Using Twitter… ‘The Smart Way’

Today Mark Ramskill (@ramskill) from SubHub, takes a look at some of the steps that new Twitter users can go through to get going.

Twitter, having been quickly adopted initially by key influencers, has grown into a mass-market communication tool, with millions of users.

If you’re publishing content, undertaking online marketing, and looking to keep up with the latest trends in anything web related then Twitter should be featuring highly as a ‘weapon of choice’.

In this article I’ll be assuming you are new to Twitter, and that rather than wanting to use Twitter as a way of simply keeping up with friends, you want to use it as a tool for valuable engagement and maximum effect, avoiding the white noise that Twitter can also create if used incorrectly.

I call this ‘Using Twitter, the Smart Way’.

So, in a nutshell . . . Twitter allows users to post updates (known in the Twitterverse as ‘Tweets’), which consist of text-based posts of no more than 140 characters. A Tweet can include a website link if you wish.

Updates are displayed on the Twitter profile page of the user who submitted the Tweet, or alternatively through a desktop Twitter application, such as Twhirl or Tweetdeck (more on these later), to other users who have signed up to receive them (‘Followers’).

To get you up to speed, before I go into any further detail, it’s worth checking out the Twitter in Plain English video, from the talented folks over at Common Craft.

This will give you a simple and entertaining outline of how Twitter works and how it is most commonly used.

So, Why Should I Use Twitter?

As I’ve mentioned, if you use Twitter smartly, it’s an outstanding tool for engaging with key influencers in your niche and also with your own target audience.

Twitter is immediate, it is fast and it is extremely effective.

Twitter is also invaluable as a means of posting, sharing and recording your own ideas and links, as you have them or come across them (the ones you think others would benefit from hearing about that is!). Think of it as sharing your own virtual notepad.

Some Other Advantages

  • Twitter helps you cut down on the clutter created by wading through blogs, newsletters and RSS feeds for the odd gem of useful information, and gets information in front of your eyes with more immediacy, allowing you to filter and favourite ‘on the spot’ (especially if you’re using a desktop application, which you should be)
  • It shows you as a keen follower/adopter of the latest tools and apps to your peers and general website audience – always a good thing
  • Helps you get your name known with those that matter (to you)

So, how do you get started then?

Here’s the Steps I Recommend:

Step 1

First you need to sign up with Twitter at

I suggest that you use your name (no spaces) as your twitter account name, but that’s just a suggestion.

Next, you need to track down the people that are worth following. This you can do by using the Twitter search, or alternatively a Twitter directory service, such as TwitDir (listed below). Click ‘Follow’, once you’re on a person’s profile, to follow their Tweets.

Here’s some suggestions (by no means definative) to get you off to a good start. These fit well with TwiTip’s readership, but should also have pretty mass appeal:

It’s also well worth checking out the followers of those i’ve listed above as well. Read their profiles, visit their sites, and only add them if you feel they’ll bring value to your Twitter experience.

Step 2

Download a Desktop Client

I suggest Twhirl for light users, or for those who want to make frequent use of Twitter and build up a following that needs more careful management, try TweetDeck.

Twhirl makes it really easy to follow others and post Tweets. This desktop application functions in many ways like an instant messenger, whereby as soon as anyone you are following sends a Tweet to you, it is received in Twhirl and also flashes up in a small bubble in the corner of your desktop, for quick and easy reading.

When I began using Twitter as a light user, I wouldn’t have been able to use it in any kind of useful way without relying on Twhirl.

Once you’ve downloaded Twhirl and opened it for the first time (you may be asked to install Adobe Air), add your Twitter account information in your Twhirl settings (you can add more than one Twitter account if you wish) and away you go! I’ll let you know the four key methods of Twitter communication / engagement in a moment.


As mentioned, I suggest you start using TweetDeck once you’ve built up a following. I moved across to TweetDeck when I reached 100 or so followers, although you may wish to use it straight away.

At a certain point users find that Twhirl becomes harder to manage, requiring a need to think about grouping people, according to what they do or their relationship to you, with replies and direct messages filed separately.

TweetDeck provides all the functionality you need to adequately manage posts, groups of followers, replies and direct messages, however many followers you may have.

TweetDeck, like Twhirl, is an Adobe Air based application, so as part of the installation process you make be asked to install this as well.

Step 3

The four key methods of Twitter communication / engagement

Ok, so you’re set and ready to go. However, before people will be prepared to follow you (barring those that add anybody) you need to start posting Tweets that others will find useful and that relate to your niche or your interests.

1. For general posts, simply either log in and type your Tweet in the message box on the Twitter website, or use the message box in your desktop app (140 characters is the maximum length of message).

2. To reply to someone, use the ‘@’ symbol, then their Twitter username, e.g.

eg: @ramskill your message, whatever it may be

Bear in mind that this reply can be seen publically, by your followers and the followers of who you are replying to.

