How I am using Twitter - by a relatively experienced Twitterer...
There's a plethora of information about how to refine your Twittering skills - simply type How to use Twitter in Google - and you'll be inundated with some good stuff - some quite complex and others pretty basic. We find ourselves explaining to family, friends and clients so often what exactly Twitter is. So, I thought it may be useful to share with others: how I got started, my tactics to remain targeted in my Twitter use - and what I think of Tweeting so far...
Firstly (oh Grasshopper), what is Twitter?
Please remember that the views shared in this article, are mine and mine alone - so this is my definition of Twitter.
Social Networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Linked-In, Bebo, Bizzbug - are effectively ‘online social spaces' where people can share their profiles, news, photos, ideas, work projects etc. Then we have Blogs - online ‘diary style' platforms where people can share their views, news, ideas and advice about something they are passionate about. Businesses have blogs, people have blogs - it's a way to communicate what's happening, how you feel about things, provide advice and share. The objective is to get people interested and engaged by providing authentic, transparent and relevant information. And hopefully, those that engage with what you are talking about - will tell others - and so they will ‘follow' your musings, subscribe to your blog - growing brand awareness, positive word of mouth - and share of mind. Similarly, you may participate in ‘online forums' - here you share your views and advice with others - and ask for help too. Again, the forum is not a place to directly ‘sell' - it's a place to build your reputation and share opinion.
Of course, people do try to use these platforms for direct sales purposes - but that tends to ‘turn off' the ‘social audience'. So that can't be your main objective.
Twitter, in my opinion, is the perfect ‘communication' channel for your ‘social media' activity. It's the ‘connecting' element that's necessary for linking likeminded a vast amount of people in a in a targeted and purposeful way.
So how does it work?
Well joining is really simple - visit www.twitter.com and register. But pause a while before you dive in...
Decide your objectives: Think about how you want to use Twitter - as once you've started, it may be difficult to change tactics! Are you wanting to use Twitter for general social interaction, or for business purposes. What image do you want to portray? Are you an expert in cat grooming - or interested in meeting people who enjoy cooking and sharing recipes? Perhaps you are using it for business purposes and want to share relevant advice and news on your specific business. Do you have a blog? How is the blog positioned - are you an ‘expert' in something - will you be sharing information on that specific competence. Considering what you are looking to achieve from ‘connecting' on Twitter is vital to how you position yourself before you start.
Targeted Profile: Once you've decided on your position - then set up your profile (See Profile next to Home on your Twitter home page.) If you are an Expert Cat Groomer then say that - be specific, be targeted in your profile, insert relevant urls for your website or blog. There are ways via Twitter Search and WeFollow and Twollow that users can search based on keywords in profiles and in posts. So if people search cats - then you may get picked up. Also - when I am deciding on whether to follow someone who ‘follows me' (get to that later) - then I always read their profile to see if they are the type of people that I want to follow. If they mention stuff that I'm interested in such as: internet marketing, marketing, SEO, social media, blogging, branding, userbility - then I will check out their latest ‘tweets' and if all relevant - then I will follow them back. I also pay attention to profile pictures - so be sure to select something ‘on brand' and representative of you. You can change your picture at any time - in Settings - (as well as your background design and account info). However, I recommend that you find a pic that fits - and stick with it, so that people can instantly recognise you.
Tweeting: So now you are ready to start ‘posting' or ‘tweeting' on Twitter. Remember two things: 1) you only have 140 characters to get your point across and 2) remember your objective of joining twitter. People who post ‘la la la' stuff (by that I mean stuff that's just not relevant to anyone such as ‘having a cheese sandwich right now') I tend NOT to follow. My objective for using Twitter is to connect with likeminded individuals, learn stuff, share information and advice and connect people - and so I set out to find people who were doing similar things to me - but perhaps for longer, with different experiences, and with a different reach - ie: based in different parts of the world. So make a post - say hello. Go to Twitter Search and search keywords that are relevant to your world. Find people who look interesting to follow. Often those with a great number of followers are a good starting point.
