10 Things your Church should do this year on Social Media

It’s the start of a new year and with that comes the opportunity to try some new things on social media. Social media and social networking is an ever changing landscape. Websites and apps come and go, ideas and strategies change and evolve. It’s more than just setting up an account and keeping things updated regularly. But don’t let that scare you. It doesn’t mean you have to spend your life keeping up to date with it all – that’s what you have me for (!) Below are some ideas (or challenges if you wish) to keep your social media presence and your knowledge expanding. If you manage all of the ten on the list that’s fantastic, but one or two completed will also have you heading in the right direction.  Let me know if you tick any off the list. 

Number One: Step Outside Your Comfort zone
Take a risk, try something new. Why not try live-tweeting a service, create a new hashtag campaign or use Twitter’s new poll feature for the first time. You could set up an Instagram account for your church or create a community of local church Tweeters. It doesn’t need to be a big step. It’s about discovering what else is out there and not letting fear of getting it wrong stop you from trying in the first place. Do one thing this year that you’ve never done before.

Number Two: Reach out to others
Don’t just wait for people to come talk to you on social media – start conversations yourself. You can do this by joining in on trending hashtags or just strike up conversations with your followers. Follow other churches on social media and form connections between them. By working together you’ll have a louder voice – there’s power in unity! Share events you’re holding with them, help promote their events and pray for each other.

Number Three: Learn something New
There are two things I think every church should learn how to use: iMovie and Canva. Youtube is the second biggest search engine after Google and Facebook’s move into video sharing has been a massive success for them which will only grow over the next 12 months. iMovie, the iPad app is incredibly easy to use with plenty of tools to make simple videos which you can upload straight onto Facebook or Youtube.

Alongside video, visual storytelling using graphics are still a major part of social media marketing. Anything with colour is going to make people stop for a second to see what you’ve posted. The better your design is, the more likely people are stop and read your post. Canva is the perfect tool to create good looking graphics of all shapes and sizes and post them straight to your social media channels.

Number Four: Broadcast something via Periscope
The live broadcasting app from Twitter is incredibly easy to use. All you need is some phone signal or wifi and a smart phone. Why not get involved in the CofE’s ChurchLive project or do some live broadcasting of your own. It could be a service, a fund-raising event or just a tour of your church. Live broadcasting will be big in 2016 so make sure you’re part of it.

Number Five: Teach your congregation how to use it
And by “use it” I mean social media. As your church uses social media more and more, it’s so easy to leave behind those people in the congregation who don’t even know how to turn a computer on, let alone send a tweet. As mentioned in my “quick digital wins” blog, all you need to do is set up some time for the younger ones to show the older ones how to do it. As social media becomes a bigger and bigger part of everyday life, it’s time worth spent making sure a large part of your congregation aren’t alienated by it. And you can give them the tools to stay safe online too.

Number Six: Create a strategy
If you haven’t done this already of course. Starting the year off with a plan of where you’re going and where you want to be is a no brainer. There’s nothing to say you can’t change course or have a few small diversions but if everyone in the church knows what journey you’re on, the easier you’ll find to stick to it. Have a clear idea of what your voice is and how you plan to use it. Pick out key dates in your calendar and how you can make the most of social media on those days. The more you plan ahead the better.

Number Seven: Have More Fun
It’s okay to be silly sometimes. Have a caption competition, use Twitter polls to have quizzes or have a guessing game using photos from around the parish. Get involved in funny hashtags on Twitter, share video of your youth leaders making a fool of themselves to make the kids laugh. Show the church has a fun side (one of many sides – your church is multidimensional!) When people see you having a good time, they’ll want to join in.

Number Eight: Tell Stories
You have a whole Bible’s worth of stories at your fingertips so why not come up with some creative ways of sharing them online? Don’t just share your church online, be your church online. The best way to tell these stories is using video (though anything visually eye-grabbing will work!) like this great Christmas video from All Saints, Peckham or through clever poetry, like that from Miriam Swaffield. Why not share testimonies from the congregation? Share the emotion of baptisms or use stopmotion to create animated tales from the bible. You can find more inspiration in my video ideas blog. There are so many stories to tell, so go and tell them!

