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Twitter Basics

owl 001 

 How to get started networking on twitter for crafty bloggers 

This blog post is a basic overview of how to use twitter, what to click and when to click it.  It is aimed at those new to twitter or who have opened an account and found themselves daunted by all the @'s and RT's and unable to work out who's talking to who and what a #ff is and generally what all the fuss is about? Why will twitter help my craft blog - is it worth the effort?

Twitter is a brilliant platform for networking and finding influential people (such as magazine editors and bloggers) who might just highlight your work.

Twitter is also great promotional tool if used correctly and well worth being a part of as it can vastly increase your blog traffic and easily help you attract new readers.  It is especially useful for promoting to specific groups of people, so that you are gaining quality traffic to your blog posts.  I regard quality traffic as those readers that come back for more having bookmarked your page, become a blog follower, facebook fan or that leave a comment.
There is a huge community of crafters on twitter so even if you aren't looking to target potential customers you can use twitter to find a lot of great UK craft blogs and bloggers, make some really interesting and helpful contacts, find out about craft events and all the latest crafty news- twitter can be alot of fun, so don't feel you have to take it all too seriously, just open an account and have a go.

Twitter can also be effectively used via other sites like facebook and nings so there's no need to worry about having too many social networking sites to deal with! You do need to understand the basics though and that is what this blog post is all about.

Twitter Basics...

Choosing a Twitter @name 

Try to use your shop or blog name, if it isn't available or is too long go for something connected. The @ symbol in front of a name is now synonomous with twitter (I'll explain why below) although recently facebook has picked up on this, so be sure to match your facebook fan page name with your twitter name if you have one. You can change your twitter user name under 'Account', in Settings which may be useful if you joined some time ago with a rather outdated name, this wont affect any existing tweets or messages - make sure you update any existing followers of the change.


robin 


Adding Keywords to Twitter Names 

There are pros and cons to this, for example I could have called my personal twitter account @haptreesews or @haptreebags  or indeed @haptreeblogs  this will have the effect of immediately identifying what I do and allowing my name to come up in keyword searches.  Fellow crafters may love this but conversely it could also be a potential turn off for people who don't blog, or assume that I will try to sell them bags or only talk about sewing.  Having people 'following' you is what it's all about so this is an important decision! I chose plain and simple @haptree so that people would read my tweets before making a snap judgement about following me.  For my CBuk account,  @craftbloguk the tweets are always craft or blog focussed, which is exactly what someone who chose to follow would expect based solely on its name.

Choosing an Avatar / Picture

Choose an image that stands out from the crowd - it will help people notice your tweets and remember you.  The image doesn't need to be a picture of you, although this can help to make you more approachable than using your logo.  If your logo doesn't fit into a square consider making one especially as it can look terrible to see just a section of your logo - you'll also find this useful for lots of social media accounts.


Tweeting - the important part!

To write a 'tweet' you need to be on your home page.  Don't panic about your first tweet, the likelihood is not many people will ever read it (but remember that twitter is accessible to everyone including your mum and your tweets will be visible on search engines) so just be positive and say hello.

Twitter is as high brow or low brow as you make it, from the importance of Pushkin in the golden era of Russian literature, the latest news from the front line to what Cheryl Cole had for breakfast, everyone is welcome and you should never be rude about other peoples opinions, crafts and ideas, just choose not to follow their tweets.

Tweeting gets easier once you start following other people and responding to their tweets as well as writing your own updates - think of twitter as a stream of mini blog posts, some people use the term micro-blogging, little snippets of information about peoples lives and their businesses.

You need to be engaged with other twitter users by commenting and replying to others tweets. Answer peoples questions and wish them good morning when you see they've logged on, you'll soon find the conversations start flowing and you will be attracting new followers with every tweet.

Tweets can be a maximum of 140 characters, the characters are shown and count down as you are writing, on the right.  Seems like nothing but it works.

Adding Links

Twitter now automatically reduces the length of links.  If you want you can also use URL shortening services.  This can be useful for tracking the traffic coming from a specific update. Try http://tinyurl.com/ or http://bit.ly/ .

Be aware of appearing like a spammer and try not to make every tweet an advert  or contain a link to your own sites. There are many twitter applications that people use to analyse peoples tweets and give the ratios and percentages of tweets containing links in order to filter spammers out.

Over use of links will result in less followers and defeat the object. Most people are understanding of  links to new listings and blog posts through the day as you want to catch a few different time zones, especially if you don't post and run but take time to interact with other users.



Using '@' - Mentions

The @ symbol developed in twitter as a way of mentioning someone or replying to a particular tweet, making twitter very conversational even though it can at first appear like a stream of unconnected status updates.  Regularly check the 'mentions' tab (available in the home screen) to see if people are talking to you and be sure to reply!

