Twitter for newbies

When you’re new to twitter it’s a bit of a scary place. Everything moves at breakneck speed and it’s hard to keep track of what the heck is going on. It took me three shots at twitter to finally ‘get it’ and now I have to say, it’s my favourite social media hangout.

Despite what many people think, twitter is not somewhere people go just share their most inane of thoughts, it is actually all about the conversation. It’s very hard though to get involved in the conversation (and thus get the best out of twitter ) when you’re new to the hood so here is a bit of a gentle progression for getting your head around it all.

1. Start following people

How do you know who to follow? Well to be honest, this is the hardest bit when you’re completely new. I am fairly sure twitter suggests people for you to follow based on your industry or who you’re friends with on facebook so start there. Another way to do it is to think of major thought leaders or influencers in your industry or interest groups and do a search for their name.

2. Observe

At the start, just sit back and observe. When I first started on twitter I used it as a news aggregator more than anything – and what a great news aggregator it was! I followed a lot of marketing experts and spent a lot of time clicking on the links they shared as they led to really interesting articles. I can’t remember the last time I went to Google looking for marketing articles because twitter serves up all the very latest stuff straight to my stream!

3. Follow the people your people are following

Confused? All this means is, check out who your tweeps (twitter peeps) are following, or having conversations with … and then follow them too. The best thing about doing this is that you’ll start to get a handle on how the twitter conversation works because you’ll see whole conversations come up in your stream, rather than just one side.

 4. Observe some more

The more people you follow, the more overwhelming your stream may get but persist. And feel free to be brutal – if someone in your stream is driving you nuts, then unfollow them. While you are observing, take note of who you like most on twitter and what kind of stuff they tweet. Chances are you will like the people who tweet stuff that is interesting to YOU and very little stuff about themselves. This is the major ‘secret’ of twitter and every social network – the people who are most useful to others are the most popular.

5. Join in the conversation

Once you’ve reached some kind of comfort level on twitter, you can join in a conversation. The easiest way to do this is if someone asks a question and you have the answer. You can reply to them and sometimes (not all the time) they will reply back (their reply will appear in your stream, but you can also check your @ Connect tab to see if you’ve missed a reply). Another way to start a conversation is to tell someone you liked the info in a link they’ve shared. A really simple “thanks for that article, it was really interesting” is nice and let’s that person know you appreciate the things they are sharing.

6. See if you can connect with other newbies

When I first stumbled across all the Aussie bloggers on twitter it felt a little bit like high school –  to me it looked like a lot of people clamouring for the attention of those few that were the ‘in-crowd’, and it was hard not to get sucked into clamouring myself. Somehow I managed to connect with my own little newbie crowd and it was nice to know that if I engaged them in conversation, they would be sure to answer back.

7. Start to share

Once you’re comfortable on twitter you can start to share stuff yourself. I can’t stress this enough – BE USEFUL. I am a writer. I follow and am followed by a lot of fellow writers. If I come across a great article on writing, I share it because I know my writer tweeps are going to like it. Sharing great stuff is what opens the doors for other people to start conversations with you.


The sort of final word

As I mentioned at the top of this piece – twitter is my absolute favourite social media place to hang out bar none. I have made wonderful new friends there and it has allowed me to connect with lots of people who share similar interests to me – people I simply would never come into contact with otherwise. It has also allowed me to connect with thought leaders in my industry and once again, this is just not something I’d be able to do in the real world (being a massive introvert and all).

So as scary as twitter appears, it is well worth persisting with and once you’ve cracked it, I can guarantee you too will become an addict :)


Some things to note

  1. Don’t feel obliged to follow everyone that follows you. Only follow people you think have something of interest to offer you
  2. Keep an eye on your @ mentions (these are accessed by clicking on the @ Connect tab at the top of the twitter browsers) as these show you when people are trying to have a conversation with you.
  3. When you are tweeting, it’s not about you or your business, it is about being useful to the people that follow you. If you come across an article or a quote or a resource that would be of interest to the people following you, share it.
  4. When you are joining in a conversation, it really needs to be a conversation going on right now, not one that started one or more hours ago.
  5. Don’t be offended if you reply to someone and they don’t reply to you. For the most part, they are not being rude, they just might have got a million replies to their question and can’t answer everyone.
  6. If someone you don’t know sends you a DM with a link in it, don’t click on the link! It is probably something spammy or phishy. Even if someone you DO know sends you a DM with a link in it, think twice before clicking.
  7. You can also set up your twitter settings to email you whenever someone @ mentions you or sends you a Direct Message (DM). This is handy if you’re not on there all the time and might miss being included in a conversation.


Want to connect with me on twitter? You can find me at @kellyexeter.


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  1. Lindy says:

    Hi Kelly, I’ve discovered that I still have some questions!!
    What is the tick in the blue circle about?
    How do you compress website/links (like the etc etc)
    What is a troll?
    And the big one …
    if you’re following someone ‘famous’ – do ordinary folk ever reach out and contact them?
    Thanks Kelly 😀

    1. Kelly Exeter says:

      Hey Lindy!
      1. The blue tick in the circle means it is a ‘Verified Account’ – these are usually for celebrities to say ‘this is me and not someone pretending to be me’!
      2. How to compress links? I have a account (you can get one for free from You drop your link into and it compresses it for you. Even better, tells you how many people clicked on your link! The shortlink is from Hootsuite (ie anyone who uses Hootsuite for tweeting, when they drop a link in to Hootsuite, it automatically compresses to am shortlink)
      3. A troll is a nasty person who says nasty things to people online purely to get a reaction.
      4. Famous people – some are awesome and engage fully on twitter, most do not. I don’t follow many celebrities because to me, if you are not on twitter to engage directly, then you shouldn’t be on there :)

  2. Gabe McGrath says:


    Followed your link from the SWC Faffbook group….

    One tip I’d add… Which is about safety….

    If you get a tweet or direct message from someone you don’t know,
    And the -only- thing it contains is a shortened link eg hfetwsd
    Then do-not-click-on-the-link !!!

    It is very likely to be a scam website, if not a malware site that will infect your computer.

    Otherwise, enjoyed your post… Concentrating on ‘listening’ is good advice.

    1. Kelly says:

      Great tip Gabe!! I have added it in!

  3. Lindy says:

    Yay – that’s super helpful – thank you! It’s like I have my very own twitter-guru!
    One more question … if I want to retweet something but I want to add a comment as well – how can I do that?
    Ok now that’s really it!!

    1. Kelly Exeter says:

      Ok so the native twitter program in your browser doesn’t facilitate retweeting and adding a comment very well so most people use a program like Hootsuite to do this more easily.

      On my iPad the twitter app allows me to “quote tweet” whic means I can add a comment in before tweeting :)

  4. Lindy says:

    Aha, that makes sense. Thanks again Kelly x

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