Iíve been using Twitter for a couple of years now. Iíve turned a lot of people into Twitter users -- enough to know that simply saying ď175 million people are on Twitter, so you should be tooĒ doesnít carry particular weight. Though usage by our peers is compelling and a good business reason to start, it still doesnít give new folks the confidence they need to begin.
I donít believe the business implications of Twitter really came to light until about a year ago. But what I was taught then still holds true today: Itís not Twitter that makes Twitter work. Instead, I believe there are three things business users should do to make Twitter work for them.
Aggregator tools (or social media management tools) like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Seesmic help you to focus on what you really want to get out of Twitter by allowing you to set up columns dedicated to search terms. I rarely open, and have scarcely used, the actual Twitter Inc. Website since I started, though I will say that the new design of Twitter does allow for more flexibility than the old, as shown by a Mashableís 2010 Award for Best New Web Design. But the aggregator tools are still the best way to get your arms around what can be an overwhelming medium.
Though Hootsuite was voted Best Social Media Management Tool by Mashable users, I prefer Tweetdeck during the workday. I have columns set up to update me when someone mentions my name, or is talking to me using Twitter. I have search columns on keywords for the electronics industry, keywords for local groups with which I am active, such as the Social Media Clubs of Fort Worth and Dallas, and tradeshow terms for electronics industry conferences like CES and EDS. The search columns especially let me cut through the clutter as they are set up to allow AND, OR, and other clarifying search logic. In addition, they recently made it possible for me to monitor our Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) and LinkedIn Corp. pages as well. Personally, I feel the flexibility and focus these tools provide make a good business case for Twitter.
Understand the power of the #:
ďWhatís a hashtag?Ē I get this question a lot. And itís a very important one to answer correctly. Why? Because as management tools make the case for Twitter for business monitoring, hashtags are the RosettaStone to Twitter for business engagement. A hashtag is a pound sign -- a simple #. Hashtags are notifications to your reader that you are speaking, with that post, about a particular topic, like #electronics or #CES. But the hashtags also serve as subjects or search terms that are regularly perused by an interested audience. Hashtags are the key to "real reach" with Twitter. Whether you have two followers or 2,000, the hashtag allows you to reach a larger audience -- a more engaged and qualified audience that has an interest in the same things you do.
Pound the Hashtag
Iím always researching new hashtags, new tradeshows in my industry, and new "chats" happening on Twitter. Sites like wthashtag.com show timely activity information about hashtags that are being used on a large scale. The hashtag is often overlooked by the new Twitter user. But donít let the size of the # fool youÖ it's got really long arms.
Twitter wouldnít be the tool it is today without the anywhere/anytime applicability afforded it by smartphones and the apps that give you the ability to take your computer with you. Unfortunately (or fortunately), business and networking opportunities donít always happen when we are sitting at our desk waiting for them. They happen whenever and wherever we happen to be.
Twitter and its aggregators all produce apps and mobile versions that allow you to keep pace, at whatever pace that may be. Each app offers options for notifying you when you get messages, mentions, or when a particular search produces a positive result. I have these set up on my phone and never get so many as to be annoyed, but I can turn them off whenever I like. More than one time, I have been thankful for these notifications. They can save business, give you the jump on the competition, or simply keep you informed.
With so many people joining, it just makes good business sense to get your feet wet and understand this fast-moving communication medium. Getting started with Twitter is easy, but when faced with making sense of it all, it can easily become overwhelming and make you want to abandon the chase. I hope these three tips will help you better prepare and focus on the messages that mean the most to you, and make Twitter less a gathering of pointless updates and more a powerful research and communication tool.
Still on the fence? Let me know what you think. Already do these things and still arenít finding Twitter useful? Maybe Iíll have some thoughts to help.
Hashtag is the one which feature which I use the most, be it to follow the trending topic or to start new topic. It helps me to gather majority opinion within no time. By adding your mobile number to twitter site, to get the latest updates instantaneously to your mobile helps a lot too.
Andy--this is one of the best "how-to" articles I've seen in ages. I think what overwhelms so many people about social media is the clutter. I was unaware of these tools (no surprise there) and they sound particularly good for business use. Great info!
Thanks for the post. I must admit that I have not used Twitter because I saw it as much too overwhelming. I will have to try the tools you mention to see if I can make it more user friendly. Barbara, you are not alone in not knowing about these tools.
well i have also never used twitter although i love using facebook. I thought its another social networking site.Didnt want to make so many profile and keep remembering passwords. But the big question I would have is of privacy. One's privacy is totally lost when on these networking sites. But I wont deny almots all my friends tweet...and tweet...
Want to economize your social media scanning? Look into Nutshell. Once you set up your preferences, it will give you one email notice (or more if you really want) summarizing the updates, postings and notifications relevant to your groups or contacts. And you don't have to worry about different passwords and logins for each media line.
Thanks Andy, I had not used such tools in tweeter still. I had used tweeter only as personal media to interact with friends and colleges, sharing simillar thoughts etc. If we are using this platform for some business or staticall evaluation purposes, then surely we have to explore such tools. Thanks for the kind info.
@Barb & @eemom - Thanks for commenting. I think that the overwhelming nature of Twitter, and Social Media in general, is the main reason people stop before they start. I hear a lot of folks say that 90% of what they see on Twitter is drivel. I always tell them that sounds like the Internet in general. And where search engines allow you to narrow your field of search, management tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck let you do the same thing for Twitter.
@SP - Thanks for the comment. Privacy is and should be at the forefront of all our minds. It has been an issue of high concern since the Internet wave began, and is only made greater by the current Social shift and our overall openness to sharing. I think that the saving grace of the Social networks is that the onus is on us to share what we wish to share when we wish to share it.
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