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Twitter: Why It’s So Great And How To Effectively Use It


Apparently micro-blogging is getting more and more popular by the day and consequently its biggest platform on the web, Twitter, is rapidly growing as well. This means there’s a whole new emerging market of tech savvy, blogging experienced users that’s just waiting to be grasped. A great opportunity indeed!

But first, for those a bit unfamiliar with micro blogging and more importantly twitter, let me explain a bit how it works. Twitter is basically a service that allows you to update your status with short messages, of up to 140 characters, just like a SMS text message. What makes it so special is that it also has social elements, allowing users to befriend each other; in twitter this is called “following.” Whenever you’re following somebody on twitter you’ll be able to instantly receive their updates and keep up to date with someone’s status. Furthermore because mobility and fastness are of the utmost importance in micro blogging, twitter allows you to update your status via the web page, IM, mobile phone, blackberry or various other third party applications.

Why You Should Use Twitter

When I first started out using twitter, about 2 months ago, I was very skeptical regarding its actual utility and purpose, as I found the notion of knowing what people were up to kinda irrelevant. “Off eating dinner,” “My flight just arrived in San Francisco,” “Walking my dog.” Why should I care about anything like this? Well if you, like I have in the beginning, think that’s all there is to twitter, then you’re just making mis perceptions. Truth is there’s more to it then meets the eye my friends.

After I first register an account I felt a bit out of place and lonely, because I wasn’t following anyone and no one was following me. I soon started twitting a bit though, followed a bunch of people I knew and started socializing. After a while I soon realized how powerful twitter can really be and what kind of benefits it can bring. It’s been widely proven that twitter can be easily used as a self-promotion tool, to pitch your content, services and products with ease. This is done by broadcasting your message, although short, to your followers. Sounds familiar ? That’s because twittering resembles a lot blogging, except your messange is broadcasted in “real time” to your reader. It’s this mixture of blogging, RSS and social networking that makes twitter so appealing.

Still not convinced? Here’s a few more reasons why twitter rocks.

