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Chances are if you aren’t already on Twitter, you certainly have heard enough about it in the media to at least be curious as to what all the buzz is about.
My best explanations for Twitter are a global water cooler, business mixer or cocktail party. You are exchanging small bits of information – both personal and business/interest related – while coming in and out of multiple conversations.
For the basics, check out this video from one of my favorite sources, Common Craft, called Twitter in Plain English:
While Twitter really started out as a way of filling in the gap between email and blogs, it has become so much more! Twitter has become the ultimate networking tool (just ask Wendy at Sparkplugging about how Twitter landed her a spot on the Today Show), it has become another tool in a brand’s marketing toolkit, and it has become the place to make new contacts, find resources, and get connected in the social media arena.
So how do you even start to navigate Twitter, know who to follow and what to tweet?
Sign up at Twitter. Use your real name, “handle” or company name and get started on your profile. Add your location (even if you define it in your broader metro area), add 1-2 lines about your company, interests and web site address (if you have one). You decide how much goes in your profile, but these are the minimums in my opinion. Add a photo, image or logo to help you become identifiable on Twitter and you are ready to play. If you want to get snazzy, add a custom background to your Twitter profile (examples and how to at Spoon Graphics).
Who Should You Follow?
Everyone has to be the new kid on the block at some point. Don’t let that keep you from getting started. Start by looking at some of your favorite blogs – are the authors on Twitter? If so, start by following them. Take a look at sites like Twellow.com and JustTweetIt.com to find people with similar interests to yours. You can also search Twitter (www.summize.com) for keywords, conversation topics and niche topics to find people you want to follow.
What Do I Tweet?
With Twitter you only have 140 characters to share what you have to say. Its amazing how good you get at writing in short, descriptive and meaningful thoughts. Ultimately there are no real rules, but to get you started things you may want to tweet about include:
- What you are doing.
- Ask a question related to your business niche, something you want to know more about or something even more general.
- Answer someone else’s question.
- Respond to a tweet made by others.
- Share your opinion on current events, shows, and topics of interest.
- Share your latest blog post automatically using TwitterFeed.
- You can share links to web pages you like but if the URL is too long you need to use a URL shortening service like TinyURL.com.
What Else Should I Know?
- Be courteous and don’t spam. Twitter is like any other social media tool – treat others as you wish to be treated. Be genuine and develop relationships.
- Tweet on a regular basis and make your Twitter experience a two way conversation.
- You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you, but try to keep the numbers somewhat balanced. Its hard to have a conversation when you follow 3 people and expect 300 to follow you.
- You can even block people from following you if you need to – especially if it looks like the follower is really a spammer.
More Twitter Resources:
- Twitip.com – an entire site of Twitter Tips from Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame.
- MySocialButtons.com – let the world know you are on Twitter with the best bling for your blog (the twitter bird on this post is from My Social Buttons).
- My Twittonary is an exhaustive list of Twitter terms, shorthand and tools – color coded for your convenience.
- Add Twitter to your WordPress blog using this list of 15 Useful Twitter Hacks and Plugins from Smashing Magazine.
- Twitter Tools for Community and Communications Professionals
Remember this was meant to be an introduction to Twitter in as simple terms as possible. Hopefully it will take the mystery out of Twitter! Feel free to share it with someone you know who is getting started on Twitter and of course, you are always welcome to Tweet, Stumble or Digg this, too!
Seeing as I LOVE Common Craft’s very cool topics in plain English video series, and US Election Day is right around the corner, I thought I’d share Common Craft’s Electing a US President in Plain English video with you. As usual, the video is the best explanation I have heard for this complex process yet.
And while we are on the topic of the election and the web, check out Wendy’s post on the Presidential Election 2.0 and how social media has changed the political landscape forever.