You’ve been hearing about Twitter for a long time now, and you’re thinking it’s finally time to make the leap. Maybe someone has suggested you should be there for business. Maybe you want to become good buddies with Ashton Kutcher. Or maybe you’re just curious. But it all seems like a bit too much to take on by yourself. You hardly even know what Twitter is, let alone how to sign up for it. If that sounds like you, you’re in the right spot. By the end of this post, you’ll not only know the basics, you’ll have your very own working Twitter account.
First, to truly start at the beginning, let’s touch on exactly what Twitter is. If you’re familiar with people texting on their phones, then you’re familiar with Twitter. It’s just sending and receiving text messages that are no more than 140 characters in length. That may not sound like a lot, but it actually gives you plenty of room to put together a thought or two. Or three. The sentence that you are reading right now is 140 characters in length and as you can see, I’ve managed to squeeze a full 28 words into it. If u use a few shrtcuts u’ll find u can evn fit plnty mor in there! But we’ll save that for another discussion.
The first thing many people think when they hear about Twitter is, “What would I say? And what does everyone else say there? I don’t want to read about what someone is having for breakfast!” Me neither. But the topics on Twitter are as varied as they are in the rest of your day. Tweeps — that’s a nickname for anyone on Twitter — will talk about work, share great moments in their lives, be silly, ask for help on every topic imaginable, and coordinate anything from surprise parties to protests on the streets of Egypt. Single moms will share their struggles and victories. NFL and NHL and talents from every other sport imaginable will give you a glimpse of life from the sidelines or on team flights. Movie, TV and music stars will share highlights from their storybook days and their Hollywood nights. And there’s more and more and more to be found on Twitter.
One incredible aspect of the site though is the ability to not only see what others are saying, but to join right in on any discussion. Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, anyone on Twitter can follow and talk to anyone else, unless someone has a protected account set up. Most accounts are wide open though, making Twitter the easiest way to see and be seen by some very interesting people. The key thing to remember is that everyone on Twitter can see every single thing you say there, unless you do decide to have a protected account. On Twitter, it’s all about sharing, and that open environment makes it a great place to meet new people and expand your network, but it does require you to always remember how public your words are.
Like a good board game, Twitter can be incredibly simple to play, but can also entail very complex and multi-layered strategies if you’re there for business. Don’t let the potential complexity of Twitter intimidate you though. It can be as simple and rewarding as a chat between friends, so just keep your expectations at that level for now. There will be plenty of time for learning more complex stuff as you go forward, if you ever do decide you’d like to.
Setting up a Twitter account
We’ve covered the basics, so why not actually set up your own Twitter account right now? It’s completely free, will only take a few minutes, and you can always just delete the account afterward if you decide you don’t want it. All you need is an email address that has not already been used to create a Twitter account, and enough imagination to come up with a name that will be your username.
Yep. Everyone on Twitter has a name that they chose for themselves, and no two people can have the same username. Given that there are now over 100 million people on Twitter, that means that a lot of the “good” names are gone. If you’re lucky enough to have an unusual name, you can use that or some variation of it, but you’ll probably need to think up a nickname of some sort. You can run words or numbers together to form your username, or you can separate them with an underscore, but no hyphens or other special characters are allowed.
We’ll come back to your username in a few minutes, but you’ve been wondering about this long enough. It’s time to make the surprisingly easy leap into Twitter!
Here we go. First, open up Twitter in another tab by clicking here. Got it? If for some reason it didn’t work, just open a new page or tab in your browser, type in www.twitter.com and then hit Enter. You’ll see one of several welcome screens that Twitter uses, looking something like this:
[NOTE: If someone has previously accessed Twitter on your computer or even left their account open, you may see another screen. If there is no place for you to fill in your full name, email, and password, look in the upper right corner for either a a Sign In option, or the silhouette of a head. If you see the head, click on it and pull down to Sign Out. You should now see the welcome page.]
