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Vital Basics: First Steps on Twitter

We have a wide range of skill levels come through our office when it comes to social media. A few clients are already social media savvy and are happily tweeting, pinning and Instagramming away. Many of our clients, however, have been busy building incredible non-profits, small businesses and innovative products, and haven’t had the time to get caught up on the social media revolution. To that end, we’re introducing a new series of blog posts that will focus on the tools you need to get started on social networks. We’re cutting out the techspeak and even some of the social media geekery (not easy around these parts) and bringing you the basics–Vitalized, of course. So, without further ado: Vital’s First Steps on Twitter.

Getting Started

Twitter is a “microblogging” service. You get 140 characters to post an update, no more. When you create an account, you will create a username. If you are creating a personal Twitter account, create a name that uses part or all of your name. We don’t recommend using numbers if you can help it–fake Twitter accounts often use numbers and you don’t want to look like a fake account. If you are creating a business account, ideally you should use your whole business name for your Twitter name. If your business name is very long or contains several words, choose something that will still be recognizable, and avoid using numbers or unfamiliar abbreviations. Be sure to upload a profile picture, too. It’s a fact that users who have a picture instead of the default egg images get more followers.

Talk the Talk

@ Reply: If you see an @ followed by a username, that’s an @ reply. These are used to hold a public conversation with a user. The user you send the tweet to will see this message in their “Activity” tab, and users who follow you and the message recipient will see the tweet in their newsfeed. If you want all your followers to see your tweet, type something before the @ reply. For example, write “Hey, @Vital_Design, great blog post!” instead of “@Vital_Design Great blog post!”  All of your @ replies will be visible on your profile page.

DM: DM stands for direct message, which is a private conversation with another Twitter user. You can only send DMs to Twitter users who follow you. These are good for more specialized or personal messages–if you have a specific question or request for another Twitter user, it’s best to send a DM.  (Seriously, learn the difference. Just ask Anthony Weiner)

RT: RT stands for retweet. If you like what someone says on Twitter, you can retweet it to spread the message to your followers as well.

Hashtag (#): If you see the pound symbol (#) before a word or phrase, that’s a hashtag–basically a keyword tag for the tweet so that other Twitter users can click on it and find other tweets on the topic. Hashtags can be used to help people search for your tweet (like #socialmedia or #blogging), or you can just use them for fun (like #OverheardAtVital). Not every tweet needs hashtags. Basically, it’s a way to follow the stream of everyone talking about a specific subject.

Understanding the Difference Between a Mention and Reply

Good Twitiquette

1. Do be helpful

Twitter is at its best when people are using it to ask and answer questions, find solutions and talk to people they might not be able to reach otherwise (someday I will tell you about the glorious day Bruce Springsteen replied to one of my tweets). Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you respect or are interested in, and be generous in sharing your own expertise.

2. Do be polite

This one should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: be nice. Please and thank you goes a long way in life and it goes a long way on social media, too.

3. Don’t automate

Stay away from automating your Twitter account. For example, there are services that allow you to send auto DM someone when they follow you – most people DM with something like, “Thanks for the follow. Check out my blog” People aren’t going to want to follow you if you start your Twitter relationship by spamming them. Welcoming new followers is a great way to connect, but make sure it’s personal and welcoming.


Social media marketing is one of the things we do best! If you’re interested in learning more about how you can put Twitter, Facebook and more to work for your business, get in touch with us today. (And you can use that shiny new Twitter account to follow the entire Vital team on Twitter).

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