The beginner's guide to using Twitter

Most likely, you have a Facebook page. And, if you're like me, you don't get a ton of traffic or engagement to your Facebook page because of their wonky (and annoying) algorithm. Don't get me wrong, I still use my Facebook business page. But, I know that I will not get a lot of interaction and results from it, so I focus my energy on Twitter, Instagram and my e-mail list. 

Don't get me wrong, I still use my Facebook business page, and update on it. But, I know that I will not get a lot of interaction and results from it, so I focus my energy elsewhere. What do I focus on, you ask? Twitter and my e-mail list (and Instagram, a little bit).

I've heard so many other entrepreneurs talk about how annoyed they are with Facebook, but they don't understand Twitter. This post is going to walk Twitter newbies how to make the most of their Twitter profile, and really use + understand the platform. 


Let's start with the Twitter terminology before we dive in. 

  • Tweet: A 140-character message that you can read or post on Twitter; can also include photos, links, and videos.
  • Follow: When you follow someone, you are essentially subscribing to their tweets. Their tweets will appear in your Twitter feed. (Also, Unfollow is when a user decides to stop following another user. Similar to un-friending.)
  • Hashtag: A word or phrase preceded by a pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. (i.e. – #design, #Atlanta, #jesscreatives, #eventname)
  • Retweet: A repost or forward of someone else's tweet, that you are sharing with your audience. (Often signified by the acronym "RT"; a "MT" is a modified-retweet, usually used to shorten the tweet so it can be under 140 characters.)
  • Handle: The username someone has selected for their profile, as well as the accompanying URL. For example, @jesscreatives is my handle, and my Twitter URL is
  • Reply: You can interact with others by @replying to others and by mentioning them in your own tweets. Do so by clicking the reply button on a tweet. 
  • Mention: A mention is any tweet that contains "@username" in the body of the tweet. (This means that @replies are also considered mentions.) Some people use "HT or h/t" which means "hat tip." It's a way of acknowledging the person who originally shared the content.
  • Direct Message: A "DM" is a private message that can only be seen between the two users in the message. 
  • Favorite (or Like): To favorite a Tweet means to mark it as one of your favorites by clicking the yellow star next to the message. (Similar to a Facebook like.)
  • Lists: Groups of other Twitter users. Used to tie specific individuals into a group on your Twitter account. You do not have to follow someone to add them to a list.
  • Notifications: The Notifications tab lets you view interactions, mentions, recent follows and Retweets.
  • Promoted Tweets: You won't see these often, but they are tweets that businesses have paid to promote on Twitter. You will sometimes see promoted tweets from businesses/people that you aren't even following.

Related: Why you should use more images on Twitter

Twitter Profile

Some people have separate Instagram profiles for business and personal, but since you are new to Twitter, I would recommend starting with just one Twitter profile. (Unlike Facebook, there is only one type of profile. No pages/profile differentiation.) Make sure your account is not locked, so people can easily follow you and share your content!

Brand your Twitter profile to match your business. How?

  • Use the same profile picture that you use on other platforms. Most entrepreneurs use their headshot, instead of their logo because it's more personal. 
  • Your bio should easily tell your audience what you do. (Here's a few examples on the right!) There is a specific place to link to your website. Some people will change this link for a current webinar sign-up, blog, etc. If you want to do this, have your website linked within the bio description, so people can still go straight to your website. 
  • While not many people will see, or think much of, your header image -- it should be a photo of your product, or be advertising your services. 

Related: Two creative strategies to stand out on social media

Following people

On Facebook, when you friend someone, you both see each other's feeds. On Twitter, you can follow someone, but they won't necessarily follow you back -- much like Instagram.

Who should you follow? People in your industry or related industries, ideal clients, and people in your online community. For me, that means fellow designers, as well as web developers (people who are in a similar industry), and entrepreneurs that I would love to work with (or have worked with).

What do I tweet?

As is always the case, social media is not JUST for promoting yourself. Social media is about having conversations, engaging and interacting with others, and providing value. (Even U-Haul, who might have a REALLY hard time creating an interesting Twitter feed, is providing valuable content.)

