Twitter - http://twitter.com - is a free social networking (?) and micro-blogging (?) service that allows users to post regular updates (otherwise known as ‘tweets’), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them.
The aim of this article is to give you more of an idea about how to use Twitter (and by association other micro-blogging services, such as Pownce or Jaiku) for following and engaging with the world’s top bloggers and top websites. I call this ‘Smart Twittering’.
First, to get you up to speed, it’s worth checking out the Twitter in Plain English video below, from the folks over at Common Craft. This will give you a general outline of how Twitter works and is most commonly used.
So, Why Should I Use Twitter?
Twitter is used by many thousands of people as a way of keeping in regular contact with their friends and family. This, as i’ve found rather quickly, can tend to get a bit tedious, plus other sites like Facebook do this kind of thing so much better.
Where Twitter excels (and this is the main reason I use it), is as a great way of following and engaging with, in real-time, the world’s top bloggers and top websites (Seth Godin, Mashable, Techcrunch, DoshDosh, BBC, CNN etc), all of whom use Twitter constantly.
Twitter is also extremely valuable as a way of posting, sharing and recording your own ideas and links, as you have them / come across them. Think of it almost as sharing your notepad.
- Twitter helps you cut down on newsletter and rss clutter and gets information in front of your eyes with more immediacy (if using desktop applications, such as Twhirl – more on this later)
- Shows you as a keen follower/adopter of the latest tools and apps, to your peers and general website audience
- Helps you to engage more quickly and interact more freely
- Helps you get your name known with those that matter
So, how do you get started?
Here’s the Steps I Recommend:
1 – Sign Up With twitter at http://twitter.com (I suggest using your name as your twitter account name)
Next, you need to find some worthy people (use the twitter search). Click ‘follow’, once you’re on their pages, to follow their ‘tweets’ / posts.
Here’s some suggestions to get you off the blocks:
- Problogger: http://twitter.com/problogger (hugely popular blogging blog)
- Mashable: http://twitter.com/mashable (blog reviewing all that is web 2.0)
- Seth Godin: http://twitter.com/SethGodin (marketing God)
- Scobleizer: http://twitter.com/Scobleizer (web 2.0 commentary)
- Jowjang: http://twitter.com/jowyang (senior social analyst at Forrester)
- Kevin Rose: http://twitter.com/kevinrose (Digg founder)
- Andy Beard: http://twitter.com/AndyBeard (web marketing blogger)
- Maki, DoshDosh: http://twitter.com/doshdosh (blogs about making money online)
- Rohit Bhargava: http://twitter.com/rohitbhargava (social marketing guru)
- John Chow: http://twitter.com/JohnChowDotCom (also blogs about making money online)
- BBC Technology: http://twitter.com/bbctech
- TechMeMe: http://twitter.com/techmeme
and of course, me:
It’s worth checking out the top friends of those i’ve listed above as well.
2 – Sign Up With Pownce at http://pownce.com (works in a very similar way to Twitter)
Again, search for noteable people, visit their page and add them.
There’s no point following the same people in Pownce as you’re following in Twitter (this will only cause post repetition, if you’re using a desktop app to follow and post to both Twitter and Pownce together), but you may find that some some people are on Twitter and others are only on Pownce.
The main reason for using Pownce is to increase your general web visibility.
3 – Download Twhirl Desktop Client from http://www.twhirl.org
Twhirl makes it really easy to follow and post to both Twitter and Pownce. This downloadable desktop application works kind of like an instant messenger, whereby as soon as anyone you are following posts, their post appears in your desktop client and also flashes up in a small bubble on your screen, for quick and easy reading.
Without Twhirl, I wouldn’t be able to use Twitter or Pownce in any kind of truly useful way.
Once you’ve downloaded Twhirl, add both your Twitter and Pownce accounts in your settings. You can then post a message within Twhirl and it will appear on both sites.
As well as using Twhirl to follow and engage with others, I suggest using the app almost like a live bookmarking and ‘brainburp’ service.
4 – Don’t forget to tell others that you have a twitter and Pownce account!
Post it on your website or blog, post it on your Facebook page (if you have one), email your friends/collegues etc and get people to follow you. Don’t forget to list your Wwitter and Pownce accounts on any other social sites you use (most of them have functionality to show links to your other accounts).
That’s it. You’re set!
If you want to post to other sites, such as Facebook, tumblr, LinkedIn, Jaiku etc (i’m on most of them), simply set yourself up with an account at http://hootsuite.com/ which allows you to post once, and spit out to multiple sites at the same time.
Hopefully, i’ve given you enough information to fuel your imagination and make you want to get started with Twitter and its associated apps and services.
In this new web 2.0 world, immediate access to information, and easy engagement with those that post it, is a necessity. Twitter, if used smartly, helps you do just that!