I had already written this Twitter guide for internal use at VisitSweden when I came across this article: “Twitter is widely adopted by the travel industry” from NewMedia TrendWatch. I thought I would do my little part towards promoting Twitter usage in the travel and tourism industry by making this beginner’s guide to Twitter public.
I hope you’ll enjoy it and find it useful and please feel free to add comments below with feedback and constructive suggestion for improvements.
What is Twitter?
“Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.”
More in depth information about Twitter on Wikipedia
Twitter explained in a short video
This video explains what Twitter is and how it is used by regular people. If you know nothing of Twitter this is a good place to start.
Twitter SEARCH explained in a short video
One of the powerful aspects of Twitter is how it is searchable which allows us to find trends, topics and other people. This video explains this further and is a must to watch.
Username / URL
A Twitter’s username is shown in the web address as such: http://twitter.com/username
The direct web address for search on twitter and to look at the current trending topics is http://search.twitter.com/
This page allows you to search for other twitter users (you must be logged in to do this) or to find them through contacts on other networks or to invite by email etc.
Your Twitter Home page will show a “feed” / a list of the tweets of those you are following. If you’re following other users who you find interesting then this page will be a constant source of useful tips and great inspiration for you.
These are the other Twitter users who are following you and your tweets. Every time you post a tweet it will show up in their Home page, in their following feed.
“Mentions” – what it is and how to use it.
When a Twitter user writes “@” in front of another user’s name, that user will then get a notification that somebody has posted a tweet mentioning him/her.
This helps to visualize that a public conversation is taking place between certain users. It’s also a way to make another user aware of the fact that you’re talking/mentioning him/her.
Lidt sært, at de seneste dages meget hypede @visitsweden twitter på svensk. Ikke så imødekommende over for turister… 3:56 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck
@bjarkesvendsen Actually we twitter in English with this account for tourists. With @VisitSweden for the press and tourism ind. 3:58 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck in reply to bjarkesvendsen
@bjarkesvendsen and every market have gotten their own local twitter account for their language to engage local press. This work starts soon.
4:00 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck in reply to bjarkesvendsen
@Sweden I take back my words! Sorry bout that 4:01 PM Nov 6th from TweetDeck in reply to Sweden
(Notice the time stamps for the tweets in this conversation and how quickly I could discover this negative post and turn it into a positive reaction instead.)
“ReTweets” – what it is and how to use it.
When a user encounters a good tweet he/she might want to tell others about that tweet. Instead of stealing it and taking the credit for it he/she can make a “Retweet” of it.
By publishing the same tweet but adding the letters “RT” to it the original publisher will be notified that somebody liked the tweet so much that it was retweeted.
This allows a viral spread of interesting tweets while maintaining the chain of twitter users and giving credit where credit is due.
If there are still characters available after adding the “RT” then adding a personal comment is appropriate.
David Attenborough spoof to boost VisitSweden Lapland Tourism: VisitSweden has turned to a British outfit to dri.. http://bit.ly/4clA9B
3:40 PM Oct 19th from twitterfeed
RT @utalkmarketing: David Attenborough spoof to boost VisitSweden Lapland Tourism http://bit.ly/4clA9B
3:26 PM Oct 21st from TweetDeck
(Notice that the Retweet (RT) is also a mention (@). Also notice that in this case I failed to add a personal comment…)
“Direct Messages” – what it is and how to use it
All conversations and tweets on Twitter are public and available for anyone to read, except for “Direct Messages”. This can be compared to an internal message system within Twitter from one user to another, although the 140 character limit still applies.
A direct message is written by adding a “D “ before a twitter username.
“D tommysollen Hi how are you?”.
This tweet would only be visible to the user “tommysollen”.
This feature might be more commonly used by friends, family and coworkers but rarely in any kind of marketing or pr purpose. If used commercially it would likely be considered spam.
“Hashtags” – what they are and how to use them
It is often appropriate to include a descriptive tag to a tweet to help describe what the tweet is about and thereby group it together with other tweets of the same topic.
“Blog post about http://CommunityOfSweden.com coming updates http://bit.ly/cos2010 #social #communities #sweden
3:50 PM Nov 2nd from TweetDeck”
This post has three hashtags telling the reader that it has something to do with social, communities and Sweden.
Hashtags are useful when searching Twitter for interesting tweets.
If you were to search for “social” then you will find all kinds of irrelevant tweets including the word “social”. But by adding the hashtag so it becomes “#social” instead it has now become a descriptive tag instead of just a word and you can be sure that hits in the search result will have relevance to social media.
When considering what hashtag to use try a few test searches first and see which one seems to be most actively used already and then proceed with that one.
It’s common for product owners and event organizers to invent a unique hashtag for their product/event in order to easily filter out all twitter posts with relevance for research and evaluation. Do this whenever appropriate.
Short URL/web address generators
Since a tweet is limited to 140 characters, including any RT, @ or usernames, a web address often threatens to eat up too many characters, barely leaving any characters for any meaningful message. URL shortening services have therefore gotten very popular.
For the purpose of this guide I’m recommending the URL shortening service Bit.ly. You might already have noticed that many of the URLs in the examples above looked something like this: http://bit.ly/4clA9B
Services like Bit.ly take your long URL and makes a unique shorter version of it. They also provide click statistics on your short URL which is very useful.
Bit.ly click history
Sign up for an account for free here: http://bit.ly/
Twitter client – making all this and more, easy
It might seem daunting to remember all these letter combinations to achieve the desired result and the website of twitter.com can be rather confusing.
It’s no surprise then that there’s cropped up quite a few “Twitter clients” that you can install on your PC windows or Mac and use to interact with Twitter in an easy and user friendly way. Not only do these clients make Twitter easier to use, they also makes it easier for you to visualize the tweets of those you’re following, to stay up to date with your mentions, retweets and direct messages and even saved searches.
Depending on the tool you choose you will also be able to manage several twitter accounts through only one client, without needing to log in and out between them.
For the purpose of this guide I’m recommending the Twitter client “TweetDeck”. TweetDeck is free and available for PC Windows, Mac and even as an iPhone app.
Click the screenshot or here to visit the TweetDeck website. Also visit their help section online for support.
Photos on Twitter – is it possible?
Yes it is, kind of. You can upload a photo to a website and then link to it in a tweet. There are some services that makes this process quite easy and for the purpose of this guide I’m recommending TwitPic.
If you have a Twitter account then you already have a Twitpic account, just login to Twitpic with your Twitter username and password and you are all set.
You then upload a photo and enter the text you want to show up in your tweet along with the link to the photo. Immediately when the photo is uploaded a tweet will automatically be sent telling your followers of the photo and how to view it.
Sharing files on Twitter – is it possible?
Yes, in the same manner as described regarding photos above.
Here I’d like to recommend the free service FileTwt for file sharing on Twitter.
Finally I’d like to recommend a quick glance at some simple eqiquette guidelines of how to act on Twitter. As a new Twitter user you might have some questions of how to behave in certain situations. Although there is no manual or rules set in stone, here’s a good blog post by Chris Brogan where he’s written a brief and informal Twitter etiquette guide. Enjoy.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginner’s guide to Twitter and found it useful. Please feel free to add comments below with feedback and constructive suggestion for improvements.
Follow me on Twitter:
@tommysollen (my personal Twitter)
@sweden (VisitSweden’s Twitter to travellers
@visitsweden (VisitSweden’s Twitter towards english speaking press