On the right side of the page, you’ll see, “New to Twitter? Sign up.” After that will be spaces for your full name, email, and the password that you’ll use whenever you sign into Twitter from now on. None of these will be the username; that comes later. So just fill in the blanks, and if you prefer not to use your real name, you can make one up for yourself. I always do recommend that people use their real names though, or at the very least a real first name that your friends or business contacts will recognize. Once you’ve done all that, click on “Sign up for Twitter,” after which you’ll see this:
This screen lets you confirm that everything is going okay so far. You can review the name and email address you already gave, and see a measurement of how strong your password is. Below that, you’ll see “Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits.” If you’re just starting on Twitter, I recommend you select that. Twitter has already been tracking sites that you recently visited that have Twitter buttons or widgets built into them, and will suggest people to follow who are often followed by other Twitter users visiting those sites.
Next, you’ll see a screen to enter your country and mobile phone number, which I again recommend you enter although you can skip it if you prefer. Giving Twitter your phone will give them a way to verify your identity later and can help keep your account safe.
Once you move on from there, you’ll come to the spot to enter the name you’ll use on Twitter. You’ll be able to change your username later if you want, but it’s nice to get a good one right from the start. If you come back later, you may find someone else has grabbed the one you were saving. So take a few minutes now to think of what you want your Twitter name to be. You can use uppercase or lowercase letters if you want, but they won’t make any difference; people will find you no matter which case they use to spell your name.
Your username needs to be unique, and with so many people already on Twitter, it can sometimes be hard to find one that hasn’t already been taken. Twitter will suggest a name based upon the real name that you gave yourself, but it’s not likely to be terribly catchy or memorable. So give it a bit more thought. You can use a pet name or as silly or mysterious a name as you want. The biggest challenge will be finding one that’s not already taken. Oh, and try to keep your Twitter name as short as possible. Even though we’ve seen you can say a lot in 140 characters, you might as well leave as many characters for your messages as possible. A long name is going to eat into how much room you’ll have for what you want to say, and will also make it harder for people to remember and type your name without an error.
Just in case you hadn’t realized it yet, you’ve probably seen lots of Twitter names already on posters, ads, business cards, Website pages, and maybe even a tattoo or two. Twitter usernames always have an “@” in front of them, with no space in between. For example, my Twitter name is @lornepike. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s is @Schwarzenegger, and Zooey Deschanel’s is @zooeydeschanel. Arnold, Zooey and I don’t get together much any more, but tell them I said hi.
Alrighty, at this point, I’ll assume you managed to come up with a username that Twitter agreed was not already used, and you’re ready to get started. I always recommend you read the Terms of Service that are there on the page. Or you may prefer to just skim through them since it’s Twitter and they already have a tenth of a billion people who have agreed to those terms. But for the record, it was recommended to you that you read them.
Done? Okay, here we go. Click on “Next” and you’ll be whisked to the first of three pages where they suggest a number of subjects and tweeps to follow. Read the examples they provide, and select the ones you find interesting. You can also type in some names if you have a few friends on Twitter or a favorite celebrity you want to find. Click next, and you’ll go through a couple of similar screens. If you select five each time, you’ll be following 15 people. If you want to skip any of these steps, just click Skip This Step, under the white box in the left column. But be sure to follow at least a few, or else you’ll end up with a blank screen, which is no fun, even on Twitter.
Sending your first tweet
If you’ve done everything so far, then congratulations… you’re on Twitter! Read what people are saying, and try searching for some favorite sports or entertainment stars or a few political or news people you know. Click the blue Compose New Tweet box in the upper right corner to send out your first tweet. Or click here to find and then follow me on Twitter, and feel free to send a tweet saying hello!
When you get a moment, edit your profile by adding a photo and some information to help friends recognize you when they find you. Check back here for an upcoming post, taking you step-by-step through that process. In the meantime, check out some popular Twitter terms to help make your tweeting even easier.
If you know of any friends on Twitter, let them know you’re there, and ask them to follow you. The more friends you have, the more enjoyable your time on Twitter will be.
Leave a comment below to let us know how you’re doing, and check back here for more posts on how to make the most of your time on Twitter.