  1. Traffic. Although at fist glance it might seem like twitter isn’t capable of directing any respectable amount of traffic, truth is, if used properly, it can provide your blog with quite a “few” new visitors. The traffic from twitter isn’t too shabby either, in terms of quality, most of the visitors being pretty targeted, that stick around, read your posts and even subscribe. You can send traffic by entering your blog’s url in your twitter profile (this will be responsible for most of the regular traffic you’ll receive from twitter) or by twitting one of your post’s url. The amount of traffic you can receive from twitter is directly proportional to number of followers you posses.
  2. Awareness and branding. Just like any other social network, twitter can be used as a powerful tool to build your brand and raise awareness. If you browse a bit through twitter you’ll undoubtedly find twitter users for a lot of popular online and offline brands, that simply track their day to day progress and update with valuable breaking news. The thing about twitter branding is that it’s a lot more personal, probably thanks to it’s IM like environment, helping you to thin the line between you and your readers.
  3. Promote your content. This is more of a combination between the first two posts. A lot of bloggers nowadays, realizing the huge potential twitter possess of leveraging their content, have begun to publicize and promote their blog posts on twitter. This means either they post their blog post url, along with a short description (what can you expect in 140 characters or less?) or the url to various other social media websites like digg, reddit or stumbleupon for example, so that their followers can vote them. A nifty little twitter tool, available on the web right now, that’s been getting a lot of attention lately, is TwitterFeed, a great twitter application that will automatically post your latest blog posts titles, along with the respective url of course, without any interference from your behalf.
  4. Fast help and feedback. A few weeks ago I asked for some urgent help on twitter, when I updated my status saying “I need some critical help from a PHP guru, please add AIM Qotsa ftw.” Frankly I didn’t expect any results or help coming in any soon, but I was pretty desperate. In a matter of minutes about four talented programmers added me on AIM and offered to hear me out and help, free of charge! Where else can you find this kind of fast response? I soon found that twitter can be an extremely efficient environment for collecting honest and live feedback, ranging from anything like design, to writing, to the over all reader experience.
  5. Find a new audience. At the beginning of the article I stated that twitter is a emerging market, that’s beginning to explode on the web with hundred of thousands of users, meaning there’s a whole new vast audience, that’s just waiting to get exposed to your blog. Use twitter in conjunction with my 10 other ways of finding new readers and you’ll soon boost your stats and break the plateau.
  6. Latest news. Because twitter is so instant and spontaneous you can now find out about the latest industry and scene news in a particular field of activity you’re following, within minutes of the actual event. If you thought RSS feeds are a good way of keeping up with news and new content, wait till you try twitter.
  7. Inform people of your status. While telling people what you ate for dinner won’t appeal to many, a lot of people might be interested in what’s your business plans for the day or who’ll you’ll be meeting. Status live updates come especially in handy when you’re on conferences and witness first-hand world premiers.
  8. Networking. Twitter is a great way to get to know new and like minded individuals, that share your same passions and area of expertise. Following them truly is a pleasure. This way you can see what your fellow peers are up to, open up to mutual promotional work and build future business relationships.
  9. Marketing. As it’s the case with most social media services, you can use twitter to market and pitch your products. However twitter won’t directly help you market your content, but rather indirectly by helping build your brand name and authority. After you’ve established yourself as an authority to your audience, sales will follow as well.
  10. It’s fast and mobile. You can user twitter from anywhere in the world, even from a mobile phone. Also updating your status on twitter won’t take more then 1 minute, you’re not gonna write essays in 140 characters or less, right?
  11. Keep track of things. Just like a mini journal, I like to use twitter to record my progress through out the day. This helps me keep focus on my tasks and helps me get things done (even though ironically it can be a real productivity bugger). It’s a great way to write down ideas for further reference.
  12. Provides inspiration. As a blogger you always have to produce a steady flow of new and original content. This can tend to get a bit difficult after a while, so any source of blog post inspiration can be considered a blessing. How does twitter fit in the big picture? Well, all you have to do is keep your eyes open on the people your following and you’ll see material for new content building up in your head. Some people have sparks or moments of inspiration concerning a particular topic, which they then twitter to get it off their chest. You can borrow their ideas and then build a post of your own around them. All the right reasons to follow important and intelligent people. Also you can always ask a question about something and your followers will soon answer it (I showed you how great asking questions can be with twitter in a point above), developing the idea, thus providing you with possible new material to work with.
  13. It’s viral. Anything that spreads quickly and easily across a community makes a great social service anytime, in my eyes. Twitter works virally in a word of mouth kinda way. You as user may twit about something important, your followers will then take the story to their followers and so on.
  14. Make money! By using twitter you can increase your income indirectly through social media marketing, but you can also make money directly by selling twits. This is totally against the twitter TOS and most of all unethical, but since when’s that reason enough for people to stop doing it. If you want to know more about the concept read these posts by Darren Rowse and Jason Falls, who’ve written the articles more as an experiment and joke, but have defined some great ideas, that will undoubtedly materialize in the future, as twitter develops more and more. Won’t be surprised if something like this exists somewhere deep underground…
  15. It’s fun! There’s something special about twitter, that makes it real fun, but I just can’t put my finger on it yet. I always have a good laugh when I read a good joke on twitter or when someone shares a great link with me. It’s that kind of fun you find in a great social network like stumbleupon or digg and twitter has plenty of it.

Using Twitter Effectively

If you’re still reading this, then I’ve probably convinced you to try this micro blogging mambo jambo out, now it’s time to see how we can actually properly use the twitter service at its fullest and better leverage its potential. Bellow I’ll try to list a few pointers I’ve learned by actively participating on twitter during the past weeks, that will help you do just that. Experienced twitter users should pay close attention to the following points as well.

