Tips to becoming a Twitter Pro — before your first Tweet

Filed in Journalism 64 comments

Getting started on Twitter is not difficult and could be a “No Brainer” for some of the more than 600 million Tweeple now signed on. But getting started the right way takes some thought and strategic planning in advance.

Here are your first Pro Steps:

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 600+ 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.

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: 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

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:

Print Friendly
Be Sociable, Share!
Enjoyed reading this post?
Subscribe to the RSS feed or Email and have all new posts delivered straight to you.
Posted by Shari Weiss   @   31 January 2011
Tags : , , , , , ,
Jan 31, 2011
4:18 pm
#1 Amanthis Miller :

I really liked your advice on 3&4, for finding a good twitter role model and being meaningful with posts, but the first two points were raising some questions in my mind – like, how okay is it to be informal on twitter, or maybe, how seriously is Twitter taken in context of journalism?

I understand as a journalist-to-be, one doesn’t want their handle to be like “peachybabie69” but is it really essiential to try and have an “authentic” name? (And yes, my handle has nothing to do with my name).

Author Feb 1, 2011
1:45 am

Amanthis, the answer to your question is Simple: if you want to be respected as a journalist, then YES you do need to have an authentic, professional handle.

Jan 31, 2011
7:32 pm

Great value in this post Shari, I particularly like your closing line of “Social Media Common Wisdom: Take baby steps. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Have fun!” Network marketing should be fun and the tools we use to build our business should be fun. However, branding is everything. It is much more personable. It is hard to build credibility or trustworthiness when hiding behind a weird name. Just be yourself.


Author Feb 1, 2011
1:42 am

Darlene, do you have any questions about Twitter? I’m planning a few more Twitter articles and would love to answer pressing questions.

Jan 31, 2011
10:16 pm

Hi Shari:

I’m not a journalism student, but I do struggle with tweeting. You have some good advice in this blog, and I’ll follow up on reading some of you other articles so I can get better. Thanks for sharing this information.

Wishing you a song in your heart,
Miss Leslie @ Music with Miss Leslie

Author Feb 1, 2011
1:40 am

Leslie, glad I can help. Do you like Twitter? Have you used it much? For how long?

Jan 31, 2011
11:28 pm

These are great first steps. I’m now wondering though, if I should have started, or should start, a new Twitter account. My current Twitter account is tied to my personal blog, so I gave it a name that ties into my blog name. I suppose that is creating a brand, but as my blog is not journalism related – would it be best to start another Twitter account that is only devoted to journalistic endeavors?

Author Feb 1, 2011
1:37 am

The answer to your question is not easy — without studying your current Klout score and total internet presence. However, I don’t think it would be a bad move to start a new Twitter account that is journalistically-centered. We can discuss this issue in more detail on the Facebook page.

Feb 1, 2011
5:06 am
#9 Paul Odtaa :


A really good start on Twitter. Most people that don’t use Twitter – don’t see the point. They feel its more to do with people tweeting I had an egg for breakfast type of post.

In fact Twitter is probably the most revolutionary thing ever to happen in journalism as it provides instant access to information and people.

I recently had to explain the use of Twitter to a group of small business people who were very negative. They had to see the benefits before they’d believe me.

Fortunately in my demonstration I managed to find a useful potential supplier link for one businessman. During the break he managed to phone up and get an appointment the next. After that they were all hooked.

I’m sure you’re going to do a few follow-ups to the above post – but I feel it would be useful to give a hint to the amazing world of Twitter before people start Tweeting.

The things on Twitter useful to a journalist are:

1) follow the action so that they can quickly follow an issue. Egypt would be example.

2) research – so query a topic, person or business and those tweeting about the subject will probably be useful. Many Tweets will provide links to websites.

3) understand the use of the # symbol. For example protest in the UK against government cuts are labelled #ukuncut following this lead to instant information on various protests and it was actually used to organise flash protests.

4) Two way Twitter conversations. I get the impression that this is often the fastest way to get to a source.

5) Many businesses and organisations use Twitter as one of their methods of releasing information. There is usually a tweet with a web link.

Most bloggers of course automatically provide a Tweet for all their posts.

6) Products like Tweetdeck – that are there to help monitor specific queries or groups of of Twitter users.

Author Feb 1, 2011
12:30 pm
#10 Shari Weiss :

Paul, GREAT comment! I’m going to post this to my new Facebook group set up for my student journalists. Thank you so much for adding this great content to the conversation!

