The PN Guide to everything Twitter

What is Twitter?
Technically Twitter is a microblogging platform that asks its users to answer one simple question – ‘What are you doing?’ – in 140 characters or fewer. In reality it is far more than that. Despite its basic premise and the strict character limit, which means each message needs to be concise, Twitter has developed into a vibrant conversational tool. Those who use it value it as a way to rapidly share and discuss information, opinions, news and content with a wideranging group of followers. Businesses are using it as way of extending their customer service, keeping interested parties up to date on their latest news and giving exclusive deals to their Twitter followers. The benefits of using Twitter are obvious for personal use but many companies are also using Twitter in a variety of ways. Twittter can be used to: • Complement existing customer service • Build relationships and networks • Direct people’s attention to good things • Listen to what people are saying about you – both good and bad • Respond to criticism and praise • Break news faster than other sources • Conduct surveys • Help with business development, if your prospects are online • Create a backchannel at events for instant feedback

Getting started
Signing up for an account is simple and takes two minutes. Simply visit and click the ‘join the conversation’ button. You will then be asked for a username, your real name and email address. Once these are supplied you’re ready to start tweeting. There are several different ways to post updates to your Twitter profile. You can post updates directly from the Twitter website or you can also post to your Twitter profile using a mobile phone or a third party application. While functionality of the Twitter website is quite basic, one of the reasons for its success so far is that it allows software developers to create third-party clients, such as Twhirl and Tweetdeck, which can be used to refine and aid your Twitter use. There are also different types of update that you can make, depending on whether you are talking generally, responding to one or more people or sending a private message.

Types of update
@Replies Twitter messages can be addressed to a specific person by using the @ symbol along with their name. Or you can take out all @Replies from your timeline, which means you would never a see a reply from anyone you are following. Example: “@porternovelli Hey! What’s all It is also worth noting that the Twitter web interface only picks up @Replies the fuss about this Twitter?” intended for you if they are at the beginning of the message. It is the @Replies feature that has enabled Twitter to become primarily a conversation tool. There are three settings Direct messages for @Replies for when you use Twitter via Twitter’s ‘DM’ function communicates private messages between users. These the webpage which can be found under messages are sent to the recipient’s direct the notices tab on the account settings message inbox and are not published to page. You can chose to: the Twitter stream for everyone else to see. You can send a DM to anyone who See the @Replies to the only people you follows you but you cannot send a DM are following - this means you will only see an @Replies in your timeline if you are to a person you follow, unless they also following both the person sending and the follow you back. This is a measure put in place by Twitter to try and prevent users person receiving the message. This is the being spammed. default setting for Twitter. Or you can see all the @Replies from the people you are following, even if they are directed at people you are not following. Example: “d porternovelli So can you tell me off the record how to use the DM function?”

Retweets If a friend ‘tweets’ something you want to share with your followers, you can ‘retweet’ it. This simply means copying their update and putting ‘RT’ in front of it along with their username. You can retweet to share something interesting with followers, or as a favour to the original poster. So if Porter Novelli posts something you want to share, you could retweet something like this: “RT @porternovelli Working on a new blog post about social media and PR. Thoughts?”

Hash tags You might occasionally see the # symbol in some people’s messages followed by a string of letters, such as #MWC09 or #UKsnow. These allow people to track conversations around an event, such as Mobile World Congress or the snow storms that hit the UK in early February 2009, without needing to follow everyone taking part in the conversation. Hashtag conversations can be tracked by using Twitter’s search page.

Who sees what
Direct messages can only be read by the recipient and the person who sent it. It will appear under the sent tab of the direct message page. @Replies and Retweets can be read by all your followers and will also appear on the public timeline, unless your updates are protected. All public messages are fully searchable. Twitter does allow you to protect your updates if you so wish, which you can select by ticking the ‘select my updates’ tab at the bottom of the account page. Protected updates do not appear in the public timeline and people will have to request your approval to follow you. Only once you have approved their request will your updates show in their timeline. As Twitter is a highly social tool, we do not recommend protecting your updates, except in special circumstances. Unlike other social networks, such as Facebook, friendship is not automatically reciprocal on Twitter. It is entirely possible for you to follow people who don’t follow you and vice versa. Friends Friends are people you have chosen to follow. Although a few users protect their updates, meaning you need to send a request, this does not need to be reciprocated in order for you to see their updates. Followers Followers are people who have chosen to follow you. Again, they can do so even if you do not reciprocate. Block It is possible to prevent a user from receiving your tweets by blocking them. When you block someone, you will stop following them and they will be removed from your followers list. They will still be able to see your profile, unless you have protected your updates, and they will also be informed that they have been blocked if they try to follow you again.

