Success in leveraging Twitter for engaging with others means relationship building in a virtual community. Just as you build relationships with your marketplace at industry events, you can engage in Twitter.
Why use Twitter? Because it’s used by millions of people and is a valuable tool in the arsenal of connecting with your market, getting feedback, and being able to chat with like-minded people around the world. And it’s free. I tell a brief story in my previous post regarding Twitter that illustrates who may be involved – and why Twitter is increasingly relevant.
So, to achieve success in Twitter, it takes getting the basics down first and then slowly entering the Twitter stream, keeping in mind the 80/20 rule: Only tweet about yourself 20% of the time! Don’t try to sell, sell, sell – it will turn everybody off.
Imagine being at a tradeshow where a booth had a guy putting info up on a screen but didn’t respond to you or any of your questions. That’s done all the time on Twitter by those who don’t “get it”.
Be respectful and professional: Once a tweet is out there, it lives on. So, let’s get the basics down first.
1. Get Your Twitter Profile & Settings Right
Your Twitter Profile
Twitter is a bit confusing on the Profile option, since at the top of Twitter’s menu it shows “Profile” – but that’s a view of how you appear to others. It’s not where you can tweak your profile and communication settings.
By the main “Profile” option, Twitter is showing you what anybody who looks you up on Twitter can see about you (unless you protect your profile, which I don’t recommend). They can see your name, your Twitter ID (e.g., @i_jessica), your brief bio, your web url, and your tweets.
By the way, the orange Klout box near my name in my Twitter stream is a plug-in available from Klout.com – not really applicable if you’re new to Twitter; a future blog post will discuss social influence measurement and other tools.
Navigation to Your Twitter Settings
You get to your Twitter settings by clicking on your icon/name in the top right corner of the Twitter page, as illustrated in the graphic on the left. Click on Settings.
Follow the basic steps of getting your profile set up, including a real glimpse of who you are in your profile description. Include a website URL for your company or your blog site. Upload a picture of yourself – it helps with engagement. And please change the default background, even if you don’t have a customized one. If it’s a company Twitter account and you don’t want a picture of yourself, then upload a logo: Note that you will want to see how this looks in Twitter and may take a few re-tries to get it right.
For your bio, you’re limited to 160 characters. Get ready. If you think this is bad, Twitter tweets are limited to 140 characters – and, worse, any Direct Message is also limited to 140 characters. You’ll soon see why that’s relevant further along in this post. Learning how to be concise is very important in Twitter!
Twitter Settings – Communications & Notifications
Getting Twitter notifications right is really important if you are serious about using Twitter: Many people don’t notice or care about Direct Messages, but I’ve received Direct Messages from people (not automated messages) asking me for help – or needing advice. So it shouldn’t be ignored, even though the vast preponderance of Direct Messages in Twitter are automated messages sent out from those accounts that you follow.
The light blue “i_jessica settings” graphic here shows my settings – and has Notifications on the Settings menu active – illustrating my settings to be kept in the loop on Direct Messages and new Followers.
Twitter sends out a neat, recently enhanced new Follower email that shows me a brief bio on my new Follower, shows me if my new Follower used a tool to find me, and shares with me some other relevant tidbits.
[styled_box title="Twitter @Mentions, Retweets (RT), and @Replies" color="gray"]
The most important Twitter notification, in my opinion, is knowing when you’ve been mentioned or sent a reply: You need to be alerted so you can respond.
The way a Twitterer does this is by tweeting something like: @i_jessica Did you find that post on the cloud management tool? Too frequently what occurs is that somebody is mentioned or sent a Tweet like this – and never sees it, never responds. It can be the kiss of death in Twitter – at least for that potential relationship.
I’ve not only seen this – by sending out a Tweet and never hearing anything back (including to some people who should know better) – but have read a lot about it out in the blogosphere: It indicates that you’re not really engaged in Twitter, or that you’re a “‘bot” (software robot), or that you’re just into yourself.
Another type of mention in Twitter is when you’re retweeted – a real compliment.
If you don’t pay attention and don’t say thanks later, you may not get re-tweeted again by that follower – and you may even get unfollowed. More about RTs (retweets) shortly, but if you’re configured appropriately, you should be alerted for mentions and RTs.
