Quite a few times recently I have been asked why if I am ditching social media sites such as Facebook I am still putting so much effort into Twitter. Well, the simple answer is I get a lot of enjoyment and a reasonable amount of professional benefit from the service. You just have to know how …
If you haven’t tried it, Twitter is a kind of online messaging system. It is like a group chat where you post 140 character messages or “Tweets”. You can post links or just text. URLs get converted into TinyURLs if they are beyond a certain length or you can paste short URLs from the service of your choice. WordPress plugins and online services make hooking up your blog feed easy, so every post you make goes to Twitter as a URL.
Just like with other social sites, you add contacts and other contacts add you. Once you have a few followers discussions form. You direct messages to an individual using the @ prefix, eg. “This message is just for @chrisgarrett”. Everyone gets to see these that are following the sender, but these messages appear in the “Replies” tab so you get to see all the replies made to you, regardless of if you are following the sender (optional preference). There is also a DM feature for private messages.
As I say, I find a lot of value in the service, both for information (breaking stories) and networking. It wasn’t always this way, in fact to begin with I dismissed it. Only after taking a second look and working out the wrinkles did I find its true worth. To save you the hassle, here are my Twitter tips:
- Read first. Find interesting people and see how they use the service. Work out the style and flow of the system before wading in.
- Audition new contacts and drop if spammy or noisy, your time is precious
- It is not a popularity contest. While people who follow many contacts tend to have greater number of followers, you want to have a good signal to noise ratio otherwise it becomes unworkable. Follow people who are interesting, not just to rub shoulders with celebrities!
- Just like with a blog, do not launch into connecting with people on Twitter until you have done the preparation work. You need a page full of tweets and the basic profile information before you add anyone. Set all your preferences and fill in your details at least to the level where a casual visitor would know your name, where you are, your blog and a little of what you think.
- When you have shared some interesting thoughts and links go after following people. I follow people I know, have heard of, who reply to me or who others send @ messages to. Eavesdropping on others conversations has given me some of the best people to follow as I can see a taste of what their conversations will be like.
- Do not be upset if someone does not follow you back! People have limited attention to spare so can not follow everyone.
- Post information, links and questions. Post too many links or follow too many people too quickly and you will find yourself banned or at least flagged by Twitter as spam.
- For networking, engage people in conversation. Ask interesting questions and you will get back interesting answers. Do not be afraid to reply to a question posed by someone else. The worst that can happen is they do not reply. Do not always blame the user, the system does drop a lot of messages and people mis-spell names (my name has two r’s and two t’s and people are always spelling it wrong, even people who know me really well!). Stupidly there is no reply function.
- Once you get used to using the web service, try a desktop Twitter client or using your mobile. There are lots of great 3rd party Twitter services that add to the enjoyment too.
Tips From Twitters
I asked for some Twitter Tips from my Twitter contacts, here are the answers:
- sheagunther Twitter tip: Use Tweetscan because you ARE going to miss tweets about you. And make sure to follow @chrisgarrett ;D
- duncanriley Twitter is only as good as your network. Add lots of people, build it up, and the rest will follow
- SebastianX Alerts folks to neat stuff faster than RSS * Don’t post PMs with @ * Frequently check your following options coz sometimes Twitter screws them * Track your user name
- DebNg – Don’t just follow people you know. Making new Twitter friends is a great way to get turned on to new blogs
- deswalsh before you click to follow a new follower, check their current/recent tweets – some are just companies pumping out links
- splitbrain msg ‘track foo’ to get notifications whenever someone twitters about foo
- film_girl – if people follow you, assuming they are not bots or spammers, follow them back. It’ can open you up to tons of brand new ppl
- pureCaffeine Add lots of contacts you don’t really know thereby reducing the relevance of conversation & diluting the value of the app
- drmani – Understand that it’s ‘socializing’ – NOT ‘work’
- dossy I learned that the Pareto principle is closer to 95%/5%. 🙂
- bck A quite tip: get your Twitter Stats 😉 http://tinyurl.com/259jbf
- danzarrella More tips here: http://tinyurl.com/2gpxow
- YoungGoGetter – Twitter has served as a phenomenal replacement for e-mail to nonchalantly introduce myself
- nowsourcing Twitter Tip: make sure you answer all Tweets directed at you. Or use terraminds.com to see anything you may have missed.
- splitbrain controlling twitter from IM is cool too. using the commands follow <user>, track <term>, untrack <term>
- silvertje While I am hardly connected to the Dutch blogosphere by my blog I am connected to aprox 99% of its bloggers by Twitter
- michaelreuter twittertip: multitweet.com for running differnt twitter/jaiku accounts in one window
- scottclark never forget that some of your twits – and replies to them – can be found on search engines later. site:twitter.com yourname, for ex.
- ConversationAge It allows me to see people’s communication style, content preferences and even values. It’s not what people say as much as how and what
- DebNg other people have been turned onto my blogs and stumbles or link to them in their own blog posts – a new audience.
- graywolf use twittermail to get daily updates of replies from people U may not be following but “@” you
You may have gathered I am now a fan of the service. It is putting me in touch with people I would otherwise have never met and giving me early news that would have passed me by. For all its faults you should definitely at least try it, especially if you are a blogger. Share your Twitter URL with friends, in your email and forum signature and as a button on your blog. Twitter is becoming an effective way to grow your subscriber base and following.