Number Nine: Evaluate
Look back at your last year on social media and evaluate how well it went. Look at the analytics that are available to you and see what was popular and what wasn’t popular. Investigate what type of posts do best and what day of the week has the most engagement. Learning what has does well on your account is important in planning your future. Don’t be afraid to ditch a social media platform if it isn’t working for your church. Remember, you’re looking for engagement and communication, not just ‘likes’. If you’re not getting that, it might be time to throw out the current plan and try something new.

Number Ten: Get the Basics Right
Make sure all your bio is filled in properly including things like your web address. Not only does a half filled in bio make your account hard to find, it’s incredibly frustrating to visit your page and not be able to find your website or any information about your church. Have an eye catching header picture, something that’ll make people stop and want to investigate further. It’s these areas which are some people’s first impression of your church so you need to get it right first time. Your bio and your visual identity on your social media accounts are your shop window.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Choosing the right social network for your church

The first step to being on social media is to learn what all the social networks are.  The second step is choosing which network or networks are right for your church.

I have four main pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t be on all social networks just because they exist or because you think you should be on all of them. If only one network is right for you then only be on one.
  2. Start slowly. The more social networks you are on, the more time and work it involves. If your church is completely new to social media, start off on one social network and build on that once you know what you’re doing.
  3. If you’re on more than one social network, make sure the content on each is different and site specific, as otherwise people will only need to follow one or the other. Give people a reason to follow them all.
  4. If you think you might want to use other social media networks in the future, why not plan ahead and secure any usernames you might want to use in the future. A site like www.namechk.com will be able to help you find an available username across all the networks

So how do you choose?
The main two social media networks that churches choose to be a part of are Twitter and Facebook. Below are some pros and cons to both to help you decide where to start.

Twitter
Twitter has a faster pace than Facebook and therefore needs more regular updates. There’s no right answer for how often you should post but if you post too little, people have no reason to follow you, post too often and people will unfollow you for spamming. I suggest around 5-10 times a week as a minimum (though this can include pre-prepared scheduled tweets) though to increase the success around 3-5 times a day would be best. In the end it all depends on your church’s social media strategy – what’s right for you may not work for another church.

Because of the 140 character limit, you have to be clever about how you share information and it’s much better suited to live, ‘of the moment’ messages. This makes it especially good for sharing your church services and events live as they happen, as well as quick snappy videos, photos (especially those taken there and then). It’s also important to create and engage in conversation.  Try not to use Twitter as a one way system just to announce things.

Facebook
Facebook gives you space to say more and has a slightly slower pace to it. Facebook is not really the place for live updates from an event. Instead, it’s a great place to share stories, fantastic photos, event invitations and videos.

Because of its commenting structure, it’s also a great platform to create engagement through asking questions. You could ask people what their favourite hymn is, or post a “fill in the blank” question or even a game where they have to guess where in the parish a photo was taken.

As mentioned previously, the age demographic on Facebook (especially for a Church page) will be in the 40-60 range therefore it’s probably not the right social network if you are using it to engage with young people. One thing you may be surprised by, though, is the number of non church members who follow your church page, especially if your church or church buildings are involved in community events.   This will make it a perfect opportunity to encourage those locals to visit you in person.

Other social networks
If you have the time and resources for more than one social networking site, here are a few other things to consider:

Instagram may be a perfect option, especially if you have a full time youth leader or a large student community. Use Instagram to share images of the young people having fun, making use of all the filter options.  You can also share behind the scenes photos and market upcoming events or services.

Blogging may be something you consider as an addition to your website, either as a regular post from the vicar or as a series of blogs from different church members. If you choose to have a blog, ensure you plan the blog topics as much as possible and maybe choose a particular day of the week so people know when to look forward to it.