  • Follow other users. Like in any other social network, profile building is extremely important and such is the case with twitter as well. Here when building an authoritative twitter profile the most important aspect you should look after is your followers. The more you have, the more popular you are and consequently the larger the influence your twits will posses. I think most of you are familiar with the you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours philosophy. Well this applies on twitter as well. Whenever you choose to follow someone, the respective twitter user will receive an e-mail notifying him that a you’re following his updates, then based on weather your profile is interesting enough he’ll follow you back or not. Who to follow though? Well all of the people I’m following are either: the authors of a blog I’m faithfully reading, people that chose to follow me and post interesting stuff, interesting and humorous people, authorities in my niche, sources of breaking news and updates or people that are simply my friends be it on or offline. Don’t over-follow though, or else you might find yourself overwhelmed with twits. I’ve found that following around 200 is the most optimal number.Worth taking note is a controversial aspect of twitter concerning reciprocal following, namely whenever you choose to unfollow someone, the twitter user, from whom you unsubscribed, will not receive a notification that you’ve done so. So basically you can befriend a bunch of people, wait for them to follow you and then unsubscribe. This is a terrible glitch if you ask me, because it lets twitter spammers and well… lame ass people to abuse the system.
  • Interact with fellow twitters. You need to get people to notice you and the simplest way to do this is letting them know you exist. If following them didn’t get their attention try messaging them, using the “@” feature. Type @username message and the respective twitter username will receive the message under his replies tab. You won’t be sending private messages either, these twits will be visible to all your followers and profile guests, the only difference is your twits will be targeted towards something specific in mind. Notice whenever you contact someone via the @ feature a hiperlink that leads to his twitter account will be automatically created. Now image if you’d, hypothetically speaking, ask Scoble (lol @ first photo <3) a question via twitter and shortly after he’d decide to publicly answer it. In doing so he’ll link back to your profile thus exposing you to all of his followers and seeing as Scoble has the most twitter followers in the world, it’s easy to imagine what will happen next. Of course he’s a busy man and that won’t probably happen, but you can do this for any other user. The key here is to network and interact.
  • Be useful, original and contributive. Just like you’d do with your blog, you have to put yourself in your followers shoes, analyze and then ask yourself some questions. Why would people want to follow me? What can I provide them with? There’s thousands of twitter users, what sets me apart from them? And so on. You need to give twitter users enough reason to follow you and of course to keep on following. You can achieve this by either being useful, original, funny or preferably all together. Whenever you find something interesting on the web, that might captivate your followers, don’t hesitate and twitter it. If you’ve got an interesting idea or topic for conversation, share it with your followers and thus actually add some value to your twits. If you’ve got a more humorous and sociable personality, then don’t keep it all in, let it shine on twitter as well; people always like to be around funny people. And remember if you’ve got nothing to say, it’s probably for the best you keep it that way.
  • Don’t over-twit. Now if a prolific blogger may post one or more posts daily, then expect a prolific twitter users to update a lot more often. But is there any risk of over-twitting? There sure is alright. I’ve followed a few fellows recently that were silent for hours and then started spitting loads of twits (mostly ramblings) during short intervals of time. Of course I got extremely bugged and unfollowed them. So what you have to keep in mind here is not to exaggerate with your twits and keep your personal ramblings to a minimum, unless they’re interesting of course.
  • Don’t under-twit. Over-twitting is bad, but how about under-twitting? While it probably won’t lead to loss of followers, under-twitting will undoubtedly hurt your profile’s growth. Like in any other community, you have to be active to reap it’s rewards, this means twitting at least a few times a day. A lot of people’ve been telling me they can’t keep up with twitter because they simply forget to update. You can solve this little impediment fairly simple by setting your “notices” (can be found in the settings tab). There you’ll find a neat option that will cause twitter to send a “nudge” whenever you fail to update your status during 24 hours.
  • Don’t over-publicize. As a blogger your sole interest in twitter may be just to promote your own content and blog brand. While there’s nothing unusual with this, I’d advise you don’t over-pitch your twits with self-promotional updates, otherwise you might get labeled a spammer by the community. Between links to your own blog posts and social media stories, try updating with interesting links from other blogs and various twits. Like I said: be useful, unique and contributive.
  • Brand your profile. Earlier in the article I mentioned how twitter can be used a powerful tool to enforce your’s blog brand or social media persona. You can achieve this easily by customizing your twitter profile; this means changing your account’s background, avatar and overall design. Be sure to particularly change your avatar, otherwise you’ll get stuck with the ugly default one; just put in an avatar that you know people recognize you by or even yet, your blog’s logo.
  • Reply to twits. If you’re active on twitter, people will often reach you via the “@” feature, so be sure to regularly check your replies tab on twitter to see what other people are saying about you. Here you’ll regularly find answers to the various questions you might ask, random comments about your activities or even questions addressed to you. I’d advise, for productivity purposes, to reserve a fraction of your time every day to respond to various comments, this way you’ll both network with your current followers, but also draw new ones as well. All that “@” user inter-twitting will get you noticed by your follower’s followers and so on, proving the viral nature of twitter.
  • Publicize and promote your twitter account. Whenever you get the chance to promote your twitter account, do it! Put a link leading towards your account on all of your other social media profiles, like digg, stumbleupon, mixx and so on. Also twitter allows the possibility of integrating some cool badges on various social networks (facebook, myspace etc.) and most importantly on your blog.

Some Nifty Twitter Tools

Whether you use twitter for personal use, business, clients or just for fun, a set of tools that can help you in your endeavors is always useful. Bellow you can find my favorite twitter tools currently available on the web.

