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Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston

June 30, 2015

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How to Use Twitter

The concept is simple: Users type 140-character messages, sharing links, starting conversations, and building an online community.

Twitter’s simple, streamlined approach to communication lends itself to fast, informal conversations, but it’s also a great place to network. In fact, Twitter users have reached out to their followers to find job leads, swap career advice, stay current on industry trends, and more. Here’s how you can do it too.

1. Flesh out your profile. The more detailed your profile, the more likely that someone will want to follow you. Personalize your profile, and don’t use the default profile pic (which screams “I just joined and I’m not sure if I want to stick around”). Plenty of people use an avatar (cartoon alter ego) or a cute little icon instead of a photo, so if you’re more comfortable going incognito, that works too. A blank bio is another lost opportunity, so be sure to include a few keywords about your career or personal interests. If you’re job hunting, this is a good place to mention the specific types of jobs that interest you.

2. Find tweeple to follow. Unlike LinkedIn, which asks that users only connect with those they know, Twitter encourages users to cast a wide net and connect with people you might not otherwise meet. You can start by adding people in your e-mail contacts or search for Twitter users with common interests on WeFollow.com. It’s not required that you follow everyone who follows you, but it is a good way to build reciprocity and goodwill (unless it’s an account that is clearly spam). The more people you follow and the more you use Twitter, the more people you’ll attract as your own followers.

3. Get creative. Technically, Twitter asks the question “What are you doing?” And lots of newbies type updates like “eating a ham sandwich” or “riding the bus to work.” But nowadays, Twitter users take a broader approach to their status update. Many post links to interesting articles in their industry or solicit opinions on current issues. You can also use Twitter to promote your own blog or website, but it’s best to mix self-marketing with the other stuff so you’re not seen as spam. And if you must write about that ham sandwich, at least write something funny or original about it.

4. Give and take. The users who get the most out of Twitter are the ones who actively converse with other users. Respond to other users’ questions and comments by clicking the arrow button or typing @ along with their Twitter handle. Retweeting (“RT” for short) is another way to join the community by taking someone else’s Tweet and reposting it with attribution. The conventional format looks like this: “RT @twittername 15 Job Search Strategies for Publishing Pros [link].” Twitter users get a huge kick out of being RTed because it shows that they’re writing interesting Tweets, and it helps them gain new followers.

5. Nix the negativity. Although Twitter has the informal vibe of an instant-message conversation, it’s a lot more public than IM. Think of it as accidentally hitting “reply all” on an e-mail, because Tweets travel fast. And far. Even if you protect your updates, you should be wary of bad-mouthing your boss or co-workers. And job seekers should avoid venting their frustrations. Instead of posting a complaint (“just went on my twentieth interview and no one will hire me!”), channel that energy into asking a question (“HR managers: what can candidates do to wow you?”) or sharing positive news (“just interviewed for an account exec job & hoping I get a second interview”). A positive, upbeat attitude will attract new readers and encourage your existing followers to help a Tweeter out.