The 8 R’s of Twitter for Newbies

I had a friend call me the other day, to see if I could give them a quick Twitter tutorial. We talked about developing their strategy for Twitter. They are a very smart marketer, so I was surprised when they said after our conversation:

“Okay great, I’m going to be a voyeur for a few weeks and then I’ll start getting into it.”

To which I replied: “No, no, don’t wait, just start now! Find 10 people you want to get to know, and THAT will make Twitter more interesting for you.”

Almost everywhere I turn these days, people ask me how I got my followers, what do I say on Twitter and once you get through the sign up process and are staring at that blank update box:

How do you get started on Twitter?

Here below, are my 8 R’s for Twitter newbies:

1. Read

Once you have your 10 people to follow who may be friends, peers, mentors, influencers or potential clients, you’ll now have an interesting Twitter feed to read. To best enjoy Twitter, pick people who are tweeting often so you can see how they interact online. Most likely these people are sharing valuable information, so read the articles they share.

2. Re-tweet

To get your feet wet if you can’t figure out what to say, simply re-tweet what you just read even if you only have one follower! The person whose article you just shared may see this and perhaps thank you for it (I personally try to thank as many people as I can who RT my stuff).

If you can, add a thought or phrase in addition to the RT. Even something like “love how you think”, or “I like your point #5” can spur a conversation. And isn’t that the point?

3. Relate

This is the biggie and where I spend the most time. People also use the terms engage, build community and so forth. At the end of the day, it’s about relating as one person to another.

Building relationships online is just like building relationships offline.

If someone does something nice for you, thank them.

If someone asks a question and you can help, answer them.

If someone shares something that solved your problem, acknowledge them.

If you can connect people who need to meet, introduce them.

And so on. And no, this doesn’t always happen over public tweets. Some of my most interesting conversations happen in DMs (direct messages), which then cross over into email, and then if we want to take it further, we do a Skype video call, or if we’re in the same city, we meet in person.

As an entrepreneur who sometimes lives in two countries, and an island, online networking has served me well. Twitter is a tool I use to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise have the pleasure of meeting. And it has made my world a lot more colorful and creative.

4. Rejoice

Now this is one place where it can be better online, than in real life! If you have a happy event – your book comes out a bestseller, you land a new client, your son finishes first in a race – on social networks, people you may not know congratulate you and rejoice with you. In a real-life networking event, it would be a bit strange to get on stage and make such announcements right?

It’s also about attitude. I rarely rant or share my frustrations. Of course I have them, we all do, but I choose to have a positive presence online. If all you did was complain “woe is me” and cut people down with nasty blog comments – do you really think that would win you over clients? Sharing your opinion and being authentic is one thing, being argumentative and having a negative vibe is another. Take the high road whenever you can.

5. Research

You’re on social networks because of business, right? Then it’s also great for research and seeing what people are saying about you, your company, products or services, your competitors, your customers, your industry.

When I first started on Twitter, it was great to answer the questions I had about blogging, auto responders, creating info products like ebooks, webinars and the like. I learned so much from those I followed, and I got so many ideas from those on my Twitter stream. All in real time, all for free.

6. Relax

For goodness sake’s. Just use your common sense (don’t drink and tweet!) and don’t feel like every tweet you issue has to have thought leadership. Doing so just makes you look like a robot, or a very uptight, high-fallutin person… which I know you are not.

7. and 8. Rinse and Repeat

Yup, just like washing your hair, day in and day out. You get to start over and every day you have the possibility of having a great-hair day. Again, like networking in real-life, it takes showing up and being consistent. It takes giving as well as receiving. And it takes time and patience to build lasting relationships.

I’ve been on Twitter for two years now, and I’ve often heard the description of social networking sites as getting “friends with benefits.” I like to think that I came on Twitter for the business benefits and I’ve also come out with some great friends.

Which of these tips did you find more helpful? Can you think of other tips for those who are just starting out on Twitter?

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