Using applications such as tweetdeck or hootsuite you can be alerted to a mention of your username, this can really help with live converations.

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is the twitter way of recommending and thanking interesting/friendly people based on your interactions with them over the week.  Just open up twitter on any Friday and you will see thousands of messages with lots of names followed by #FF (more on hash tags below).

Using RT and Retweeting

Just next to the reply link you can see the retweet link.  This is a quick way of letting your own followers see someone elses tweet becuase it's particularly interesting/funny and you think your own followers would appreciate it or just to be nice and help promote someone's link. (you scratch my back... etc)

You may see RT preceding some peoples tweets. Before the retweet link was available on twitter people used to manually copy others tweets and add RT to credit the author and let everyone know it wasn't their own.  Some twitter applications such as tweetdeck still add RT to retweets although twitter itself just adds the little grey arrows above to show you it's a retweet and then cites who has retweeted it.  Using the RT method allows you to add more detail to the retweet, which can be more personal and is more likely to illicit a response or start a conversation. 

Adding a Hash Tag #

Hash tagging is another twitter practise that has developed organically just like using the @ symbol.  Twitter users add a hash tag in order to highlight specific keywords and topics.  In the past other users would manually search for tags, allowing them to find new people to follow with similar interests.  Twitter has now made any word preceeded by a hash tag automatically a clickable link bringing up every tweet with that tag. 


Joining the Conversation

By clicking on the arrow next to each tweet you will reveal lots of detail including replies, retweets and details of the people mentioned in the tweet.  This can be really helpful for understanding a conversation before you leap in as well as helping to find interesting people to follow that are chatting to your existing followers.

Following & Followers!

If I follow you it means I get to see your tweets on my home page mixed in chronologically with all the tweets of everyone else I follow. Following does not have to be reciprocated.  You can see the number of people you are following and those who follow you in the top right of your profile screen and these stats are available publicly.

To a certain extent it's quality and not quantity that counts with twitter followers.  Followers that regularly retweet your tweets and links to their own followers are only earned through building relationships with other tweeps (twitter users). You need to join in the conversations and be active if you want people to act on your tweets when you do add links to your blog, shops and pictures.

It's nice to tweet a quick hello to new followers, being courteous and friendly (not fawning) is important but don't worry you are not expected to keep up with every follower! Just dip in when you can - you can also make lists of your favourite tweeps to make things easier to manage.


How to get More followers!

Initially to increase the number of followers you have look to any networks you already belong to first, writing a blog post,  letting Facebook fans and friends in forums know you have a twitter account is a great way of immediately starting off a network or twitter friends you can chat to, they may then begin to recommend you to their own followers and your following will grow naturally and exponentially.

In order to increase your following you really need to follow other twitter users. Twitter offers lots of recommendations, don't feel you have to follow them all!  There are twitter users with huge followings that follow nobody but these are normally established celebrities or businesses.  Be careful not to get flagged as a spammer by following too many people at once, twitter checks the ratio of followers to following and has a way of detecting spammy activity and does not allow automated mass following.  The only automation it does allow is to auto follow people back.


Paper Mache Little Bird 

Searches

There are a number of ways to find new people to follow. Using the search bar to search keywords is a great way of finding people to follow, it will bring up the most recent tweets containing this word.  The aim is that the people you follow will investigate your profile and see the link to your website or blog or indeed follow you back.

Remember twitter users do not like being spammed and most are fully aware that their tweets are being scrutinized so try to follow people whose tweets you have a genuine interest in or that you think will really appreciate your tweets, blog or website.

The search bar is such a useful tool - when I was debating whether to use DISQUS as my new comment system, I spent a few days looking at tweets on the subject first to get an idea of how people felt about it - it also meant I could immediatly find people already using it and see how it looked on their blogs.  Use this useful list of search operator terms from twitter to narrow your searches. http://search.twitter.com/operators

Direct Messaging 

Sometimes you want your tweet to someone to be private. You can only direct message someone who is following you.  They are referred to as DM's.  Don't spam peoples inboxes, only dm someone for genuine reasons when you want to get in touch but don't want your tweet to be public.  Occasionally I will DM a twitter contact to let them know about a new post that I think they will really be interested in (and may be inclined to share)

Lists

Using twitter lists is a great way of finding new followers and blog readers. I wrote a post all about twitter lists when they were introduced last year. The Craft Blog UK twitter list  is updated regularly - please tweet me if you would like to be added.

Twitter is what you make of it, the more active you are the better the experience will be and the more interest you will create - but as with blogging the content of your posts and the quality of your interactions is what will ultimately bring you traffic and followers, and hopefully a great return on your investment of time!

If you are a seasoned twitter user can you add any tips for people new to twitter? I'd love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of twitter.

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