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3 Tips to Get More out of Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter for a couple of years now. I’ve turned a lot of people into Twitter users — enough to know that simply saying “175 million people are on Twitter, so you should be too” doesn’t carry particular weight. Though usage by our peers is compelling and a good business reason to start, it still doesn’t give new folks the confidence they need to begin.

I don’t 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: It’s not Twitter that makes Twitter work. Instead, I believe there are three things business users should do to make Twitter work for them.

  1. Get aggregated:
  2. 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 {complink 11949|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 Mashable’s 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.

    The Aggregator

    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 {complink 10867|Facebook} and {complink 11921|LinkedIn Corp.} pages as well. Personally, I feel the flexibility and focus these tools provide make a good business case for Twitter.

  3. Understand the power of the #:
  4. “What’s a hashtag?” I get this question a lot. And it’s 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

    I’m 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 don’t let the size of the # fool you… it's got really long arms.

  5. Go mobile:
  6. Twitter wouldn’t 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 don’t always happen when we are sitting at our desk waiting for them. They happen whenever and wherever we happen to be.

    Mobile Connections

    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 aren’t finding Twitter useful? Maybe I’ll have some thoughts to help.

24 comments on “3 Tips to Get More out of Twitter

  1. Anand
    January 24, 2011

    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.

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 24, 2011

    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!

  3. eemom
    January 24, 2011

    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.

  4. SP
    January 24, 2011

    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…

  5. Tim Votapka
    January 24, 2011

    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.

  6. Mydesign
    January 25, 2011

    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.

  7. alawson
    January 25, 2011

    @anandvy –  The power of the hashtag is overlooked, so I'm glad you use it like you do. I've come to reference it as the 'extended reach' of Twitter. Thanks for the comment.

  8. alawson
    January 25, 2011

    @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.

  9. alawson
    January 25, 2011

    @Tvotapka   –  Checking out Nutshell now. I can see the benefits of such a tool in monitoring what is being said about your company online.  I use Google Alerts for this as well. Thanks for sharing.

     

  10. alawson
    January 25, 2011

    @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.

  11. alawson
    January 25, 2011

    @Toms  –  I think you hit on a good point there. You describe using Twitter to interact with friends and colleagues to share similar thoughts as a personal endeavor.  Adding to that, I believe there is a market out there looking to connect on a personal level in the course of business.  Social networks provide them the platform to either create new relationships online or to take the relationships built offline and sustain them in the absence of face-to-face contact.

  12. Taimoor Zubar
    January 26, 2011

    No matter how good a social network service is, it can never be the ultimate service which everyone would like. There will be people who would prefer one social network over the other. I think it would me much more useful if people have integration of their social network updates. There are many tools which allow this. For instance, whatever you tweet, people should be able to read it on Facebook and other sites, and you should also be able to grab updates from other networks on your Twitter. This would be much more useful.

  13. saranyatil
    January 27, 2011

    Thanks for the post. I realise a little bit of research will help us in using the key board better with respect to social networking sites especially i found it difficult when i started using twitter initially. now i will start using hash.

  14. Mydesign
    January 27, 2011

    Thanks Andy, we have to look in that prespective also.

  15. alawson
    January 27, 2011

    @TaimoorZ   –  No argument from me on those points. Though the management tools I mention also allow you to monitor and feed Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Foursquare pages, no one tool has found the secret sauce to overall management of profiles.  This is mainly because the networking sites want you on their pages, not anywhere else. I agree a future of one interconnected site sounds intriguing. I hope that someday the unpaid model will allow for this flexibility.  Appreciate the comment.

     

  16. alawson
    January 27, 2011

    @saranyatil  –  I think that starting slow is the key. Do some listening first to see what your audience reacts best to. What kind of messaging resonates with them? Once you become comfortable with it, you may find less difficulty.

     

  17. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 27, 2011

    This might be a topic for a follow-up blog, but I'm wondering if businesses have begun quantifying the value of being on social networks. Have they generated sales leads? Have they inspired a new product or a design change? Or are they a black hole of employee distraction? (no offense meant…I'm just easily distracted) 🙂

  18. saranyatil
    January 28, 2011

    Alawson,

    thanks again i think i will do that and kepp tweeting here on.

  19. Damilare
    January 28, 2011

    Thanks alawson. these tips you have provided has really encourage me to start using twitter. please post more tips especially beginer tips. thank you

  20. alawson
    January 28, 2011

    @Damilare   –  Thanks for the comment.  Good to hear this was helpful. I will focus a post strictly on beginners very soon.

  21. maou_villaflores
    January 30, 2011

    Hi Damilare, Thanks for this post…I am currently leading a Social Enterprise right now. We are using Twitter to improve the traffic of our website so far so good.

     

  22. alawson
    January 31, 2011

    @Barb   –  It's probably the most valid question being discussed 'out there', but I agree that it would be best addressed in a full post.  The one thing I will say is that one company's success in the social realm may not qualify as success in another's.  This is why early and honest goal-setting is so important.  Sounds like great content for another post. Thanks for suggesting it!

  23. seel225
    January 31, 2011

    Andy – 3 Tips to get out of Twitter, nice article with lot of information which helps to tweet in better way. Most people use twitter but only few of them know how to use aggretator tools and the hashtag. I do use twitter , but tweet very rarely. By going through this article, i came to know lot of tips about twitter.

    I hope i keep on tweeting from now onwards.

  24. alawson
    February 2, 2011

    @seel225  –  Thanks for the comment. Glad you saw something new. Will have some follow-on articles soon.

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