I attended another (non-social media) gathering where I was asked to explain how and why I use Twitter. To help you, and to save me some time, here is the short version. And I know I’m going catch some flack on this, because everyone seems to use the beast a bit differently.
Why do I even use Twitter?
All the cool kids with all the forward-thinking ideas are there. They should be – I chose to follow them. My cool kids are going to be different from yours, as we have different interests. When you “follow” someone on Twitter, it is subscribing to what they say on Twitter, or “tweet.” Each tweet is limited to 140 characters and can have shortened links to share articles, photos, web sites, etc.
The reason I follow people is they add value to my day. I am introduced to hundreds of new ideas per day, breaking news from around the world and down my block. It is this real-time connection that straddles my world and beyond it, and ultimately saves me time. More importantly, it affords me the opportunity to follow-up with these people and enlarge my professional network.
The accuracy of the online content is there, because I am careful who I choose to follow. Given that, people are still human and can make errors in judgment. Forgive them . Others, you will just have to “unfollow.”
How To Start on Twitter.
Like any good conversation, start by listening. Learn what is said, and how.
I started with the search tool on Twitter.com. Tweetgrid.com lets me search nine different keywords at the same time. I used my state’s name, its abbreviation, and different key words from my interests. I found three quick people to follow – a meager but interesting start. I clicked on them and found descriptions of other people, a few of whom I started to follow.
As I shared content that I found interesting, either my own ideas or from the web, some people found and followed me, and others dropped off.
Be the Brand.
You may have noticed that brands are starting to become more personable. Billions of people, especially on social media, are becoming more brand-like. Observe how others are using Twitter and determine what you would and would not say. Will you keep this 100 percent professional (few do), or show you’re human? To help crystallize your thinking: Everything on Twitter (and soon Facebook) is indexed in search engines and can help or hurt you in the future.
Consider the network you are building to be a professional network. Be yourself and live up to your own potential.
Sharing the Tweets of Others
A “retweet” is similar to forwarding a tweet. If you find something interesting, you can retweet it to your network. The rules apply: Always credit who said it, who shared it and since Twitter is so dynamic, if you claim something as your own, and it is not – you will likely hear about it.
Never tweet when you are tired, distracted or upset, or exuberant. Twitter is a power saw and can be used to build or destroy: It depends how it is used.
There are numerous tools available to compliment Twitter. Oneforty.com has an amazing list of applications. I use Tweetdeck to monitor accounts and key search terms. CoTweet and Hootsuite are also great Twitter clients, depending on the features. For mobile users, I like UberTwitter for Blackberry and Seesmic .
I shared the “why’s” and warnings with you. Here’s a link to the Twitter for Dummies Cheat Sheet with the formats to use.
Social media, for many users, is a hybrid solution: Not just Twitter nor Facebook, but everything with a purpose.
Twitter is not a place for sales materials or spam. It is a place to build an engaging community made up of professionals and people with similar interests. But as in life, it is the unique viewpoints that makes the Twittersphere such a rich and interesting place.