Twitter – A Beginner’s Guide for Tour Guides (or anyone else!)
Friends and guiding colleagues know I am rather obsessed with social media and am always going on about how Twitter or Facebook and of course blogging are good for getting your name (and walks) known.
I realise Twitter and its myriad associated terms may make people think it is more complicated than it is so I have finally put together a bit of a beginner’s guide and hope that after reading this others will open up a Twitter account and start tweeting.
You may wonder how Twitter can help you so much as you are limited to 140 characters per tweet but it is amazing once you know how.
Start off by going to the sign up page of www.twitter.comand creating yourself a Twitter ID. This needs to be l4 characters or less.
“WestminsterGuides” was too many letters so we are “WminsterGuides”. You don’t have to put your real name on the sign-up page but whatever you put will appear next to your Twitter ID on your tweets. “WminsterGuides” is “Westminster Guides” but my personal Twitter page “WWalks” has my real name next to it. If you use your real name in this way people that don’t know your Twitter ID will still be able to find you.
Once you are signed up create a short profile stating what you do and ideally include a link to your website. It is also preferable to have a photo to show you’re serious about Twitter. You could maybe use a logo if you don’t want to use a personal photo.
How to start
Even before you are following anyone and have no followers it’s best to do one or two tweets introducing yourself so potential followers can see who you are. You could just say something about a walk coming up or have a link to your website. If people look at your profile and you haven’t tweeted yet they are less likely to follow you.
If you click on “Home” you will see “Compose new tweet” just below your profile on the left hand side. The tweets on the right hand side will be those of the people you are following. [I had planned a series of screen shots but am fighting with them to appear in the correct place so have had to abandon them!]
What to Tweet
I tweet about walks coming up but I also tweet about things I find of interest in London and think worth sharing. Reply to others’ tweets (the option to “reply” is underneath each tweet), get involved and share information. If people realise you are willing to share they are more likely to reciprocate.
You only have 140 characters so you need to shorten links to websites. There are various tools that can do this for you – eg bitly.com(you can then track how many times the links are clicked on).
To the right of “Home” you have “@Connect” which shows interactions. If you click on this you will see who has followed you, favourited your tweets or re-tweeted you (RTs).
When either of my Twitter accounts gets a new follower or is mentioned in a tweet I am notified by email and text message. Click on the drop-down arrow at the top to the right of the “Search” box and then click “Settings” to tailor it to your preferences.
Who to Follow
As you start following people they will in most cases follow you back. However don’t automatically follow everyone that follows you. Check out their tweets first – are you interested in what they have to say or could they be useful to you. It’s also worth checking when they last tweeted – anything more than a few months ago means their account is probably dormant.
There’s lots of information about who to follow here.
In the Westminster Guides’ case I started off following lots of museums, London themed websites such as Ian Visits, Londonistand London Historians, hotels, London enthusiasts and also fellow Westminster Guides. For my personal @WWalks Twitter account I also follow lots of food and drink related profiles as most of my walks are themed this way. If you click on @WminsterGuides then “Following” this will give you some suggestions.
It’s impossible to read every single tweet of the people you follow. I dip in and out, re-tweet things of interest and generally those that follow me do this in return. Recently I tweeted about Local London Guiding Day (free walks with London’s specialist guides on 13th October) saying “Save the Date”. This was re-tweeted by @aboutlondon to almost 16,000 followers.
Have you ever seen adverts with a “#” in front of a phrase and wondered what it meant. Well, this is a hashtag and is a way of categorising tweets. If you are attending a talk or conference there is likely to be a specific hashtag so all tweets about the event that include that hashtag will be grouped together. More info on hash tags is here.
The one that you will see the most is #FF – this means “Follow Friday” and the Twitter user will list a number of Twitter accounts he/she is recommending.
Dos and Don’ts
Do share other people’s tweets by re-tweeting. Underneath their tweet you have the option to Reply, Favourite or Re-tweet. Hopefully they will do likewise with your tweets.
Do send thank you tweets to people. If you’ve enjoyed the theatre, a walk or an event of some kind (even if not related to guiding) send the organisation a tweet (although make sure you don’t start your tweet off with their ID* ) and you will find that in 9 cases out of 10 they will re-tweet your tweet to their followers which should hopefully give you wider exposure. You can then do the same if you receive similar tweets!
*You need at least one character (even just a dot) before “@[name] otherwise your tweets will only get a very limited audience. name d at least one character (even just a dot) before “o websites. Don’n Guiding Day saying Save the Date. This was re-tweet
Do Favourite other people’s tweets. This is like a bookmark which you can come back to. People looking at your profile can also see your favourites so know more about you.
Do tweet at varying times of the day about an upcoming walk but don’t repeat too many times which is boring for your followers.
Don’t just promote yourself. This is boring for your followers and they are likely to unfollow you.
Don’t send a series of the same tweet to lots of individual organisations. This is very annoying for your followers who will see this same message however many times you send it and are likely to unfollow you.
Don’t say thank you individually to all your followers for following you. This has actually put me off following people as the majority of their tweets are acknowledgments for following them!
Protected or not protected
Twitter is a public forum. Anything you tweet can be found by anyone whether or not they are on Twitter themselves. If you are not keen on this you can make your tweets protected. This would mean that only your followers (who have all in this case been individually approved by yourself) would see your tweets. To my mind this defeats the object of Twitter which is to gain a large audience in a short time. However if you do want to find out more about protecting your tweets details are here.
In writing this article I’ve realised there is so much to say about Twitter and it is hard to know how much information to give. Hopefully the above will give you enough to start. If you do want more information this website goes into much more detail.
Good luck and I look forward to seeing tweets from some more Westminster Guides soon! Follow @WminsterGuides and/ or @WWalks and I will definitely follow you back!