  1. twhirl. This is the most popular desktop client for twitter on the web. I personally prefer to use the default web client for twittering, but this is a great tool for catching up with what other people are twittering. Found it particularly useful when replying to twits and when I’m in a hurry too.
  2. TwitterFeed. Already talked a bit about this great tool above, but it’s worth mentioning it once more. Again what it does is it pulls your latest post urls from your blog’s feed and posts them on your twitter account. alongside their title.
  3. LoudTwitter. Now this is a real useful one. Basically it’s the bridge that posts to your blog your daily tweets in one single digest. A clear example can be found at Jeremy Wright’s blog.
  4. Twitter Tools. This is a wordpress plugin, developed by the infamous Alex King, that creates an integration between your WordPress blog and your Twitter account. The plugin can pull twits from your twitter account to your blog (much like LoudTwitter does) and also allows you to twitter from within wordpress.
  5. Twitt-Twoo. A nifty little plugin for WP, that allows you to update your twitter status from inside your blog’s sidebar. Personally I won’t use it, because it would cluster the sidebar, but I’ve seen it on tons of blogs and I’m sure a lot of people will find it useful.
  6. TwitThis. The following tool will add a nifty little button at the end of every post, much in the same way the various social media buttons, you see at the end of every blog post, work. Only, instead of submitting a post to digg or stumbleupon, when hitting the button, the url of the respective blogpost will be copied to your twitter dashboard. You can then share the post with your friends.
  7. Twitter Badge. The official javascript codes and widgets that display badges showing what you are posting on Twitter.
  8. Tweetscan. A great search engine for twitter, that you can use to see what people are twitting about you, your blog, brand, company, product etc.
  9. TwitterNotes. I told how twitter can be used as a great environment for taking and keeping track of notes. Well this tool will do just that helping you better keep notes on twitter, by tagging them.
  10. RSS to Twitter. A excellent PHP script that feeds RSS to twitter.
  11. TwitterFox. This is a great Firefox plugin that allows you to send and receive updates, right from the browser’s status bar.
  12. TweetBeep. A great service for twitter, similar to Google Alert. It even checks links masked by tinyurl.
  13. TweetMarks. This will help your bookmark your twits, keeping all of the links you share organized.

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Making the most of Twitter


An American student is arrested in Egypt, and manages to send a brief text with a single word - “ARRESTED” - which is picked up around the world, and leads quickly to his release, helped by a lawyer hired by his university back in the US. In Britain, the prime minister’’s office decides people should be able to find out what their premier is doing; as of today, more than 2,000 people do. During an interview at the SXSW festival in March, audience dissatisfaction with Sarah Lacy’’s interviewing style with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spills over into silent but powerful discourse among the audience: one calls it a “train wreck”. People fleeing from fires in California say where they are; that proves more useful and timely than official goverment information.

The common factor? Twitter, the free (at present) service which lets you send a 140-character message, or “tweet”, to a site where anyone can read it, though it will only be sent directly to those who have chosen to “follow” you (though if you want, you can pick and choose who you allow to follow you). Twitter’’s first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly that August. It has only been a company since May 2007, but its growth has been explosive - so much so that it constantly struggles to keep running as a growing number of people sign on, sending more and more tweets.

One of the first questions people ask is “what is Twitter for?” As with any social network, the answer is the same: whatever you make of it. Some think that its immediacy makes it ideal for spreading news. Others find it useful to ask questions of their peers; still others, for following what people or topics they”re interested in. The BBC and the Guardian, for example, already offer Twitter services for breaking news (check out the Guardian Technology Twitter feed). It will be surprising if IBM does not offer a Twitter service with results from the All-England Tennis Club Championships in July.

Hitwise, the web measurement company, notes that traffic to Twitter has risen eightfold in the past year, more than doubled in the past three months and up 60% in the past month. By Hitwise’’s measure, it’’s only ranked 439th in social networks - outside the mainstream - but Heather Hopkins, senior Hitwise analyst, adds quickly that: “Twitter’’s size is notoriously difficult to measure as there are so many access points (mobile phones in particular).”

That is a key point. Measurement companies like Hitwise tend to rely on browser-based metrics to see where samples of people are going. But whereas Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Habbo Hotel are only usable through a web browser, Twitter has broken free of the web; its text message-length “tweets” can be received on a mobile phone or other device. You don”t have to visit the web page to use Twitter; in fact, doing so may be one of the slowest ways of using the service. And many of the systems that are built around Twitter use web pages to interface directly to its database (via a published API). Twitter didn”t respond to a request asking how many active users and how many tweets are sent each day; but it’’s a safe guess that both are in the millions. TwitDir, a Twitter directory, suggests there are now 1.05 million Twitter users - up from 518,000 in October.