Pinterest is not a typical choice for churches. Because of its very specific ‘pin board style’ it may be more useful as a place to find ideas to replicate, especially with its large collection of gorgeous photos, unusual ideas and inspiring prayers and worship resources on the site.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Doing Christmas on Social Media

Unsurprisingly, Christmas is one of the things churches do best, and there’s also a really great opportunity to do a brilliant job of Christmas on social media.  Social media is a fantastic place to get people thinking about the real meaning of Christmas as there are so many ways to communicate it. I’ve put pen to paper (or more accurately fingers to keyboard) and pulled together a few ideas to inspire you in your Christmas social media strategy.

Telling the Story
Throughout the Christmas season, try and find interesting ways to tell the story.  It could be through photos, graphics, videos or even gifs. Try and be as creative as possible, the more unusual and unique the better. For example: why not turn the church into a giant Advent calendar, revealing the next bit of the story each day? It would be perfect for the community to get involved in but also a great thing to share each day on social media.

One of the easiest things to do is to share relevant Bible verses (don’t forget that they’ll need to fit into 140 characters on Twitter). This is a great reminder for people that Christmas is about more than presents and food. Go one step further and turn the Bible verses into graphics. Not only will you be able to fit longer verses onto a graphic but they should be more engaging. As people scroll, they’ll stop to take a look at images. I’ve shared some resources on other posts which will make it incredibly easy to make quote graphics.

Promoting the Services
This might seem obvious, but don’t forget to promote your service times. Create a clean, simple and easy to understand Christmas timetable graphic and share it regularly. Don’t forget to post it at different times of day to reach different groups of people. It’s also worth tweeting individual service times and reminding people how welcome they are to come. It’s not always easy to ask someone face to face if they’d like to come to church, but retweeting or sharing a post about the Christmas service times isn’t nearly as daunting and is a great way to to invite friends to church for the first time.

Don’t forget to make the Christmas service times prominent on your website; if people have to search for them, they’ll probably just give up.

Getting Ready
There’s so much you can share on Twitter and Facebook in the run up to Christmas. Churches can look really magical at Christmas time with candles and decorations, so use that to make people want to visit your church: share photos of the christmas decorations going up, the stages of the nativity crib scene being put into place or a video of music being practised. It builds up the anticipation and excitement for the main event. Think about the things your church does to get ready for Christmas that people might not know you do, or look for the humorous side in the preparations. Take a photo of the tower of mince pie boxes you need for a service or how you get such a large tree into the church.

During/On the Day
Not tweeting during your Christmas Day service (or during other Christmas services) might be a missed opportunity. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Why not share photos of the church filling up and updates of how you’re celebrating in church – you could live tweet the whole thing!
  • Take a short video clip of the entire church saying Happy Christmas. Short means you can share the video on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Why not try vine also? An app from Twitter which lets you share 6 second videos
  • Share videos from individuals about what they think Christmas is, you could also do it with still photos and have them hold up their message (perfect for Twitter and Instagram!)
  • Take multiple photos throughout the service and create stop-motion style video of the service
  • Live-stream it: use an app like Periscope to live video stream the service around the world. You’ll need to plan ahead and know what’s happening where but it’s worth the effort.

Videos
A video is a perfect way to share the Christmas story. Not only can you tell the story in unique and creative ways, it will also be more engaging on social media than text or image posts (plus perfect to show in Church too!). Have a look at my list of best Christmas videos, including All Saints, Peckham who used the overground train running past their church to tell the Christmas Story. Read my blog on cheap and easy video ideas which prove you don’t need a big budget or a budding director in your church to make a video. If you do create a video and also plan to post it on Facebook, don’t forget to upload the video straight to Facebook rather than using a Youtube link as you will get a lot more people watching the video.

Got ideas of your own? Why not share them in the comments below.

The What and Why of Hashtags

Whenever I talk to people about how Twitter works, the topic of hashtags always pops up. A lot of people are confused about why they are used and what they are for. In this post I’ll be talking about some different uses of hashtags and then read how to use them yourself.

The official definition of a hashtag is this:

“A hashtag is any word or phrase immediately preceded by the # symbol. When you click on a hashtag, you’ll see other Tweets containing the same keyword or topic.”

To put it as simply as possible, by using hashtags, you become part of a larger conversation. By everyone using a particular hashtag when talking about the same thing, they become grouped  together.  This makes it easier to see what everyone is saying about that one topic in one place.

