Using Twitter for Professional Development

Crafting the Perfect Account & Maximizing Professional Opportunities

When it comes to creating new business and professional opportunities, making connections is one of the most important things anyone can do. Social media is an excellent way to do this, and Twitter has emerged as a promising platform for professional development. Twitter allows users to send out “tweets” on their computer or mobile device; those tweets are short messages of up to 280 characters each. On a typical day, there are more than 500 million tweets. The ability to reach so many people so quickly is unparalleled by other social media platforms, let alone alternative forms of communication. Let’s go into detail on exactly how businesses and professionals can harness the power of Twitter.

Why Twitter?

There are about 330 million monthly active users on Twitter. (Source)

Around 69 million of Twitter’s monthly active users are in the United States. (Source)

More than 20 percent of adults in the United States use Twitter. (Source)

Almost 66 percent of companies in the United States with more than 100 employees use Twitter for marketing purposes. (Source).

Millennials are the ones using Twitter the most. (Source).

15 Top Thinkers on Twitter to Follow

To help you better understand how to gain professional traction on Twitter, we’ve compiled 15 accounts of people who are leveraging this platform to engage with their communities and position themselves as professionals in their field.

  • James Altucher (@jalthucher)

    Mr. Altcher uses Twitter to market himself by juxtaposing his failures and successes through the idea of being honest and blunt.

  • Brian Clark (@brianclark)

    Brian Clark has founded some rather successful online businesses, such as unemployable.com. He uses classic techniques for grabbing users’ attention and getting them to engage with his tweets.

  • Jack Dorsey (@jack)

    Mr. Dorsey may be ones of the best examples of using Twitter effectively. After all, he helped found the company!

  • Melinda Emerson (@SmallBizLady)

    Recognized by Forbes as the single most influential woman for entrepreneurs, Ms. Emerson focuses her talents on helping small businesses by using social media, such as Twitter.

  • Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

    A New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Mr. Ferriss uses Twitter to promote his podcast, which has more than 200 million downloads.

  • Seth Goden (@ThisIsSethsBlog)

    Mr. Goden is a successful author and typifies how an individual can use one social medial platform, such as Twitter, to bring attention and traffic to another platform, such as a blog.

  • Alexandra Levit (@alevit)

    Ms. Levit’s knowledge and experience from her time spent at the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and New York Times helps businesses and individuals anticipate future developments.

  • Jane McGonigal (@avantgame)

    A bestselling author, McGonigal successfully utilizes Twitter to share ideas and enhance her brand. She is especially adept at interacting directly with her followers and other Twitter users.

  • Jillian Michaels (@JillianMichaels)

    Of fitness fame, Ms. Michaels’ Twitter account provides an up-to-date snapshot of what’s going on in her life, in addition to educating others about staying healthy and boosting her online presence.

  • Elon Musk (@elonmusk)

    Best known for creating SpaceX and Tesla, Mr. Musk uses Twitter to introduce technological developments, news and occasional musings to his 22 million followers.

  • Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat)

    Mr. Neistat is famous from Youtube, but he uses multiple forms of social media to promote his brand. On Twitter, he regularly updates more than one million followers on what’s currently happening in his personal and professional life.

  • Barack Obama (@BarackObama)

    The former US President has served as a pioneer on Twitter and other forms of social media to communicate with his constituents and promote positive change in America.

  • Neil Patel (@neilpatel)

    Recognized by the Wall Street Journal as an online mover and shaker, Mr. Patel is a successful entrepreneur who uses Twitter and other social media platforms to help make other people more successful.

  • Sam Richter (@SamRichter)

    Sam Richter is a popular speaker and writer who helps others create relationships and grow their business.

  • Dan Schawbel (@DanSchawbel)

    In addition to Twitter, Mr. Schawbel, a personal branding expert, can be found spreading his message and advice in print on television and in person. His advice is specifically tailored to helping people enjoy success in their chosen career.

Take advantage of Twitter lists to organize your marketing targets into easily viewable buckets which you can then monitor and engage with more efficiently without the noise of a thousand random off-topic tweets jamming up your timeline.

Jason Myers

First Steps: Setting Up a Professional Twitter Account

Before you can drum up business and brand recognition on Twitter, you’ll need to create an account and profile. Here are the basic steps to do just that.

Step 1 Create a Twitter @name

A Twitter @name is basically a handle where the “@” sign is followed by a serious of numbers, names or words. Ideally, a professional Twitter handle will use the Twitter users name or company. For example, John Doe’s ideal @name would be @JohnDoe and Acme Industries, LLC’s @name might be @AcmeIndustries. The @name may contain up to 15 characters. It should be easy to identify and remember. Twitter users can change their Twitter name at any time, but once chosen, the @name is permanent.