With Twitter thus poised to enter the mainstream, we offer here our list of the best tools presently available on, and built on, Twitter. As ever, this is a moving target: within months we expect there will be even better ones. And we will watch our Twitter feeds for your responses and suggestions.

First steps


Twitter.com
obviously. You don”t need to sign up; you can watch the flow of messages from a particular user at their username (eg Guardian Technology’’s, which is at twitter.com/guardiantech). However, Twitter only becomes useful once you can sift through the huge volume of posts. Signing up is free and you”re not obliged to follow anyone, or post anything, or let anyone follow you.

Next steps

You can follow Twitter at the website, but that’’s inefficient. Smartest moves: get a program for your PC, Mac or Linux box to watch the flow.

Windows
Madtwitter; Twitteroo; Twitterlicious

Mac OS X
Twitteriffic

Linux
Deskbar; Twitux

Mobile phones
Twittter for iPhone; Twitterberry (for BlackBerries); hahlo.com (iPhone and others)

Firefox
Tweetbar

Finding people

Whoshouldifollow.com answers that simple question. Given your username, it will look for other users with some overlap with the people you follow, and suggest them as people for you to follow. Add some of the names there and then repeat the process, and you”ll quickly build up a large network.

Twitdir.com, a directory. Find people, and quickly see the top 100 most-followed and busiest twitterers.

Twitterholic.com, the top users and accounts: choose, then repeat as above.

Searching and organising

Summize.com, search for a word or phrase across the entire Twitter feed. Interested in Scotland? Explosions? Burma? Plug the search in and view the results; or take an RSS feed, which will automatically update when new tweets match your search.

Quotably.com creates threads of discussions between people.

Terraminds.com
, another search engine, for users or phrases.

Tweetscan.com
, search by user and time.

Twitterlocal.net finds twitterers near you.

Sharing

Twitthis.com, lets people looking at your site or blog share the URL via Twitter.

Twitturly.com, what’’s being most linked-to and talked about?

Tweetmeme.com, what sort of topics are being discussed?

Visualise

Twittervision.com, real-time Google Maps mashup showing where the latest tweets are being posted.

Twitterverse, tag clouds based on the messages flowing through twitter.

Twistori.com, love, hate, think, believe, feel, wish: what people are saying where the tweets use those words.

Twittearth.com, processor-heavy, but fascinating, visualisation of tweets, put onto a spiralling globe.

Tweetwheel.com, which of your friends are already following each other?

Miscellaneous

Tweetspeech, Yahoo Pipes module that converts (incoming) tweets to speech, playable via RSS.

Tweeterboard, a “leaderboard” of who the busiest, most popular, most chatty users are.

Twitter fan wiki, lots more Twitter information and applications.

Twittersnooze.com, hit the “snooze button”, briefly, on verbose friends.

Twitter balloon, your tweets superimposed on an image of your choosing.

Latest Scores, latest football scores, as tweets.

twerpscan.com, avoid followers who befriend everyone: may be spammers.

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Ten Top Twitter Tips


I’ve been Tweeting (making posts on Twitter) for some time now, both for personal learning/enjoyment and to engage in community conversation on behalf of several clients.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service, allowing users to send little 140-character messages out to “Followers,” exchanging tidbits of conversation and potentially exposing that conversation to a larger grid.

Here are some hands-on tips to help you get started on Twitter, or add some insights if you’re already there. To really understand this, reg for Twitter and toggle between your profile page and this post…but you’ll get the general idea by just reading it.

1. Play with a friend. To get to know Twitter a bit, encourage a friend or two to sign on when you do. Then play. Post Tweets, poke around, get the feeling for how it works.

2. Meet your neighbors. There are a few ways to do this…

* Use the “Search” box (just right of big Twitter logo; top of page) and key in topics/tags that interest you. When names show up, check the profile, and if it feels like an appropriate connection, press “Follow” beneath the profile pic.

* If you find a profile you like on Twitter, and you “Follow” them, you have access to a mosaic of the people they follow (the pictures in the column toward the right of the Twitter page). Hover over those pics to see names; click on them to see profiles. Again, if there’s affinity, you can choose to follow.

* Increasingly, corporate and individual Tweet-ers are putting their Twitter references up on their blogs and Web pages. Keep an eye out for these “Follow me!” prompts and click through.