2. Follow Twitter accounts of interest
Connect with other Twitter accounts by doing some searching. As written earlier, there are some excellent pointers in the previous post on searching inside Twitter for those in your area, in your market, and in your industry. Some other searches can be specific to your interest areas – from restaurants to capital to private equity to marketing to SEO to horses!
Using Twitter #hashtags – to find people and topics
Hashtags are amazing: They’ve grown in usage dramatically, even in the past two years. They’re used for online chats within specific groups. They’re used for support. They’re used for community, sports, weather, marketing, conference, and other types of events. (Dallas Mavericks fan? Try #mavs!)
Hashtags are one of my favorite things about Twitter.
A hashtag is just “#hashtag” and it’s used for multiple purposes, including trending topics, helping people find others who are interested in a specific topic, and some online Twitter “chats”. It’s also used for jobs (try “#Chicago #jobs“). Frequently you’ll see a #hashtag in a tweet – it’s highlighted in a different color than the rest of the tweet, just like a URL link would be. When you click on the #hashtag, you’ll see a list of recent tweets that are using that #hashtag. You can also search on a #hashtag from the top search bar in Twitter: Try searching on #cloud #sdlc #cio … you get the drift. Keep trying some combinations, you’ll find some interesting tweets!
Twitter tip: You can save your favorite #hashtags as Twitter option for “Saved Searches”.
The graphic here shows a hashtag search on #wine – and I’ve used the small arrow on the right hand side of the @myvinespot top tweet (arrow not visible) to bring up @myvinespot’s bio and information. Right from here I can see his latest tweets, his bio, his Twitter reach and decide if I want to follow him or not.
<h4>Beware: Twitter sets limits on following-to-followed ratio to protect Twitter from spammers.</h4>
Twitter will limit you to how many Twitter accounts you can follow at one time and the rules are a bit obscure – Twitter cautions users against “aggressive following.” In general, you can follow a hundred or so Twitter accounts at some point and, as you obtain followers, you can follow more people. I’ve personally found that I periodically have to weed through some accounts I’m following that are either not on-topic for me or aren’t following me back after a reasonable period of time.
3. Protocol: Follow Twitter accounts back who follow you
It’s my recommendation to auto-follow back those Twitter accounts (“Tweeps”) who follow you: This not only protects you from the dreaded Twitter limit curse, but helps in furthering engagement – because as you’re searching for people with similar interests or thought leaders, etc., so are others searching. If you are receiving spam from a follower, you can easily not only unfollow them, but you can also block them. In serious cases of obvious spam, you can report a spammer to Twitter.
Some people object to auto-following, but you won’t be able to engage as well, won’t be considered engaging or really participating (or selfish!), or you’ll hit the Twitter follow limits. Your call. And if your objection is the vast stream of information that you’ll have to deal with if you get into the thousands of followers, well, as my friend Brian Byrne always says, it’s a high class problem to have – and, that’s why Twitter has Lists.
One tool that you might consider using is SocialOomph.com to set up auto-following; the basic SocialOomph is free. Their premium account offering is incredible, but there’s an entire galaxy of Twitter-related (with Linkedin, Facebook, other social networks, blog posting) toolsets out there when you’re ready.
Unless you want to look like a real twit, remember that even a Direct Message has a 140 character limit.
It’s now considered passe’ to direct message a new follower – it’s really pretty spammy. But when you DO send a DM, remember the 140-character limitation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a DM that was cut short.
4. Twittering: When and what to Tweet
When you’re new to Twitter, it’s probably a good idea to read through your Twitter stream of information to get a feel for how it works and learn about the links, discussions, and retweets. For some of us, Twitter has become an incredible resource of news as it’s happening and top industry issues. But there is a good deal of spam and nonsense (affiliate marketers, multi-level marketers, worse) out there – but you’re in control: You can unfollow anybody so their tweets are no longer in your stream. And you can block – or even notify Twitter of a spammer – if you need to.
Tweets are usually sharing of some relevant information – a news article or blog post, for example – that’s of interest to you and your market. Due to the 140 character limits in Twitter, everybody usually uses a URL shortener (such as bit.ly) to help squeeze a comment about the news article in with the URL. There are numerous URL shorteners out on the market, including Google now. (You can use bit.ly as a free tool – or many websites have a simple “Tweet this” button that handles it all for you.)
When you are ready to tweet about you – your offering, your speaking engagement, your latest blog post, or a slideshare preso – be respectful and just put the Tweet out there without adding any of your followers names to it.
