If you’re anything like me, you probably just assume everyone is on Twitter (like, why wouldn’t you be?) But that’s not true at all. Many small business owners understand why they need to be on Twitter, but they don’t really know how to get started. While writing a social media rule book for future new employees at the ‘Peg, I realized that the process for setting up a Twitter account and understanding the rules of the network can be incredibly daunting for a social media newbie.

To help newcomers, I broke  down the process into a few simple steps so as not to overwhelm anyone (I’m talking to you, Mom).

Picking a Twitter Username

If you don’t already have a Twitter account, you will need to create one. Go to www.twitter.com and sign up.  Now it is time to pick a name. You have lots of options. You can go with some variation of your name like Peter or Jenna have done (@pwolfgram & @jennagiles), or you can get creative and incorporate your name in another way like my Twitter handle (@AnnefromIndy). The decision is all yours. Just make sure you pick a Twitter username you wouldn’t be embarrassed putting on a business card. Also try to keep it short. With only 140 characters available, you don’t want to waste valuable writing space on your name.

Picking an Avatar Photo

After you have created your username, it’s time to pick an avatar photo. Again, I strongly suggest you pick something that reflects your personality, but wouldn’t offend your grandmother if she just so happened to stumble across your Twitter profile. Make sure it’s professional and easy to see on various devices. Remember, Twitter profile pictures get pretty small on an iPhone. Full body photos don’t work on Twitter, so don’t even try it.

Public vs. Private Account

You have the option to decide whether you would like your Twitter account to be public (anyone can see your profile, whether they follow you or not) or private (only the people you allow to follow you can view your profile and tweets). I strongly recommend you make your Twitter account public. It’s much better for your business and company exposure if anyone anywhere can see tweets about your products or services. Private Twitter accounts tend to look like you have something to hide.

Background Image and Cover Photo

This is where you can get creative with your branding. Things have changed a lot since I originally joined Twitter back in 2010. Now you can customize your background image which will only show up when people view your profile on a tablet or computer, but you also have the option to pick a cover photo. Twitter couldn’t let Facebook have all the fun. You’ll want your cover image to be cohesive with your other social media accounts, but you might want to read this blog post first before you get your heart set on a specific image.

Now you are all set. Start following a few people, share a few updates and you are on your way!

Want to learn a little more about twitter and other social media platforms? Join Lorraine at the Microsoft store on June 20th.