Follow in a Targeted Way: Grow the number of people you follow in a targeted way. Following the same tactic - search on keywords and you will have a group of people you can decide whether to follow or not. Once you start following someone that has the ‘right fit' for you (which you will find out pretty quickly by whether or not the stuff they are tweeting is right for you) - a good tactic is to then check out who they are following - often you'll find that these people also have the ‘right fit' for you - so you can start to follow them too.
Tactical Retweets: Now then - it's great to be following in a targeted way - but remember, that unless someone is following you - they can't see your tweets. So, a good tactic for getting people interested in you is to Retweet their message. Effectively, if things they are saying are interesting - then ‘RETWEET' their message (effectively this is like a forward to all function). Those that you are following, whilst unable to see your Tweets until they follow you - will be alerted that you have ‘Retweeted' their message. If you keep doing this, they may be alerted to check out who you are - and if you are of interest to them - they may follow you. And of course, if you have chosen to follow people they are following - then they too may ‘retweet' what you are saying, and they'll be alerted to you that way too.
Get Followed: Getting people to follow you is good news, particularly if they have a strong fit with your objectives. Once they follow you then your ‘tweets' are seen by them. And if they like what you are tweeting about and they ‘retweet' what you have to say, then all of their followers see your ‘tweet'. (This is particularly good if they have thousands of followers - as it may have been that you have written a blog post the link to which has very quickly been sent to thousands of people who may never have found your blog before...). Another thing to do is register in the WeFollow directory - again, under specific keywords. That way, you'll get picked up when people search on specific keywords.
Get Followed 2 - Promote your Twitter @ handle: There are various places you can be promoting the fact that people can follow you on Twitter. Your email signature, your blog, your website, if you write articles and submit them to article marketing sites - then your signature link can include your Twitter handle, your business card, your letterhead - t-shirts, bags, point of sale - dependent upon your objective, you can post it wherever relevant. I created some Twitter Icons to help your Twitter handle stand out. So feel free to utilise these if you wish. The key is to get it out there so that people can start following you.
Replying to Tweets: Once you're ‘tweeting' and seeing ‘tweets' coming onto your home page from those you are following, then you may want to reply to them. There are two ways to do this 1) publically, by using @handlename. For example: If you wanted to reply to something I had sent you would say @michellecarvill - and then type your message. This way, I get this as a direct message, but all can see your reply. Or if you want to reply to me, so that only I can see it, you can send me a direct message. You do this by typing D michellecarvill (that's D space twitter handle)HOWEVER, you can only send direct messages to those that are following you.
I use Twhirl (see www.Twhirl.org) - which is a really great little application. Very simple to use - which enables you to manage your tweets in a quick and efficient way. Rather than having to remember how to reply or direct message or retweet - it has simple little icons on the users image which when you hover over come up and enable you to do as you wish. Lots of people prefer an application called TweetDeck for managing all your ‘tweets' and followings / followers. But I personally prefer Twhirl - but do check out both.
Unfollowing: In Twitter.com you'll see your followers and following numbers on your home page. If you click Following - you'll see them listed. If you find that someone you thought you wanted to follow is providing irrelevant tweets or is too salesy or just plain spam - then you can simply click ‘remove' down the right hand side and you'll see a message stating ‘you are no longer following'. From this control panel you can also see those that are following you (because you can direct message them).
How am I getting on with Twitter?:
So far, so good... I am slowly building a targeted network of likeminded individuals - providing me with relevant news and material (like I said earlier, I don't just follow anyone who follows me - I check out relevancy and only follow if I think they fit with who I am). I've subscribed to a few great and very useful blogs, which I would never have found without Twitter - and am connected and regularly converse via email with social media marketers around the globe. I've posted queries and received answers - increased the readership of by blog by posting links in my tweets. Driven traffic to my blog by promoting Twitter Icons I created. And have connected people where I think there is natural synergy and relevance - and have promoted some of my clients' services for them, again where relevant.
Twitter could be all consuming - so I dedicate an hour a day to Tweet - reading, retweeting, and commenting. And then whenever the need arises, I post too. I like Twitter. It's simple to engage with, useful however, as to measuring its effectiveness - well that's probably too soon to say. And is measuring its effectiveness necessary? After all - I never used to measure the effectiveness of reading The Times every day...and now that I've connected with likeminded people, I find Twitter a far more targeted resource.
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Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.