There's a lot of buzz right now about Twitter, which has emerged as one of the most popular social media tools. This three-part article is for those who are just getting started with Twitter or who simply want to know what it is and how it works. I'll cover everything you need to know about setting up and using a Twitter account, and share some tools and resources to help you leverage Twitter to market yourself or your company.
What Is Twitter?
Twitter is a social media tool that lets users send out short messages (or "tweets") that are picked up and read by anyone who decides to follow you. This is also referred to as micro-blogging. I like the idea of keeping your message down to 140 characters, because it forces you to be succinct and to the point.
Some have started a Twitter account, sent out a message or two, and then wondered what the big deal is. The big revelation to me came when I found all of the supporting applications and tools that were an adjunct to the Web site. Once you start using some of these tools, the light bulb will go off and you'll find many uses for Twitter. Here are a few:
- Personal promotion and broadcasting
- Business promotion and broadcasting
- Reputation/brand monitoring
- Competition monitoring
- Event monitoring
- Information gathering/research
- Search engine
The mechanics of setting up Twitter is relatively straightforward. Just go to Twitter's site and click the Join button. But before you do, it's important that you take time to consider a few things before you send out your first "tweet."
First, think about what you want to accomplish and how you want to be perceived. What is your brand strategy, personal or business?
When picking a user name, consider using your name or your company's name instead of a nickname. This will allow people to know who you really are. This is important if you're interested in branding yourself or your company. Also, a real name or company name allows people to find you easier.
Here are some tips about setting up your Twitter account:
- Personal Bio: Consider what to use as your profile description. Again, Twitter forces you to keep it short -- 160 characters, to be exact. Use a couple of professional statements (or more) followed by a personal statement. For example, my bio is: "Internet Marketing Specialist, Trainer, Speaker, Columnist and Avid Cyclist." Regardless, let people know who you are and what you do so potential followers have enough information to decide if they want to follow you.
- Profile Picture: Please take the time to get a real picture of yourself or company logo. You won't be taken seriously if you use the default picture. Think of how you want to be perceived. A professionally shot photo of yourself can go a long way to promoting your personal brand. Smile and give followers some insight into your personality, be creative. Headshots stand out more when your picture has to be condensed down to fit within some applications.
- Background Picture: Next is your background picture. Twitter has some template backgrounds you can use. Pick something that is contextual to your brand strategy. Create your own if you really want to stand out. If you do, remember that people use various screen resolutions, so you need to make it big enough so it doesn't tile. Also, Twitter doesn't give you much space for your bio, so you can use the left side of your custom background picture to display more information about yourself, like your blog or another related Web site.
Following and Listening
You're almost ready to start tweeting. But first, here are a couple more things to consider.
Find people who have similar interests to you and "follow" them. In the top menu, select "find people" and search for friends or companies you'd like to follow. Now look at all of those tiny picture icons representing people they're following. Click "view all" to see the entire list. Click on anyone you'd also like to follow. In short order, you'll be following 30 to 40 people.
At this point, just take the time to "listen" to the conversation. See what's being said and how it's said. You'll probably see some strange language or symbols like RT, @ or #. Don't worry about this yet, I'll cover this in Part 2. Just get a feel for the conversation.
Before you begin tweeting, think about your conversation and what you can provide your followers that will give them value. You're basically building relationships. To do so, you need to give before you receive.
People like tips, statistics, opinions, and links to relevant articles. Once you have a good handle on your messages, tweet away.
In Part 2 and Part 3, we'll discuss some of the syntax, and review tips on taking Twitter to the next level. I'll share a boatload of links to tools and resources that will enhance your Twitter experience. And feel free to follow me at twitter.com/ron_jones.
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