Top 5 Twitter Tips for Beginners (or anyone!)

Twitter Tips for Beginners


Last night, I had the opportunity to teach a social media clinic with Carl Gibson, co-founder of US Uncut. Now, if you’re not an activist, stick with me here, because social media tips are similar across the board and Carl knows his stuff. US Uncut? They helped mobilize Occupy Wall Street. And, whether or not you like/agree with the movement, I bet you’ve heard of it, right? Why? Cause, social media.

Carl and I are partners on a project with Global Climate Convergence and, because he’s awesome, he decided to take the Facebook portion of the clinic and give me Twitter because, and I quote ‘Shai is a Twitter G’. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but I trust his judgement.

SO, this ‘Twitter G’ is here to give you some very basic tips on Twitter because, in my work with organizations and small businesses, I’ve realized that a lot of people are starting from absolute scratch when it comes to Twitter. It’s nice to have a little help getting started in something as intimidating as Twitter, so here we go!

1. Don’t Use All 140 Characters!  

This is one I have to repeat often. I really should create an email template that just says ‘You’re not leaving space in your Tweets, again!’ to email out to my clients because it’s something I have to say that often. While a Tweet can be 140 characters, the point is to get ReTweeted or interacted with and, if someone Retweets your tweet, it adds your handle to the beginning of the tweet. Sometimes, they may even want to comment or add something. Here’s an example:

Twitter Sample

Now, this isn’t an ideal tweet for a variety of reasons, but the awesome Lilach Bullock has so many followers that it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that she used a short link, kept plenty of space in her tweet, and the tweet is catchy/eye-catching. Caught my attention, anyway!


And this is what my ReTweet looks like! Because she left plenty of room, when Twitter added ‘RT #lilachbullock’ to the beginning, I still had plenty of space to add a comment and hashtags. Twitter ‘retail’ space is precious…use it wisely! With the @EarthDay2Mayday account (for Global Climate Convergence), I use a max of 120 characters, to leave room for our lengthy handle when someone retweets.

What happens if you use all of your space? When someone ReTweets you, it will cut off the end of your Tweet. And, quite often, that’s an important URL, rendering your Tweet pointless. Don’ 

(Bonus Tip: Shorten your handle if you can – totally saves time and space!)(Bonus Tip 2: Shorten your URL’s as well – you can do that through Tiny URL, Bitly, or a bunch of other places you can Google).


2) For the love of all things holy, USE HASHTAGS!!!

If you’re @lilachbullock or @chrisbrogan and have 80K/270K followers, you can pretty much ignore this part. Of course, you probably aren’t reading this in the first place.

For the rest of us, hashtags are how people who aren’t following us find our tweets. @EarthDay2MayDay currently has a whopping 165 followers (we just started tweeting), but we have a reach of 55.4K. One of those reasons is because we utilize hashtags.

Do a little research and see what keywords are trending for your niche, and incorporate them either within or at the end of your tweet. For @EarthDay2MayDay, we use the hashtag #ED2MD quite often. Today, #fossilfools is pretty hot. #oilspill, #bp, and #fracking are also often used. For my personal account #lovemylife, #business #motivate and #social are used quite often.

Now, on the call last night, people didn’t really understand what a hashtag was used for until I clicked one on my screen. So here’s a screencap showing how people on Twitter can search by topic or hashtag (or, click on a hashtag in someone else’s tweet), which will then pull up your hashtagged tweet, even if they’re not your follower.

Hashtag search

See? I searched the hashtag #oilspill, clicked the ‘All’ option instead of ‘Top’ at the top of the list, and then BAM!…there’s a bunch of tweets from people I might not even know, relating to the topic I’m searching. You can click on a hashtag in someone’s tweet and get the same result.

3. Play Along!  

Twitter has trends. Twitter is a social place. Follow those trends and be social in order to grow your following and interact with influencers! How do you know what’s trending? Hashtags, of course! First, there’s always #TBT – Throwback Thursdays, where people Tweet old photos or articles. I’m not sure how or why this became a trend, but it’s one of the biggest. On the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Twitter feed, we often tweet old photos of well-known political activists with our staff, like Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama.  Another one is #FF – Follow Friday, where people simply Tweet ‘#FF’ followed by a bunch of usernames they want you to follow. If you’re in a specific niche, you generally tag people within your niche. It’s a great way to share followers, and organizations utilize this trend often. Here’s an example:

Follow Friday Tweet Sample

You can also find trending hashtags on the side of your Twitter homepage in this little box (Mine says United States Trends):

United States Trends


4) Interact! 

