It’s okay to be an egg – getting started on Twitter

publication date: Jan 23, 2012
author/source: Lisa MacDonald
I'm LinkedIn.  I have a Facebook profile (and visit it every three to four months whether I need to or not) and I have accepted that social media is not a fad.  My grumbling argument about the superficial nature of Twitter and its 140-character messaging no longer seems to be an excuse, so I'm ready to jump in and  sign up for my own Twitter account. Lisa MacDonald photo

But first I looked for sound advice. Here's what I learned from Leah Eustace's Hands-on Social Media Workshop at AFP Greater Toronto Chapter's Congress 2011 last November.

It's simple to get started
  1. Go to
  2. Start with a personal account.
  3. Build your brand (personal or organization) by choosing a username that includes your real name. Remember you want people to be able to find you!
  4. Decide whether you use a real person or a logo as your avatar.  It's important to have a personality.  When you sign up, your default icon is an egg.  I'm told that most newbies don't change it for a while, but you can immediately add a photo of yourself when opening an account - you don't need to wait.
  5. Find people to follow: celebrities, politicians, your next door neighbour, whatever or whoever interests you most.
Hashtag isn't a bad word

Unlike other social media, Twitter has developed its own shorthand language for manoeuvring  through the posts. "Hashtags" allow users to assign a keyword to their tweet (a message sent via Twitter) so that others can track the conversation. To "re-tweet" is to report something (giving credit to the original tweeter) that is already in the twitter stream.  First learn the lingo, and then learn by doing.  Before you know it, you will be ready to start interacting with others.  Here Eustace has a few key dos and don'ts:
  • DO start slowly, by re-tweeting interesting tweets or commenting on someone else's comment or link.
  • DO send out information about you or your organization, but -
  • DON'T use Twitter just to "push" information or you'll lose followers.
  • DON'T shamelessly promote yourself. Again, you'll lose followers.
  • DO include some of your personality by thanking people, commenting and interacting.
  • DO follow your followers so they can direct-message you (send you a private tweet).
As you get more sophisticated in your Twitter use, there are other sites like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to help you manage all your social media accounts in one place. The functionality of these sites allows you to schedule updates ahead of time and/or write one message and cross-post it to multiple platforms.

Now all you have to do is get started. 

Author's note:  Since writing this article, I have activated my twitter account, @lisalmacdonald.   You know what? I'm hooked.  So far, I'm following 40+ people and have acquired 11 followers of my own. Send me a tweet and let me know what you think.

Lisa MacDonald is assistant editor of Hilborn's flagship newsletters, Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy and Hilborn eNEWS. A degree in journalism and communications from Carleton University and more than 12 years of experience as a nonprofit communications professional inform her passion for and understanding of issues in this sector. Lisa welcomes your ideas and comments about this article.

Send Lisa an email.

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