* Watch your Facebook (and other social network) friend statuses. If if reads “(Name) is twittering:“ then that person is using Twitter. Click through to their name, scan their profile for the Twitter application, and follow. Or just search for them on Twitter (but note: many people use a “handle” on Twitter that differs from their real name—I’m “ chep2m ”—so you don’t always get a direct hit).

Remember that as you “Follow” people the larger Twitter community will have access to you through the “Twit Grid,” so follow where you want to be found. And use discretion. Follow only when there is some sort of click; build slowly and you’ll find the right people.

3. Crack the code. Two simple Twitter tools to start with:

* The “at sign” (this guy: “ @ “). Use it when you want to send a public message (called a “reply”) to a specific person. For example, if you sent “@chep2m : testing Twitter” it would reach me (even if I don’t follow you) AND it would show up in my “Replies” tab (near the top of your profile page…see it? Be sure to check this whenever you sign in to Twitter; it’s where people send replies or public messages specifically to you. (Note: if you send a reply message, make sure that you don’t add punctuation right after the name. “ @cheptum “ will reach me. “ @cheptum: “ (note colon) will not.

* Direct messages. The letter “ d “ allows you to send a direct, private message to anyone you follow who also follows you. Access these direct messages through the narrow column to the right of your Twitter profile, following the phrase “Direct Messages.” Note that this will only work for mutual followers (when both parties follow each other). Practice this with one of your Twitter friends.

4. Read the Twitter blog. Just book an hour and do it. And check back now and again. It feels like the people at Twitter can’t keep up with all of the noise and growth (love that problem) but they bring some good info together here. It’s worth a wander; enjoy…subscribe if you like it.

5. Keep a list of Twitter enhancements, or bookmark mine (coming soon). The list is growing every day; some of them are quite useful. If you come up with a new one, add it to the list.

6. Make noise beyond the Twittosphere. Only way to build a following is for people to know you’re there. Add your Twitter address to your email sig, your online profiles, even your business cards. Add a Twitter RSS feed to your Web page or Blog (details in my Business Twitter Tips). Here’s how I added a Twitter “friend stream” to my WordPress blog.

7. Tweet early, Tweet often. Show up. Post Tweets. Ask questions. Join conversations about things that interest you. Comment (using the “ @ “, of course) on smart things your Twitter friends say. Say “thanks!” when others share good info. Just engage in the whole Twitter thing and you will figure each other out.

8. Go mobile. Tons of Twitter apps for the iPhone and Blackberry… and beyond. Set your preferences to dial up/down on what actually hits your phone (almost nothing hits mine) but send updates even when you’re remote. I use PocketTweets but Twitter mobile clients abound.

9. Don’t be a stranger. Say hi on the weekends. Tweet in the evening. Bring a bit of your self into your Tweeting, even if you’re using it primarily for business connections and learning. You check in with your colleagues about their outside lives and interests, right? Same applies to Twitter.

10. Enjoy. Twitter delivers a cool world of conversation, chat, social currency, and great information to one fun, active place. Work and play with it. Twitter is a cool landmark in the growing social ecosystem and I believe it has an ongoing part to play in the growing business conversation that all of are a part of. Have fun!

One more thing. Eleven is such a random number, but I had to share one more: use Tweetburner if you are posting URLs in Tweets. It shortens them (remember: 140 characters max) and makes them trackable, plus you can post to your Twitter account directly from the Tweetburner window. Be sure to add a bit of (con)text before you post the URL. Try it…easy.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Twitter


Since it’s launch in July of 2006, Twitter has quickly become one of the most popular microblogging platforms online. In fact, Twitter is one of my favorite social media tools and it’s finally being recognized as a powerful platform for communicating with your readers, building your brand, driving traffic to your blog, and communicating with industry leaders. At first glance, it’s easy to miss the power of Twitter. But start digging a little deeper and you’ll start to uncover the hidden gems.

Twitter is essentially a service that allows you to share bite-sized messages (or “tweets”) of up to 140 characters long. These short snapshots give insight into people’s lives - which is part of what makes it so popular.

Twitter allows you to send and receive updates directly on their website or via instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email, or through a wide-variety of third-party applications.

You get to be a “fly on the wall” and tune into interesting conversations from the likes of Robert Scoble, Seth Godin, Kevin Rose, CNN, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, and Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV.

You’ll find the environment on Twitter to be playful and engaging.

It’s a place to network, connect, and communicate. If you’re an Internet marketer, you get to hang out with other marketers. If you’re a golf player, you can connect with other golfers. If you’re a runner, you can meet other runners.

