Ever since BusinessWeek’s Twitter test in early May, I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking how I use Twitter and what I think of it as a PR tool.
I have to admit when I first got on Twitter, I thought it was silly. Like so many people, I just didn’t get it. Who cares if I am doing laundry? Do I really need to know that someone I never met before just picked up his kids from school? Then, I started snooping around and reading tweets and following links and I finally got it. Soon, I was tweeting and now, I’m just as addicted as everyone else in the twittersphere.
Some people have asked me about tweeting news releases. I have done this, yes. But, I’d advise you to really consider the news and who is following you. Make sure it is relevant, otherwise, you really won’t see any results. You may want to look into Digg, StumbleUpon, Squidoo, Newsvine, Tumblr and many other pure news distribution sites if that is your only goal.
Now, there are many great articles on how to use Twitter and I’d definitely advise newbies to check those out. But, you know I can never resist joining the conversation with my two cents. So, here’s my advice on how to use Twitter.
Why Do You Want To Use It?
First, ask yourself what your objective is. Do you want to use Twitter for research? To make connections? To stay on top of specific topics? To drive web site or blog traffic? Job recruiting? Job searching? As with anything, you have to start with your objective and build from there.
Building Your Following.
As someone with only 166 followers, I’m not going to win any popularity contests on Twitter. But, I’ve only been active for a few months, and my objective was blog traffic. So, 166 PR professionals is more important to me than 1,000 random individuals. Again, it goes back to your goal.
That said, here are my tips to building a following.
Ask questions. Social media is about community, conversation, participation. Don’t just tweet your links. Ask questions and tweet conversation-starters that will engage your followers.
Make it a conversation. When someone tweets something I find interesting, I comment on it. It starts a discussion; a debate; anything to create that social interaction beyond just posting links. Be sure to give a proper shout out. If ABC@xyz.com tweets, reply to him with Hey ABC@xyz.com, that was hilarious…or I disagree, or whatever you want to say.
Post your twitter page elsewhere. Just as I have my company’s site, my Facebook page, etc. in the contact me section of this blog, I have a twitter link. I do the same on my MySpace page, Facebook, Squidoo, Furl, Digg, etc. The more you connect all of your social media sites together, the more you will create consistency and a broader reach.
In fact, Facebook has a Twitter application that will automatically copy your tweets to your Facebook page. I also use the blog app so every blog post I make here instantly appears on Facebook too. Synchronicity, baby.
Follow those who follow you. If someone starts following you, return the favor. Social media is always a two-way street.
Use Twitter tools.
Twitter has added many tools that make using the site much easier.
Tweetscan – This allows you to search for specific things that people are Tweeting about. It’s a great way to tailor your audience to a specific topic and avoid having to look through all those, “I’m eating lunch,” “I’m watching TV,” “I’m running out to get some groceries” tweets.
Snitter is an application you download to your desktop that keeps you from having to constantly go to the Twitter site, you can just tweet from your desktop. You’ll get your friends’ tweets too.
Twitter Cal is a calendar app I haven’t really started using yet. But, it can be a great way to let others know where you are, something I’m personally not that crazy about doing. (You never know who will show up!) But, if you are on a speaker circuit or have a lot of news articles coming out, it can be very useful to keep people apprised of those events. (I’d definitely recommend this if you are tweeting as a company, not a person.)
Also, there are many other micro-blogging sites emerging that are proving to be pretty cool. I’d recommend checking out: Pownce, Jaiku, Friendfeed for example. Just beware of over-use. I’ve found if I get on too many sites at once, it can be a real drag trying to keep up with them all and as soon as your voice dwindles, you defeat the whole purpose. So, as is true with everything in life, don’t over-extend.
In the meantime, send me your tweets and let’s get the conversations going!