3. To ‘Retweet’ / repost a Tweet from someone else, use ‘RT’, a space, the ‘@’ symbol, then their Twitter username, e.g.

eg: RT @ramskill your message, whatever it may be

4. To send a private direct message to someone, use ‘D’, a space, then their Twitter username, e.g.

eg: D ramskill your message, whatever it may be

That’s all there is to communicating and engaging through Twitter . . .

Step 4

Don’t forget to tell others that you have a Twitter account!

Now you’ve started following people yourself and you’ve begun Twittering, it’s now time to post about your Twitter accounts’ existence ( on your website or blog, email friends/collegues/relatives that share your interests and generally get people to follow you (remember: you don’t necessarily have to follow them back).

Don’t forget to link to your Twitter account on any other social sites you use, such as Facebook (most of them have functionality to add a link to your Twitter account or even take live feeds from it).

Step 5

Remember the importance of Twitter Etiquette!

A rapid way for Twitter users to unfollow you is if you spam them constantly, don’t respond to replies or direct messages, act obnoxiously or generally fail to bring value by Twittering about ’stuff’ that is of no use to them.

Think of your audience at all times. Act as you would if you were dealing with them face to face in a business situation, or sitting down for coffee with them. Respect is key.

Most importantly, remember that new people are viewing your Twitter profile constantly, and making a decision about whether to follow you, based on the Tweets and replies they see.

By all means Tweet about your website, blog, service or product, but also try and add value by making this just a part of your communcation. If you come across a website or service that could benefit others Tweet about it. You’ll soon build up a positive reputation as someone worth following and recommending.

What you give is what you get back. Apply that mantra and you can’t go far wrong!

That’s it. You’re set!

You now know how to use Twitter, begin following others and build up your own posse of followers. Most importantly you now know how to use Twitter effectively to communicate and engage with others.

Twitter Tools

So . . . now for the hot stuff! The Twitter tools . . .

The following is a list of the key sites or apps I have used, and continue to use, to enhance my Twitter experience:

  • Mr Tweet (makes recommendations on who to follow)
  • Tr.Im (url shortening service for Twitter, with stats)
  • Tweetburner (alternative to Tr.Im)
  • Tweet Later (schedule Tweets over a period of time)
  • TweetBeep (track who is mentioning you)
  • TweetGrid (live updates for any keyword on Twitter)
  • TwitDir (a Twitter directory service)
  • Quitter (emails you when someone stops following you)
  • Twitter Grader (see how you rank on Twitter)
  • TwitStamp (create a personalized Twitter badge)
  • Twitterfox (Firefox Twitter status Add-On)

And if you want more – 27 Cool Tool and Resources for the Twitter Addict

In Summary

Hopefully, i’ve given you enough information to fuel your imagination and make you want to get started with Twitter and its associated apps and services.

In this new web 2.0 world, immediate access to information, and easy engagement with those that post it, is a necessity.

Twitter, if used smartly, helps you do just that!

Remember, i’m here to help.

Add me:

And feel free to ask me questions, or just say hello!

Mark Ramskill is the Marketing Specialist for SubHub, a revenue-ready content publishing platform.


  • December 9, 2008

    “don’t respond to replies or direct messages”

    Sorry – but twitter is NOT a shoutout-push-ignoreother-only medium?

  • December 9, 2008

    Nice intro and advice. I created a twitter account and am looking forward to diving into it!

  • December 9, 2008

    If “you want to use it as a tool for valuable engagement and maximum effect” then I would suggest also using TweetDeck to run searches for your topic of expertise and keeping up with other users that are talking about that topic, or providing help and advice to people that are asking about that topic. This will establish you as an expert in the space, and will allow TweetDeck to automatically filter out what’s important so that you can focus only on valuable engagement.

  • December 9, 2008

    Nice post, thanks for the collection of interesting apps :)

  • December 9, 2008

    Don’t bother using Qwitter. It’s rubbish. It kept telling me that people had unfollowed me who had NEVER followed me in the first place, and it also told me that people had unfollowed me who in fact hadn’t. Good idea, but utterly unreliable.

    Another important tool is the hashtag (#). Basically if you want to create tags on any subject just put a hash in front of it. To give one example, we’ve had quite a few heavy thunderstorms in Brisbane, Australia recently. The hashtag #bnestorm has grown out of this so now when people want to comment on, say, an incoming storm, they tweet, for example: “#bnestorm Storm detected 30 minutes away”. These hashtags can be followed on a site like twemes – here is twemes’ list of #bnestorm Twitter posts.

    As for broader tips, I think the most important one is “Get involved in the conversation”. I was only trundling along slowly picking up a follower here and a follower there until I followed a lot of people in Brisbane (which is also the subject of my blog), started saying things to people, getting involved in conversations, going to events that people mentioned on Twitter and so on.

  • December 9, 2008

    Definitely a great post for any new Twitter users. I am sure there are plenty of people I can recommend your post to.

  • December 9, 2008

    Thanks for the great introduction. I agree that the # tag is a great tool as well.

    Two days ago I posted a challenge to all who work in our traditional media company to begin with Twitter –

    Your post will help make that happen.