Author Feb 1, 2011
12:40 pm
#11 Shari Weiss :

Also, Paul, I will be updating my article on installing Tweetdeck, which I “fire up” along with Google Chrome as soon as I power up in the am.

Feb 1, 2011
11:12 am
#12 Gail Kent :

I’m glad you’re starting from scratch on this. Twitter is so confusing for people because it doesn’t work like other social media tools. Great stuff.

Author Feb 1, 2011
12:29 pm
#13 Shari Weiss :

And Gail, I’ll be recommending your case study on Zappos. Although “people in the know” may be tired of hearing about Zappos, the fact remains that this company has done remarkable things to shine a light on the power of social media and customer service.

Feb 1, 2011
6:45 pm
#14 Vanessa Jensen :

Thanks again for another very helpful post Shari! I feel I may have gone wrong in a few areas when I created my twitter account last week…first of all I should have created a better twitter name…to be honest I didn’t really think about it enough when I picked it 🙂 and another area where I feel I went wrong was choosing who to follow…I hope I can go back through my choices and make a few changes. But I haven’t written my bio or my first tweets so I still have a chance 🙂

@Paul _ Thanks for the link to your blog! That was also very helpful *

Author Feb 2, 2011
12:44 am
#15 Shari Weiss :

Vanessa . . . and everyone else . . . if you are just beginning to TWEET, then you can easily just delete one Twitter account if you feel you didn’t create it correctly. People may have as many Twitter accounts as they want. However, that being said, a person loses “Klout” by subdividing, so you should have definite reasons if you want to post on more than one Twitter account.

Feb 2, 2011
11:21 am
#16 Jodi Lee :

Shari – great list of stuff to remember about twitter!


Author Feb 2, 2011
12:56 pm
#17 Shari Weiss :

Jodi is there one listed item that particularly stands out in your mind?

Feb 2, 2011
11:33 pm
#18 Suzzanna Matthews :

@Vanessa – I had that same issue. I had an old Twitter account associated with my own personal and ‘ just for fun blog’, so I started another one specifically for journalism. I figure this is a good ideas if ever I need to share my Twitter account with potential employers.

I am however having a hard time with writing my bio. I feel mine may be a little bland!

Have you written your bio yet? I’m following ‘the 10 journalists to follow on Twitter’ I’m hoping to get some ideas for writing a hopefully stand out bio. but, for now it’s a bit lackluster.

Author Feb 2, 2011
11:46 pm
#19 Shari Weiss :

Great idea to start a fresh Twitter account where your “stream” will be professional
Re: your bio AND following the lead of “those who’ve done it successfully” — isn’t that the way we all learn skills?

Feb 3, 2011
1:18 am
#20 Amanthis Miller :

Okay, good to know that professionalism does matter in Twitter. It’s still hard for me to grasp!!

Author Feb 3, 2011
1:35 am
#21 Shari Weiss :

Amanthis, exactly what is hard for you to grasp? Twitter? Professionals using Twitter? Something else?

Feb 3, 2011
4:34 am
#22 Neysa Ordaz Sifuentes :


this is a great first timers guide to twitter. i do believe that your bio makes a first impression on wether or not people may want to follow you. first they see your name then they may read your bio, and here is where you can make yourself known, really show your true colors and show the tweeple who you really are. Basically from there they can decide if they are interested in you. From there all they have to see is what you have to say and who you associate (follow) with and make a decision wether to press follow or not. When it comes to twitter you have to make every word count, and every follower a future connection.

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:06 pm
#23 Shari Weiss :

Couldn’t have said it better, Neysa, so I’m going to repeat it:

When it comes to twitter you have to make every word count, and every follower a future connection.

PS When I get my next post finished, you will have and Introductory Vocab list for Twitter 🙂

Feb 3, 2011
5:02 am
#24 Stephanie Ortega :

I like the explanation on how to have a stronger and believable twitter page. Meaning that it is best if you use your name if it is available. The name you use on twitter is not flashy like singers use to catch peoples attention. That is not how twitter is; instead you need to have your real name with a good introduction of yourself and what you like.

Don’t write false information, why be fake when you can be real and have people want to follow you to get to know you better not this fake person you’ve created in the cyber world.

