Need to understand twitter? How to use it, grow it, what the key features are?
I don’t know how basic to go in my upcoming course for Tcet, so I’ll briefly address the twitter questions my mother recently asked me. “What is twitter?” “What’s the big deal about it?” “How can you get value from short bits of information?” [all said with some frustration and distain for hyped news coverage]
Def’n: Twitter is, as twitter says, a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real time.
- Messaging – referred to as “micro-blogging” since all posts/updates [called ‘tweets’] are 140 characters or less.
- Connected – in twitter, its pretty simple. You follow people [following] and people follow you [followers]. Some people get >10,000 people following their tweets. Oprah, for instance, has over a 1MM followers. Some aim to follow just as many – how they do it, I don’t know.
- Real time – this is a *huge* differentiator for twitter in the social media world and what is driving a key trend and expectation in internet use. Twitter offers as close to real time as it gets – giving out a constant stream of small information updates as people post them kinda like a ticker tape of valuable post-it notes from people you like to follow.
Other useful things to know:
- Your address in twitter starts with an “@” sign. Mine is “@ldillonschalk”. When you tweet, to address the tweet to someone specific, you use the “@ldillonschalk” prior to the message. You can also use “@ldillonschalk” in the middle of the 140 characters too. The difference results in who can see your tweet. The former allows anyone who also follows “ldillonschalk” to see the tweet. The latter allows all your followers to see the tweet.
- Retweeting – “RT”. When you see a tweet message that you like, you can ‘retweet’ it or forward it to your own network by retweeting.
- Creating a profile – under settings, make it complete!
- Choose a memorable username to help people remember who the tweet is coming from. Easiest is your name. I personally want to follow people not organizations so I tend to look for individuals.
- Add a picture. Dont’ be shy. But use the same picture across all your social medias so that your ‘brand’ is consistent and recognizable. Exception can be facebook – where I use a different picture because I don’t mix my facebook with my professioanl life. Don’t change the picture too often – like once every few years. Personally – I think the picture should be professional, personable (smile), fairly close cropped head & shoulders and generally represent what you look like today (so no pictures that are over five years old showing a slimmer, more tan, or younger you). Be real. No picture of kids – save that for facebook.
- Add your one line bio and chose your words wisely. One big way people decide whether or not to follow you is by reading your short blurb that pops up when hovering over your photo. I like to see topics people tweet about and their roles (e.g. consultant, father of two, banker, etc).
How do you know who to follow? I started with people that I know, admire and love learning from. Now I worked at IBM so finding great tweeters was easy for me. But having come from the home building industry where the vast majority are still not on facebook, linkedin, let alone twitter, I could see the challenge in following. So from housing, I looked to my ad agencies or interactive partners – again, people I admired. I also am in a social media group on linkedin – upon which people started sharing their twitter addresses. I’m not suggesting you sign up to this social media group – on the contrary – look for groups and people that you like to learn from relevant to your sweet spot. If that’s business great. or it could be gardening, or golfing or whatever you want to follow.
How do you get followed?
- Follow people and they will follow you. There is a general etiquette around following – most people will follow you back. Likewise, people who find you first do expect you will return their follow. There are twitter ratios that highlight your friends vs. followers assuming that closer to 100% is better. That said – I think its okay to be selective about who you follow. Like linkedin, I don’t want a whole bunch of crap contacts of people solely interested in gaining a useless metric. See my twitter stats below from mrretweet.
- Tweet value. If you add good information, it will get retweeted.
- Retweet and engage with people you follow.
- Get a #followfriday – which is like getting a recommendation from a twitter friend to its followers that you should be followed. Better still, use Mrretweet (see reference below)
- Self promote – add your twitter address to facebook, linkedin, to your website, add to blog posts (e.g. are you following me yet?) Answer linkedin answers and leave a twitter address. etc..
How can you manage this stream of information?
Its bloody hard work to follow twitter. When I sit down, its for 1 -2 hours because I’m active. I click on links, I read blogs, I comment and retweet. Like many people, I use tweetdeck – which is a separate website (free download application to be precise) that helps to manage all your tweets. I create groups of people – my close friends, my “a” list of people I really like, my ‘all friends’ category which I watch so I can move people into my “a” list and then some groups based on subject matter.
Is there value in doing all this?
Well yes and no. Garbage in = garbage out. Twitter is what you put into it. It is an investment and the opportunity is to get connect with like minded individuals which can lead to friendship, money, respect, whatever. Right now I am learning. I now have about 200 people feeding me on topics that I love reading about. I’ve always been a very good researcher and my facts and stories were the cornerstone for a lot of my consulting work. But finding the research, the stats, the case studies was always a lot of work. Now I get fed this research and what I love about the internet is that there is always someone smarter, early adopting, knowing than me (and I’m also smarter, early adopting, etc than someone else). The downside is that I get into this mentality of receiving. and I need to step back and think about my focus, what I want to learn and what I see happening in market. There is a lot of clutter online including twitter. Sharon Hayes, see below, talks alot about the value twitter has brought to her. Check it out.
There is a heck of a lot more to learn about twitter. One person that I really enjoy following & reading blog posts from is Sharon Hayes. Her posts are incredibly well thought out and well written on a variety of social media topics. In particular, I read her twitter posts as she really understands how to build and extract value from twitter – which is not easy to get to without some time investment.
Consider reading up her on a recent post “How to avoid the #followfriday problem” so to help identify other people that you should follow.
Hope that helps. By the way – are you following me?