When it comes to Twitter, you absolutely cannot just throw Tweets out in the Twitterverse and expect magic to happen. It won’t. You have to interact with people! 

This part is actually fairly easy because all you have to do is scroll until you find something you can respond to, and then hit the ‘Reply’ button. Personally, with over 2000 people on my ‘Following’ list, I never utilize my main Twitter feed. Like, ever. I do utilize ‘Lists’, though- they’re much smaller and often niche specific. You can create your own lists, or follow the lists of others. A great way to find lists is to pick a large organization, blogger, or influencer that you love, go to their page, and click the ‘Lists’ link on the left. You can then see lists they’ve created as well as lists they are on. Just click and subscribe! This way, you’re only looking through small portions of Tweets at a time rather than all of Twitter.

Once you have a list, or have searched a specific hashtag, you need to do two things: Retweet AND Respond, but not necessarily to the same Tweets. Example: The awesome @pjrvs (Paul Jarvis) Tweeted something hilarious yesterday (and a couple days before that, actually – he’s a funny man), but it wasn’t something I would really share with my fans. Once, he was joking about his prison-style tattoo, and another about aggression. But, he made me laugh, so I commented and joked back with him. And, you know what? He responded. BOOM! Twitter interaction. That easy. You can also thank people for helpful information, tell them you like their articles, ask them questions, etc. You know…converse, like you would in real life, but in 140 characters or less. 

(Bonus Tip: If you install the Klout App on Google Chrome, the Twitter User’s Klout score shows up right in their tweets! Then, you know how much influence the person with whom you are interacting has. I interact with everyone, but specifically target folks with a higher Klout score than I at least a few times a day. So, right now, I’m shooting for 70+. I’ll have an entire post on Klout here soon!)

5) DO NOT….flood Twitter. Please? 

When you’re doing this Retweeting, it’s mucho better to not just go through and Retweet fifteen people at once and then get off of Twitter for the day. Instead, you can schedule Retweets to go out at specific, spread-out times.

Some of the accounts I manage are scheduled to Tweet every thirty minutes. Some of them are scheduled to tweet every couple of hours. Play around with your times and see to what your audience responds the best – each audience is different.

Personally, I use HootSuite to manage all of mine and my client’s accounts. Along with HootSuite, I have the HootSuite App added to my Google Chrome browser, which adds a ‘Hootsuite’ link to each Tweet on the Twitter feed. When I find a Tweet I want to ReTweet, I just hit the ‘Hootsuite’ button, and schedule it right in! Hootsuite also has templates, which are great for those posts or Tweets you want to send out multiple times. Just create the tweet, hit ‘Save’, and you can use it over and over! I use this one especially for the campaigns I manage or older blog posts I want to continue promoting, because it keeps me from repeatedly needing to figure out what I can fit into that tiny little 140 character space. I also use Hootsuite to schedule my own Tweets.

Did I mention Hootsuite is free? True story.

Once you get the hang of it, it takes maybe 20 minutes at once, and that leaves you totally free to interact throughout the day. I schedule my personal Tweets first thing in the morning as I drink a cup of coffee. I schedule my client Tweets at night, before bed, as I’m drinking a cup of chamomile tea. I interact on Twitter throughout the day, mostly on ‘breaks’, like the pharmacy or carpool line, or while I’m eating lunch at my desk in my home office. I know it sounds like a lot, but once you get the hang of Twitter, it really doesn’t take much time in comparison to the results you can get in terms of traffic, awareness of your brand/organization, or sales.


Do you have any questions about Twitter? Any Twitter tips you’d like to share?


  • Savannah Cooper

    Ok. I just learned so much from that. No joke.

  • Krystal Bernier

    Great tips, I’ve been hearing about not using all the character space. I am so terrible at twitter and have pretty much discounted it as a traffic generator. But when I read all the postings you twitter lovers put out about the power of twitter I know I need to rethink my strategy. This has been very helpful and I am going to put a little more effort into managing my twitter account :-)

  • Ella Pelayo

    I love the first tip and I am going to apply it :) Its always a challenge to keep it within 140. Its even going to be more challenging to keep it lesser than that. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kylie Worthington

    Thanks for the tips, Shai!

  • Sarah Koszyk

    I like tip #1! I need to remind myself of that constantly because I always want to “fill-up” my space! LOL! Thanks for posting!

  • Hannah Kallio

    Thanks for the useful tips!