  • December 9, 2008

    I am new to Twitter and to just about everything else…Friendfeed, etc. I am really only using Twitter to communicate with my friends about my day and such so it may not be of much interest to others, but I appreciate all you explained and taught us on here. I had no idea the symbols and such that was required when responding to tweets and so forth. This was a great post. Thanks!

  • December 9, 2008


    In my article I actually fully agree with you ;)

    “A rapid way for Twitter users to unfollow you is if you spam them constantly, don’t respond to replies or direct messages”

    i.e. People will stop following you if you don’t respond to replies or direct messages…

    Sorry for any misunderstanding there..


  • December 9, 2008

    @coryobrien – Excellent point you make there Cory. It’s all about the value you bring to the party; that’s what will make you stand out in the crowd.

    @djackmanson – Never had that problem with Qwitter. Thanks for letting me know.

    Qwitter is one of those Marmite/Vegemite tools. You love it or hate it. When i’ve posted something that leads to an immediate rush of ‘unfollows’ it’s certainly time for a little app hate in my household ;) BUT it can teach you a lesson, as to what your followers like and what they don’t. Bear in mind though that someone might choose to unfollow you and it isn’t necessarily the post that’s referenced that led them to do it. Like all apps of this nature, be wary, when you get just an occasional unfollow.

    #hashtags is a very important area to mention. I used #mumbai heavily at the time of the terrorist attacks, as I was watching streaming from the Indian CNN and catching a lot that many people were missing. #hashtags are almost an article in themselves, they’re that useful at times.

    Thanks for the kind comments so far.

    I’m taking note of anything i’ve missed and will be sure to update my article as necessary.

  • December 10, 2008

    @Mark you are right, I missunderstood the sentence :D

  • December 10, 2008

    Good post. I fallow some of them.

  • December 10, 2008

    Excellent post – have retweeted already! Cheers

  • December 10, 2008


    Thanks for all of your comments, and thanks to Darren for posting this article. My Twitter follows have gone just a tad crazy today.

    For those that are interested, a free eBook copy of this article is available to anyone that asks. Just @ramskill or DM me and i’ll send you a copy…

  • December 10, 2008

    In your list of tools I would also add people browser , really convenient and available anywhere as it is online.

  • December 10, 2008


    Thanks, i’ll take a look.

  • December 10, 2008

    So glad I started following you and keeping up with your blog- great work. I figured all this out on my own after the first week or two, but this is a really concise guide to getting going on Twitter. Again- great work!

  • December 10, 2008

    @James Thanks. Kind words indeed.


  • December 10, 2008

    Informative and helpful post. also thanks @guillaumefoutry for

  • December 10, 2008

    This is great reference of complete lists for me as a young Twitter user.
    Thank you very much.

  • December 10, 2008

    Hi Mark,
    Great post, now is definitely the time for a clear article such as this help get the greater populous onto Twitter. I’m currently trying to get friends and colleagues onto Twitter, so will be sure to forward this article to them.

    Nice suggested list of people to follow, IMO other essential people to follow are:

    Chris Brogan: (Social Media Blog, very influential on Twitter)

    Mike Butcher: (Tech Crunch UK Blogger , keep up to date with the UK and European Tech scene)

  • December 13, 2008

    Nice set of tips to do well in twitter. I especially liked the list of links to help you follow smartly.

  • December 17, 2008


    What a fantastic post. You definitely covered any and everything a beginning Twitter user would need to know and gave some of us advanced users a few more tools and people to follow.

  • December 30, 2008

    I think it’s worth bearing in mind that if Twitter only gets used by people a) trying to make money, or b) those commenting on Web 2.0, or c) those involved in social marketing, it’ll rapidly run out of interest for the rest of the planet.

    Remember, folks – this is why pyramid selling *doesn’t* work.

    Imagine if the internet was only for people fitting into the above three categories. Would be a real fun place to hang out, huh?

  • December 30, 2008

    Hi Baxter, thanks for you comments on my article.

    I don’t disagree with you – Twitter would indeed be a very boring place if it was only used by people in the three areas you mention.

    As a marketer and a web 2.o / social media commentator, I have as an example listed people worth following in these areas, but as I mention, “…Read their profiles, visit their sites, and only add them if you feel they’ll bring value to your Twitter experience.”

    “…if you use Twitter smartly, it’s an outstanding tool for engaging with key influencers in your niche and also with your own target audience.”

    Twitter is very much so for everyone, and while there is a slant towards business / professional use in my article, hopefully I have outlined tips worth following and useful tools and sites that can get any new Twitter users up to speed.

  • January 18, 2009

    Check out this Twitter bookmarklet designed to help link microbloggers share links. It utilizes wither or for url shortening. And unlike other bookmarklets, it brings over the page title and selected text into the twitter window for you to massage before submitting.

  • April 24, 2009

    Great article. You could have done without the intro, I think it came off a little confusing, but then you really got into the meat and bones. Good shit.

  • May 7, 2009

    Thanks so much for the great article! Helps so much.

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