Twitter, having been quickly adopted initially by key influencers, has grown into a mass-market communication tool, with millions of users.
If you’re publishing content, undertaking online marketing, and looking to keep up with the latest trends in anything web related then Twitter should be featuring highly as a ‘weapon of choice’.
In this article I’ll be assuming you are new to Twitter, and that rather than wanting to use Twitter as a way of simply keeping up with friends, you want to use it as a tool for valuable engagement and maximum effect, avoiding the white noise that Twitter can also create if used incorrectly.
I call this ‘Using Twitter, the Smart Way’.
So, in a nutshell . . . Twitter allows users to post updates (known in the Twitterverse as ‘Tweets’), which consist of text-based posts of no more than 140 characters. A Tweet can include a website link if you wish.
Updates are displayed on the Twitter profile page of the user who submitted the Tweet, or alternatively through a desktop Twitter application, such as Twhirl or Tweetdeck (more on these later), to other users who have signed up to receive them (‘Followers’).
To get you up to speed, before I go into any further detail, it’s worth checking out the Twitter in Plain English video, from the talented folks over at Common Craft.
This will give you a simple and entertaining outline of how Twitter works and how it is most commonly used.
So, Why Should I Use Twitter?
As I’ve mentioned, if you use Twitter smartly, it’s an outstanding tool for engaging with key influencers in your niche and also with your own target audience.
Twitter is immediate, it is fast and it is extremely effective.
Twitter is also invaluable as a means of posting, sharing and recording your own ideas and links, as you have them or come across them (the ones you think others would benefit from hearing about that is!). Think of it as sharing your own virtual notepad.
Some Other Advantages
- Twitter helps you cut down on the clutter created by wading through blogs, newsletters and RSS feeds for the odd gem of useful information, and gets information in front of your eyes with more immediacy, allowing you to filter and favourite ‘on the spot’ (especially if you’re using a desktop application, which you should be)
- It shows you as a keen follower/adopter of the latest tools and apps to your peers and general website audience – always a good thing
- Helps you get your name known with those that matter (to you)
So, how do you get started then?
Here’s the Steps I Recommend:
First you need to sign up with Twitter at http://twitter.com
I suggest that you use your name (no spaces) as your twitter account name, but that’s just a suggestion.
Next, you need to track down the people that are worth following. This you can do by using the Twitter search, or alternatively a Twitter directory service, such as TwitDir (listed below). Click ‘Follow’, once you’re on a person’s profile, to follow their Tweets.
Here’s some suggestions (by no means definative) to get you off to a good start. These fit well with TwiTip’s readership, but should also have pretty mass appeal:
- Mashable: http://twitter.com/mashable (blog reviewing all that is web 2.0)
- Scobleizer: http://twitter.com/Scobleizer (web 2.0 commentary)
- Jowjang: http://twitter.com/jowyang (senior social analyst at Forrester)
- Problogger: http://twitter.com/problogger (hugely popular blogging blog)
- Kevin Rose: http://twitter.com/kevinrose (Digg founder)
- Andy Beard: http://twitter.com/AndyBeard (web marketing blogger)
- Maki, DoshDosh: http://twitter.com/doshdosh (blogs about making money online)
- Rohit Bhargava: http://twitter.com/rohitbhargava (social marketing guru0
- John Chow: http://twitter.com/JohnChowDotCom (also blogs about making money online)
- TechMeMe: http://twitter.com/techmeme
- . . . and of course myself, the author of this article, Mark Ramskill: http://twitter.com/ramskill
It’s also well worth checking out the followers of those i’ve listed above as well. Read their profiles, visit their sites, and only add them if you feel they’ll bring value to your Twitter experience.
Download a Desktop Client
Twhirl makes it really easy to follow others and post Tweets. This desktop application functions in many ways like an instant messenger, whereby as soon as anyone you are following sends a Tweet to you, it is received in Twhirl and also flashes up in a small bubble in the corner of your desktop, for quick and easy reading.
When I began using Twitter as a light user, I wouldn’t have been able to use it in any kind of useful way without relying on Twhirl.
Once you’ve downloaded Twhirl and opened it for the first time (you may be asked to install Adobe Air), add your Twitter account information in your Twhirl settings (you can add more than one Twitter account if you wish) and away you go! I’ll let you know the four key methods of Twitter communication / engagement in a moment.