For example, it could be a television show everyone is watching and tweeting about (#xfactor) or  something that’s happening in the news (#royalwedding). Some are preplanned and serve a purpose, others are off the cuff, and serve no purpose other than to to categorise a tweet into a particular topic.  You’ll see examples of this in the trending topics on the left hand column in Twitter.

There are a lot of different ways people use hashtags, here are a few to give you an idea:

Humour
“Challenge” hashtags pop up in the trending topics fairly regularly.  It could be a “replace a word” hashtag such as #RuinANovelWithSocialMedia,   or #replaceamovietitlewithsynod which was floating around Twitter during February’s General Synod. Some of the creations included:

Hashtags are also commonly used at the end of a tweet as a sarcastic or ironic sidenote. For example:

Events
Conferences and events all now use a specific hashtag for people to use. They do this for a couple of reasons.

  1. Using the hashtag makes all tweets about the event incredibly easy to monitor, especially any feedback the organisers need to respond to
  2. It’s a great way for those unable to attend the event to keep track of what’s happening

Campaigns
Charities and organisations will use a hashtag to help spread their message such as #BringBackOurGirls, #NoMorePage3 or #AnotherGift. They can be used to motivate people to donate money (such as a challenge), or just used to combine all tweets about a certain campaign together, so they don’t get mixed up with other ongoing campaigns. Some are about taking action and others are about raising awareness.

Other Examples of hashtag usage:

#illRidewithYou – After the terrorist attacks in Sydney, people used the hashtag #illridewithyou to muslims who didn’t want to travel on public transport alone in case they were harassed or attacked.

#FoxNewsFacts – After a Fox News expert said Birmingham was a no go area for non-muslims, the hashtag #foxnewsfacts was created with some hilarious results as people invented other ‘facts’ from Fox News.

#PizzaOnATrain – thousands of people on twitter were captivated by comedian Chris Ramsey and his plan to get pizza delivered to a train during a journey to Newcastle

#MedicatedAndMighty – people used the hashtag to share photos of themselves holding their medication as well as stories and experiences to fight the stigma of mental illness.

You’ll notice with all these hashtags that there are no spaces in the words, that’s because a hashtag can only include characters and not spaces. Some people capitalise each word to make it easier to read. Also, whilst hashtags can include numbers, it doesn’t allow the use of special characters such as apostrophes, turning Didn’t or I’m into #Didnt and #Im.

 

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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Social networking sites: The ones you should know about

There are many social networking sites available now in the online space. Some you may have heard of and some might be completely foreign to you. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have been around for years, whilst other sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram are much newer. With so much choice in social networking websites, how do you choose which one is right for you or for your church? Below is a little guide to the top few to help you decide.

Facebook
Facebook is the most popular social network in the world with 1.55 billion monthly active users, 65% of them using it daily. The social network was created by Mark Zuckerberg and was original designed as a network for university students. Since 2006 it’s been available to everyone over the age of 13. Whilst there are users of all ages on the site, it now has a reputation as a place for parents and grandparents to keep up with their younger family members’ activities. Whilst the biggest group of users are in the 18-29 age bracket, the percentage of those in the 65+ age bracket is increasing.

The social network lets you post updates in the form of text, video or photo, play games, find and message friends and join groups or pages of particular topics or interests (such a favourite TV show, a public figure or, of course, a church!)

Alongside profiles, Facebook lets you create ‘Pages’ or ‘Groups’. A page is like a public profile that anyone can follow. Companies, products and churches have their own Facebook page. Groups are smaller communities inside Facebook which can either be open for all to join or closed to a select few. A youth group or a youth leader network may create a group to communicate with each other and share content.

Twitter
Through Twitter you can post messages of up to 140 characters. This might not seem like a lot but you’ll be amazed how creative people can be with the character limit they are given. In the ‘tweets’ you can also include images, polls, videos or links. Anyone can see your tweets (unless you specifically mark them as viewable to your approved followers only) and you can view everyone else’s. It’s used in a variety of ways but because of its reputation for being ‘of the moment’, it’s mostly used to record live moments (it’s so quick that a lot of news is reported through Twitter before the major news outlets)

The site has 316 million monthly active users (many fewer than Facebook) and 500 million tweets are sent every day.

