Getting started on Twitter is not difficult and could be a “No Brainer” for some of the more than 100 million Tweeple now signed on. But if you’re a journalist — or training to become one — then getting started the right way takes some thought and strategic planning in advance.
1. Your Twitter name: Authenticity is essential in the practice of journalism, so the name or “handle” you use to post your tweets should be as close to your own identity as possible. With 100+ million Tweeple, getting your own exact name is unlikely, but you can add numbers, initials, or something creative to your actual name.
Keep in mind, however, that each Tweet must be limited to 140 characters AND that includes your name [preceded by the "@" sign]; therefore, shorter is better.
2. Your BIO: Credibility and trust can be more easily established when you describe clearly and concisely who you are and why your followers should believe you and want to hear more of what you have to say. When preparing this bio, you should think of the phrase “Personal Brand” and try to write something that you can consistently post throughout the web to establish exactly who you are.
3. Your first tweets: Before even thinking about gathering a following, you should give serious thought to how to begin your Twitterstream, i.e., what you will say. After all, most people will only want to follow you if they believe you post valuable links and insights. Not only that — and I haven’t seen this advice anywhere else — but when people first add you, that is the best time for them to put you on a list of people they “really” want to listen to.
My own blog has several articles on what to tweet, and here is a link to What to Tweet to Stand out from the Masses. At the close of that post are other links for more what-to-tweet tips.
4. Whom to follow: As a journalist, you might want to start with ten twitter users that every journalism student should follow. Another easy source for influential tweeters is the site Listorious, which is a directory of lists: You can find lists of experts on a host of categories, as well as lists of the oldest Twitter users, most followed Tweeters, etc. My own article Be choosy when selecting Tweeple to follow offers a few more suggestions including links to Twitter directories and a way to find individuals who share your interests by checking search.twitter.com.
PS I just discovered that Twitter has added a new feature called “Who to Follow” on the top menu board. If you click on the link, you will see a list of recommended tweeple based on whom you already follow “and more.”
Social Media Common Wisdom: Take baby steps. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Have fun!
Here’s a “cheat sheet” with twitter jargon and other resources: http://sharisax.com/2009/12/03/twitter-basics-workshop-cheat-sheet/