By now most people have at least heard of twitter.com, though don’t assume that everyone knows what twitter is or how it can be used. Research has shown that most twitter users rarely tweet and usually have very few followers. Mention the word twitter in a public space and you might still get a few odd stares. Many people still seem to have a somewhat skeptical approach to the web app/revolution which has sidelined even major players like Facebook, to become one of the most talked about & exciting communications platforms the web currently has to offer.
A quick intro to twitter.com for Newbies
Twitter is what some term, a micro-blogging platform. It’s also a multi-user micro-blogging platform. Micro-blogging? It’s like the sms of the blogging world, where you only have 140 characters to convey a message to the other twitter users who have decided to follow your feed. Have a look at this excellent video explanation called Twitter in Plain English developed by commoncraft.com. This video explains the entry level understanding of twitter though, so if you’re a twitter power user you’ll be digging much deeper than sharing your breakfast with your followers.
Ways twitter can Benefit you
So what’s the real craze about twitter then? Surely there’s nothing special about being able to update your status with 140 characters?
Take a quick step back and hear me out. Twitter is anything but simple status updates, even though at a glance it may seem that way. The thing which makes twitter 100 times more beneficial than facebook is relevance. On twitter you follow those who are sharing information you find valuable, people who share interesting links, who pose challenging questions and who answer many of your braintwisters as well. Twitter can be much more of a Collaborative Networking tool than a social networking tool, which is where the real value add lies. A few benefits of using twitter to stay in touch with your industry or niche:
- Network with those you aspire towards
- Learn from those in the know
- Conduct Twitter Polls
- Distribute links to your posts and projects
- Find Business Partners & Clients
- Be notified about the latest industry trends
- Get the news while it’s still fresh
Of course twitter could end up being a purely social thing for you if that’s what you’re interested in, but those who benefit from twitter the most, and who are probably the most active are using it for a completely different purpose than sending cute cuddly messages to their college friends.
Who to follow
This is truly the crux of the matter. Having a good follow strategy is where it all starts. It’s the difference between reading about people’s breakfast and the latest industry specific trends. Unlike facebook, you can follow just about anybody on twitter, including some really well known personalities within your niche. People who you may never get to accept a facebook friend invitation from. This doesn’t mean you can become a cyber-stalker as you may be blocked very quickly. The beauty of following the professionals or gurus is that you get an insight into what some of the top people in your niche are thinking, reading, learning, asking etc etc.
Some tips on choosing who to follow
- Shared topics of interest
- Post frequency matching your preference
- Full profile so you know they’re legit
- High percentage of valuable tweets
- Uniqueness in tweets
- High percentage of value adding tweets
- No Spam or hard selling(unless you’re buying)
I’ve found I’ve benefited hugely by following & conversing with some of the top names in the Web Design & WordPress spaces, something I may not have been able to achieve on pretty much any other “social” network.
Check them out before you follow
A Great tool to help with your following strategy is Foller.me which I wrote about a short while ago when it was launch by @kovshenin, a Russian tweeter I’ve become twitter friends with recently. It helps you see what your potential followee is tweeting about through keywords of their most tweeted topics as well as being able to see their geographical breakdown of their own followers. All this at a glance.
You’d want to make sure that the person you’re planning on following is tweeting down your alley way so to speak. Checking out their recent tweets on their actual twitter page or by using one of the many twitter follow management tools like www.tweepular.com, to get a quick glance at what the potential tweep is tweeting about.
Who not to follow
Don’t be tempted to follow every tom dick or twarry who follows you. You’ll soon find out that there are a few twitter spammers out there, as well as people who are only interested in telling everyone else how great they are. Be selective but don’t be a snob either. You’ll be surprised what people have to offer if you give them a chance on twitter.
Don’t be tempted into the many scaly, “get loads of followers” applications & programs which are popping up all over the place. With twitter it’s less about quantity and more about quality. You can benefit tons from only 10 people and waste your time on the rest. Of course more quality wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Sometimes checking out the twitter profile will show up a fake or spammy tweeter immediately. I don’t follow tweeps without avatars as a standard, it means they couldn’t really be bothered yet, so they’re probably still wet behind their twitter ears. I’m also suspicious of tweeters who have little or no profile info on their twitter page.
Do’s & Don’ts
Try not to
- Rant too much
- be obsessive about topics in an irritating way
- sell products without adding value
- just take and not give
- Twitter is not for long conversations!
- I tend to unfollow people who use profanity.
Try to always
- Be nice
- Share and generally be of benefit
- ask questions
- answer questions
- give advice
- introduce people
- post great links
There is such a thing as Twitter Karma. I’ve found solutions to major problems have come many times from tweeps who I’ve just helped on twitter.
