... or rather, I've begun making my case for Twitter ... there's a few more days in court left until we're done here! But for now ...

... how am I doing? Are you in? Do you trust me to lead you around Twitter-ville for the first time? Have I convinced you to at least think about giving it a try sometime? Have I convinced you enough to give it a try right now?

How to join in.

If I have indeed put the case persuasively enough today then here's your next step.

Obviously, as it's a free class, open to all [even the Twitter-objectors!] there's no official 'sign-up' routine. However, if you think you might use this as your moment to sign-up to Twitter itself - so you can test out my advice as we go along - then do declare your intentions!

As I stated last time, you're more than welcome to:

  • Simply read the posts and digest them in peace at your own pace.
  • Lurk, loiter and hover in the background and not commit to anything!
  • Blog about my mini-series if you think your readers might benefit from it too. [Anyone who blogs about the class and lets me know about it will be put into a giveaway draw].
  • Mention it to friends, neighbours and strangers or, better still ...
  • Hire a sky-writing plane and tell the world!

But if you fancy something a little less strenuous ...

  • 1. Take the time between now and the next class [Wednesday 26th] to think about your Twitter username before signing up.

Ideally mine would be my name - but at the time I signed up I was still happy using the same profile name across several forums which was 'Nabview'. You can change your username and still maintain the exact same account - but it's better, for confusion's sake that you choose wisely to begin with! When I finally decided to change it to my 'real' name, it was already taken and so I re-named myself after my blog - which is how I'm @notesonpaper.

Then ...

  • 2. Sign up to The online details are pretty straightforward to follow.

Then ...

  • 3. add yourself some form of profile image that represents you.

Personally, I like to use a photograph of me but if that's not your way of doing things then add something else. But try not to leave it on the default image for too long ... people tend to have a suspicion of accounts which don't look like they've been set up by 'real' people. There's as much SPAM going on over there as there is from any online entity so people like to think they're talking to a 'proper' account, held by a 'real' person!

And finally ...

  • 4. Think about adding a background image to your profile for the same anti-SPAM-looking reason above.

I'm no great expert onthe finer points of this aspect, so for now just pick a photo on your hard-drive that you like . Go to 'Settings' > 'Design' > 'Change Background Image' > Browse for that image > and then select the 'tile image' option.

Then if improving on the end result is something you're interestred in, set yourself a target to go and Google-around for ways to make a better Twitter background. I'm happy with the basic photo .. for now.

Finally ...

  • 5. Leave me a comment on this post or on any of the 'Tips for the Twitter Curious' posts at any point in the coming weeks which mentions your Twitter username [the one that begins with @].

I'll then add it to a list in my blog sidebar for the duration of the series and also to this specific 'Twitter Curious' Twitter list which I've created and will leave in place indefinitely [more on Twitter Lists in a later lesson!].

This way, you can all see who else has been joining in and then go visit or even 'Follow' them on Twitter - helping you to easily to build your network from Day1.

[NB: Sometimes the 'List' function simply refuses to work for me on my computer, so if you don't see your name there immediately, be rest assured I'll be attempting to add it ASAP].

Similarly, even if you're not brand new to Twitter, but have an existing username you'd like adding to my list, the same offer applies to you. Simply let me know you're following the class and I'll add you to the list.

I'm going to be around on Twitter all week if you want to come and say 'hi' directly from there too. I'll cover this in more detail on Wednesday, but until then, anything at all you tweet which has the term '@notesonpaper' in it somewhere, should get my attention.]

Closing arguments.

OK then, that's enough from me for one lesson ... I've tried to pack a lot in, but that's mainly because I'm so enthusiastic about the whole helping-people-to-tweet thing!

If it's been a touch too much for you, then simply bookmark this page or make a note-to-self to come back and skim through it all again some other time.

I can't wait to hear from you! Be it from here, there or anywhere! Leave me a comment, tweet me, yell really loudly!

Whatever, just give me your verdict, and I'll see you back in class on Wednesday 26th!



  1. Loving your Twitter guide posts! and generally your blog in fact - I'm new to all this so find your posts really helpful. I'm on Twitter and attempting daily craft tweets - @zoebeer

  2. I'm on my way! First tweet in seven months ... I think you could call that a success, Miss!

  3. Hi Julie...thanks for this...I've been on twitter for awhile
    (@missouribend) and have always wondered what the fuss is about, so I'm tuned in here. One of the issues I have is that the advice I was given at the beginning (from some etsy sellers) was to build up my followers by following the followers of other people that I was interested in. And also to follow back when someone followed me. This led me to the conclusion, which I'm open to changing, that many of my followers and many of those I follow are just "numbers" so to speak. At the beginning I followed all kinds of people whose tweets I didn't really care about, just hoping they'd follow me back...what for, I'm not sure...except to build a following! Now the twitter page is mostly cluttered with tweets I really don't have time to even look at and don't have any interest in. So....that's my story...but I'm not sticking to it...I'm waiting to see what else you have to say! I'm certainly more choosy now about who I follow!
    Cheers! Patti

  4. This is a great post, Julie. Thanks for the hard work you've done on this - it's very useful.

    I've been a "Tweep" for a while now. I kind-of blow hot and cold on Twitter. Sometimes I am busy on there, then I have a break... that's just how it is. But I do find it useful and it's fun to follow links that people (like @notesonpaper) post in their Tweets - I have found some great websites and blogs that way.

