Last week's "Twitter 101, Part 1" was all about understanding Twitter, its benefits, and initial setup. Now it's time to introduce you to tools and resources that will help you make the most out of Twitter.
There are too many tools to review, with more coming out every day. My goal is to help you get started with the basics. Then you can use Twitter to help you find all the resources and tools that will make you a pro.
Tools for Managing Your Tweets
Managing your tweets can be a challenge. When I started using Twitter, I was unimpressed with the lack of tools and capability from Twitter's site.
Most of us like to use an application like Microsoft Word, which is self-contained with all the right tools. Twitter is just the reverse. Twitter's strength lies in utilizing all of the external tools and applications, each with their unique approach to enhancing your Twitter experience.
The first tool I'll share with you is TweetDeck. This application allows you to view all of your friends' tweets in a columned interface.
The neat thing about TweetDeck is that you can group your friends into themed columns. Looking at just one column of "all" of your friends tweets can be overwhelming. I like to create one column (or group) for search-related tweets, one for friends, and one for my favorite sport of cycling.
You can also perform a search of all public tweets for a given keyword or keywords, and save that search as its own column. That's useful both for reputation management and for discovering users with similar interests as yours.
TweetDeck also provides a one-stop shop to help you craft your tweets, shorten your tweets to fit the 140-character allotment, and even translate tweets from another language.
Another notable tool to consider is twhirl, which has similar functionality, but at this point is not as versatile.
If you use an iPhone or have a smart phone that lets you surf the Internet, you're in luck. Several tools will help you follow your tweets while you're on the road. There are even widgets (Mac OS), sidebars (Windows OS) and other kinds of tools you can use. For a list of all of these tools go to the Twitter applications page.
Finding People and Companies on Twitter
The first place to start searching for people is Twitter Search. This allows you to find people you might want to follow, search by topic, or find a company.
Another useful site is Who Should I Follow? A good resource for more tools and tips is TopRank's marketing blog post on "12 Ways to Find Brands and Companies on Twitter." Lee Odden cover tools like WeFollow, Twellow, Twibs and provides more tips for finding people to follow.
Understanding the Lingo
Now that you've been armed with tools to get up and running, we'll review a few simple terms you need to know. When I first started looking at tweets it seemed as if everyone was speaking in code. Let's demystify some of the most common signs so it all makes more sense.
- @ sign: Use the "@" sign if you want to "talk" directly to someone and let everyone see your tweet. For instance, if you were to send me a tweet, it would look like "@ron_jones thanks for the 101 article on twitter."
- RT: RT is short for "retweet." If you read a tweet that you'd like to share with your followers, you would put an "RT @username:" in front of the tweet and then send it on. This lets people know who originally started the tweet and, in a manner of speaking, gives them the credit. It's a good practice to retweet often. Tools like TweetDeck provide simple tools to help you retweet. Remember, retweeting adds more characters to your tweet, so you might need to shorten it to make it fit into the 140 character limit.
- # sign or hashtags: This sign is called a hashtag and is used to label parts of your message. Take Search Engine Strategies New York for example. The conference organizers designated "#sesny" as the official hashtag. Everyone who was tweeting in context to this conference put #sesny somewhere in their tweet. So if you wanted to keep up with the goings on at this conference, you could just do a search on #sesny to get all of the tweets related to the conference. Or, maybe you watch "American Idol" and want to monitor real time tweets about everyone's opinion about idol contestants, or even the judges. Just search for the hashtag #idol. Cool, huh? For more information and to search hashtags, go to hashtags.org.
- DM: This stands for direct message, which is the Twitter equivalent to e-mail. You can only send direct messages to your followers. If you want to automatically set up direct messages to thank people for following you, you can use the free tool TweetLater.
Now that you're armed with these new tools and a basic understanding of Twitter lingo, it's time to take your tweets to a new level.