Step 2 Choose a Twitter profile photo

Individuals will want to use a picture of themselves, such as a headshot or candid, doing something related to the message or brand. For example, a food critic might have a picture of them sitting at a restaurant table enjoying a cup of coffee or a motivational speaker might have a profile photo of them standing on stage. Twitter recommends this photo be roughly 400 x 400 pixels in size to avoid distortion when the image is resized to fit in the assigned area.

Step 3 Prepare a bio

On the Twitter profile page, below the user’s name and @name, there are 160 characters available to explain who the Twitter user and why he, she or it is unique. Users can include additional information, such as a website, business hours or geographical location. The bio is read by search engines, such as Google and Twitter’s own search tool, so place relevant keywords inside the bio for search engine optimization.

Step 4 Find a header background

The header background consists of the entire upper portion of the Twitter profile page and the large rectangular section above the profile photo on the Twitter user’s home page. It can be thought of a personal website banner or billboard to convey whatever current or timely message the user feels is appropriate. Twitter recommends the header background photo be around 1500 x 500 pixels. Make sure any important parts of the picture are centered, as the photo’s edges will be cropped for viewing on mobile devices.

Step 5 Consider changing the main page background

While it doesn’t hurt to keep the default white page background, changing the color or design to complement the overall theme or message of the professional account can enhance the effectiveness of the user’s Twitter presence.

Step 6 Check Twitter settings and adjust if necessary
  • Pin tweets. If there is a particularly important tweet that new users should see, it can be pinned to the top of your Twitter timeline.

  • Share your location. There is also an option to add your location information to each tweet. This is off by default for privacy reasons. But users who want to communicate where they are to their followers (imagine a Twitter account for a food truck, for instance) will probably want to toggle this setting on.

Twitter Etiquette & Tips for Professional Success

Like any other online platform, there are certain rules and expectations. This is especially important on Twitter, where users can send a tweet to millions of people at once. With all this power comes manners, etiquette and responsibility.

  • Keep the tweet simple

    Now that Twitter allows users to tweet messages up to 280 characters, you might feel like you should say more. Not so. The magic of Twitter lies in those concise thoughts, so adding filler words to a tweet will only dilute your message.

  • Stay professional

    Having a Twitter account for professional reasons means not getting too personal. Depending on the context, it may be okay to mention notable personal or family developments but try to stay away from oversharing and controversial topics and issues.

  • Don’t over tweet

    Most of the time, up to half a dozen tweets per day is plenty for most professional applications. There will be exceptions, such as when your Twitter account is being used to provide ongoing updates on an extremely newsworthy event.

  • Follow only those of interest or value

    Just because someone else is following you doesn’t mean you have to follow them. Create a Twitter feed that brings value to your life and work.

  • Don’t overuse hashtags

    Hashtags (the “#” sign followed by a series of characters without spaces) allow users to attach to a tweet to make them easier to find by other users who are interested in that topic. Using too many may come across as spammy and desperate.

  • Place hashtags in the correct part of the tweet

    Hashtags typically go at the end or in the middle of a tweet, not the beginning.

  • Private discussions belong in direct messages

    If personal or questionable information must be exchanged on Twitter, make use of DMs, or direct messages.

  • Feel free to retweet

    If you want to share someone else’s tweet, don’t hesitate to retweet it. It’s a win-win for everyone – you get material to share and the original person who tweeted gets a bit of extra attention and online exposure.

  • Pretend Twitter is real life

    If you know that saying or doing something in real life (or another social media platform) is unacceptable, chances are pretty good it shouldn’t be done on Twitter either.

  • Do your best to respond to everyone who reaches out

    Depending on your popularity, it may not be possible to respond to everyone who messages or tweets at you. But if they have a genuine question or concern, the last thing you should do is completely ignore them.

It’s sometimes difficult to describe professional and unprofessional tweets. The following examples should help give a good idea of what to strive for.

Example of a Professional Tweet

  • Yard work is tough, and unreliable equipment makes a difficult job even harder. Before you store your lawn equipment this off-season, take these steps to winterize your equipment. http://bit.ly/7skroy

    The tweet is to the point and offers help to those who may be facing a particular problem

  • Pop quiz: The CEO of our company once competed on Jeopardy! Can you guess how much money she won?

    This creates an opportunity for followers to engage with the Twitter account.

  • Looking to travel to Washington, DC this January? Watch out for the inauguration crowds! #2020inauguration

    This tweet takes advantage of the popularity of a trending, yet relevant hashtag to gain exposure.

  • I couldn’t have said it any better than @AcmeIndustries and its article on “10 Ways to Keep Your Clients Loyal.” http://bit.ly/9hjpq4

    This endorsement tweet not only brings relevant content to your followers, but promotes another Twitter user who will appreciate the gesture.

  • Roses are red,

    Violets are blue,

    Most poems rhyme,

    This one doesn’t.