The only way you can really have true followers on tweeter is if people are in trusted in what you say. So make sure that when you make a blog make it interesting, so that people want to read and write back to it. You can also pass information on to one another on what is going on in the world, so everyone is on the same page. I also think that the idea of getting people who have been on twitter for a while and have many friends would be a good idea to follow to get to know why are so many people following them, and what they have to offer.

Simply when you write on someone’s blog you can attract followers because of your response that you left on the person’s blog, because the words you choose to write are the only tool you have to catch people attention.

These are some good points to pay attention to when you want to be known and followed on twitter by many people. To become someone’s type of resource on information they first need to trust you and you need to show everyone you have what they are looking for.

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:12 pm
#25 Shari Weiss :

@Stephanie, you have many, many great points in your comment but if you did “draft” it, then you did not carefully proofread. I corrected many, but not all of the errors — and the reason is because your content was so good, I did not want you to lose credibility because of the errors.

THIS IS A LESSON to all students in the course: PLEASE be diligent in your drafting and editing before posting. Your English skills will reflect on your credibility, so be careful.

Feb 3, 2011
12:22 pm
#26 Vanessa Jensen :

@ Shari & Suzanna _ Thanks for the advice and tips on creating a new account…I think I may just do that 🙂 Suzanna how long have you had an account for? you seem very comfortable with twitter…it’s great *

I STILL havent finalized my bio either…I checked out the “10 journalist to follow list” and that did help a bit…but I’m still felling a little unsure…I just dont feel completely confident on twitter yet 🙂 but I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling that way

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:14 pm
#27 Shari Weiss :

@Venessa, and ALL students, keep in mind that this is a LEARNING and SKILL BUILDING course, so you will all learn by doing — and learning means making mistakes AND learning how to do it right.

Feb 3, 2011
5:41 pm
#28 Champa Mulchandani :

I love how you gave a list of tweeters journalists should follow. I think it’s incredibly important to follow the right people so you get the right information and can completely utilize Twitter to the most.

I think my biggest concern about Twitter is how to make the most of it especially since for the most part, you “tweet” with people you don’t actually know.

I also found the tips on what to tweet and what information to provide very interesting. When a topic is trending, we tend to just reiterate what everyone else is tweeting. Ultimately this means your 140 characters gets lost in a crowd of similar tweets. It is important to stand out!

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:23 pm
#29 Shari Weiss :

Re: your biggest concern @Champa, You do not Tweet WITH people. You simply post your insights and thoughts. Think about this: do journalists write to people they know?

So the question is: What does it matter if your readers are people you know. The key, it seems to me, is that they know you [the reporter/poster] enough to TRUST you.

Feb 3, 2011
7:58 pm
#30 Amanda Rodriguez :

One of the key factors of why I love this post is because it is short and straight to the point. Another point of why this post stood out to me is that it teaches you what you should mention in your bio. I completely misunderstood twitter. I am very happy that I joined and look forward to reading new things about it

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:25 pm
#31 Shari Weiss :

@Amanda, you should be happy with the next post, which introduces/discusses important Twitter jargon.

Feb 3, 2011
11:01 pm
#32 Kevin Jennings :

I think this article has to be the most direct and concise guide for a Journalist getting started on Twitter. I think the most important tips were choosing the right Twitter name and your first tweets. Those two are the most impressionable factors to attracting a audience to your page. But also being a credible personality is a must on twitter. Once your name and face is out there, its out there.

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:32 pm
#33 Shari Weiss :

Flattery will get you everywhere, Kevin
Now, of course, we’ll all be watching to see how well you follow the instructions.

Feb 3, 2011
11:09 pm
#34 Billy Rivera :

@Suzzanna – I initially had the same problem, as my Twitter account is also heavily tied into my music/film as well as my personal life. Seeing that I’m trying to create a brand out of my name, I’ll keep my account for this course. Eventually, I want my account to tie into my film blog as well. One thing I did last week was delete the inappropriate people I followed, so now I feel I have a clear academic/professional slate.

@Paul – I really like your comment. I had a similar scenario while teaching my mom the “in’s and out’s” of Twitter. I have a 17 year old brother who uses Twitter almost as much as he texts — we’re talking hundreds if not thousands of tweets per day — so one can understand why my mom wanted to master Twitter in order to “monitor” him. She soon saw how beneficial it was for High School students to stay connected through Twitter. For example, my brother’s math teacher would “tutor” students via twitter to spark the students interest. I’m sure those kids loved that they could gain study points and socialize at the same time.