Twittering into Linkedin
You can link Twitter tweets up with your Linkedin account, but I caution you – if you should choose to do this – to do it via only appending #in to a Tweet you wish to go to Linkedin. (This option requires that you set this up in your Linkedin account.) Don’t, please, set yourself up that any/every Tweet you put into Twitter hits your Linkedin status updates: I’ve seen some horrible Linkedin updates that have no place in a business networking portal.
Don’t Spam in Twitter
The fastest way to get barred from Twitter as a spammer is to put a link into your Tweet with some Twitter account names.
It works, every time.
The graphic with the green/white egg shows an example view of my @ Mentions. (This is another way to keep an eye on when you’ve been mentioned in a RT (re-tweet) – but not all RTs are covered in this option.) What’s notable here is this @Millia_ierenalu who Tweets about automating Twitter, includes a link/URL, and then includes several Twitter accounts (@ mentions). What she’s hoping for is that every one of us mentioned in this Tweet will click on her link. What happens is that most of us will either block her – or update Twitter that she’s spamming us.
I clicked on the small arrow on the right-hand side of her Tweet (not visible in this graphic) to pull up her profile, which is on the right-hand side of the web page screenshot in this graphic. You can see here that this user has only 2 followers, is following nobody, has sent out 21 Tweets – all with nothing really but a link: This adds up to spammer in my book. I have the option of updating Twitter by blocking her or reporting her as spam by selecting the small gear-wheel graphic (as shown in the graphic) and selecting the appropriate graphic. In this particular case, I reported her as spam and her Tweet left my @ mentions view immediately.
5. Fostering engagement in Twitter
As you learn how to use Twitter, tweet somewhat regularly – and with meaningful content, you’ll attract followers. Growth may be slow at first, but you can engage more by retweeting those tweets you find interesting, thank anyone who retweets you or mentions you, and staying on topic. While Ashton Kutcher may be able to build a following of a gazillion users by tweeting whatever strikes his fancy, you probably don’t have quite the level of fame to attract millions of followers within days of signing on. (Within a few days of creating a Twitter account, Charlie Sheen had acquired a few hundred thousand followers; it’s about 3 months later and he’s nudging up to 4 million followers.)
Twitter Retweets (RTs)
It’s vital that you stay tuned in for when you’re mentioned – or if a tweet of yours is retweeted.
It’s a compliment to be retweeted and you want to thank your follower for doing so, just as you want to thank those who mention you.
To see RTs, you usually have to navigate to the Twitter Home view and then select Retweets, as graphic on right displays. There are 3 options under Retweets – the one you want is “Your Tweets, Retweeted”.
In the graphic with Shyam Kapur on the right side of the webpage, I’d clicked on the small right arrow to bring up who retweeted my tweet. As you can see, @shyamkapur re-tweeted the quote that I had re-tweeted from @glfceo.
@Mentions in Twitter
Mentions are accessible via this same Home view by selecting @Mentions. As the graphic example above in this post (where I address spamming) displays, I can see when I’ve been mentioned within a Tweet. In some cases I need to reply directly, but in almost all cases, I need to thank those who retweet me or mention me – and I try to do this at least twice a week. Perhaps Ashton or one of the really big guys in social media don’t need to thank anybody for RTs or mentions, but most of us do if we want to build our reputation and authenticity in Twitter.
Thank Tweeps for mentioning or retweeting you
A rudimentary key to fostering engagement in Twitter is thanking those users who have either mentioned or retweeted you. It’s easy and pays off. The graphic on the right illustrates one of my thank you tweets. There are tools available to help with this, such as @followfriday, but sometimes it’s easier for me to just do it in Twitter.
Content sourcing and the “Via”
If you follow a link from a user and find it of interest, then tweet about it, it’s considered good manners to include that Tweep in your Tweet. Here’s an example of a Tweet of mine wherein I had followed a link from Brady Media, liked it, and decided to Tweet about it. Note that I included him in the source:
While many Tweeps don’t do this, you’ll stand out as what’s considered a generous and authentic Twitter user by doing so.
You can achieve success in engaging with your market and within your industry in Twitter, leveraging the free service Twitter provides. Follow these basic guidelines, remember the 80/20 rule, be authentic, and enjoy this essential corner of the social web – Twitter, the firehose.