10 Twitter Tips for Beginners

by Gary Woodill on July 2, 2009

While many people I know are on Twitter, there are lots of others still just looking at it or wondering how to get started. In response to a friend’s question on how to build up a list of people to follow and how to acquire followers, I wrote this set of tips. If they are useful, pass them on:

1. There are three types of messages in Twitter - tweets that include someone’s Twitter name (i.e., if you put @gwoodill in your tweet, then I will get it), replies to someone else’s tweet, and direct messages (DM), but only if the person has turned them on in their settings. The first two methods are public (anyone can see them) and the third way is private.

2. There are different styles of Twitterers. Some people use it mainly to talk to their friends and family. Unless you know the person, you probably won’t find their tweets very interesting. Some people are there mostly to market their products and services. If you need something, I’m sure there is someone on Twitter who offers what you are looking for. Personally, I use Twitter as a research tool/search engine, and as a place to both give to the community within my industry (adult learning and development) and to receive from the same community.

3. To get a following, and not just follow, you need to post useful stuff for the community you want to attract. My tweets are mostly about learning and technology, my main area of interest. As well, the people I follow are mostly in this industry, and I use the Twitter stream to pick up fresh ideas and innovations as they happen. I put out occasional calls for assistance on a topic, and I contribute references and ideas when I see that I can be helpful. Most recently, for example, I responded to @davecormier with some references to a book and three articles on the links between medieval guilds and modern communities of practice.

4. Start by following a few hundred of people in your area of interest. Use the Find tool to locate 2-3 well known people in your field of interest on Twitter. Look at each of the people they are following, and at their followers. If a person’s bio or Tweets relate to your topic, then follow them. For example, if you look at the people I follow, then you will find mostly people in corporate training and e-learning. A significant percentage of the people you follow will follow you back.

5. Later, as you build up the list of people to follow, you will want to “cull” your list to the most useful, productive or interesting people. This process is a little like doing a wine reduction when cooking; as you reduce the list of people you follow to the most relevant to your interests, your Twitter stream become more intense and interesting.

6. Retweeting is a way of spreading a tweet that you like to your followers. It also often makes friends, as people like to be retweeted. They take it as a compliment. So, retweet the most interesting tweets that you read. Preface a retweet with RT and include the person’s Twitter name. e.g. RT @gwoodill This is a great book…etc. But, don’t just retweet – make sure you add your contributions to the stream.

7. Send out at least 1 or 2 helpful, useful, funny or interesting tweets a day to be seen as someone worth following. If you are inactive the number of people following you tends to drop off; if you tweet too frequently, you can be seen as overly intrusive or “loud”. While it is acceptable to mention what you are doing, don’t spam with tweets about your products or services. You need to find the balance.

8. To increase the number of people following you, find directories that list Twitterers by category, and list your Twitter name under each keyword that describes your interests. 

9. Use the search tool on your home page or go to to search for your topics of interest. Also search for conference names in your field. There are now often Twitter stations at conferences and people attending sessions at conference who post tweets, which is another way to find active and interesting people.

10. Note the convention of using hashtags (#) to pull together people in a group or around a topic. For example, searching for #PM will yield hundreds of potential contacts in project management. You will see other interesting hashtags to search with embedded in the tweets of others. 

I hope that helps. Once the ball starts rolling, it’s fun to see your lists build. Send me a tweet at @gwoodill to let me know how it is going.


Education vs Training: Using Twitter as a Research Tool

by Gary Woodill on February 5, 2009

I’ve increased my activity level on Twitter over the past month, and I am beginning to see its potential beyond documenting the trivial. As a test, I asked my “followers” to tell me the differerence between “education” and “training”. I received about 40 responses, many of them unique. After you read them, please add your thoughts by adding a comment.

MtnLaurel @gwoodill education=how to think. Training=how to do.

glassbeed @gwoodill education is wider in scope. Ed= global understanding and helping a compassionate citizenry to emerge. Training = job skills.

amcunningham @gwoodill the nature of the assessment? if competency based it is training. successful education is harder to assess.

AsraiLight @gwoodill To me, an education is instruction in how things have been done in the past, so you can be creative with solutions in the future.