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:34 pm
#35 Shari Weiss :

Teachers have a host of new ways to challenge/motivate/entertain/educate students through the capabilities of Twitter Power 🙂

Feb 4, 2011
2:19 am
#36 Neysa Ordaz Sifuentes :

@venessa jensen, like you i felt that my twitter name might not have been the best, but when you think about it you also need to make it “you” if you have a name that isnt “you”, or is boring or what not, you’re really not portraying who you really are. so i say, its not that bad of an idea to also have fun with it.

@ kevin jennings, i totally agree with you on the fact that a credible personality is a must on twitter, people want to be interested in what you have to say. Once you start theres no going back just like you said, your name is out there so make the best of it.

Feb 4, 2011
4:20 am
#37 Stephanie Ortega :

@Paul Odtaa

Thank for the different ways of teaching more about twitter. The way you have written it has been a way that give examples if you cant understand something by the explanation you can understand it by the example given. Now I know new symbols and sayings that are used on twitter.

Feb 4, 2011
4:37 am
#38 Mele Mesui :

I agree with @#1 Amanthis Miller about tips #3 & 4, especially #3 since I haven’t posted my first tweet yet it got me thinking. I also really liked the link of top 10 tweeters I should follow, found a couple of people that are interesting.

So far I find twitter amusing, having a “timeline” full of people (or full of people I will soon be following) writing their thoughts on worldly subjects and events within 140 characters is refreshing as I can say rather than being on other social networks such as Facebook or Myspace. Like you stated in your “Top Ten Twitter Terms: a conversation to get you Tweeting” post: Sometimes more is more, but often LESS is more.

Author Feb 4, 2011
1:34 pm
#39 Shari Weiss :

@mele AND other Tweeters, please Follow Me and I will Follow you back on Twitter

Feb 4, 2011
5:09 am
#40 Champa Mulchandani :

This is definitely one of my favorite posts! In fact, I wish I had read this post much before I started my own Twitter account. But yes, I agree with many of your points. It is super important to write a bio that is interesting and expresses who you are. I like the idea of “branding” yourself. For the most part, people use Twitter to network and share information with like-minded people and thus, a concise and accurate bio allows tweeters to decide if they’d like to follow you or otherwise.

Author Feb 4, 2011
1:51 pm
#41 Shari Weiss :

Now, Champa, we will all be checking out your BIO to see what you have learned.
Great comments, please keep them coming. They are very helpful to your classmates and other blog readers.

Feb 4, 2011
12:58 pm
#42 Kevin Jennings :

@ Neysa – (Deep Scary Voice) NO GOING BACK .. lol

@ Amanda Rodriguez :” Another point of why this post stood out to me is that it teaches you what you should mention in your bio.”
Yes, i agree with that, the information about the bio is important, especially when people are trying to get to know who you are.

Feb 4, 2011
1:09 pm
#43 Leanna :

@Neysa Ordaz Sifuentes
It’s true that something said on the internet cannot be unsaid, but there are also thankfully so many people using the internet so often that an internet mishap can also often go more or less unnoticed. I think that it is somewhat of an accomplishment if enough people are thinking about what you’re saying that a mistake on the internet can result in a scandal. Usually a scandal just makes more people listen to you.

Author Feb 4, 2011
4:51 pm
#44 Shari Weiss :

@Leanna, the fact that scandals make “news” is why publications like the National Enquirer keep on publishing

Feb 11, 2011
6:55 am
#45 Terez M. :

I think the idea of twitter as a “no-brainer” is hilarious, especially for those of us easily obsessed with minutia. You have no idea how long I agonized over picking my ‘handle’ let alone what to tweet, what voice to use, what angle to come from (ie which of my various journalist passions to approach this from…) lol! So while it is very, very straightforward advice, I think it seems much more simple to post a bio than it actually is. Or maybe I’m just way too

Feb 11, 2011
6:55 am
#46 Terez M. :

Also, a question about following: how much information can someone get from your “following” list, and is there any way to control that information? ie if I am following “freaky facts” (for entertainment, don’t judge me folks!) is that something I can “hide” from my profile? Thanks:)

Author Feb 11, 2011
11:48 am
#47 Shari Weiss :

Terez, re: your “Freaky Facts” question. My suggestion is a very general piece of advice: I am “deliberate” about EVERYTHING I do online. There is really no way to “hide” your online activity. If someone wants to find out something about you, they can. Specifically to this question, though, don’t worry about people judging you for “following” people on Twitter. Personally, I can’t imagine people having the time to “check people out” by looking at the people on their Following List.

