In Part 1 of this series I shared some ways Twitter can help you with professional development, networking and relationship building, and personal branding. If you’re willing to give Twitter a chance, there’s a lot you can get in return. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to start.

Setting up a Twitter account

<Twitter instructions, functions and features change frequently. These instructions may not match Twitter’s website today but you’ll get a good sense of how to create a smart Twitter profile.>

Start at the Twitter website, click on the Sign Up button, and fill in the fields on the Join Twitter Today page.

Full name – Use both your first and last names. You can add a suffix or designation here too.

Username – Think carefully about this one. If your full name is still available, definitely use that. Don’t use the ‘_’ character in between your first and last names, people might omit it in error. Spaces or hyphens are not allowed. Use your first and last names pushed together, for example, MarthaStewart. Unfortunately, many full names are already being used by others, so you may need to use a variation – reversing the order, adding a nickname, middle initial, state abbreviation, area code, zip code or keyword. Remember, people will always see your username, but not necessarily your full name. They will refer to you by your username — that will be your name in their mind.

Password – Select a strong unique password, one that is composed of both numbers, letters and punctuation.

Email – If you wish, Twitter will send you alerts about new followers and private messages to your email address. Select a valid address that you check frequently. I’ll discuss ways to handle emails in a later post. Check the box “let others find me by my email address.” Your email will not be displayed, however those who know your email address and want to follow you, will be able to find you by using it.

Once you do all this, Twitter will check that you are human and then will prompt you to Find Sources That Interest You, that is, people to follow. I suggest you start by only following a few people. Here’s why. Right now you have an incomplete profile – no photo, no location and no bio. If you decide to follow someone and they see your incomplete profile without a photo, it’s very unlikely they will follow you back — I wouldn’t — unless they know you. That’s a missed opportunity for you. Therefore start by following only a few who don’t matter or who are good friends.

In Part 1, Suggestions, browse the interest categories and find companies or people that interest you. You don’t need to worry about your incomplete profile because it doesn’t matter if these media companies or celebrities follow you back or not. It’s doubtful that they’ll ever interact with you; most of them treat Twitter like a one-sided relationship. After you select a few to follow, click the blue button for the next step, Friends.

I would prefer not being forced to upload email address books or LinkedIn connections now, but as Twitter is set up today (when I wrote this post), you have to do this step now. The procedure could well be different tomorrow, formats and functions change frequently on social networks. Select one of the options on the right: Gmail, Yahoo, or LinkedIn. I suggest using the one where most of your good friends’ work email addresses are stored. You will go back later to upload the other ones after you’ve established yourself on Twitter. Enter the email address associated with the account you selected and your password – don’t worry, it’s safe. Twitter will display a list of your friends who have email addresses associated with Twitter accounts. Only follow those who will follow you back unconditionally.

Select the blue ‘Next step – search’ button on the bottom of the screen. This step is optional so continue by selecting the blue Next step button again. Twitter will now send you a confirmation email to complete the set up process. Once you confirm and are logged in again (using your username and password), select Settings at the top of the page, and then Profile. It’s time to create your identity.

Creating your profile

Picture – Don’t skip this step. Anything is better than nothing for the time being. If you must, use a photo editing platform, to crop your face from a group photo. If possible, upload the same photo that you use on other social networks so people will recognize you. Use a headshot, not a full body shot or logo; it’s a tiny photo and we want to see your face.

Location – You have 30 characters to enter both your city and state. Don’t enter USA or something vague or cute. I find it suspicious and clueless when someone doesn’t tell me what part of the country they live in. Why hide that? Plus entering your city and state will help those in your geographic community find you.

Web – Enter the URL for your personal or company website, blog or LinkedIn profile, if you have one. This adds to the information that people can use to learn more about you when you follow them. If you use your company’s website or blog and you are not officially representing them on Twitter, you can make that disclaimer in your bio.

Bio – You have 160 characters to tell people what you’re all about and what you’re interested in, professionally, personally or both. Your bio gives a hint as to what type of topics you’ll tweet about. People will make a decision on whether to follow you by reviewing your bio and maybe your tweets. Don’t include your website link in your bio; the web field takes care of that. Don’t use words like ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ – it turns people off. Remember, this is public, so don’t write anything your grandmother would dislike.

Now your profile is complete. But hold on. Before finding more people to follow, give them something more to judge you on. It’s time to do some initial tweets so potential followers can see you know what you’re doing and you’re worth following. In upcoming posts, I’ll show you how to actually use Twitter and how to find interesting people to follow. In the meantime, lurk and observe how others are using Twitter.

Twitter Basics series