In fact, Twitter is attracting a wide variety of users, including political candidates, actors, students, bloggers, housewives, and more.

So, how do you become a Twit…

1. First, you must begin your Twitter journey by signing up at http://twitter.com. When asked to select a username, be sure to use either your name or your business name.

2. Upload an avatar that reinforces your brand. It needs to be striking yet simple. Logos and photos work well. To get some ideas, browse Twitter profiles for a while and see which avatars stick out to you.

Quick Note: You should use the same avatar on all of the social networks to increase your brands exposure. Many people are active on multiple networks. By using the same avatar, you can leverage your presence on one network to instantly access a group of familiar friends who are active on another.

3. When setting up your account, you will also be asked for your URL. This is a place to share your website, blog, Facebook page, or other social media profile. Another important field you will be asked to fill out is your one line bio. This is where you enter a short description of yourself. Although it must be short, it also needs to be interesting and informative. It’s one of the few indicators people read before deciding whether or not to add you as a friend.

4. And if you really want to stand out from the crowd, you can also customize the look of your Twitter Homepage. Twitter allows you to customize the colors of your profile page and add a background image.

To change your design settings click on the Design link in the Settings menu.

Twitter Uses

People use Twitter for a wide variety of reasons. Some people use Twitter to keep up with friends and family. Some use Twitter to stay on top of the latest news in their industry and keep up with their favorite blogs. Others use Twitter to record the highlights of their day. And some have joined Twitter in order to build their brand and interact with their customers.

There are hundreds of different ways to use Twitter. Here are some of the most popular ones…

Arrange a Meet-Up: Twitter has facilitated many real-life meetings. By announcing your location, you can quickly and easily organize a get together with people in your network. Many people are calling this a “tweet-up”.

Build Your Brand: “Anonymous” business people are being ignored. Personal brands and social equity are becoming more and more important. Twitter allows you to share a more personal side of yourself with your readers.

YOU are your brand and Twitter is a great place to establish your persona - whatever that may be. Quirky and Crazy, Starbucks Addict, or Late Night Insomniac - Be true to yourself and people will love you for it.

Get Valuable Feedback: You can use your followers as a form of “Collective Intelligence”. Get ideas for your next blog post. Ask for suggestions on the best laptop to buy. Get feedback on your latest blog design. The possibilities are endless and the amount of experience and knowledge on Twitter is an incredible resource to tap into. You’ll be surprised at the amount of valuable feedback you receive. Simply ask a question and you can get instant feedback.

Twitter Traffic: Are you wanting to increase the reach of your latest article? Send out a tweet and ask your friends to tweet about it as well. Sites like Twitter have a viral nature built in.

Connect With Others: Twitter is a great place to connect with other like-minded people, especially those in the same industry. Twitter allows you to connect with people you might not otherwise be able to meet. You never know when you might form a deeper relationship with someone.

As said by Jennifer Laycock of SearchEngineGuide.com, Twitter “gives you some insight into who companies and bloggers are as people; their likes, their dislikes, their personalities. This can be invaluable when it comes to putting together pitches and building relationships both inside and outside of your industry.”

Knowledge: Twitter is packed with a bunch of smart people. Hang around for a while and it’s bound to rub off on you.

Find Out Who’s Talking About You: Find out who’s twittering about you, your products, your company, and your website with a service called TweetBeep. Tweet Beep sends you alerts by email whenever someone mentions your name, website, etc.. This is an excellent way to monitor and measure the “buzz factor” of your blog.

Promote Your Social Bookmarking Submissions: If you’ve spent very much time on Twitter, then you’ve probably seen folks asking for help voting up a submission at Digg, Delicious, Sphinn, and StumbleUpon. Twitter can be a great way to promote your social bookmarking stories, just don’t go overboard. Moderation is key.

Stay informed. News breaks fast on Twitter. You can get the latest scoop long before it reaches the mainstream media outlets.

Provide live coverage of an event. Create some buzz by covering an event live on Twitter. BPP producer Ian Chillag twittered the 2008 Boston Marathon while running, updating his progress via his iPhone.

Find a Job: Many companies post job openings on Twitter. Here’s just one example…

@leeodden TopRank hiring PPC specialist and manager - posting job descriptions this aft. Initial inqueries to hr at toprankresults dot com.

Hire Talent: Twitter is an excellent place to look for highly talented people. Best of all, you can get a sense of their personality simply by looking at their previous tweets.

