Every news reader and sports personality is urging us to “follow” them on Twitter. Every article and website has that little button asking you to “tweet this”. With 200 million twitter users (Feb 2011) sending 110 million tweets per day (Feb 2011) Twitter is becoming as commonplace as a household utility and is really simple to use but there are those who make better use of the tool than others. Here are some of the things I have learned from them:
1 Set your profile up properly: Choose a name that people will know you by not a random bunch of letters and numbers. Post a photograph of yourself (or your company logo if you are tweeting for a brand) – leaving that blank makes you look unprofessional. It’s a good idea to separate your personal and your business tweeting by having two different accounts – your business followers aren’t interested in your comments about Wayne Rooney. You can link your tweets to LinkedIn but set this up carefully using the #in option – you will probably tweet more than once a day and LI users get cross about too many status updates.
2 Follow People you want to Read: Twitter is full of interesting content but it takes time to read it all. If you follow hundreds of people you will miss most of their input. I find that 150 is the most I can handle. Unfollow those whose tweets you aren’t interested in. They may then unfollow you out of spite but if their content is not your bag then who cares?
3 Have Conversations: Reply to tweets using the reply button (public) or the message tool (private). Twitter is a wonderful tool for gathering ideas and sharing opinions. Don’t just broadcast – engage in conversations with individuals and groups. Use your followers to give you ideas or suggestions and share yours with them.
4 Tweet: You can just use Twitter to search for ideas or read the views of your peers but that’s just half the story. Your opinions matter too. Contribute your own observations of life and events and start to build up your own followers. How many tweets you should send a day is often debated. I have found that if I don’t tweet at all people notice and comment on it so I try to do at least one a day and usually four or five. Personally I am irritated by those who clog up my inbox by tweeting a dozen times a day and I swiftly unfollow them. You need to strike your own balance.
5 Share wisdom: I follow people on Twitter because I am interested in their news and views, not whether they are eating a bacon sandwich. Nor am I impressed by those who routinely copy some quote of the day from a website I could have subscribed to myself. I’m interested in what you have to say personally. Don’t try to be cute or clever just talk the common sense you do every day.
6 MIx it up: I don’t mind you giving me a link to your business website now and then but I didn’t follow you for that. I am interested in practical tips, interesting facts, strong opinions, links to news stories, cool photos etc. I’m more likely to follow you if you provide a variety of these things. Monotony makes me unfollow.
7 Searches: Twitter’s search facility is very powerful and can be used to find relevant information, new people to follow and local tweeters. Use search commands to refine your search. Frequent search terms can be saved so you can check what is being said about your company or key topic quickly and consistently. Make a habit of doing this and of replying to, quoting or retweeting messages from new people you find who are in your target audience. Twitter gives businesses a unique opportunity to converse directly with their current and potential customers.
8 Hashtags: The use of a hashtag before a word as in #facilities creates a single click link from your tweet that will bring up all other messages using the same hashtag. This is a wonderful way of creating loose communities of fellow enthusiasts. Hashtags on keywords as in #communication enable new connections between different sectors. Hashtags are also very powerful when attending events such as conferences. People attending the event will tweet throughout the day commenting on the presentations and using the same hashtag. This allows others not present to follow events and even to ask questions by proxy. It also creates a record of the event that can be found by search engines or twitter search after the event.
9 Etiquette: Twitter is still growing up and its customs and practices continue to evolve. For example one tradition is FollowFriday on the last day of each week when users recommend other tweeters that their own followers might be interested in by naming them and adding the hashtag #FF. Some people are very polite and thank each other for every #FF and Retweet, while others find that annoying and timewasting. I prefer to show my gratitude to those who promote me by promoting them back with my own retweet or #FF. Please don’t irritate your followers by #FF-ing everybody you know. It clogs up my inbox and can’t possibly be a genuine recommendation
10 Don’t get precious: You are (probably) not Stephen Fry and the world doesn’t hang on your every word. The vast majority of your tweets will receive no response and may not even be read. But remember they are now in the searchable timeline and people are more likely to follow you if they can see that you have a track record of tweeting interesting stuff. Your follower list may not rival Lord Sugar’s but you will make some new contacts and learn some useful information.