Using Twitter for the First Time | npENGAGE

Using Twitter for the First Time

By on Nov 3, 2010


My first few weeks on Twitter

Let’s begin by saying everyone should at least give Twitter a shot – It can be a valuable tool in your social networking tool belt. Now on to my humble beginnings – When I first heard about Twitter I was quick to get an account at Once my account was set up I began ‘tweeting’ for the first time! The first few months  were relatively uneventful and purposeless. I would ‘tweet’ very infrequently with no real reason except to use a cool new tool. Needless to say I dropped it pretty quick. I didn’t know how to use it or what to use it for.

Before we go too far let’s define a few terms so we are on the same page:

  • Twitter: Social networking service that allows users to send and read other users updates
  • Tweet: Terms used when you type something in the 140 character box and hit update
  • Follower: Person who has chosen to be connected to you – They will see your ‘tweets’
  • Following: Person who you have chosen to be connected to – You will see their ‘tweets’
  • Updates: Total # of ‘tweets’ you send out

At first glance here is what I thought:

  1. I was unsure how to use it or what the purpuse was
  2. I thought it was a complete waste of time
  3. I wondered who would really want to listen to what I have to say

What helped me get over the hump:


I read … and read a lot. I looked for people who had similar issues and challenges getting started; learning from their experiences and mistakes. Below are four of the most helpful resources I found while doing research.


I engaged. After filtering through all the info I read and soaking in the experiences of others I jumped into Twitter full force. Full force sounds exciting, but in reality that means I started ‘tweeting’ & ‘following’ other prominent members who were on Twitter. This helped me learn first hand by seeing what was going on in the Twitter world. I didn’t want to just be ‘book smart’ by reading what others had to say – I had to get some street smarts!

Slowly but surely I found those that were ‘talking’ about things that were interesting to me. I decided to ‘follow’ those people. Once I was ‘following’ a good group of people I could see what they were ‘tweeting’ about and join the conversation. The point in which I joined the conversation is when I began to gain ‘followers’ (or better thought of as online friends – i have an aversion to calling people ‘followers’).


I worked on adding value, which can be a little tricky. Actually it’s the piece that never ends. At the end of the day being on Twitter is both about you adding value to and gaining from the community. Value is subjective – A large part of what you are responsible for is figuring out what is valuable to those that are following and listening to you.

If you are active, engaging, and get to know those that are following you it will undoubtedly lead to you figuring out how to add value. Plus, the fact that people are following you is likely an indicator that you have been doing something right in the first place.

At the end of the day

I have gained a group of ‘followes’ numbering a lofty ~250 people! That may not sound too exciting, but in 2-3 months it’s decent. I also follow around 100 people. This small network gives me the ability to learn, to share and to question in a lightning fast way. So far it’s been most beneficial for learning what is going on in the world of social media and non profits using social media.

So, what is the moral of the story here …

If you do not have an account, go sign up for one here and start getting your feet wet.

If you are one of those that signed up for an account, but didn’t really do anything with it, don’t worry. It’s very common for people to sign up, use it, and quickly fizzle out due to lack of understanding. The end result being our Twitter account left on the shelf gathering dust. If you’re in that boat, take your account off the shelf, dust it off and start using it again.

Do you have more ideas, thoughts or experience you think should be shared with everyone here? Please leave a comment … let’s chat. Or you could share it on Delicious, Stumbleupon or Digg! We’d appreciate the mention.


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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