I decided to write this simply because SO much has changed since I started using Twitter more than two years ago, and I can’t help thinking getting started must be different now than it was back then.
It may be hard to believe, but back in 2008, the biggest celebrities using Twitter were Guy Kawasaki and Leo Laporte. Since then, I’ve taught several others how to use the service, but I can’t help but wonder how different it is for those just getting started today.
I realize many people who read this blog are active Twitter users, but I thought some of you might have insight I don’t. If you are new to Twitter, I am especially interested to hear your questions and frustrations. It’s a much noisier place than it was back when I was introduced to the site.
In many ways, Twitter is a lot like other social places online — I tend to think if you’ve been a blog contributor, member on an active message board, forum or gaming community, you’re likely to get the hang of Twitter pretty quickly. However, learning to navigate the social web is still new and intimidating for most people — especially now that Twitter updates are aggregated all kinds of places online, including the Library of Congress. Today, Twitter feels more like a stage in many ways, than a simple place to talk and share online.
How brands use Twitter is a different discussion altogether, although some of my Twitter updates on my personal Twitter account may fall under the category of “brand management” or “company promotion,” this is only because it’s nearly impossible to separate personal from professional personas on the web. What I would like to discuss here is how to get started today with a personal Twitter account.
Since I’m asking you to share, I thought it might be helpful if I shared how I use Twitter at the moment for personal and professional purposes.
How I Started Using Twitter in 2008: Discovery and Participation
- Followed online publications and breaking news accounts
- Searched for people in my local area to follow
- Followed people who had a lot of followers
- Followed people who were involved in the tech community – bloggers, developers, etc.
- Followed other PR pros and the people they were interacting with
- Followed people who would post something interesting on the public timeline
- Posted links to articles and other items of interest
- Asked questions about things others would post
- Asked for advice from others who seemed to be getting a lot out of Twitter
- Commented on blog posts others were linking to from Twitter
- I didn’t worry about whether people followed me back or not, although when I first started getting followers, I did feel pretty excited about that and would do my best to check out their blogs/websites to learn more about them
- I didn’t follow people en masse. I did so over time — maybe 20 or so on a given day, when I felt inclined to do some poking around
How I Use Twitter in 2010: What’s in it for THEM?
For better or worse, my use of Twitter is much less about discovering new people than it is about keeping up with established contacts and the flow of information. I’m lucky that more people tend to follow me, and I can discover new people by reciprocating. I also tend to follow more people I meet in real life since more of them are also on Twitter.
- Keep up with personal and professional contacts – @replies, retweets and some general chatter*
- Share links I find useful, interesting or funny – Or, links I think others following me might find useful, interesting or funny
- Share links to things I’ve written, or articles written about me (but make sure I share LOTS of other things, too)
- Share links and information about events I may be attending, interested in, or giving a presentation
- Share links to resources and tools that make the work of social media easier. Since I work in social media, this is my sweet spot, you might do well to share links to resources and tools used in your line of work. For example, I regularly share links for FeedMyInbox with other social media professionals working with companies in regulated industries that need to archive information on branded social profiles. Since most social networks have RSS feeds for profile information, FeedMyInbox turns any new update posted to a social profile into an individual email message. Long story short, this easily integrates social media archiving into an existing email archive, rather than creating a need for an entirely new archiving solution.
- Share links to job opportunities I think others might find interesting
- Answer questions about the company I’m working for*
- Share links about, or created by the company I work for*
- Search for relevant keywords related to my interests – I search for industry and topical references regularly. Google’s aggregation of Twitter updates into real-time search often saves me an extra step these days, but I often search for terms when I’m on Twitter as a quick pulse check.
- Retweet links others post on Twitter that I find interesting, or think others will find interesting. I often comment on articles posted to Twitter before retweeting when I have time and interest.
- Answer questions others post on Twitter — informal polls, requests for help, etc.
- Chat it up – Twitter is full of many organized chats that take place at regular times related to specific topics. Chats are tracked using hashtags i.e. #journchat, #IMCchat (integrated marketing chat), #blogchat. etc. #Journchat was started by Sarah Evans (@PRSarahEvans) as a means of bringing PR professionals and journalists together on Twitter to discuss matters related to their industries, and how they might work together better. Here is an open list of current Twitter chats on Google Docs (If yours isn’t there, feel free to add it to the list).
- Make friends and get smart — when someone posts something funny or something that resonates with me, I might choose to chime in or ask them about their point of view. I even get into some pretty heated, yet respectful, debates this way. I don’t think networking always needs to be insipid cheerleading, but can involve spirited discussions full of disagreements. This may or may not be your style — I just enjoy a challenging discussion even if it means I might eat crow from time to time.
*Any time I post information about an employer or any type of sponsored information, I disclose my relationship to the company. This has always been a tenet of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association ethics, but the FTC decided to make it the law as of of December 1, 2009.
If you’re just getting started today, how do you do things differently? In 2008, there wasn’t the amount of spam, or aggressive follower accounts, or even big name celebrities on Twitter. The only journalist I knew of on Twitter at that time was Jim Long. While I think others use Twitter differently than I do, I do think some ways are more effective than others to build your online presence — especially when you don’t have the built-in brand equity or social capital of a global consumer brand or international celebrity.
I realize I didn’t even touch on the applications and tools like URL shorteners. Is anyone still confounded by the actual mechanics of posting, or are people more hung up on the performance aspect associated with online interaction?
Do the tactics I listed above still hold true, or are things a little different for those just getting started today? What do you tell someone who is just starting out today?
Photo by Clevercupcakes