Whilst Twitter is easy to use, it does have its own language and style of messaging that’s completely unique to the site.

Pinterest
If you ever created a mood board or pinned inspirations and ideas onto a cork board, this site will be familiar to you. Instead of a real cork board, you have many ‘boards’ to which you can ‘pin’ pictures, recipes, ideas, and more. You can upload them from your computer, take them from websites or ‘re-pin’ from other people’s boards.

You can search through the many themes or just search keywords to find all the things that interest you. It may be craft activities, fashion, architecture, typography and design, flower arranging or just cute cat pictures. People then use the boards to organise the pins they like into their own themes such as ‘Wishlist’, ‘child friendly recipes’ or ‘Wedding ideas’

There are just under 50 million users of Pinterest around the world but because of its focus on craft, recipes and weddings, its user base is mostly female.

Youtube
Youtube is by far the most successful video sharing website with 300 hours of video uploaded every hour (that’s 12.5 days worth of video uploaded every minute). It’s also the second most popular search engine after Google (which owns Youtube) People can upload videos for others to watch, build playlists of favourite videos or comment on other people’s videos. The website is over ten years old and is the most popular site by far for sharing videos. Youtube can also be used for sharing live video as well as being the home of ‘Vloggers’. A vlog is a video-blog featuring a young person talking about their interests such as make up, books or gaming. These ‘Vloggers’ have massive followings, many with over a million subscribers who watch all their videos, transforming them into a new kind of celebrity. Because Youtube offers money to creators of original content if they include advertising on their videos, Vloggers can earn a living through uploading their videos to the site.

Instagram
Instagram is all about sharing photos. The mobile app lets you easily add pre-set filters to your photos (to change the lighting, contrast and colours) without the need for expensive or complicated photo editing programs. You then post the photo with a comment and hashtags for your followers to ‘like’ or comment on. The biggest user group of Instagram is aged 18-29 and it is used to document life in a very visual way. Everything from what they’re eating, to where they are in the world, to who they’re hanging out with. The site has 300 million users and has increased in popularity rapidly in the last few years.

WordPress/Tumblr (Blogging)
Blogging is like an online journal. People use it to comment on everything from current events, their own thoughts and feelings or a recipe they want to share, or even sharing social media advice! People can then share the blogs or comment on them. The most popular standard blogging website is WordPress but another popular blogging site is Tumblr. Whilst the site lets you create simple text posts to your blog, it’s a much more visually focused platform with photos, Gifs (short animated pictures) and videos. Tumblr also attracts a younger audience.

WordPress bloggers generally fit into two categories: Those wanting to share their knowledge on a subject (i.e recipes, poetry, book) or those wanting to comment on a particular subject (i.e faith, politics, film). The blogs are normally around 500-1000 words and are ‘tagged’ with key words which help people to search, which is helpful considering WordPress users produce over 52 million new posts every month.

Other sites you may have heard of:

  • Vine: Lets you share 6 seconds of video (people manage to be incredibly creative with this!)
  • Snapchat: Lets you send friends photos and videos that self-destruct after 10 seconds (Think “Mission Impossible” without the explosions!)
  • Vimeo: Another video sharing site similar to Youtube (Known for its high quality videos, also lets you password protect certain videos)
  • LinkedIn: a professional social networking site for people to find jobs, network with people in similar fields and discuss professional ideas
  • Google+: Put people you follow into differently themed ‘circle’ groups, share content and find content based on your interests (connects to your other Google accounts such as Youtube)
  • Flickr: A photo sharing site which can group photos into albums and lets people view or download the photos
  • Periscope: Share live video broadcasts over the internet to anyone in the world

Using Twitter Polls

There’s a new feature you may have spotted on your Twitter account: the ability to post mini polls on your feed for your followers. Below I’ll explain how to use them and why your church should be using this feature, along with a few suggestions to get you started.

