The Beginner’s Guide to becoming a Twitter Pro

I have been on Twitter for many years now and I find the platform unparalleled for building my professional brand. But whenever I mention this to someone, I get asked “How do I use Twitter, I don’t get it!”. Over the past one month, I have done a couple of training programs on Personal Branding through Twitter and the content of this blog is inspired from the FAQs in those sessions.

In this blog, I attempt to break down the complexity associated with the platform and make it easy enough for a beginner to start tweeting like a PRO.

There are many unique terms/features associated with Twitter, the following list might not be an exhaustive one but if you master what each of these words means, you will master Twitter.

Twitter terminology

The significance of home page on twitter: Followers, Following and more

The homepage is where all the action is on Twitter, whether it is on the app on your mobile phone or the web page on a PC.

Twitter consists of people and companies tweeting about a lot of topics. Unless an account is a protected account (far and few in between), you can choose to follow anyone on Twitter. When you follow someone, you will start seeing her tweets on your homepage. If you follow 100 people, your homepage will display tweets by all these 100 people sorted in real time. You will also see ads (Promoted tweets) on your homepage, and you can identify them when you see the word “Promoted tweet” under the tweet. The term following refers to all those Twitter handles that you follow.

Coming to followers, these are people who have decided to follow you possibly because your profile description and/or your tweets interest them. The number of followers that you have could be a decent proxy for your influence on Twitter.

This example will clarify why I say could be a proxy for influence, consider that you specialize in “Digital Marketing” and for some reason your followers are mostly songwriters or artists. It doesn’t help your brand as your followers don’t belong to your niche. Your aim would be to get as many followers as possible in your areas of interest. When these followers engage with you, you attract more followers in the same niche.

One clarifying point though, you are free to have these artists follow you or vice versa if you have a genuine interest in their areas of work. Following people based on your hobbies and personal interests will show out a more balanced profile in terms of professional and personal interests.

Now that we have figured out the most important real estate of Twitter, we will move on to the most important activity on Twitter and the reason the platform exists at all. What is that? Well, you must have guessed it right, it is tweet. What is a tweet?

Tweet and Retweet made easy

Simplistically speaking, you tweet when you have something to say about anything in this world really! Tweet is quite similar to the very familiar status update on Facebook. While you could technically tweet anything, I recommend that you tweet using discretion as anything that you tweet is in the public domain.

Public visibility of tweets is the most important feature that differentiates Twitter from other social networks. For example, on Facebook, you can (most people do) control the privacy of every post that you author on the platform.

While tweeting in itself is not difficult, each tweet may consist of some or all of @mention, #tag, links, photos, and videos. One added complication is that any tweet can only be a maximum of 140 characters long.

There is one commonality between links, images and videos in that Twitter treats each of these as links, which are in turn restricted to 23 characters. In short, each link (image, video etc.) that you use in your tweet will set you back by 23 characters. With that behind us, I will go on to explain #tag and @mention in subsequent paragraphs.

Retweet, in its purest form, is where you share something that someone else has written. When you retweet, the tweet goes to all of your followers. Retweeting is the easiest as the author of the tweet would have done all the heavy lifting in choosing all the permutations and combinations WRT links, @mentions, and #tags. When you want to retweet something, just click the retweet icon, and the following window appears where you click retweet and BOOM!

Retweet pop up

Your retweet goes to all your followers and looks like the following


A slightly more challenging version of a retweet is a “Quote-tweet”. You quote-tweet someone when you have something to add to what the author has written. Quote-tweet links your tweet to the original tweet. When you want to quote-tweet, before clicking on retweet, just add a comment and then click retweet. A quote tweet looks like the following:


Okay, now that you are familiar with tweets and retweets, we are moving on to @ and #. Using @ and # the right way will increase the reach and engagement of your tweets manifold.

The difference between @ and #

The simplest possible definition is that “@” represents Twitter profiles and “#” represents topics.

When you use @xyz in your tweet, you are essentially tagging a person/page with the profile name @xyz. Tagging a Twitter profile in tweets is also called a mention on Twitter. It is a good practice to mention someone in your tweet when you are writing about her or when you are giving credit to her for what she has written. The person getting mentioned will get a notification about her mention and might retweet or favourite your tweet and thereby increasing your reach and engagement respectively.

When you use #xyz in your tweet, you are tagging your tweet against a topic. Tweeple (Twitter users) follow #tags based on their interests, so it is a good practice to use #tags in your tweets. Usage of hashtags is a blog topic in itself, and I recommend that you read my blog on the Science behind the usage of Hashtags, in case you want to know more. The following example will explain the difference in #tags and @mentions in more detail.

To explain my tweet, I mentioned @Entrepreneur to give credit to the news source and @twitter as the tweet was about Twitter. Finally, I used the hashtag #socialmedia as the tweet was about the topic “Social Media”.

Reducing clutter (Hint: Twitter lists)

One of the ways to build a follower base is to find people with similar interests using the search option and start following them. In case they find value in your tweets and/or like your profile, they will follow back. I had even written a detailed blog on this phenomenon on reciprocity in digital marketing.

Coming back to the topic, how do you see tweets that you want without visiting individual profiles of people/companies that you are interested in? Mastering a nifty feature called lists is essential to solving this problem.

What are Twitter lists?

Lists are used to categorize people on Twitter based on their areas of expertise. For example, I created a list named Digital Influence to keep track of latest news and updates on #DigitalMarketing and Social Media. The members of this list are either Digital Marketing influencers or companies/publishers who post great content related to the topic of “Digital Marketing”. To create a list, go to a Twitter profile and click on the settings icon, in the drop-down, click “add or remove from lists…”. I recommend that you create such lists for every diverse interest area that you have. You can find more information related to twitter lists here.

PRO TIP: It is advisable to keep browser tabs open with your favourite lists. A quick glance on the top five or ten tweets, when you return from breaks will keep you updated on the topic of your interest. BTW you don’t have to read every tweet that everyone else tweets.

Now make sure to understand all that is written here and start tweeting! You will start seeing results very soon. Please feel free to ask in comments if you have any more questions on the awesome networking platform that is Twitter. Do leave feedback too!