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by Matt LaCasse

One of the largest social media networks in the world is still an enigma to many people. 288 million people use Twitter every month; 80% of those people are on mobile devices. That’s not surprising as more mobile devices come online, and the Internet moves from the desktop to your pocket. It also means that Twitter’s reputation for immediacy is only going to be amplified in the future. So, how do you use Twitter?

Let’s assume you’re not on Twitter at all. The first thing you’ll want to do is pick a handle (username). This should be your name, or your business’ name, or some semblance of it. Keep it as short as you can, because you (and other users) only have 140 characters to use. For your profile picture, use a headshot image or your brand’s logo. This will make you easily identifiable to current customers and introduces you to people who haven’t met you yet. You only have 160 characters in your bio, so hit the high points. Be engaging; however, that fits you or your brand’s personality.

The first tweet is always the hardest part. Many of those tend to be, “Checking out Twitter!” or “We’re finally here!”. Which is completely fine. The first tweet is so difficult to pull off, that when there’s a great first one it makes headlines. Like the CIA’s last year:

That’s pretty brilliant. If you can come up with something along those lines, kudos to you. There’s no one on earth that knows you, or your brand, better than you. Come up with something that’s going to be a hook for people.

When you start following people, there’s really only one rule to keep in mind. Follow people or brands you find valuable. You can define value however you wish. They could be funny, provide great information, a great customer…any way you find value in them. People I follow fall into a few different categories. News sources of some kind, people that I find have great thoughts on my industry (marketing), and friends or family. Only you can determine what value means to you.

Twitter has made hashtags ubiquitous on the Internet, and they’re integral to how Twitter works. Think of hashtags as an existing link to a search. Many brands have hashtags they (or other users) have given them. Just search #Apple, #Microsoft, or #Walmart. You’ll find all sorts of tweets. Hashtags have really evolved; they’re sometimes used as jokes or snarky one-liners. The only way to really learn about them is to jump in and use them. I can explain all day long, but really using them is the only way to really wrap your head around them.

The best way to think about Twitter is to treat it like a business networking happy hour. People will be talking shop, but they’ll also be talking about what was on TV last night, the big game this weekend, or the latest breaking news. Don’t be afraid to talk about topics not directly related to your business.  A good rule of thumb to follow: Anything you tweet is recorded forevermore, so don’t tweet anything you do not want to hear repeated publicly. People are on social media to have FUN and trade information. So, have fun with Twitter. Need advice? Just follow me on Twitter (@MattLaCasse) and let’s chat.