How does it work?
It’s really simple. When you click on the new tweet box, either in the top right hand corner or at the top of the Twitter feed, you’ll now see three options: Media, Location and Poll. Clicking on Media will let you add photos or video. Location will let you pinpoint where in the world you are and finally Poll which lets you create a mini survey. Clicking on this will open an extra section to create your poll. Next thing to do is to write your tweet and choose your poll options before posting the tweet.

Why should you use it?
Followers can engage with just a click of a mouse making it really simple to get involved. Even I have found myself participating in polls on topics I’m not interested in because it’s fun to choose an option and share my opinion.
You may also find more people respond to the tweet as well as voting as they’ll tell you why they voted for that particular category or reply because they didn’t vote due to a third option you hadn’t considered. In short, it’s a really easy and fun way to create engagement as well as a quick way of collecting useful feedback.

How could churches use it?
Here are just a few ideas for you:

  • To help with decision making – Which meal option should be served at an event? What theme should a fun day be? Should the flowers in church be roses or daffodils? Should the new sign outside be blue or green? People will love to feel like they’ve been consulted.
  • Gain insight – do your followers prefer the Old Testament or the New Testament? Pews or chairs? Organ music or Drums? Knowing what your followers like could be really useful.
  • Collect feedback – What did people enjoy most at last Sunday’s service, the music or the prayers? Did people enjoy the new biscuits after the service or prefer the old ones? Find out what people liked about a particular service or an event to help plan for the next one. Plus it’s a useful gauge of how successful an event was.
  • Use it to show your sense of humour. Star Wars or Star Trek? Baked Beans or Peas? Showers or Baths? Have fun with polls and let your church’s personality shine through with a bit of silliness. Why not turn the poll into a true or false game to see how much people know about your church?

Tips

  • Don’t go overboard on polls! Too many and people might get tired of them.
  • Don’t forget to respond to the people that do reply to your poll and make it into a conversation.
  • Track the results, especially for feedback and decision making polls – there’s no point in creating a poll if you’re not interested in what people think. Also: Don’t ask if the sign outside should be green or blue if you’ve been planning all along to paint it red!

Updating your Twitter Settings

To edit your settings on Twitter, click the little square profile picture in the top right hand corner. This will bring down a down down list of options. Simply click on settings to be taken to the page with all the settings on it.

twittersettingsThe first thing you’ll notice from the picture on the left is that there are a lot of options!

I’ll be talking you through the options you need to know about. Some of the options are a little bit advanced so I’ll only briefly mention them.

Account
This is the basics: username, email address, language, time zone etc. At the very bottom of this page is where you can deactivate your account. Whilst it will make you confirm if you definitely want to deactivate your account, once you’ve clicked yes there’s no going back!

Security and Privacy
This is where you can increase the security of your account (how easy it is to log in) as well as how secure it is. You can also choose how private your account is, including setting the ability to hide tweets from the general public and only let approved people see them.

Password
For changing your password

Cards and Shipping
You’ll need to set up a payment card and shipping information if you want to purchase items through Twitter (This is completely optional)

Order History
If you have purchased items through Twitter, this is where they will be listed.

Mobile
Where you can add or edit your mobile number (Used to help verify you when needed)

Email Notifications
Twitter can notify you by email any time someone follows you, replies to one of your tweets, direct messages you and more. If you don’t want to receive these or only want to receive certain notifications, go here.

Web Notifications
Similar to email notifications but received through the web browser

Find Friends
One part of creating an account is the option to find friends using your email contacts list.  If you choose to skip that step, you can come back here and do it at any other time.

Muted Accounts
You can ‘mute‘ users which means they can still read your tweets but their tweets won’t appear in your feed (used for accounts you have to follow but you’re not interested in their tweets, or temporarily whilst a certain account is tweeting heavily about a particular event) The muted accounts tab will let you see all the accounts you have muted and let you make changes to the list.

Blocked Accounts
Blocked users aren’t able to follow you or view your profile while logged into Twitter, their tweets will also not appear in your feed. Similar to muted accounts, here you can edit your blocked account list.