As mentioned, I suggest you start using TweetDeck once you’ve built up a following. I moved across to TweetDeck when I reached 100 or so followers, although you may wish to use it straight away.
At a certain point users find that Twhirl becomes harder to manage, requiring a need to think about grouping people, according to what they do or their relationship to you, with replies and direct messages filed separately.
TweetDeck provides all the functionality you need to adequately manage posts, groups of followers, replies and direct messages, however many followers you may have.
TweetDeck, like Twhirl, is an Adobe Air based application, so as part of the installation process you make be asked to install this as well.
The four key methods of Twitter communication / engagement
Ok, so you’re set and ready to go. However, before people will be prepared to follow you (barring those that add anybody) you need to start posting Tweets that others will find useful and that relate to your niche or your interests.
1. For general posts, simply either log in and type your Tweet in the message box on the Twitter website, or use the message box in your desktop app (140 characters is the maximum length of message).
2. To reply to someone, use the ‘@’ symbol, then their Twitter username, e.g.
eg: @ramskill your message, whatever it may be
Bear in mind that this reply can be seen publically, by your followers and the followers of who you are replying to.
3. To ‘Retweet’ / repost a Tweet from someone else, use ‘RT’, a space, the ‘@’ symbol, then their Twitter username, e.g.
eg: RT @ramskill your message, whatever it may be
4. To send a private direct message to someone, use ‘D’, a space, then their Twitter username, e.g.
eg: D ramskill your message, whatever it may be
That’s all there is to communicating and engaging through Twitter . . .
Don’t forget to tell others that you have a Twitter account!
Now you’ve started following people yourself and you’ve begun Twittering, it’s now time to post about your Twitter accounts’ existence (www.twitter.com/yourusername) on your website or blog, email friends/collegues/relatives that share your interests and generally get people to follow you (remember: you don’t necessarily have to follow them back).
Don’t forget to link to your Twitter account on any other social sites you use, such as Facebook (most of them have functionality to add a link to your Twitter account or even take live feeds from it).
Remember the importance of Twitter Etiquette!
A rapid way for Twitter users to unfollow you is if you spam them constantly, don’t respond to replies or direct messages, act obnoxiously or generally fail to bring value by Twittering about ’stuff’ that is of no use to them.
Think of your audience at all times. Act as you would if you were dealing with them face to face in a business situation, or sitting down for coffee with them. Respect is key.
Most importantly, remember that new people are viewing your Twitter profile constantly, and making a decision about whether to follow you, based on the Tweets and replies they see.
By all means Tweet about your website, blog, service or product, but also try and add value by making this just a part of your communcation. If you come across a website or service that could benefit others Tweet about it. You’ll soon build up a positive reputation as someone worth following and recommending.
What you give is what you get back. Apply that mantra and you can’t go far wrong!
That’s it. You’re set!
You now know how to use Twitter, begin following others and build up your own posse of followers. Most importantly you now know how to use Twitter effectively to communicate and engage with others.
So . . . now for the hot stuff! The Twitter tools . . .
The following is a list of the key sites or apps I have used, and continue to use, to enhance my Twitter experience:
- Mr Tweet (makes recommendations on who to follow)
- Tr.Im (url shortening service for Twitter, with stats)
- Tweetburner (alternative to Tr.Im)
- Tweet Later (schedule Tweets over a period of time)
- TweetBeep (track who is mentioning you)
- TweetGrid (live updates for any keyword on Twitter)
- TwitDir (a Twitter directory service)
- Quitter (emails you when someone stops following you)
- Twitter Grader (see how you rank on Twitter)
- TwitStamp (create a personalized Twitter badge)
- Twitterfox (Firefox Twitter status Add-On)
And if you want more – 27 Cool Tool and Resources for the Twitter Addict
Hopefully, i’ve given you enough information to fuel your imagination and make you want to get started with Twitter and its associated apps and services.
In this new web 2.0 world, immediate access to information, and easy engagement with those that post it, is a necessity.
Twitter, if used smartly, helps you do just that!
Remember, i’m here to help.
Add me: http://twitter.com/ramskill
And feel free to ask me questions, or just say hello!
Mark Ramskill is the Marketing Specialist for SubHub, a revenue-ready content publishing platform.