3 Steps to Help Starters Beat the Twitter Learning Curve

Picture Cred: "Shovelling Son"
Picture Cred: "Shovelling Son"

You’ve probably heard people say “I dont get the point of twitter” or “twitter is just like facebook updates” as much as I have.  I’m not sure any twitter user completely understood its concept when they first tried it. I know I was on twitter and only sent the occasional random “what I’m doing” post for a good month or so before learning how to use it correctly.

One of twitter’s biggest issues is converting new users who don’t understand, into regular users who do.  This is because of the “twitter learning curve” or the open mind, experience and time that is required before a user is really able to grasp the concept of twitter.  Some people give up before even getting to that point…but that doesn’t have to be the case!  There are ways to overcome the “twitter learning curve”.

Here are 3 steps I wish I knew when I first arrived in the twitterverse.

1. Start Following

Twitter is all about connecting with people who share your interests.  I would recommend starting off by following about 20 people when you first get on.  If you follow too many, people will think you’re a spammer. There are a number of ways that you can find people that share your interests…

  • Twitter search: type in a keyword that you’re interested in and find out who’s talking about the same things.
  • Find friends from other networks: Assuming the people in your email address book are people that you enjoy connecting with, this is a good way to find contacts that are already on twitter
  • Suggested users: twitter provides a list of people, pretty much the most popular of twitter, as people you may be interested in following. Personally, I don’t like this method because it’s likely that these people will not engage with you although they may provide you with some cool news and entertainment.
  • Copy other’s follows: This is a method that I used and it worked for me.  I found a few people that shared my interests, and just started clicking on random pictures from the list of people that they follow.  More often than not, the people I clicked on also shared my interests.
  • Blogger’s recommendations: Read the blogs of the people that you follow on twitter.  Chances are they’ll mention other twitterers often in their blog posts.  If they’re worth blogging about, they’re probably worth following.  Some bloggers will even write a post specifically recommending some tweeps. If you’re interested in PR, check out this post by Dave Fleet and this post by Danny Brown.
  • Follow Friday: This is the great contribution by Micah that encourages twitterers to recommend people to follow every friday.  If the people you’re following aren’t participating, search #followfriday and a keyword (on a friday) and you’ll find plenty of great recommendations.

So make sure you have YOUR picture up, you fill out your profile and go into some people’s profiles and check out their tweets.  If they have a lot
of @reply messages, that’s a good person to follow.  It means they’ll
be more willing to engage with you.  If they don’t, they may still provide valuable info, but watch out for spammers.

2. Read and Engage

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get many followers at first.  I promise they will come!  What’s important now is that you learn the way people communicate on twitter.  It’s a bit different from IM,  facebook or any other communication platform you’ve ever used.  Here’s how you can learn to communicate on twitter:

  • Read:  Seeing how people word their tweets, especially @replies is a big step to understanding twitter. Click on people’s profiles so that you can see all the @replies they are sending to others.  Others’ @replies won’t show up unless you’re following both people. Watch how people post links, updates and how they share news.
  • Engage: Start responding to others’ questions and thoughts.  Don’t be afraid to message someone and say “I’m new to twitter, any advice?”  You’ll find that one of the greatest things about twitter is how willing people are to help.  If it’s someone that regularly engages (replies), chances are they will respond with advice and may even follow back.  The best way to beat the “twitter learning curve” is to jump right into the conversation.

3. Explore

By this point you should start to understand the concept of twitter.  In a nutshell it’s fast, live content sharing and conversation.  Now you’re ready to start exploring further. Here are some things you may want to consider exploring:

  • Twitter Apps:  Twitter suggests some of the more popular apps.  There are hundreds more on top of the few they recommend.  You can ask others for recommendations or just search on google.  There are also twitter app databases like twitdom with brief descriptions and pictures of each app.  These apps will completely change your twitter experience and allow you to use twitter more efficiently and in new ways.
  • Twitter Trends:  People put hashtags in front of tags that allow for conversations on trending topics.  You can also find scheduled chats like #journchat and #healthcomm where twitter users gather weekly to discuss industry topics.  This is a great way to learn, find more people who share your interests and to gain some valuable followers. Arik Hanson discusses some great chats worth checking out here.
  • Tweetups: Tweetups are just organized events for twitter users to gather and meet at a determined location.  It may be a bit before you feel comfortable attending a tweetup but it’s a great way to turn twitter contacts into even better contacts or friends.  Social media is great, but ultimately nothing beats good old face-to-face interactions!

So next time you get your friend to try twitter and they say, “this is stupid, I don’t get it…I don’t even like cats”, share these three steps to help them beat the “twitter learning curve”.  They’ll be avid twitter participants in no time!

(hope this wasn’t too cliche twitter starters guide-ish)

16 thoughts on “3 Steps to Help Starters Beat the Twitter Learning Curve

  1. Great information here, David. You’re right, it can be a bit of a learning curve and there isn’t really a *guidebook* to offer any quick tips.

    But, that does let the community help each other understand it and enjoy it – much like your good self here. 🙂

    1. Perhaps I should have added that you actually have to do the steps in order to understand twitter, you can’t just read them. You can’t understand twitter unless you try it. This post just aims to show you how to speed up the process.

  2. David:

    Great post. I wrote one similar myself today, “The Ultimate Twitter Starting Point.” Subscribed to your blog cause I actually like your post better. Twitter’s not really a lot like Facebook, is it? Facebook probably would never in a million years have had the “What are you doing right now” box if Twitter had never been around. It’s almost like Windows copying the Mac for all those years


    Yes, there are Twitter tutorials and guides. In fact, I mentioned and linked to two of the best in my blog post today. Try http://www.directoryone.com/blog/the-ultimate-twitter-starting-point.html

    1. Thanks Herb. I’ll be sure to check those out. I thought facebook had a status box for a long time, at least before twitter became real popular. I could be wrong though.

  3. I admit to being stuck in the “I don’t get it” section of the bleachers. I had twitter for a year and never used it. I’ve started using it some, but it’s more of diversion for me. I did start a private family friends only twitter which seems more useful to me as I still don’t get what I need twitter for. I can keep track of ten people never mind hundreds. I play with though and have been signing in daily just to look around.

    1. That’s the learning curve for you. It’s hard to see the value of twitter until you really start to get your hands dirty and try it out. It takes time, that’s for sure, but I think there is plenty of value to be had. It will definitely be harder to understand the concept of twitter if you use it privately. It’s major draw is that it helps you meet and connect with new people. Keep at it, you’ll get it soon enough!

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