Design
Here are some design options (though only appear on a tweet’s own page)

Apps
If you’re using any apps that need access to Twitter (such as Buffer, Tweetdeck, Periscope, etc) they will be listed here. If you want to revoke access to any of the applications, you can do this with a click of a button

Widgets
The definition of a widget is: an application, or a component of an interface, that enables a user to perform a function or access a service. Twitter widgets are used on websites to display timelines, favourites and lists etc. It’s not something a beginner needs.

Your Twitter Data
This section has some account information such as when you first created your account. There’s not much you can edit here, it’s just data Twitter provides for your information.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments. For more easy guides to Twitter, visit my social media for beginners page.

The A-Z of setting up a Twitter Account

This post is a step by step guide to creating a new Twitter account. If you’re a completely beginner, hopefully this will help you get started. Do note: Twitter periodically changes it’s sign up procedure so if what you’re seeing on the screen doesn’t match up with my guide – do let me know!

Step One
Visit www.twitter.com. This is what the homepage will look like:

Twitter1

Underneath ‘New to Twitter?’ fill in the form, including your name, a working email address and a strong password. Once you’re ready, click that big yellow button.

Step Two
This is the first page you’ll be taken to. It just confirms the details you have put in. Give it a double check that it is all correct and then move on to the next page by clicking ‘Sign up‘.

Twitter2

Step Three
The next thing Twitter wants you to do is to give them your phone number. As it says on the screen, this will help with security and finding contacts etc. If you’re not comfortable including your phone number you don’t have to put it in. Click Skip (highlighted in red) to move onto the next page.

Twitter3

Step Four
Choose a username. Each account has a username which is completely unique to them. This is how other users can ‘mention’ you in tweets, find your account and more. Because it is unique to you, you may find it takes a few tries to find a username that hasn’t yet been taken. Twitter includes some suggested usernames based on your email address or name.

twitter4

As mentioned on the screen, the username can be changed at any time so don’t worry if you can’t think of anything straight away. Remember: the maximum length of a username is 15 characters.

Step Five
Once you’ve chosen your username, created a password etc, the next step is follow some other Twitter users. Twitter helps you with this by finding some people you may find interesting. The next page gives you a list of categories. Pick the ones that interest you and then click continue.

twitter5

Step Six
After picking your categories, Twitter provides a list of Twitter followers that fit into those categories that it thinks you might like (The number will depend on how many in the list you ticked) Here is where you can either follow them all with a click of a button or go through the suggestions and untick ones which don’t appeal to you.

twitter6

Accounts with a blue tick next to their name means they have been verified by Twitter. Verified accounts prove that they are who they say they are and are generally given to high profile people and organisations.

Step Seven
This is where you choose your profile picture. You can choose any photo you like here, most people choose a photo of themselves. You can either upload one from your computer or use your webcam. Once again you can skip the step if you don’t have a photo you like to hand.

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Step Eight
The final step is to link your account with any email accounts you have. By doing this, Twitter will search through your contacts to see if there are any of your contacts with Twitter accounts. If you don’t want to do this, you can click skip (highlighted in red)

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Step Nine
Once you’ve done this you’ll be taken to your Twitter page which will look a little like this:

twitter home

Twitter will need you to confirm your account as soon as possible. To do this, it will send you a confirmation email to the email address you provided. Make sure you open it and follow the confirmation instructions inside.

And there you have it! That’s how easy it is to set up a Twitter account. For all my other guides to using Twitter, including how to edit your settings and create lists, click here. 

Understanding the Twitter Homepage

There are a lot of components that make up the Twitter Homepage. In this post I’ll be guiding you through everything you need to know about it.

When you log in or have created your account for the first time. It’ll look a little bit like this:

twitter home

(If you haven’t set up your profile/pictures yet, it’ll look a little simpler, but the main blocks are exactly the same)

Home / Notifications / Messages
In the top left hand corner you have these three options:

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The home tab is where you currently are on the site (indicated by the blue line underneath) This is your main dashboard where you can see all the tweets for the people following you. Clicking on the Notifications tab will take you to a similar page listing anytime somebody has replied/retweeted/favourited one of your tweets. The Messages tab is where you can find any private messages you have sent or have been sent to you.

