twitter-logo-hashtagFounded in 2006, Twitter’s 140-character bite-size updates have transformed the world’s access to real-time information. Its simple interface allows for sharing anything from breaking news to sports, to great content, to worldwide politics. In a time when we’re oversaturated with media, Twitter also allows us to access what we need to know. Much of the reporting from the Arab Spring uprisings was done directly through Twitter. Through all of this, brands are joining the network not only to promote their messages, but also to quickly and succinctly address the needs of their customers.

Setting Up Your Profile

In order to have a successful Twitter presence, you need to have a fully optimized profile. Let’s go through the main Twitter profile elements:

Your Username Your username is the @username that people will reference you by on Twitter as well as the custom URL for your Twitter profile, Consider branding your Twitter handle with your real name for your personal account and with your business name for your professional account, as opposed to random keywords. (You will be able to keyword optimize your profile in other ways. Plus, people who are searching for you on Twitter will likely start with @yourbusiness vs. @yourkeywords.)

Your Name You should use the name field for your name or your business name – basically, whatever name you want people to be able to find you by – as it will show in search like this:

While you may be tempted to optimize your name field with keywords, don’t worry – you can do that in the profile bio instead.

Your Profile To set up or modify your profile, go to the settings wheel dropdown at the top right of your Twitter screen. Click on Settings. Then go to Profile. Here you will be able to take care of a few things.

First, you can update your profile image. This should be a square image that best represents you or your business. It also should be one that you use across all of your social profiles so people will be able to recognize you easily from one network to the next, especially in spots where only your profile image is displayed:

Next, you’ll add your header image. This is the image that appears at the top right of your profile and is overlaid with your profile photo, username, bio, location, and website in white text.

Header images also come up when someone views your Twitter profile on their mobile, which makes them more important than the background image:

When it comes to your profile bio, be sure to include important keywords for yourself or your business, as these are searchable on Twitter itself. If you have room, also consider adding your URL here as well as in the website field. When people search for you on Twitter or see your Twitter profile in any list on Twitter, the only website that will show up is the one in the bio:

Enhancing Your Website with Twitter

There are several ways you can incorporate Twitter into your website to increase the growth of your Twitter audience and expand the exposure of your content on Twitter:

Twitter Follow Button Adding the official Twitter follow button to your website will allow people to follow you on Twitter without leaving your website.

Twitter Retweet Button Make it easier for people to share content from your website with their followers by adding the official Twitter retweet button. Best of all, this button (when configured properly) will add “via @yourusername” to tweets people send and recommend that they follow you on Twitter after they have tweeted you content.

Twitter Hashtag Button Trying to promote a branded hashtag? The Twitter hashtag button pre-fills the hashtag in a status update box so people can tweet with it.

Twitter Mention Button Want to encourage people to send a tweet to you? Use the mention button that will pre-fill your desired username in a status update box so people can tweet it.

If you have content that you want people to share, you also will want to look into implementing Twitter Cards. Twitter Cards will allow your content to be shared in an expanded view similar to Facebook shares with a title, description, and thumbnail image:

Basic Twitter Lingo

Since everyone has only 140 characters to work with, not everything is going to be spelled out for you. Here are some top terms and abbreviations you should know about when looking through the world of Twitter.

Hashtags – Hashtags are #terms that categorize your tweets and help them go beyond your followers on the Twittersphere. For example, if someone uses the hashtag #SEO in a post, and another person clicks on it, all tweets with that hashtag will come up. Keep in mind that hashtags are optional. And it’s best to go with only one or two at most because you don’t want to distract people into clicking the hashtag instead of your link.

Retweet – A retweet (RT) is when someone shares your tweet with followers. When you hover over a tweet in Twitter, you’ll see the option to retweet. Most Twitter management tools will allow you to retweet any tweets you see as well.

Hat Tip – A hat tip (HT) is when someone gives another user credit for discovering something. For example, if you see a tweet by someone recommending a blog post and you decide to share that blog post without retweeting the original user, you still can give them credit for the discovery with a HT @username.

Trends – Trends are the hot topics on Twitter based on keywords and #hashtags. If you can find a legitimate and relevant way to get in on a trending topic by tweeting something with the specific keywords or #hashtag, it’s a great way to get more exposure on Twitter.

Via – When you see via @username, it usually means a link is from that user’s website or that user is the author. It is the way Twitter’s retweet button handles crediting a tweet from a specific page or website.

Twitter Chat – A Twitter chat is a discussion revolving around one #hashtag. For example, on Sundays at 7:00 p.m., a large community of bloggers talks about a specific topic around the #blogchat hashtag. You can see the analytics of the last #blogchat here and a list of current Twitter chats in this Google spreadsheet. There are many more Twitter chats out there. Unfortunately, someone erased the original spreadsheet, so they are back to collecting information again.

Mention – When someone mentions you on Twitter, it means they have used your @username in a tweet.

Direct Message – A direct message is a private message sent from one user to another. You can send direct messages only to those who follow you and receive them only from those you follow.

Twitter Lists – Twitter allows you to create lists of up to 500 people for private or public consumption. You can view a Twitter list to see updates from just the people on the list.

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