Twitter: Why All This Fuss?

Don’t understand what all the Twitter fuss is about or why you might want to use this social networking tool? You’re not alone, but you may be missing out on useful information and professional connections.

Twitter remains a very nascent social network, so if you don’t know how it works or what it does (or you haven’t even heard of it), don’t feel bad. In fact, you’re still in the majority.

What Exactly is Twitter?

Twitter is a free service that allows users to publish short messages of 140 characters or less. These messages are read by “followers” — people who make a conscious decision to subscribe to your messages and have them delivered to their own Twitter home pages.

Each message you post is known as a “Tweet.” In the social media and social networking industry, Twitter facilitates a process known as microblogging or microsharing. Every user is identified by putting an “@” sign in front of their name.

Why Tweet?

It’s important to remember that Twitter is a publishing medium. In many cases, Tweets can be picked up by Google. So remember what you say, especially if you tend to talk business over Twitter (as many people do).

Joining Twitter has value for many people, but it can also be a waste of time if you don’t understand how the medium works and how best to utilize it. My best advice to you is, think about why you would want to do it. Do you want to join because there’s buzz about it everywhere, or just because President Obama is on it? ESPECIALLY NOW, you need to spend your resources and time wisely. Is Twitter a wise move for you?

Though some people use Twitter to keep people in their personal life updated, Twitter has developed a business following. People in a particular industry (say engineering, software development, or public relations) often use Twitter to keep up with news, opinion and happenings in their field, for example. Once you get going with Twitter, this information will come to you.

Twitter should be a place where you want to share common interests and ask insightful questions, and, ideally, read the interesting answers you get back.

I like to think of Twitter as a great tool for “Micro-blogging”. If you have a blog, you should use Twitter to let your followers know when you have posted a new article on your blog, with a link over to the blog. Starting to get the picture?

Most Importantly, understand this:  You’re Publishing: Google Will Find Your Tweets!  So be sure you link to your blog when you tweet! I suggest shortening the URL of your tweet that links to your blog by grabbing a shorter URL at http://TinyURL.com

What you say can affect your blog or business. Your boss, competitors, wife or future wife, etc. You need to remember, it’s publishing!

What You Can Gain

When you go to Twitter to sign up, it says, “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

The best way to make the most use of it is not just answer what are you doing now.  Instead, answer: “What’s important to me?” That changes the conversation and makes value. It takes away some of the minutia and shows you want to talk about something that’s more useful and interesting other than something useless like, “I’m going to lunch.”  Who cares if you’re going to lunch?

I quickly stop following people who have nothing useful to say, so keep that in mind when you start “Tweeting”.

Who Should You Follow?

The early users of Twitter have turned the issue of followers into a bit of popularity contest, and the PR and marketing professionals follow thousands of people in some cases to help tout their brands over the service.

But following a lot of people can create unnecessary noise that will render the service useless o look for other people in your industry who often publish links to things they’re reading, with a short comment on it.

Look for quality people who tweet about something useful. When you first start out, shoot for following 50 to 75 people, then decide who not to follow from that initial list. You’ll know pretty quickly when someone is tweeting a bunch of useless stuff, and when someone is tweeting something helpful.

I personally only follow 26 people (at the time this article was composed). Forget trying to follow 10,542 people… it can’t be done, and it’s a total waste of time to try.

The people you choose to follow should bring something compelling to your life. It’s really sad when people think that it’s important to follow a ton of random people or have people with a lot of followers to be important or get value from Twitter.

Start with people you know. When you sign up for Twitter, you will be prompted to search for friends from your Yahoo or GMail accounts and show if you are on the service. You can also use Twitter’s Search Tool to look for people you might be interested in following.

You don’t need to necessarily know someone personally, but they should relate to your interests. You can follow me on Twitter.

Who Will Follow You?

Not long after you join, people will begin following you. I currently have around 120 or so people following me, and I have not really been trying to add to that list of followers. Invite people on your personal email list to follow you. Maybe clients, customers, and prospects. Before you follow back, make sure you’re going to get something substantive out of their tweets. But most of all, make sure THEY are going to get something substantive out of YOUR tweets.

Remember, because a Tweet is so short, (maximum of 140 characters) it’s even harder than with say, e-mail, for people to pick up context or tell when you’re being sarcastic versus serious. You need to think carefully about how you put things and how they sound. Think about not only your immediate followers but your potential audience, which is the whole Web. Tweets get googled pretty prominently.

How to Sign Up for Twitter:

1. Twitter.com Click on the “Join the Conversation” button in middle of the page.

2. Fill out basic information. This will include your full name, preferred user name, password and e-mail address. Remember, the user name is what people will see with an “@” symbol in front of it.

3. See if your friends are on Twitter. After you fill out basic info, you’ll be prompted to look for friends in your Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail or AOL accounts so you can begin following them if they’re already on the service. You can follow my tweets.

4. Twitter’s suggestions. Twitter will suggest some people for you to follow as well. Check to see if anyone of them are relevant.

5. Setting up your profile. Click on “settings” in the upper right hand corner of your Twitter home page. You’ll be brought to a tab-based menu that helps you build your profile and adjust settings.

6. Fill in the fields. Of particular importance is the “one line bio” under the “Account” tab. You have 160 characters to present yourself to the Twitter community. Many people choose to state their profession, and then maybe something outside of work that interests them as well.

7. Start looking for followers Regardless of how many people you found through e-mail search and Twitter’s suggestions, start looking around for people you might find interesting. Use search.twitter.com.

Be sure to include whether you want someone’s tweets to text you on your cell phone. You can choose this feature for each individual you’re following.  I have a whopping total of three people whose tweets will make it to my cell phone. Be very selective with this option!

Joel Comm has written a book called “Twitter Power” that really goes into a lot of detail as to the “Power of Twitter”. You can find it at most any bookstore, and online as well.

I hope this article has been helpful to you, and will help you decide if Twitter is for you or not. If you found this article useful, tell a friend about it below… use the “Tell Others About This Article” buttons.

Until next time,

Follow Me on Twitter

Ed

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