    Does this seem familiar? Then check out my guide on how to write poetry that’s enjoyable to read. http://bit.ly/7skroy

    Adding a bit of humor to a self-promoting tweet can not only temper its salesy vibe, but get it a bit of extra attention, like a potential retweet.

Example of an Unprofessional Tweet

  • Need help with your yard? Contact us at 404-555-2935 #lawncare #mowers #landscaping #grasscutting #treeservices #yardwork #yardwork.

    This tweet contains way too many hashtags.

  • My date last night went great. Let’s just say, yada yada yada, I’m really tired.

    This would be a classic example of oversharing.

  • A new survey shos that 54 % of ametricans drink while on twitter

    If you’re lucky, readers will think you didn’t edit your tweet. If you’re not, they’ll think you drink and tweet.

  • I had a satisfying lunch today: a grilled cheese sandwich.

    If you have over five million followers, you might be able to get away with a mundane tweet like this. For anyone else, it’s too boring and no one will care.

  • @AcmeCompetitor: Screw you and your slanderous tweet that’s filled with lies! #fakenews

    Remember: Don’t feed the trolls. Responding in kind makes you appear as bad as they are.

The biggest mistakes I see on Twitter are when people just don't get how it all works, get no engagement and give up out of frustration. When you click on a company's Twitter profile only to find out that they haven't tweeted since 2011, it looks unprofessional and gives the impression that this company fails and abandons projects and potentially customers (even if it's really just because they sucked at Twitter).

Jason Myers

Using Twitter as a Professional: Networking & Building Your Brand

Creating new business contacts is incredibly valuable, no matter how you find them. Learn how to make the most of Twitter when networking online.

Remember (unlike other socials) Twitter is not about you, it's about them. Unless you're already a big star or influencer, if your strategy consists mainly of Tweeting about things your brand is doing, prepare to be screaming into the void. Instead realize the network's unparalleled ability to directly speak to influencers, engage with their content, tag all brands and accounts you're referring to always.

Jason Myers
  • You’re on Twitter to boost your career or business. But one of the easiest ways to do this through networking is to help others, such as providing them with information or tips on how to improve their current situation. People remember when they receive assistance from someone else.

  • You want to use Twitter to advance and develop your brand and business, so naturally you want to have many promotional tweets. But balance these tweets out with those that can help other users and followers or at least provide them with entertainment.

  • Make Me Feel Important – pretend anyone you’re about to interact with on Twitter has this written on their forehead. Everyone wants to feel special. It’s much easier to create a connection with someone when you pay attention to them and listen to what they have to say.

  • Don’t be a lurker if you intend to build a following on Twitter. It’s hard to get noticed and create relationships when you don’t reply, follow or retweet with other Twitter users.

  • You want to be retweeted, so make it easier for someone else to retweet you by giving them 30-40 characters to add their comments or thoughts to your tweet when they retweet it.

  • Nothing gets attention on Twitter like a funny tweet. Just make sure it aligns with your personal brand.

  • If you’re uncomfortable directly contacting someone on Twitter, try retweeting one of their tweets. Don’t forget to add a little something of value of your own before sending it.

  • Twitter users are twice as likely to engage with a tweet if it contains a picture versus if it’s only filled with text.

  • Introducing two of your contacts can help expand your own network and create professional goodwill.

  • An effective way to establish a connection and build up some social capital is to promote others without asking for anything in return. Often, the person or organization being promoted will recognize and appreciate the gesture and return the favor when they get a chance.

  • When on Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media site, don’t forget to use your @name so people can find you on Twitter.

  • There are different approaches and goals for using Twitter. Make sure the persona or voice you choose matches with the message you’re trying to convey.

  • What’s reasonable will depend on how many followers you have and what industry you’re in. For instance, you probably don’t want to follow 500 people but have only 15 followers – that makes you seem like a bot.

Almost always attach graphics, photos or video to stand out on a timeline, but if you're tweeting a link to a site or blog make sure the URL is the last thing in the tweet so that the auto fill will function properly.

Jason Myers

Branding & Voice

A brand is something distinguishable that represents an individual or organization. A voice is a way of describing the brand in a concise way. Put another way, the voice represents the mission statement or theme of the Twitter account.

To maintain your brand and voice on Twitter, keep the following tips in mind.

  • Stay consistent with the brand and voice. Customers and Twitter users like to know what to expect when interacting with the Twitter account.

  • Decide on a brand and voice before the first tweet. A well-planned strategy will take some careful consideration, but will make staying consistent easier.

  • Make sure the profile page properly reflects the brand and voice. Many users will glance at the bio to decide if they want to follow or not. After making this decision, they will have an expectation of what the tweets will be like and how they will be treated during interactions.