AsraiLight @gwoodill Training is a set of expectations and proven processes to meet them. Depending on the training, deviation isn’t always encouraged.

hjarche @gwoodill Here are some of my posts on training vs education:,,  

AlwaysBreaking @gwoodill training focuses on specific tangible outcomes, often overt behaviors or skills. Ed is more about “knowing” and the “whys”

AlexDawson @gwoodill I still equate ‘training’ with skills development – more instructive, more directive. Education is such a broader expression.

KoreenOlbrish @gwoodill education=knowledge-focused without a stated “goal,” training=knowledge/skill-focused with the goal of doing *something* better

lindacq @gwoodill IMHO (& with my few english) training imply a process to go from A to A’ in any skill education include a more complex mix

lindacq @gwoodill (coma before education :-) ) a mix which include values and a moral, etich and social conception inside, implies the wish to become

lindacq @gwoodill better… also from the ethic perspective. Training is about skills, Education is this BUT is more, is about better people

jwillensky @gwoodill In <140? Outcomes: education– gaining knowledge; training– performing actions.

lindacq @gwoodill BUT this is a Fast-thought (Bourdier’s way) this could be a nice discussion

JaneBozarth @gwoodill training/education: Old adage: “Do you want your 14 year old daughter to attend a sex EDUCATION class, or a sex TRAINING class?”

iOPT @gwoodill This is in business terms: Training: learning related to the present job. Education: learning for a different but identified job.

iOPT @gwoodill This goes with the other two terms. Development: learning for growth of the individual but not related to a specific or future job

mathplourde @gwoodill Re. Educ vs. Training. I see education as a personal process, where an individual increases his intellectual capital.

mathplourde @gwoodill … and training as something to polish a current skill, something presented to a trainee, that comes from a higher power.

jamesbt @gwoodill Re: education & training – In Jhpiego’s world, education happens before (pre-service), training happens during (in-service).

hoever @gwoodill: spontaneous answer: training is the process of bringing a person to proficiency by practice;

hoever @gwoodill … education is a further step aiming at a reflective application of knowledge or competencies

skukolja @gwoodill Training = acquisition and development of skills Education = acquisition of knowledge, attitudes & skills

LindyLou08 @gwoodill In my mind education involves critical thinking and training equates immediate practical application. Just me though.

oline73 @gwoodill training is for a specific, proximate target- education is for broader, more distant targets. How’s that?

eduinnovation @gwoodill asks, “What is the difference between education and training?” Good question.

demetri @gwoodill Training changes one’s habits. Education changes one’s mind. I think it’s @AngelaMaiers who coined the term “habitude”

gdeeds @gwoodill education vs. training: Hmm.., perhaps ed is extended

StonyRiver @gwoodill – Education is politically motivated – training is industry motivated -now Knowledge, Epistemology and Wisdom are Truly different!

joro6430 @gwoodill – educated people understand the limits of their practices and can abandon them; not so easy for the well trained.

girtbysea @gwoodill training=skills, education=thinking

jnxyz @gwoodill training=skills, short-term focus. education=long-term, big-picture

sojbanks @gwoodill Great question, I think education is learning to think, training is learning to do a task.

borborigmus @gwoodill Training = developing skills; education = developing the mind ?

grahamwhisen @gwoodill First thought: training is for animals and children.

FrznGuru @gwoodill Education is ALL experiences in which people learn. Many are unplanned, incidental, and informal.

FrznGuru @gwoodill Training is instructional experiences that are focused on individuals acquiring very specific skills that they will normally

FrznGuru @gwoodill apply almost immediately. All training is included in education.

pat_leonard @gwoodill I think “education” is preparation and “training” is application

leohavemann @gwoodill I would say although there is a blurring of the line, whereas the focus of training is gaining skills, education unlocks potential

techherding @gwoodill Training is what you do to puppies

Darcy1968 @gwoodill education is a river; training a boat

EmmaHamer @gwoodill Here’s another: education teaches how to ask the right questions; training teaches how to give the right answers

bbetts @gwoodill I’d suggest that training is the “tools” and education is the application of said tools. Education allows for better use of the tools

FrznGuru @gwoodill Pic frm book ‘Instructional Design’ by Smith & Ragan (2005) illustrates difference btwn education & training

4KM Training about how?; education includes why? and what if? and where do I fit?

4KM Training suited to environments with linear cause & effect; education suited to complex environments.

Please add more thoughts on this topic below.