I’ve been Tweeting (making posts on Twitter) for some time now, both for personal learning/enjoyment and to engage in community conversation on behalf of several clients.
Twitter is a micro-blogging service, allowing users to send little 140-character messages out to “Followers,” exchanging tidbits of conversation and potentially exposing that conversation to a larger grid.
Here are some hands-on tips to help you get started on Twitter, or add some insights if you’re already there. To really understand this, reg for Twitter and toggle between your profile page and this post…but you’ll get the general idea by just reading it.
1. Play with a friend. To get to know Twitter a bit, encourage a friend or two to sign on when you do. Then play. Post Tweets, poke around, get the feeling for how it works.
2. Meet your neighbors. There are a few ways to do this…
- Use the “Search” box (just right of big Twitter logo; top of page) and key in topics/tags that interest you. When names show up, check the profile, and if it feels like an appropriate connection, press “Follow” beneath the profile pic.
- If you find a profile you like on Twitter, and you “Follow” them, you have access to a mosaic of the people they follow (the pictures in the column toward the right of the Twitter page). Hover over those pics to see names; click on them to see profiles. Again, if there’s affinity, you can choose to follow.
- Increasingly, corporate and individual Tweet-ers are putting their Twitter references up on their blogs and Web pages. Keep an eye out for these “Follow me!” prompts and click through.
- Watch your Facebook (and other social network) friend statuses. If if reads “(Name) is twittering:“ then that person is using Twitter. Click through to their name, scan their profile for the Twitter application, and follow. Or just search for them on Twitter (but note: many people use a “handle” on Twitter that differs from their real name—I’m “ chep2m ”—so you don’t always get a direct hit).
Remember that as you “Follow” people the larger Twitter community will have access to you through the “Twit Grid,” so follow where you want to be found. And use discretion. Follow only when there is some sort of click; build slowly and you’ll find the right people.
3. Crack the code. Two simple Twitter tools to start with:
- The “at sign” (this guy: “ @ “). Use it when you want to send a public message (called a “reply”) to a specific person. For example, if you sent “@chep2m : testing Twitter” it would reach me (even if I don’t follow you) AND it would show up in my “Replies” tab (near the top of your profile page…see it? Be sure to check this whenever you sign in to Twitter; it’s where people send replies or public messages specifically to you. (Note: if you send a reply message, make sure that you don’t add punctuation right after the name. “ @cheptum “ will reach me. “ @cheptum: “ (note colon) will not.
- Direct messages. The letter “ d “ allows you to send a direct, private message to anyone you follow who also follows you. Access these direct messages through the narrow column to the right of your Twitter profile, following the phrase “Direct Messages.” Note that this will only work for mutual followers (when both parties follow each other). Practice this with one of your Twitter friends.
4. Read the Twitter blog. Just book an hour and do it. And check back now and again. It feels like the people at Twitter can’t keep up with all of the noise and growth (love that problem) but they bring some good info together here. It’s worth a wander; enjoy…subscribe if you like it.
5. Keep a list of Twitter enhancements, or bookmark mine (coming soon). The list is growing every day; some of them are quite useful. If you come up with a new one, add it to the list.
6. Make noise beyond the Twittosphere. Only way to build a following is for people to know you’re there. Add your Twitter address to your email sig, your online profiles, even your business cards. Add a Twitter RSS feed to your Web page or Blog (details in my Business Twitter Tips). Here’s how I added a Twitter “friend stream” to my WordPress blog.
7. Tweet early, Tweet often. Show up. Post Tweets. Ask questions. Join conversations about things that interest you. Comment (using the “ @ “, of course) on smart things your Twitter friends say. Say “thanks!” when others share good info. Just engage in the whole Twitter thing and you will figure each other out.
8. Go mobile. Tons of Twitter apps for the iPhone and Blackberry… and beyond. Set your preferences to dial up/down on what actually hits your phone (almost nothing hits mine) but send updates even when you’re remote. I use PocketTweets but Twitter mobile clients abound.
9. Don’t be a stranger. Say hi on the weekends. Tweet in the evening. Bring a bit of your self into your Tweeting, even if you’re using it primarily for business connections and learning. You check in with your colleagues about their outside lives and interests, right? Same applies to Twitter.
10. Enjoy. Twitter delivers a cool world of conversation, chat, social currency, and great information to one fun, active place. Work and play with it. Twitter is a cool landmark in the growing social ecosystem and I believe it has an ongoing part to play in the growing business conversation that all of are a part of. Have fun!
One more thing. Eleven is such a random number, but I had to share one more: use Tweetburner if you are posting URLs in Tweets. It shortens them (remember: 140 characters max) and makes them trackable, plus you can post to your Twitter account directly from the Tweetburner window. Be sure to add a bit of (con)text before you post the URL. Try it…easy.
Stay tuned. I’ll do a Top Ten Twitter Tips for businesses very soon.