Twitter for Dummies

Update: CBC Ottawa Morning just called – they’ve bumped back my interview from tomorrow a.m. to Wednesday morning at 7:30 so they can make a bit more space for it. Fifteen minutes instead of eight. That’s good, right?

Now back to regular blogging.

The following is the first part of four guest blogs this week by author Anne Devereux — or @pirateannie, as she’s known on Twitter. Despite her opening disclaimer, she’ll explain to those of us who are, in fact, Twitter dummies, how to use this technology as if we were old pros.


First, please don’t be offended by the title of this piece: I know you’re not a dummy. 

But Twitter does involve a bit of a learning curve, and in order to use it effectively as a social media tool, you need to understand a few things about how it works.

Twitter is a micro-blogging site, in which millions of perfect strangers say ‘what’s happening’ in 140 characters or less.  It sounds incredibly simple, and it is, at least as a concept.  Of course, any activity which involves millions of human beings is bound to turn really, really complicated in no time at all. 

The first step when making a brand new Twitter is to set up your account.  You can set it to protected or public.  If you ‘protect’ your tweets, this means that only the people who choose to follow you can see what you say.  As well, your tweets won’t appear in the public timeline, which means that random people who might have thought you interesting are not going to see what you’re saying. 

I’m not really sure why people choose to protect their tweets, but possibly they’re rather shy and don’t want the whole world to be able to see their random thoughts.  Or, they’re secret agents.  But at least it’s nice to have the option.

Next, you’re going to want to think of a Twitter name.  Now, you could simply use your real name, but let’s face it, that would be boring.

Why be plain old @janesmith when you could be @steampunkdiva?  Your Twitter name should reflect some aspect of yourself, the funkier and cooler the better.  An alter ego, even.  Mine is @pirateannie, and although in real life I’m not actually a pirate, the name speaks to a facet of my personality that frankly, doesn’t get enough of an airing.

Then, you need to choose a picture that will appear next to every tweet.  Bear in mind that your tweets, unless you go protected, will be seen by millions of people around the world.  A lot of people simply use a headshot of themselves, but let’s face it, we’re not real estate agents.  [Note from Peggy: present company excepted. I am a realtor.]

Fish around for something representative of your new Twitter persona.  Use something eye-catching and interesting, even amusing.  Let go of your hangups, and use your imagination.  Don’t worry that people will think the picture is actually you; do you really think anyone believes that I look like a red-headed Pirate Barbie?  Come on now.

While you’re still in set-up mode, you can also put in a link to a web page: this is especially useful for authors, as every person who investigates your Twitter will find a link to your author blog or website.  You should also fill out the Bio, which gives you 160 characters to make a statement about yourself and what you’re all about.  That in itself can be quite a challenge!

Twitter has all kinds of backgrounds to choose from.  Simply search from among the ones on offer, and set it as your background.  Mine is a portrait of pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.  You can change it at any time. 

Now, you’re all set up and ready to tweet! 


Tomorrow, Anne will be back to tell us about Twitter content. Stay tuned!

You can find Anne Devereux’s blog at Her short story, “What If You Slept,” appears in the Legend Press collection, 10 Journeys.  It is available from

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One Response to Twitter for Dummies

  1. Go Dummies Go! I love Dummies! Dummies books rule!

    I always look forward to the latest installment of the such-and-such for dummies books, so I eagerly awaited my pre-order of Jan Zimmerman’s and Doug Sahlin’s Social Media Marketing (all-in-one) for Dummies. Even better it proclaimed it was eight books in one. The book is fantastic, even if it does suffer from the usual forest-vs-trees issue. It is much more a “trees” book with lots of details on each social media venue, but still a great book.

    By “trees” I mean it gives you the details of each social media marketing venue: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc. For each, the authors do a nice job of overviewing the venue, and explaining the basic steps of how to create an account, what you can do with it, etc. It’s a great survey of the entire Social Media Universe. Importantly, it is a critical, skeptical, ROI point of view vs. many of the simple cheerleading or laundry list books on Social Media out there. I really liked that.

    By “forest,” however, I mean the big picture / strategy of Social Media. The book DOES have information on building a Social Media Marketing plan and DOES have some useful case studies, but there is often just too much text and too many details. I teach Social Media Marketing (online and in San Francisco), and I have experienced that my students are just overwhelmed with the details. Less is often more, as they say, and this book could have used a re-write on the chapters on making a social media marketing plan. Missing in particular is a clear explanation of which social media venue fits which business need best.

    That said, if you combine this detailed book, with some “higher level” marketing strategy… And, for example, you pre-think WHY you want to Twitter (Facebook, Youtube, MySpace, LinkedIn), and WHY your potential customers might care to listen / converse with you… You will have a dynamite combination. Don’t be afraid to realize that perhaps you don’t NEED Twitter – that Youtube is a BETTER fit for your company.

    This book has earned its place on my reference shelf, for myself and my students in Social Media Marketing. For more on me, just click on my profile or Google Jason McDonald plus Social Media. I love comments and feedback, and I try to read as many new SEO, Social Media, AdWords books as I can.



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