Getting more out of Twitter
While Twitter is a basic service, there is a wide range of third-party applications and tools that make it easier to manage your Twitter presences and get more out of the entire Twitter experience. As mentioned previously, you can make updates from your mobile phone; all you need to do is click on Settings on your Twitter homepage and then Devices to register your mobile number. You will be given a number to which you can send your tweets. Twhirl ( is a desktop client which enables you to post from your desktop without visiting Twitter. Twhirl is useful because incoming tweets pop up in the corner of your screen, so you don’t have to actively check for updates. It also allows control of multiple Twitter accounts. This is useful if you control several company- related accounts for different product groups, for example. Tweetdeck ( is another popular desktop application that enables users to group their messages into topic or group-specific columns, giving a greater overview of tweets. There are three default columns - All Tweets, @Replies directed to you and Direct Messages. Additional columns can be created using the group, search and replies buttons. The columns automatically update, making it easier to track all relevant messages. Tweetdeck also tracks any @Replies, even if your username appears in the middle of the message and not at the beginning. There are a multitude of applications that will enable remote access to Twitter, such as Tweetie for the iPhone and Twitterberry for Blackberry users. Twitterfeed ( is a useful tool if you wish to use Twitter to promote content that is being published elsewhere, such as the company newsroom or blog. It can be configured to automatically tweet account updates from any RSS feed you choose to share.

Tweetlater ( allows you to set up tweets and queue them up for publication at a specific time. This is useful if you wish to break news on Twitter but keep to an embargoed time. Tweetlater can also be set up to automatically follow anybody who chooses to follow you. If your Twitter account proves to be popular, this can save lots of administration time. It is also possible to set up auto-replies and auto-DMs using Tweetlater, as well as to opt out of receiving auto-DMs from other users. Visit for instructions. There are several tools that will give comparable statistics on your Twitter usages; Mr Tweet ( does this, as well as recommending good people for you to follow and other relevant users. Other web sites that provide statistics and rankings are Twittercounter ( and Twitterholic (

One of the biggest benefits of Twitter is the ability to listen to the real thoughts and opinions of real people. Twitter’s own search functionality (search.twitter. com) can be used to identify basic levels of sentiment as well as find relevant results for your search terms. Twilert ( provides updates by email on your chosen keywords.While Twitter is a text-only medium, you can share images by using Twitpic (twitpic. com), which posts pictures to Twitter, via a shortened URL. People can then comment on your pictures. Uploads can be done directly on the Twitpic web site or by emailing from a phone. Several third-party applications, such as Twhirl, also support Twitpic functionality. Another useful tool is Twitpoll (twitpoll. com) which is a fun way of getting snapshot opinions from your followers. If your poll is interesting enough, it might get retweeted to a wider audience.

Overview of tools
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Tweetdeck Twhirl Tweetlater Web Interface Mr Tweet Twitterholic Twitterfeed Twittercounter Twilert Twitpic • • • • • • • • • • •

Top tips
• A short username is better as this makes it easier for people to retweet your messages • Make sure you have a bio as this helps people to decide whether to follow you – or not • Make sure you have a relevant picture – a company logo works for corporate accounts; for a personal account, a closely cropped image of your face is best • Where applicable you should include your company details in your bio • Always use disclosure where appropriate – example: “I think Porter Novelli is the best PR agency ever (disclosure – I work for Porter Novelli)”

• You don’t have to read or reply to every single tweet • Remember that everyone uses Twitter in a different way and for different reasons • Avoid spamming your followers with multiple self-promoting updates • Using auto-respond and auto-DM tools is frowned upon as they are impersonal and increasingly employed by spammers


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• Use an URL shortening service to tame lengthy links – such as or • Don’t just promote yourself or your own stuff • Don’t expect immediate results

Porter Novelli’s Digital Communications Framework offers you a a way to use Twitter and other online services, tools and apps to support your communication activities.

We have four stages: listen, respond, influence and enlist Listen We help you listen to your stakeholders and customers, showing you what’s being said, where, when and by whom. We discover who the key voices are in the conversations that surround your brand, products and services, and help you understand how they relate to each other and where they sit in the conversation. Our benchmarking service will show you where you are placed compared to your competitors and will identify new areas of opportunity. Respond Once you know how to listen, you’re ready to respond to both on and offline issues. Our platforms and processes will help you to respond quickly and effectively and show you how to integrate digital channels into your issues and crisis management planning.

Influence The next step is to take part in the conversations that surround your brand, products and services. We’ll advise on creating the content that will be picked up by the wider web and understanding content planning, repurposing and chunking. You’ll understand how content and search work together, and how and where to seed conversations with new information. We can also create blog and social media outreach programmes. Enlist Once you’ve learnt to listen, respond and influence, you can start to enlist. We’ll help you engage with, and develop, consumer advocacy and co-creation programmes, and advise how best to harness employee/corporate blogging efforts.

Our digital services include:

• Blogging Services • Crisis Blogs and Paid Search • Customer Advocacy Programmes • Email Newsletter/List Management • Event-Based Programmes • Internal & Employee Relations • Online Community Relations • Online Crisis and Issues Planning & Training • Online Influencer Mapping/Evaluation • Online Influencer Engagement • Response Policy & Training • Seeding, Distribution, Link-building • SEO & eDM Press Release • Social Meda Newsroom • Social Media Customer Relations • Social Media Monitoring • Social Media Policy & Training

For further information about Porter Novelli or our digital capabilities, please contact: Mary Baker Director, Porter Novelli +44 (0)20 7853 2209 direct line +44 (0) 7720 277139 mobile +44 (0)20 7853 2222 switchboard Kerry Gaffney VP, Digital Group +44 (0)20 7853 2248 direct line +44 (0) 7720 277169 mobile +44 (0)20 7853 2222 switchboard

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