Twitter Tips (Part 1)

25 04 2009

Until recently I have been oblivious to the world of Twitter. I kept hearing about it every where but I couldn’t understand the concept so I kept putting off signing up. After all, I had been using Facebook for around 5 years, LinkedIn for 2 years, and considered my self pretty web savvy. Little did I know, there was a whole other world of people I wanted to know communicating about what I need to learn 24/7. Thankfully a friend finally convinced me to check it out and let’s just say, it has left me “Twittering” with excitement. The following are a few things I have learned about using Twitter that I wish I had known right off the bat:

Most importantly, Facebook is for people you used to know, Twitter is for people you want to know

This is the best explanation I have come accross regarding what Twitter is and how is should be used. When I first began using Facebook it was a social networking site geared exclusively for college students. Infact, it wasn’t that long ago that you were actually required to have a college email address to sign up. It was revolutionary in the way you could re-connect with old friends from high school or keep track of you current friends in college. This is because it was organized by schools, past and present. So not only could you find your long lost chemistry class partner from high school you could also find some one who had the notes for your 8am Bio Chem lab at college that you always slept through. It grew so fast that it became addicting for so many of us because every time we logged we were greated with a new surprise of some one past or present that wanted to connect. And that was how it worked until life got in the way…….. and we graduated.

There is no denying that Facebook has exploded in popularity with in the last few years because of it’s ability to maintain strong networks for people, but I also have another theory that has given it such a bump. My “generation” of the original Facebook users is now in the work force and at first struggled with their Facebook addictions, logging on during work hours at the office. Now, instead of seeing who was in what class, you could see who was working where. BINGO! Everytime companies were looking for an in with another company it was the young Facebook addict who was the first to be able to supply a name and email address. It wasn’t long before our superiors and mentors began to pick up on this phenomenon and figured out how to put it to their advantage and that is where Facebook stands today. A jumbled mix between old friends and eager baby boomers looking to network. (Keep watching out for my next ground breaking blog: The Facebook Identity Crisis)

Now, with that explanation I hope you can understand what I mean when I say Facebook is for people you used to know. On the other hand Twitter is for people you want to know. This is because of one simple reason, you have access to virtually everyone on Twitter who wants to be found by simply following them. To gain information about some one on Facebook, you first need to request their friendship and wait for them to approve this request. Twitter gives you instant access to what people are thinking and doing every day. This benefits users in a number of ways. For example, let’s say you need a website created for your business but don’t know who to go to. By searching for people on Twitter you can find a number of web development professionals. After reading the bios of a few you can begin to learn about them, their work habbits, personality and much more by simply following them. This gives invaluable insight into what you should be looking for in a web developer and you might even find a perfect match!

Another example of why Twitter is for people you want to know is the ability to track the day to day of someone who you aspire to be. With in no time you learn about what their professional life is like, what their favorite web sites are and if you pay attention you will pick up on what they do to be so successful.

Don’t keep your Twitter private

The initial fear that many people have when they first join Twitter is that now people they don’t even know will be watching there every move. This is an unsettling thought so it’s easy to check the box under privacy settings and keep your Twitter private. Think about it though… isn’t it every businesses dream to have consumers hang on their every word? Also, because you are notified every time somone starts following you you are getting the chance to know your potential customers.

On the flipside, I was asked today about the chance of some one being followed and monitored by their competitors. I say, let them follow but also when you become notified of their follow, begin to follow them. It comes down the the timeless expression “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Be aware of who you choose to follow

For some, the initial reaction is to begin following people in their related field who already have significant numbers following them and follow few others. It makes sense that this paints a picture of someone with importance. But before you follow them, take a look at their history of posts. You might be surprised to see that their posts are nothing more than shameless self promotions and links to their products. Obviously, there is not much to gain and definately a waste of time to track them. But how did they aquire such a great following?

It’s pretty simple really. For many on Twitter, it is a common courtesy to return the follow of some one when you are notified that they are following you. If you are new to Twitter and and eager to gain a following, it is the immediate reaction to return a person’s follow. However, it is also just as easy to quit following some one and when you do so they are not notified. This makes it easy for users lacking integrity to spend a day clicking on the follow of everyone they want to target, recieving a huge number of follows, and then just as quickly unfollowing this list of targets, walking away with a list of contacts that others earn honestly over time. I feel sorry for those who use this tactic however because they are missing a huge piece to the puzzle. They aren’t learning about their target market and losing sales or networking opportunities in the proccess.