The first time I heard the concept I thought to myself, “self, that sounds like one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.” And to someone who doesn’t use their computer much or is leery of the new world online, it probably is really dumb. Do you “tweet” as those short snippets of information are called on Twitter? This new form of communication could be called the online version of short attention span theatre. Computing for those with A.D.D.
If you’re not familiar with Twitter you’ll find its an alternate world that is easy to become addicted to. You have 140 characters, which include letters, numbers, punctuation and spaces, to say something smart, clever, important and world changing. The invitation to write, just above the text box, simply says, “What are you doing?” Similar to facebook which asks, “What’s on your mind” and Linkedin which says, “What are you working on now?” It takes me back to my English classes in college where the professor admonished us to be succinct in our writing; say what you mean and say it in as few words as possible. You’d be surprised how few 140 characters is. This isn’t for people who like to prattle on and not say anything. The other side of the coin though is there’s a lot you can say a lot in 140 characters.
Twitter is new enough so that most people aren’t sure what to do with it once they get there. Comments runs the full gambit from people thinking you really do care that they are just sitting down to eat dinner to practical advice and even the chance to win something. Comments are as varied as the millions of people who are twittering every second of the day somewhere in the world. Advice on raising children, how to build a birdhouse, making money, using Twitter, becoming healthy, religion and most any other topic in the world you can think of. What’s addictive is the amount of good information you find on Twitter as you begin to follow other people’s tweets. When I first started, just a couple of months ago, I was following a few friends and had two or three people following me. What I’ve learned very quickly is that on Twitter it’s all about whose following you and who you’re following. I’m at about 100 followers and following over 100 which, quite frankly, is nothing. There are people who literally have tens of thousands of people following them. It’s almost a game to see how many people you can get to follow you and I just realized that about a week ago. You can search for friends and follow them in hopes they’ll follow you. And that’s where etiquette comes in. If someone sends you an email they are following, you should respond by following them as well. I’m finding this can get time consuming as I’m not getting as many as 30 or 40 “following” emails and I need to respond to each of them individually to also follow them. I have yet to learn if there is a way to do this quickly or possibly in batches, but right now it takes 15 seconds or so to click on the link in the email and then click on the follow button on each person’s request. But with the help of many of the people I follow who want to help other’s get up to speed on tweeting, I’m learning more each day.
Here are just a few things you should consider if you decide you want to start tweeting to the world. These are not rules, but suggestions and by next week they may be irrelevant with new rules in place:
- Decide what you want to tweet about; pick one or two or even three topics and become known for your tweets on these subjects. You can use Twitter to promote your business, but I suggest you vary your tweets. If you are shamelessly promoting only your products or even yourself, people will catch on quickly and you’ll lose followers. Tweet on topics that interest you. History, quotations, health, politics, love, comedy or any of a million other subjects.
- Add a picture. The default icon is a brown box with circles in it and it screams, “I’m new to Twitter and don’t know what I’m doing.” Some people use pictures, some icons and others obscure symbols. Whatever it may be, it shows other’s you’re not a newbie and tells them a little bit about yourself.
- Include links to interesting articles and videos. You want people to remember you because you are offering something of value in your tweets. You can also “retweet” or RT interesting tweets you see. This shows you are reading what others are saying and that you are caring. Twitter is like a cocktail party. Have you ever been to one where someone you are talking with goes on and on about themselves? You lose interest in that person quickly, right? The same thing will happen on Twitter if people see you only write about yourself.
- Be current. Tweet at least three or four times a day, but don’t go overboard. Once you are following a lot of people you will find the tweets can get overwhelming so there is no need to tweet every two minutes. Three or four salient tweets per day will keep people following you.
- It’s O.K. to promote your blog or a website on twitter. Drive traffic to sites you want people to visit, but again, I suggest you don’t go overboard on this. Use one tweet per day to promote yourself and the rest to promote other information and people.
This is just scratching the surface of how to have fun using Twitter as well as promoting yourself and your expertise. There are thousands of articles out there on using Twitter and below are two links I enjoyed and learned from. Have fun, be succinct and take advantage of this new medium that is taking over the world.