  • Look for feedback. Whether it’s directly from users or from analytics, it’s hard to know if the brand or voice is resonating with the target audience. It can also help find new opportunities for connecting and attracting positive attention.

  • Always stay on point. It can be tempting to make comments about the latest controversial news, but it’s best for your professional life to stay…well, professional.

Don't treat your company's page as if it's a personal profile. Leave your politics, religion and other potentially divisive opinions at home (unless that's the nature of your business). Otherwise it's not worth risking a potential backlash or, these days, a boycott if your message triggers those opposing your views. Instead, keep your tweets, light, fun, sassy, entertaining… whatever works best with your brand image and resonates with your target audience.

Jason Myers

11 Tools to Help Manage Your Account

Twitter is an expansive slice of social media real estate. So, it’s understandable if it takes a while to take full advantage of what it has to offer. The following tools can help.

  • Biteable

    Biteable allows users to easily create videos for uploading online, including on Twitter. There are two price points: free and $23 per month, depending on the features used.

  • Bitly

    Bitly is most famous for its service that will shorten a long URL to a more manageable size. But Bitly also offers far more comprehensive and detailed services for data analysis and custom shortened domains. Service costs range from free to $995 per month.

  • Buffer

    In addition to allowing clients to manage various social media accounts in one place, Buffer provides the ability to schedule social media postings as well as analyze online metrics to measure social media performance. Depending on how much Buffer is used, its cost can range anywhere from $0 to $399 per month.

  • Buzzsumo

    Buzzsumo gives comprehensive analytical reports to anyone looking to figure out what’s popular online across social media. The information can then be further subdivided based on domain, topic and author. Pricing starts at $79 per month, but can exceed $499 per month for enterprise clients who need customized analysis.

  • Feedly

    Feedly is a news aggregator that puts all of a user’s news feeds, including Twitter, in one easy to access place. There is no charge to use Feedly.

  • Followerwonk

    Followerwonk is a Twitter analytics tool that provides a variety of data, but focuses on getting detailed information about Twitter followers, such as when and where they tweet from.

  • Hootsuite

    Hootsuite makes managing multiple social media platforms so much easier. One of its key features is allowing users to schedule when to make a social media post, such as a tweet, to provide an online presence that’s always active. Pricing starts at $19.99 per month, but can exceed $599 per month for business clients.

  • Sprout Social

    Another social media management tool, users of this app can make posts and monitor profiles on social media. One unique feature of Spout Social’s Twitter area of specialization is providing a centralized inbox to streamline responding to followers. Pricing starts at $99 and goes all the way up to $249.

  • Talon for Twitter

    One of the more popular Twitter Android app clients that streamlines the Twitter experience. One of its highlights is the ability to remove ads from Twitter. The app costs $2.99.

  • twDocs

    twDocs provides the ability to save tweets, friends, favorites, mentions, followers and direct messages into a variety of formats, such as DOC and PDF. Pricing starts at $0, but can go to $10.50, depending on how many elements users want to export.

  • Twidere for Twitter

    This Android app allows users to better manage their Twitter presence. App users can filter out unwanted tweets, manage multiple Twitter accounts in one place and sync between multiple devices. Free to use, with in app purchases.

Use hashtags but choose them like a pro by checking their ranking on hashtagify.me.

Jason Myers

What Success Looks Like

Here are a few companies that are knocking it out of the Twitter ballpark:

  • Charmin (@Charmin)

    Charmin is known for its fun and sassy tweets as well as engaging with its followers. They also create notable hashtag campaigns, such as #TweetFromTheSeat, which encouraged users to tweet while sitting on a toilet.

  • Wendy’s (@Wendys)

    Not everyone likes Wendy’s, but it’s safe to say almost everyone enjoys its good-natured roasts of Twitter users and throwing shade at its competitors. With this humorous campaign, Wendy’s Twitter account was able to garner more than 350,000 new followers.

  • Whole Foods Market (@WholeFoods)

    In addition to using Twitter to provide great online customer service and encourage users to try new foods, Whole Foods promotes its #MakesMeWhole hashtag, where social media users can tag their food posts.

Additional Resources for Aspiring Twitter Professionals

  • #tagdef: This site provides an explanation of popular hashtags used on Twitter. Individuals can also create definitions for hashtags that don’t already have a definition.

  • Adweek: Here’s a special article that curates 15 informative articles on making the most of Twitter.

  • Social Media Examiner: A major online resource for all things social media. Even though the site promotes the business interests of its owners and creators, it still has insightful information anyone using Twitter can benefit from.

  • Social Media Today: Covers the latest trends and provides an overview of the online landscape for professionals looking to make the most of social media.

  • Tweeplers: This site is designed for anyone looking to see which Twitter users are currently trending in the United States.

  • Twitter Help Center: For any questions about a Twitter feature, try going directly to the source.