Twitter Apps Galore
There are more twitter apps than the amount of tweets I’ve ever posted, and I’m quite a frequent tweeter if I must say so myself. Check out this monster list of apps and tools on the Twitter Fan Wiki. They’ve now organised these based on platform and type and the list is constantly growing. Twitter apps range from plain and simple tweeting tools, to follower management apps, even twitter games as well as a few really cool alternative uses for twitter. I’ve just received a test version of something called #tweem which is being developed by @netizensmedia which is a WordPress theme built just to create a custom twitter home. I hope to integrate it into my own theme once it’s ready for public release.
Twitter apps On your Desktop
TweetDeck – My first choice for managing my main twitter account/s (open source). It now also has facebook status updates, an iPhone version, twitter searching, twitter trends and loads of other twitter power user features.
Twitterific – Low cost elegant solution for desktop, iPhone & iPod touch
Twhirl – A little lighter but feature rich, built by Seesmic and connects to loads of different online services
Seesmic Desktop – for Multiple Twitter accounts as well as Facebook in one place, very similar to Tweetdeck but just not quite there yet.
I’ll be posting more about non-desktop twitter apps, plugins & services in part 2 of this series on twitter.
Integrating Twitter with your other online spaces
Integration is the way the web is moving currently. To get the most out of the many tools and services you use and subscribe to in the digital age, they need to interact with each other in ways that bring out the best in all of them. You also don’t want to be spreading yourself too thin by blogging on one space and tweeting in another, while adding content and connections in yet another. By having separate, disconnected social/collaborative spaces, you fragment your focus and your time considerably. Integrating these entities helps keep a consistent flow going, no matter which online space you’re occupying.
On your site
If you have your own website or blog a great idea would be to insert a widget or plugin to pull some of your latest twitter posts in. This could be as simple as the single most latest tweet. Accompanied by a follow me link it’s a good way of building your following. Some twitter savvy peeps have taken twitter integration to the next level with like Jaan Orvet of Noded with his site www.sharpenr.net which is split half way between his tweets 7 his blog posts.
There’s also your twitter favorites, which lists your tweets you’ve labeled as favorites and can be fed into your site through a widget as well. This is a great way to share what you deem to be only the most valuable twitter content with your website’s visitors. I haven’t done this on my own site yet as I’m due for a complete overhaul of my site but it’s very much in the pipeline.
To give your followers a punt you could also embed a list of your followers which displays their avatars or their twitter usernames. Go on, give something back!
Get your twitter name out there
Lastly make sure wherever you are online or off that you’re always sharing your twitter username. Besides placing links on your site, make sure your little birdie is also found on your:
- other social network profiles
- Your IM profiles
- comments you make on blogs & forums
- email signature
- hey why not even your business card.
I know of some entrepreneurs looking into developing twitter stickers for laptops and even cars, so get your twitter name out there tweeple.
More than just characters – Sharing Pictures & Videos on Twitter
Sharing Links on twitter can sometimes be a bit of a probem when you’re linking to dynamically created links which are really long. This is where the link shortening services step in. Many of the desktop applications have built in link shorteners. Tiny URL is one of the better known url shortening services currently available.
Of course there are times you’d want to post more than just 140 characters, or even more than just characters for that matter. The most well known of the picture posting twitter services is Twitpic which allows quick posting up of pics for your followers to check out. This could be used in a collaborative manner to brainstorm ideas and discuss designs or other project imagery as well.
Twit Vid is a video posting service which allows you to either upload a video, email one or record one directly from your webcam. It’s serves to cut down the time it takes to upload to another video service making posting of video content via twitter way quicker. Voicemail anyone? Another such service is 12 Seconds which also integrates with Facebook.
And for documents, there’s twitdoc.
Follow Management Apps & Services
Keeping control of your followers and who you’re following can become a really tedious task, and the standard twitter homepage doesn’t make this any easier. Thankfully some really clever twitter nerd have created a range of tools to help us wade through the crowds to find the best tweeps to follow. Foller.me is one of these gems which I mentioned a little earlier on in this post.
Tweepular is another services which pulls some interesting info about who’s following you and who you’re following so you can keep your twitter neighbourhood in check.
You may also be interested to know who unfollows you, so you can keep yourself in check and stay relavent to your followers. Sign up with Use Qwitter be notified when someone unfollows you.
Topify is a service which enhances your twitter follow notifications so you get a little more detail about the person who has just followed you and can make a quick decision whether to return the favour.
So that’s it for part 1 of my twitter power user series, this was a bit of an introduction so hopefull the next few parts will focus a little more on specific areas individually and with more detail. I’m interested to know:
- what you think of twitter?
- do you use twitter?
- how do you use it?
- what’s your favourite twitter application or service?
If you’re interested in diving deep into the world of twitter, Mashable has a mega list of twitter tips, guides, tutorials and other helpful bits to get you going.