Using Twitter . . . 'The Smart Way'
For those of you that have somehow missed the hype, Twitter - http://twitter.com - is the quickly growing social networking (?) and micro-blogging (?) service, which having been quickly adopted by key influencers in the online world, then by bloggers, content publishers, journalists and marketers, is now being jumped on by the public at large.
Twitter is now a must-have tool if you're publishing content, undertaking online marketing, or looking to keep up with the latest trends in anything web related.
How Does Twitter Work?
In a nutshell, Twitter allows users to post regular updates (known as 'Tweets'), which are short, text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.
Updates are displayed on the user's Twitter profile page, or alternatively through a desktop Twitter messaging application, such as Twhirl, Tweetdeck or Seesmic Desktop (more on these later), to other users who have signed up to receive them ('Followers').
The aim of this article is to give you more of an idea about how to use Twitter, for valuable engagement and maxium effect, while avoiding the white noise that Twitter can also create if used incorrectly.
I call this 'Using Twitter, the Smart Way'.
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 how it is most commonly used.
So, Why Should I Use Twitter?
As i've mentioned, if used smartly, Twitter is a great online tool for engaging with key influencers in your niche and also with your own target audience.
It is immediate, it is fast and it is extremely effective.
Twitter is also valuable as a way of posting, sharing and recording your own ideas and links, as you have them or come across them (the ones you think others would benefit from hearing about that is!). Think of it almost as sharing your notepad.
- Twitter helps you cut down on newsletter and RSS feed clutter and gets information in front of your eyes with more immediacy (especially if using a desktop application)
- Shows you as a keen follower/adopter of the latest tools and apps to your peers and general website audience
- Helps you get your name known with those that matter (to you) and with a new, wider audience, who may not have found you through other mediums
So, how do you get started?
Here's the Steps I Recommend:
Step 1 - Obviously, first you need to sign up with Twitter
I suggest using your name / company / brand as your twitter account name, but that's your call.
Next, you need to find people that are worth following, by using the Twitter search. Click 'Follow', once you're on their profile, to follow their 'Tweets' / posts.
Here's some suggestions (by no means definative) to get you off the starting blocks, that fit well with SubHub's readership:
- TechCrunch: http://twitter.com/techcrunch (king of the tech blogs)
- Problogger: http://twitter.com/problogger (hugely popular blogging blog)
- Mashable: http://twitter.com/mashable (blog reviewing all that is web 2.0)
- 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
It's worth checking out the friends and followers of those i've listed above as well. Read their profiles, visit their sites and add them, if you feel they'll bring value to your Twitter experience.
Step 2 - Download a Desktop Client
TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop
I suggest you use TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop once you've built up a following (I moved across to TweetDeck when I reached 100 or so followers and have since moved again to Seesmic). At a certain point users find that Twhirl becomes harder to manage, requiring a need to think about grouping people, according to what they do or their relationship to you, with replies and direct messages filed seperately.
Both TweetDeck and Seesmic provide all the functionality you need to adequately manage posts, groups of followers, replies and direct messages - however many followers you may have. They also have the advantage of allowing you to manage multiple Twitter accounts AND your Facebook status updates. Both apps work in a similar way, so it's a matter of personal choice as to which you go with.
The first time you use TweetDeck or Seesmic you will be asked for your Twitter username(s) and password.
Both apps, like Twhirl, are an Adobe Air based application, allowing them to be used on Windows and Mac's.
As well as using the likes of Twhirl, TweetDesk or Seesmic to follow and engage with others, I suggest using these apps almost like a live bookmarking and idea generation service.
Step 3 - The four key methods of Twitter communication / engagement
Ok, so you're set and ready to go. Before people will be prepared to follow you (barring those that add anybody), you need to start 'Twittering', i.e. posting or reposting 'Tweets' (hope you're keeping up with the terminology!) that others will find useful and that relate to your niche or your interests.
- For general posts, simply either log in and type your Tweet in the message box on the Twitter website, or use the message box in your desktop app (140 characters is the maximum length of message).
- To reply to someone, use the '@' symbol, then their Twitter username, e.g.
@subhub Hello, I love SubHub.com!
Bear in mind that this reply can be seen publically, by your followers and the followers of who you are replying to.
- To 'Retweet' / repost a Tweet from someone else, use 'RT', a space, the '@' symbol, then their Twitter username, e.g.
RT @subhub Hundreds of free articles can be found at http://www.subhub.com
That's all there is to communicating and engaging through Twitter . . .
Step 4 - Don't forget to tell others that you have a Twitter account!
Now you've started following people yourself and you've begun Twittering, it's now time to post about your Twitter accounts' existence (www.twitter.com/yourusername) on your website or blog, email friends/collegues/relatives that share your interests and generally get people to follow you (remember: you don't necessarily have to follow them back).
Don't forget to link to your Twitter account on any other social sites you use, such as Facebook (most of them have functionality to add a link to your Twitter account or even take live feeds from it).
Step 5 - Remember the importance of Twitter Etiquette!
A surefire way for Twitter users to unfollow you very quickly is if you spam, don't respond to replies or direct messages, act obnoxiously or fail to bring value to their overall experience by Twittering about 'stuff' that is of no use to them.
Think of your audience at all times. Act as you would if you were dealing with them face to face in a business situation, or sitting down for coffee with them. Respect is key.
Most importantly, remember that new people are viewing your Twitter profile constantly, and making a decision about whether to follow you, based on the Tweets and replies they see.
By all means Tweet about your website, blog, service or product, but also try and add value by making this just a part of your communcation. If you come across a website or service that could benefit others Tweet about it. You'll soon build up a positive reputation as someone worth following and recommending.
What you give is what you get back. Apply that mantra and you can't go far wrong!
That's it. You're set!
You now know how to use Twitter, begin following others and build up your own posse of followers. Most importantly you now know how to use Twitter effectively to communicate and engage with others.
So . . . now for the sexy stuff! The Twitter tools . . .
The following is a list of the key sites I use to enhance my Twitter experience:
- Tr.Im: http://www.tr.im (url shortening service, with stats)
- Twitter Karma: http://dossy.org/twitter/karma/ (follower/friend management)
- Yahoo! Sideline: http://sideline.yahoo.com/ (Twitter trend & keyword management)
And if you want more!
99 Essential Twitter Tools and Applications
If you have any questions please do not hestitate to contact us.