EdNET 2010 Roundtable: A Twitter How-To Guide for Businesses
The number of people using social networking tools has grown exponentially during the last few
years, resulting in online communities that provide a way to interact with customers, prospects,
media, bloggers, and other key influencers. An effective way to begin communicating with these
key influencers is to join online networking communities. Twitter, a free social networking and
micro-blogging service, can serve as viable channel for reaching current and potential customers, in
addition to building your brand online. To help you be proactive about the opportunities Twitter has
to offer, here are some helpful tips.
What is micro-blogging?
Micro-blogging is a form of blogging that limits the writer to publishing brief text updates (usually
under 200 characters) to be viewed by anyone, or by a select group chosen by the author. The most
popular service is Twitter, which has more than 190 million unique visitors per month, and supports
posts up to 140 characters.
How do I get started using Twitter?
1. Go to http://twitter.com/ and click on “Sign up now.”
2. Create a username that is authentic and easy to remember. Choose either your company’s
name or your own name. Avoid names that are “cute” or too clever, which may deter people
from following you. We recommend keeping your name short. This allows more characters
to be used for content, links and retweeting (see below).
3. Once your account is created, set up your profile under “Settings.”
a. Include your company’s URL, which provides validation to your account.
b. Provide a one-line bio of you or your company. Be sure it includes the key words
(such as “education,” “technology” or “teaching”) that are associated with your
brand for easy searching. Also, many organizations are now noting which of their
representatives are actually tweeting to provide a “human face” to the brand.
c. Upload a profile image, either your picture or a company logo. This is important, as
other Twitter users will identify your account primarily by its picture.
d. Adjust the background design. There are a few Twitter backgrounds provided
through Twitter, but most are overused. We recommend creating a custom design
that depicts your brand, which you may choose to do in-house or by commissioning
a third party. Here is a site that can create a custom background for you for a small
4. To “follow” someone on Twitter, visit his or her Twitter homepage and click the “Follow”
button under the profile image. Anyone can follow you, but you can choose whether or not
to follow him or her back. You can block someone, if you believe it is necessary.
What are the terms I should know?
• Retweet: When you read someone else’s post and believe it will have value to your
followers, you can forward or “retweet” the post by placing an “RT” at the front of your
message, attributing the post to the original author by placing an @ sign in front of their
name, and copying/pasting the original message.
• Reply: You can respond to any tweet via a reply, which will appear on your feed for all your
followers to see. To reply to a tweet, place an @ sign in front of the recipient’s name and
type your message.
• Direct Message: A direct message can be sent only to one of your followers. It is a one-
way communication and will not appear on your feed. You can direct message someone by
placing a “DM” in front of the recipient’s name at the beginning of your message.
• Tiny URL: As you have only 140 characters to draft your message, it is critical that you use
a tiny URL when providing a link. There are many sites available online that will allow you
to transform a long URL into a tiny URL, such as a bit.ly or an ow.ly.
• Set goals for your brand (or yourself). What is the purpose of tweeting? How many
followers would you like to have after a month?
• You have 140 characters to write your message. We recommend that you stay closer to 120
characters. This allows people to retweet your message, which helps in building your brand.
• Place important keywords at the front of your message, and the least important words
toward the end. Readers have short attention spans, so catching them early on is key.
• Share important company announcements, information about product launches, and events,
but keep the verbiage informal and light.
• Share videos and pictures that showcase your brand.
• Never pick a fight with anyone on Twitter. Stay positive and friendly.
• Be careful what your write – once you’ve hit the update button, the text is always available
online for anyone to find and read.
• Follow people who are in the education industry (educators, associations, vendors, media,
etc.). They are more likely to follow you in return.
• Some people on Twitter will follow you simply because they are trying to build a gigantic
following. Don’t feel bad about not following them back.
• Use links to validate your messages. Send readers back to your Web site, to newsworthy
stories online, or to great pictures.
• You can track how many people click through your links by using shortened bit.ly and ow.ly
URLs, and checking the analysis services provided by those sites.
Charlene Blohm and Kristen Plemon
C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.
EdNET 2010, Boston