    As for Twitter Username - I decided I wanted to use my blog and etsy shop name, so I'm @LizzieMade there too.

    I'll be looking out for Part 2 - bet it'll be great!

  5. Really interesting and helpful guide as considering dipping my toe in Twitter.

  6. Well, you've already opened my eyes up - I reckon I'm under using it totally.

    I'm interested to what these lists are - I've been added to about 9 but don't really know their purpose.

    Also in the beginning I was adding anyone and everyone to follow but as some people seem to tweet every few seconds I found I was getting bogged down a LOT and not really seeing the tweets I wanted to see like you say - so I've drastically cut back who I follow and am really loving it now but know there is a lot more I could be doing on there but don't know what. I'll be following with interest and will definitely blog about your class at some point too ;)

    Carmen (@craftywhoopidoo)

  7. Hello!
    I've jumped in to play too after signing up and deleting the account a while back.
    I may be a tough convert though Miss! ;-)

  8. Hi again Julie. Just to let you know I did a small blog about your class, I lifted some of your words as you describe it better than I could - I hope that's OK - tell me if not and I'll edit.

  9. Julie, this is briliant. I already have my name on Twitter as serendipidy101, so I can't make a new one but thank you.

  10. Kelly Rae Roberts posted a link to your blog moments after I'd moaned about my lack of twitter savvy. Feelin' thankful over here!

    I'm @annakoriginals on twitter.

  11. You can find me @FerntreeStudio
    Woo hoo! :)
    I just posted a link to my blog which showcases a mixed media collage tutorial today!


  12. Hiya **waves** I've just blogged about this course here..
    my username on twitter is @Lady_K_Black, looking forward to the rest of the lessons :)

  13. Oh thank you..I've been on Twitter for a bit, but sometimes I feel like I just don't have the hang of it..can't wait for all your insights and tips. @litasworld

  14. I'll definetely do my best to find time for this! I've been on twitter for quite a while, but never really started using it on a regular basis. My username is @marianenita2 (as marianenita was already taken ...)

  15. What a great post, so helpful! I'm @karidesiart on twitter & heading over there now.

  16. ... and now I've blogged about it too :D

  17. You made me create a Twitter account. Thanks for your information! I will follow you.

  18. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm + joy for twitter! I joined a while ago but have never really understood how/why it works. Looking forward to some clarity! and becoming a joy-filled twitter user.

    I'm here @nichohn

  19. This looks great! I also got here from Kelly Rae and I have been using twitter for a bit and I really like it so far. More hints and tips are always needed however.

    Thanks for the info!

    Cheryl (@cherylconnell)

    PS - Anyone can change their username if they started one and dont like it. No need to change account either. Click on edit your profile.

  20. I really need this ! I am signed up on twitter@PJLangley, but after I did that, I just don.t get it.I will be reading your tips until I get it.

  21. I will come back to this! Very very useful, thank you Julie.. I joined Twitter ages ago but have been terrified to go near it. Time to break the fear.. :o)

  22. Corking class, lady - am really looking forward to the rest, despite being a regular Tweeter (except when am drowning in real-world cr*p. Oy...!).

    And I think you may already be familiar with my username. ;)


  23. Julie:

    Tis is the best series I have seen for those who don't (and even some who do) Tweet!!! I will be sharing this on my magazine for sure!!! If you would like to do a guest post anytime...let me know!!!

    It will be on Creative Compass Magazine sometime today!!


  24. I so need this!! I dabble in the realm of twitter but I have really no idea on how to use it productively. @angelsmay1

  25. Im in on this learning session. I have a great twitter following but Im ready to learn more on how to use it effectively.

  26. Hi Julie, its @wearerinkatink here. I'm following you on twitter already. Loving your guide to twitter. I know its a great tool to use but so far I can't work out why exactly. So this series is really helping clarify things. Thanks for all your time and effort!

  27. Thanks for this. I used to use Twitter a lot last year but not with crafters, so guess this is the right place! Some people know my name from another forum and from my blog already so I shall keep with my Twitter name which is @qwiksave.

  28. Ok i'm taking the leap - or flight to twitter.
    thanks for your help!!!

  29. I've been 'Twitter Curious' for a while now, but also a little skeptical. After reading your post, curious wins - I just signed up. I'm @gingersburns
    Look forward to learning more,

  30. Found your blog through a random trail of other blogs... and I'm glad I did! I just joined Twitter last week out of curiosity, and I don't really know what to do with it! Looking forward to reading the rest of this series...


  31. i was just asking myself the question to tweet or not to tweet, then you came along. ok, i'll give it a shot.


  32. Nancy'sWildWirejewelryFebruary 06, 2011 12:03 pm

    This is a great idea! I am going to share it with my sceptic friends. I twitter, but most in my age group do not. I love how straight forward you are, and it will be fun to read more, thanks!

  33. Super late to the party, but better late than never :-)
    I had joined Twitter but only to enter a competition. It has been sitting idle since but now I have a profile pic and I have tidied up my profile and deleted all the comp tweets!


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