By Liz Gooster (MC12), Meyler Campbell Special Advisor
What exactly is Twitter? According to Twitter’s own website, it’s ‘a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting’. But to the novice, this twittering, chirping, messy online community can seem overwhelming. The only way to really get a sense of what it’s all about is to plunge in, join the conversation and check it out for yourself. So if you do dip a digital toe into the twittersphere, here are my top 10 tips to getting the most out of Twitter.
1) Think carefully about your Twitter name, or handle. You can use your real name, your company name, a tag that captures your brand or personality, a nickname, whatever you want. It depends on why you’re using Twitter: make sure your purpose is congruent with your username. So, if you’re a CEO looking to build your credentials as a thought leader, maybe @bigteddybear isn’t quite right for you. Plus, it’s already taken: your Twitter name has to be unique, which is why you’ll see things like @bigteddybear41.
2) Work on your Twitter bio. You only have 160 characters for this, but it’s important because this is your shop window. It’s what people see first and will help them decide whether or not they want to follow you and hear what you have to say. As with your username, use your profile to convey the right image, whether personal or professional. Upload a photo or an image and add a link to your website if you have one.
3) Find people you want to follow. You’ll see the tweets of everyone you follow in your Twitter feed. You can search for people by their real name, even if that’s not their Twitter username and the beauty of Twitter is you can follow anyone you want to, even if you don’t know each other and regardless of whether they follow you back. Search for keywords that reflect topics you’re interested in to find people tweeting on these subjects. Twitter will also make suggestions for new people for you to follow, based on who you’re already following.
4) Look at the people who are following you. Check out their profiles and tweets before you follow them back to make sure you want to read their stuff and be associated with them.
5) Start tweeting! And remember, you only have 140 characters, so keep it pithy! Think about why you’re tweeting and check before you tweet that your message is in tune with the image you want to build.
6) Tell, spread and interact. Don’t just broadcast news about yourself – that’s the equivalent of being the bore at the party who constantly drones on about themselves and ignores everyone else. Aim for your tweets to be a mix of new content about you; retweets (RTs) of interesting tweets you’ve read and think other people might like to see; and responses or conversation-starting messages to other tweeters. Use hashtags if you’re tweeting about popular topics (eg #wimbledon) to make it easier for people to find your tweets.
7) Don’t get too personal. Twitter is all about engaging with people, and it’s best to be authentic. But don’t share more than you’re comfortable with, and be mindful of your own boundaries about privacy – once a tweet’s out there, you can’t get it back (see also Tip 9). For private messages, use the direct messaging (DM) facility, which is the Twitter equivalent of an email.
8) Manage your Twitter feed. As you follow more people, your Twitter feed will start to get very full. You can’t read every tweet, so test out ways of filtering to make sure you see tweets from the people and on the topics you really want to. Create lists of groups of people that reflect your interests (eg business contacts, celebrities, cookery experts). Try out social media dashboards such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Seesmic to help manage your feed.
9) Never drink and tweet! Your tweets are there for ever, and anyone can see them, so drunk or sober, make sure that you’d be happy for your mum, your boss, your best friend and your worst enemy to see what you’ve written or linked to.
10) Have fun. Twitter is a fast-paced, energetic, real-time way of communicating about anything you want, with anyone you want, anywhere in the world. So above all, just enjoy it!
Liz Gooster is an Executive Coach with The Alliance and Editor-at-Large for leading business publisher Kogan Page. You can read her blogs at www.lizgooster.com and http://goosterontheloose.wordpress.com/ and follow her on twitter at @bizclasscoach and @publishingcynic