  • Conversations: Even if you are following Joe, but he's not following you, you can still interact with him. Ask questions, comment on their blogs, or if it's relevant to your audience, retweet him. (A retweet is similar to a repost, forward or share.) He will still see your interaction with him, and can still respond to you. Think of it like saying hello to someone in the hallway. They may say hello back, but you won't become instant friends. After a few weeks or months, your conversation (and friendship) in the hallway may grow!
  • Providing Value: Think about what would be relevant and helpful to your audience. For instance, I work with a lot of entrepreneurs. My audience may not know the basics of good web design, how to best utilize email marketing, or how to create a system so their business runs smoothly. I can provide value to my audience not only through blogs (like this one), but by sharing other entrepreneurs insight as well. I follow some great marketing strategists, productivity experts, and business coaches!
  • Promoting Yourself: Most people follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your content is of value, or sharing other people's content, 20% is promoting yourself. I don't consider sharing my own blog posts as promoting myself, because it's of value. Promoting myself, in my mind, is tweets about my services, posting a recent design, etc. No one wants to read daily (sales-y) tweets about your product or service.
  • What to Include: Three important things to include in a tweet: a hashtag, a person's handle, and a link.Not every tweet will need or have all three of those elements. Some people go overboard on hashtags, but they are a great way to find similar content. U-Haul did great using #Baltimore, because people IN Baltimore may search that hashtag, and see their post. Hashtags are great for events, series, businesses, cities, etc. If you are quoting someone, it's always best to tag them, and link to the blog/article (if applicable). 
  • What Not to Include: Do NOT set it up so that all your Facebook posts or Pinterest pins are sent to Twitter. If a user wants to follow you on Facebook or Pinterest, they will! You can occasionally cross-promote your different profiles, asking people to follow you on other platforms.
I got a notification when Erin mentioned me in this tweet. And, she included a link to my blog!

I got a notification when Erin mentioned me in this tweet. And, she included a link to my blog!

Twitter Chats

What are Twitter chats? Some people don't know what exactly a Twitter chat is, and some don't know how to participate. 

A Twitter chat is basically what it sounds like like -- a chat. The chat will last usually from at least half an hour, to a full hour. There are a few parts to every chat:

  • Host: There's always one person (sometimes two) people that are in charge of the chat. This person is the one who created + initiated this chat, came up with the hashtag, and probably invited you to the chat. 
  • Hashtag: The hashtag is probably the most important aspect of participating in the chat. When you think of a chat, you probably imagine a chat room of selected users, or a private message. With a Twitter chat, there's no room -- everyone can see your posts. To create sort of an "invisible room" for the Twitter chat, everyone uses a #hashtag. If you just reply to the host, and don't use the hashtag, the rest of the room won't see your tweet!
  • Questions: The purpose of the chat is to ask the participants questions, and create community. The host(s) will ask questions periodically, about every 6 to 10 minutes. With each new question, they will use Q1, Q1, Q3, etc. to help keep participants on track. As a participant, you should use A1, A2, A3, so everyone knows which question you are answering.

Related: Three great reasons to start using Snapchat

Keeping up with Twitter

To view my feed, I use TweetDeck, which will allow you to view multiple Twitter feeds (my personal and Jess Creatives accounts, shown here), as well as other notifications, activity and scheduled tweets.

You can schedule tweets within Tweetdeck, but I use Edgar for my scheduling needs. Scheduling tweets is a great way to keep consistent at posting on Twitter. Most users try to schedule out tweets for a few days or a week in advance. 

The Activity feed on the far right is showing me the actions of people I follow – but only favorites and new people they decide to follow. I don't pay much attention to this stream, as it feels a bit creepy, but it's good to watch now and then to see what my audience is interested in (well, that is, if those people are following me back).

I hope this has helped you gain a better understanding of Twitter! Start small, and slow – make a goal to interact and post once a day on Twitter, and then work your way up! 

What questions do you have? Ask below!

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