Some of my clients and lots of my prospective clients tell me they’re intimidated about starting a Twitter account. (Okay, they don’t really say, “I’m intimidated.” I infer that from their tone of voice and gestures.)

What they mean is that they’ve seen a few tweets and the 140-character truncated language is daunting to them. Perhaps they felt the learning curve would be steep. I know I did.

The good news is that I’m going to show you some real tweets as samples and provide a few ideas for content topics. Set aside your fears of tweeting, retweeting and all the rest of the ‘fear of jargon,’ and you’ll be tweeting along with the best of them in no time.

Why Jump Into the Twittersphere Right Now?

“I just got my rhythm going on Facebook posts.”

“I’m not ready to learn a new social media platform.”

“My customer isn’t on Twitter.”

I’ve heard all the excuses. I’ve used all the excuses myself. But the bottom line is if you just got your groove on Facebook, if you don’t think you need to learn a new skill, or if you’re sure your customer isn’t tweeting, you’re probably wrong. Sorry.

If you just got the hang of Facebook, it’s the perfect time to add the next platform to expand your target audience. If learning a new technology skill hurts your little gray cells, you should see me moan and groan about trying to learn Snatches and Clean and Jerks in CrossFit class! But I work at it anyway because the resistance is almost entirely in my head (and not in my weakling muscles).

As for your customer not being there, I’m going to give that one to you …a little. Of course, there are industries, products and services that may fly way under the radar on Twitter. But here’s the thing: maybe your customer’s assistant IS on Twitter, or her mother, or her colleague.

I’ve heard numerous stories of a referral from someone who saw a tweet from someone else and passed along the tweeter’s expertise to the decision-maker. And voilà! The deal was done once the parties got connected! But had the tweeter not been on Twitter in the first place, the referrer wouldn’t have known about her in the first place to recommend her for the job.

So let’s get right to it. You may need to refine your tweeting strategy over time (and most do), but if you don’t begin practicing, a whole new target audience will never even know your business exists!

Oh, and one last reason to start using your account today? Unlike Facebook, Twitter regularly delivers me new followers every day.

Start with a Simple Melody

Just as we began basic Spanish and French lessons, it’s best to practice the basics for awhile before writing elaborate prose and conjugating irregular verbs in a new language. (I sincerely doubt 140-character content

[best at 110-120 characters] came naturally to the first tweeters either!)

Conveniently Twitter is built to make practice easy. Your best moves when learning tweeting are to retweet (RT) others’ tweets.

In Twitter, you simply click on the Retweet button and it asks you if this is what you want to Retweet. In Hootsuite or TweetDeck you will have the option to retweet the message “as is” or “Edit this Tweet,” which gives you the opportunity (if there’s enough space) to make a comment.

Format: The “RT @Name” (above) does not have to be at the beginning of the message, although it is seen that way frequently. You may add text before or after whatever you are retweeting.

By the way, it’s very important to acknowledge anyone who retweets your tweets. Always use good manners with everyone, offering your thanks for them spreading the word for you. After all, they’re spreading your name, your message even further to their own circle of followers, extending your reach.

Another easy way to broadcast your recognition of someone else’s high quality content is to use the phrase “via @Name” (above) to give accreditation where due.

Format: Whereas “RT @Name” will show up in the originator’s notifications, “via @Name” is not an official mention under Twitter programming. The “via” mention is often used to display clearly that you’re not taking credit for another’s work. So it is used in conjunction with blog post titles and articles and frequently implies “via @AuthorName.” (However, the @Name will show up in the Tweeter’s mention feed!)

By now, you should have a bit of comfort with retweeting others’ tweets and composing shoutouts for others’ articles and posts using “via.” Here are a few more tips to add to your repertoire:

  • Always shorten URLs in your tweets to save character space.
  • Using Title Case in headlines implies it is the headline of an article or blog (and saves you use of quotation marks).
  • Retweeting and mentioning others’ work will build your follower base.
  • Talk more about others than about yourself!

“How To” headlines garner greater traffic than many other Tweets and increase click-throughs in links:

This tweet above not only makes great use of the magical “How to” phrase to attract click-throughs, but it also employs great hashtags for searchability.

Format: Note the linked article is positioned near the middle, and the searchable hashtag terms appear at the end. If you find a tweet hard to read because every other word has a hashtag in front of it, you are not alone. Judicious use of hashtags is important for success. If you can’t read it, no one else will either!

Numbered headlines (below) grab attention and garner click-throughs to links. Just imagine how effective this tweet would be to you without the “10” at the beginning. (Not great, eh?)

Add Flourishes to Your Tunes

Now that you’ve got the hang of numbered headlines, “how to’s” and retweets, it’s time to put together all these notes into your own songs. (Yes, I am assuming you have your own content on your blog or website to share through tweets.)

This particular tweet regularly attracts new followers for me:

As marketing and advertising are keystones of my business, I create content about the best I find from others (and use only about 10% or less of my own content as my overall total tweets). I use this loose formula to shoutout praise about various ads I find that work extremely well and are clever in design and execution.

Format: Note that I use a combination of special characters ( :#()[]> ) to draw eye attention. (With hundreds of tweets flying by in any person’s twitter feed every minute, every character becomes important in creating an impression to gain a click-through.) Second, I use forward-referencing characters “:” and “>” to keep the eye focused. Use of “<>” often denotes the tweeter’s personal comment on the content near the beginning or end of the message.

Repeat Great Songs Before Tweeting a Full Symphony

If you’ve been practicing these new skills above, I’m willing to bet it’s crossed your mind that it’s taken a lot of effort to get the hang of it. And now you’re wondering how on earth you could ever tweet as creatively and as frequently as many of those you’ve been following since you began.

There is a secret to it.

First, a tweet’s life is shorter than a mosquito’s. Therefore, in order to be remembered, in order to be seen by the maximum number of followers, it must be seen frequently. A one-time tweet about the blog post or e-book you just spent a dozen hours preparing won’t garner the attention it deserves.

Second, repetition is b-o-r-i-n-g. If you’ve been following anyone who repeats the same message day in and day out, you probably want to unfollow them (if you haven’t already). Variety is the spice of life. So your tweets must contain a great deal of variety all day long to gain attention.

Finally, combine frequency with variety. If you want to come off like the Mozart of the Twittersphere, you need to combine frequent repetition of your tweets with a variety of content. Remember the best composers repeated the same melodic theme over and over, first with the violins then perhaps the French horn. Later, the flutes picked up the theme in a different key and changed its tempo.

You, too, must compose your repeating content tweets with slight variations. In fact, Twitter requires it. It prohibits spam-tweeting the same message over and over. The Twitter algorithm requires you to vary, at minimum, at least one character from tweet to tweet. One benefit of this is reducing the possibility of boring (or pissing off) your followers who watch their feed carefully.

Use Hootsuite or TweetDeck to program in Tweet #1 upwards of three or more times per day for the first week. Vary the times of day. Vary the articles (“a” and “the”), prepositions, adjectives and so on in each tweet so that each appears slightly different from its predecessor.

Next, program in Tweet #2 for only once or twice per day for every other day. Repeat this pattern with content Tweets #3 and #4. Soon enough you will have several weeks of various tweets pre-programmed to blast out throughout the day while you go about your day-to-day business!

Just don’t forget to reply to all those @Mentions, RTs and new follows that come your way for having such remarkable content!

If you’re already tweeting, tell me what strategies or tools have worked best for you.