Make a Connection: I’ve been able to uncover lots of interesting tid bits about my fellow bloggers. I found out that Chris Brogan is doing some super cool Twebinars this summer on social media. Chris Pirillo likes Bacon-wrapped jalapeno peppers stuffed with goat cheese. And Jennifer Laycock spends two mornings a week working from Panera. Good idea Jen!

How to Get More Followers

When you join Twitter you will be given your own unique URL to promote anywhere you like. This should be promoted in just the same ways that you would promote your own website or blog. Email your list about your Twitter profile. Write a blog post. Include your Twitter profile on all of your outgoing emails and forum signatures. Plus, be sure to put a link to your Twitter profile on all of your other social media profiles, like Digg, StumbleUpon, Digg, Mixx and so on.

Most of the top Twitter users developed their large group of followers through their pre-established popularity. If you take a look at the top Twitter users (based on their number of followers), you will notice that many of them have popular blogs, websites, or personalities.

So if you have an existing presence online, start with your current readers first.

Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to build up your following without having a pre-existing user base.

Follow Other People: One of the best ways to get people to follow you is to start following them first. The key is to follow people with similar interests who are more likely to be interested in your website.

There are a lot of Twitter users who will follow anyone who follows them. But you must remember why you are using Twitter, you don’t want to friend everyone under the sun. You want to form a community of people with similar interest to network and connect with. If you follow everyone, then Twitter can quickly lose it’s value.

You can find Twitter users with similar interests by using Twitter’s search feature. This will search through information people have given on their profile page and return any profiles featuring the words you have queried.

Twitter Packs - You can also find like-minded Twitter users by browsing Twitter Packs, a community-generated directory of Twitter users organized by topic of interest or geographic area. Here you can easily find hundreds of users with similar interests.

This is one of my favorite ways to get more followers. Best of all, you can add your own profile to the directory where it makes sense. They’ve also created a tool called Autopack that will allow you to follow or unfollow multiple users based on Twitter Packs.

Twellow - The first Twitter directory. Go here to find people on Twitter with similar interests. This is without a doubt one of my favorite tools for finding cool people on Twitter and getting more followers. Check it out.

Twubble - Here’s another cool Twitter application that will help you find new friends. This tool uses your current social graph to find additional users you might be interested in.

Simply visit the Twubble web site and click “find some friends.” You are given a list of potential friends ranked by how many of your friends are following them.

Promote Your Twitter RSS Feed: Did you know that your Twitter updates are also available as an RSS feed? You can find it by scrolling down to the very bottom of your profile page, where you will see the “RSS” button in the bottom left - directly below your updates.

You can now publicize this RSS feed. Submit your feed to all of the RSS directories.

You can also use this RSS feed to create your own widget for Wordpress, Blogger, iGoogle, Facebook, MySpace, Netvibes, PageFlakes, and others.

Simply enter the URL of your RSS feed at http://docs.widgetbox.com/developers/blidget/

Best Twitter Tools

HelloTxt - Post to Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Bebo, Plurk, Brightkite, and others with a single click.

TwitterFeed - Automatically grabs your latest blog post and sends out a tweet to promote your latest article.

Twhirl - The most popular desktop client for Twitter.

TwitterFox - A Firefox extension that notifies you of your friends’ Twitter updates. Also allows you to post tweets and replies directly from the Firefox browser.

MyTwitter - This is a Wordpress plugin that makes it easy to display your latest Twitter status updates on your blog.

TwitBin - Send and receive messages directly from your Firefox browser.

WhoShouldIFollow - A great little tool that suggests new people for you to follow based on the people you are currently following. One of the best ways to find cool new people to follow.

Summize - One of the best search engines for Twitter. Find out who’s talking about your area of interest.

Twellow.com - The first directory of Twitter users organized by categories and interests. Mashable has defined Twellow as “The People Search That Twitter Should’ve Built“. So far, Twellow has indexed more than 300,000 users.

TwitPic - Let’s you share photos on Twitter.

TwitterBar - A Firefox extension that lets you post to Twitter from your address bar.

TweetBeep - Like Google Alerts for Twitter! Be the first to find out whenever your name, product, company, or website is mentioned on Twitter.

Tin Foil Hat - A Greasemonkey script that reveals the destination URLs hidden by TinyURL.

If you want to get the most out of Twitter, start participating! Twitter is all about the conversation. Follow the “thought leaders” in your industry and get involved in the conversation. Twitter gives you the opportunity to meet lots of amazing people that you probably wouldn’t normally have the chance to meet. So Jump In!

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