Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What is Twitter? Part 2

Last week we covered a lot of what Twitter is, and its basic uses. We talked about "ReTweets" (RT), replies (@), hashtags (#) and of course the general status updates. Despite the news that Twitter is getting a new homepage, one which will explain what Twitter is (and possibly making this blog entry irrelevant), I decided to continue hoping that many would find the series helpful nonetheless. Let's move on, shall we?

So now you're on Twitter. What now?

If you're wondering what to write about, then be sure that you don't tweet about not understanding Twitter and then walking away for good, like many others have before you.

Twitter, as I mentioned last week, can be your news source. Not just any news source, but live news from the people that are likely right there on-site and in the middle of it all. Twitter can also be your inspiration of topics to write about, discuss, ponder, debate, etc. It can be about publicizing your, or the company's, brand.

Celebrity Tweets
In addition to the obvious potential to network, you can use Twitter to connect with a celebrity and/or your role model of choice. Personally, I'm not a celebrity kind of guy, but to many this is an easy way to follow those who they admire. Such celebrities are tweeting out real-time updates of what they're doing; many times of which they include links, pictures or even video ... of what they're doing, seeing and/or experiencing right there & then. And I don't mean in the same manner as Facebook either. At least not in the current way many of us use Facebook --But that could change very soon given some of the changes I hear Facebook is making. I digress (as usual).

There are many other reasons to use Twitter, but let's talk about what to do now that you've created an account.

Your Bio

If you haven't already done so, fill out your bio. Don't write it like you do a resume or as you would on LinkedIn. This is about you, who you are, what you have to offer and most importantly should answer the question "why should anyone follow you?" If you have a site or a blog, I strongly recommend that you also make sure you list that link. Depending on the intent behind using Twitter, it might also make sense to list your LinkedIn profile link; and may be even an email address.

Moreover, your bio is not complete without your picture. The picture doesn't have to be one of you. But you need a picture, nevertheless. Preferably one that encourages people to follow you. After all, that's what Twitter is all about: You following people, and people following you.

Finally, make sure you have a customized Twitter page. Twitter offers many themes now. If you can, however, I strongly recommend that you create your own. And yup, there are services/tools out there that will do just that ... free! A few things to note: Please, oh please, no matter what you do, do not list yourself as a "guru," or have a line in there about "make money ..." or "increase your followers." Better yet, don't put "increase your" anything as part of your bio.

Network, and connect

If no one is following you, then no one is reading your tweets. What's the point of being on Twitter if you don't have any followers who are interested in what you tweet about? Granted, you're probably still wondering "what do I tweet about?" Be patient. I'll get to that next. It's important to recognize now, however, that you need some followers. That's done by posting the commonly-seen "follow me" on your site/blog. It's also done by having your Twitter URL on your profile pages, not just on your blog, but also on your LinkedIn & Facebook profiles for example. In some cases, it even makes sense for you to have it on your business cards.

Twitter is public, and Facebook is private

While Facebook is asking "what are you doing" in a different manner, Facebook remains to be very different from Twitter. One can go on Facebook and connect only with family members, change their privacy settings to not show themselves to the World, post a few pictures, post a few links, perhaps even a few anecdotal updates but do so only once every few weeks. And that would be fine ... on Facebook! Do that on Twitter, and you'll likely be dropped ("unfollowed") by the 3rd day at most. No, you don't have to pacify Twitter with tweets on an hourly basis, but the idea is to give those who follow you a reason to do just that. Otherwise, what's the point? Again, I'll get to what to tweet about next. One of the other ways to get followers is to follow a few people yourself. Do not auto-follow, however. Instead, follow people that interest you or you will end up with an uncontrollable amount of people in your stream that will eventually render your ability to use Twitter ineffective or even useless. And if you don't know whom to follow, then I highly recommend wefollow.com. I'm not going to spend time on the service and what it does. They have a very nice video available from their homepage.

Tweet ... And tweet some more

So what on Earth can you tweet about? Believe it or not, a lot. I would say that Twitter has evolved beyond its now-false question "what are you doing?" Instead, it's more like "what are you thinking?" Did you come across a funny picture? What do you think of it? Share it by tweeting about it. Did you come across a very good article (like this one, may be <wink>)? Why not share it too. You came across a video that you think your followers (even if you don't have any yet) would enjoy? Tweet it immediately.

Last week we talked about "ReTweets" (RT). Those whom you follow have tweeted something you like? Excellent. RT it to all your followers. Yes, this tweeting business can be time-consuming. However, it is possible to become a serious member of the Twitter community and not in any way decrease the work you do during the day (or night). In fact, it happens quite often that Twitter increases your productivity. If you are a blogger, for example, there are free tools out there that will tweet out your latest blog entry title automatically.
Twitter to Facebook
That is, as long as you have an RSS feed to your content, it doesn't matter if it's a blog or a press release. It's important to realize that you should not tweet only to promote your blog and/or business. Like blogging, there are also modules to integrate Twitter with Facebook so that your tweets will also show on Facebook automatically. Now, when you share your favorite article by tweeting about it, voilĂ  it's now posted on your Facebook wall for all your friends and family to see too.

As you can see, what you tweet about needs to focus around the overall theme that you want to represent along & inline with the bio you created. Are you tweeting about jokes only? Is your twitter account and/or personality to only discuss politics? It may seem insane to say so now, but perhaps having more than one Twitter account will be best. One for your personal tweets (you as a person). One for your professional image (perhaps your small business). And perhaps even one that keeps you anonymous free to talk about a topic you're otherwise not comfortable associating with your person or image. Most, however, are very comfortable using their one and only account to talk about whatever and whenever. Just remember that Twitter is about sharing and not spamming; so share, share and then share some more.

I'm on an interesting page, how do I tweet about it?

So you found that video, picture or article that you think is worth tweeting about. Do you leave the page, open a new tab or window, log into Twitter and then copy & paste the URL? NO! While on the page that contains the interesting material, you can click on a bookmarklet that will shorten the URL for you, include the title and tweet it out of your Twitter account all in one step ... by clicking this one link/bookmarklet. For more information, see this article I wrote a couple of weeks back. Since I wrote that article, BigTweet has launched OAuth login allowing its users to log in with their Twitter accounts.

How to keep on tweeting: The drive behind why people tweet

According to the "Consumer Internet Barometer" from TNS and The Conference Board, 41.6% of Twitterers keep in touch with their friends. 29.1% used it to update their status, 25.8% to find news and stay updated, 21.7% for work purposes and 9.4% for research.

Twitter Usage Data

Users under age 35 were more interested in broadcasting their status than their senior counterparts. Older users were more likely to use the service for work-related purposes.
Older users trailed younger ones in interaction with every Twitterer type except journalists and brands.

Where the average Twitterer interacted primarily with friends and family, next up were celebrities, bloggers, TV shows, co-workers, brands and journalists. More women interacted with friends, family and celebrities than men, but men were more likely to follow bloggers.

Twitter Usage Data

How did so many turn to Twitter? One-half of the Twitterers said a friend or family member introduced them to the site & service, and 33% were hooked by a co-worker.

Follow me (ahmadism) on Twitter
As you can see, there's a lot to cover when it comes to Twitter. A few of the things worth mentioning next week include certain tools & services I highly recommend and Twitter's search. In the meantime, I invite you to follow ahmadism on Twitter. Until then.   ▣

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