Jun 29, 2011
3:52 pm

I think twitter is a great way to get things out there to the world. Especially if you have a lot of followers or you’re following a lot of people. People think that you have to post something every minute on twitter (which is not true). It’s up to that person to decide what to say and when to say it.

Jun 29, 2011
4:13 pm
#49 Qadir Al-Amin :

I really enjoyed this article. I totally agree with you about the contents of your twitter bio…you may have a funny or eye catching screen name but your bio had better be equally enticing!!

Jun 29, 2011
4:21 pm
#50 Amy :

Thanks a lot, once again.

I’ve never knew what Twitter really was about, until today. To me, it seems like Twitter is very useful and interesting network.

Can’t wait to sign up for Twitter!

Jun 29, 2011
4:26 pm
#51 harolds :

i understand why you should give your real name but i dont agree with it. the internet is a host for a lot of weirdos and the less they know about you they less they can potentially harm you.

Jun 29, 2011
4:29 pm
#52 Hien Nguyen :

Shari, I am not a big social media type of person however I do often find myself stumble upon twitters of friends and poets that I love. Twitter I find as a source of entertainment and insight, but moreover I really like twitter for its comedy, my friends. I like how twitter has gotten a more professional exposure, it really helps with keeping updated about organizations and current events.

Jun 29, 2011
4:33 pm
#53 edil gulaid :

i just became a pro thank you these were helpful 🙂

Jun 29, 2011
4:42 pm
#54 cynthia avalos :

Great steps! most people don’t take the time and slowly follow steps like this. They just make a twitter account for the heck of it without thinking about anything that they write. When I made my first twitter, I just made it because my friends had one and I didn’t really put much meaning to what i would write. People think that you have to post something every minute on twitter (which is not true). It’s up to that person to decide what to say and when to say it. It just has to be interesting enough to make people follow you.

Jun 29, 2011
4:46 pm
#55 Chan Iem :

I really enjoy these tips for starting from scratch on Twitter. I will try and follow these steps and find what everyone is tweeting about. In addition, I’d like to follow up with someone who can be a role model for me on how to participate effectively on Twitter.

Jun 29, 2011
5:00 pm
#56 Bernard :

Here we go again looks like there’s another super social network that will have me hooked and consume a lot of my time and cell phone battery.Unlike MySpace and Facebook Twitter actually has the power to be constructive and beneficial. I look forward to becoming a twitter pro and tweeting back and forth with new people.

Jun 29, 2011
5:00 pm
#57 Dan Li :

Those five steps are very helpful, I just got my twitter account those steps helped me a lot. thanks

Jun 29, 2011
5:02 pm
#58 Russia Graham :

I think it is imperative to remember that reputation is everything!It seems to me that social media can either make or break your credibility among other things, so it is necessary to be mindful of that when using a social media outlet such as, twitter.

Jun 29, 2011
5:09 pm
#59 randi haffner :

How do you get past the uneasiness when making a twitter or facebook i.e. when do you know it’s safe to be on them and not have to be worrying about who you talk to or who’s looking you up.

Dec 14, 2011
8:45 am
#60 Erica Gutierrez :

I think it is imperative to remember that reputation is everything!It seems to me that social media can either make or break your credibility among other things, so it is necessary to be mindful of that when using a social media outlet such as, twitter. But also being a credible personality is a must on twitter. But yes, I agree with many of your points. How do you get past the uneasiness when making a twitter or facebook i.e.

Oct 12, 2012
2:46 pm

Normally I do not read article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up
very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been
surprised me. Thanks, very great post.

Oct 13, 2012
2:56 pm

Very nice article. I absolutely appreciate this website.

Oct 23, 2012
7:13 pm

This information is quite useful for anyone enter the blog-sphere realm for the first time Until recently,I was a tweergin, meaning I had never blogged before, now am on my second month of blogging and site like this one has been incredibly helpful.
Thank you

Feb 16, 2013
9:53 pm

A facebook like for you! Well done. I also bookmarked it
for later on. My buddy owns a blog much like your own and I think this may interest him.
I’ll send him the url, perhaps you guys may even do a link swap or something like that.

Leave a Comment




Previous Post
Next Post
EXULT designed by ZENVERSE  |  In conjunction with Reseller Hosting from the #1 Web Hosting Provider - HostNexus.