Search / Settings / Tweet
In the top right hand corner you have some more options:

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The search box lets you search for other users or key words that may be in other tweets. You can also filter the searches to find pictures, videos, the top tweets or all live tweets. Beside the search box is your profile picture. By clicking on it, a drop down list of options appears (see above picture) Here is where you’ll find settings including privacy settings, alerts and where you can change your password etc. The last button is the tweet button. Clicking on this will open up a window inside the webpage for you to create your tweet.

Profile Information
On the left hand side will be this box which displays your profile picture, a second longer picture (known as your header picture) and home3information about your account. This includes how many tweets you have posted, how many people you follow and how many people follow you. If you click on Tweets, this will take you to your stream of tweets. Clicking on Following will take you to a page lists all the people you follow (Where you can easily make adjustments to this list) and Followers shows you a list of all the people following you.

Trending Topics
Underneath the profile information box is a trending topics box. This is a list Twitter creates of the top things people on Twitter are talking about (the topics listed are determined by which location you have set it to look at)

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Who to Follow
A box on the right hand side of the page suggests three users at a time you may like to follow. It makes suggestions based on who you already follow.

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Twitter Stream
This is the main part of the page. All tweets from users you follow will be displayed here. (Tweets with images or video included will take up more space, like the example underneath)

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At the top of the stream in the light blue box you can write tweets (very similar to the create a new tweet box above) and below each tweet are options to reply, retweet, favourite and more. It will also display how many retweets and favourites the tweet has had. Clicking on the tweet will display further information and show any replies the tweet may have had.

If you haven’t set up your Twitter account yet, go back and have a look at my step by step guide. For all my other guides to using Twitter, including how to edit your settings and create lists, click here. 

Scheduling your Posts

Chances are, you’re not going to have the time to spend all hours of the day on social media (big companies have teams of people that cover their social media 24/7) And if you’re looking after the account single-handedly, there will be times when you’re on holiday, or times when you’re too busy to post

You could just post when you can and go quiet when you can’t, but there are ways scheduling posts on both Twitter and Facebook so that you’ll not only have a regular stream of content, but you can also target your audience when they are most likely to be online.

The biggest times of day for audiences on social media are mornings, lunchtime, evenings and weekends, which are generally times when you may not be available to post.

(Do keep an eye on your insights/analytics as the best time of day to post can change depending on the account)

Facebook
When creating a new post on your Facebook page, you will notice a little arrow button beside the Publish button. Clicking on this will open up the option to schedule the post, backdate the post, or save it as a draft. If you choose to schedule, a new window will pop up, letting you pick on which day and at what time your content should be posted.

Once you have scheduled a post, a new box will appear just underneath the text box giving you easy access to view all scheduled posts. Through this link you can edit these posts and change their posting schedule.

Twitter
You can’t currently schedule posts straight from Twitter, but there are still plenty of places to do that. The two most well known are Tweetdeck (a Twitter owned site) and Hootsuite. Click here to find out to use Tweetdeck and how to get the most out of it.

Tweetdeck lets you schedule tweets, including ones with attached photos, and choose exactly what time and date it appears. You can also easily edit scheduled tweets.

To schedule: click the new tweet button in the top left hand corner, you’ll see an option underneath the text box to schedule the tweet, here you can pick the exact time and date. Once you’ve clicked tweet, you will be able to see the tweet in the ‘scheduled tweets’ column and be able to edit and reschedule whenever you need to.

Buffer
Buffer is a website which lets you schedule social media posts over multiple accounts which can save you time. It can also help you in finding the best time of day to post – all you need to do is create your content and Buffer will do the rest. The are also browser extensions – these work on top of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, which means that if you see an article your followers may like, you can add it to the queue of scheduled posts with just a click of a button.

Remember:

  • Choose the times to post carefully, companies have come under fire for scheduled content posting during Nov 11th minute’s silence. The type of content should also match the time you post, for example: content targeted at parents scheduled to post during the school run won’t get as much engagement.
  • Don’t rely completely on scheduled posts – what makes social media great is being ‘in the moment’ and sharing what’s happening live.