Using Twitter

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Using Twitter
Are you on Twitter? This is the place where status updates and short and sweet, where you can connect locally or internationally, and where conversations are the route to developing and participating in communities.
In this session, you’ll consider the value of 140 character status updates in building your community and connecting with others.
Twitter is another large and very popular social networking platform. It has amassed millions of users around the world who are sometimes referred to as Twits.
Twitter allows you to build a profile centered around you personally or your business. As with other social media networks, it encourages people to organize in communities as you connect with people you know, do business with, or who find you randomly.
When you use Twitter, you will get used to speaking in very concise terms, because each update that you post on the site is restricted to just 140 characters. (That’s not 140 words, but characters, as in the individual letters and spaces that you include in your message. You can link your message to a photo that represents a thought or particular moment, a blog post, an article, or provide a link to your website. As you develop fluency with Twitter, you will find it easier to create short, snappy comments that compel people to read your messages and make them want to know more about you and your company.
When you start to use Twitter, you will find that you can get bogged down in the number of other people’s messages. In keeping with the theme of this course, we’re reminding you again to check back to your social media marketing strategy and make sure that what you are doing on Twitter fits with your plan.
One of the weaknesses of Twitter is that people post whatever they are thinking about or doing at that moment, so there are pages and pages of banality to filter through as you look for people to connect with. Then there are people who post links to nonsense you won’t be interested in, spam, and hours that you can sit and simply read streams of information.
However, Twitter has some excellent features from a marketing perspective, which we’ll talk about below.
Do you remember not that long ago when we called the # symbol a number sign? Twitter has re-branded that symbol and it is now commonly called a hashtag.
When you add a hashtag to your message, you can track, organize, and communicate with other people who use the same hashtag. In order to communicate with their communities directly, a business owner can start a “meeting” and everyone there answers or asks questions that end with the same hashtag. People following along with the hashtag can see the conversation going on within its own stream, and outside of everyone else’s conversations.
Say that you represent a business that sells smartphones and you’d like to get people talking about it and answer their questions before the next release is due out. You could set up a status update that says: “Join in on new I’m Smart phone apps Tuesday at 7 P.M. Eastern. Use #smarter.” That message tells people what you are talking about, when to be on Twitter, and which hashtag to use. If you send the message out and change the wording slightly to catch people’s attention, you can host a virtual conversation that helps you connect to your community. You might try something like this: “New I’m Smart phone is out in two weeks. Come ask questions Tuesday, 7 P.M. Eastern. Use #smarter.”
By keeping your status updates short (the example above about #smarter is 98 characters), you leave space for people to forward your messages along to their followers by re-tweeting. The space that you left allows them to add a brief comment like “Great idea,” “A must see,” and so on. A re-tweeted status update also starts with the abbreviation RT. If your status is long, people can use MT in front, which stands for “modified tweet,” where they will edit your message so that it fits alongside their own.
If someone re-tweets the #smarter message, they might say something like this: “RT @helper New I’m Smart phone is out in two weeks. Come ask questions Tuesday, 7 P.M. Eastern. Use #smarter. <–Great idea! I’ll be there!”
Initially, your staff and friends can re-tweet messages if you ask them. You’ll soon see that if you are offering something of value to people, and your message catches their attention, that your messages will spread.
By looking under the Interactions” tab and selecting “mentions,” you will be able to see who re-tweets your messages. By searching for your hashtag, you can also see who is using that moniker to connect.
As well, Twitter courtesy is to thank people who spread your messages by sending them a message via a status update, like this: “Thanks for the RT @helpful, @helper, @moniker.”
Your Name
Your name on Twitter needs to be a reflection of your brand, so choose wisely. Most people use their name, or their initials if their name is long. You need to use something so that people can find you. If your name is Martin MacDonald Smyth and people don’t really know if you are a Mac or Mc, or a Smyth or Smith, they won’t be able to find you and they may not look too hard. Make sure that you include a link to your Twitter name in all the obvious spots, like on your website, your blog, your Facebook page, and so on.
If you are using your business name as your Twitter name, remember to select something that represents your brand and reflects your marketing plan.
Keep your name short but meaningful. In status updates such as a re-tweet, or when someone wants to mention you in a status update, your name and the @ symbol get counted as characters!
Using Lists
With the running list of updates on your screen, it can be very difficult to find information that is addressed to you or that you should be keeping an eye on. Fortunately, you can organize people that you follow into lists. That way, you can check for direct messages, mentions, and hashtags to see if there are messages directed to you or your organization. You can also check into the lists you are most interested in to see what people are saying that might catch your eye.
As an example, my personal Twitter account (which represents my business) has about 1300 followers right now. Some of those people tweet frequently, so it is not possible for me to keep up with what everyone is saying. To organize things, when I follow someone new, I put them into a list if I want to keep an eye on what they are saying. All of my lists are private so that other members of Twitter cannot see how I organize them, but you can make your lists public if you think other people might be interested in them or sharing the lists benefits you in some way.
You can create lists very easily and give them any name you want. Currently, I have lists for:

  • Folks to watch
  • Local businesses
  • Media
  • National businesses
  • Training and education

The big advantage of lists is that you can check into Twitter quickly and see what’s most important to you. When you have some extra time, by all means click on the Home tab and see everything in your stream. Lists are handy, however, to keep an eye on people you are most interested in.