Let me tell you what this post is not. This is not a post about building your follower count, or using Twitter to drive clicks to your website, or fancy ways to monetize your profile. There’s plenty of that garbage out there already. This is also not a list of best practices from professional bloggers and twitterers. For that I recommend heading over to Twitip.
What this post is, is an illustration of how I have been using Twitter since I started in about July ’08. I am not trying to tell you how you should use it. That would be like me telling you how to use the telephone properly. Twitter is a communication tool, and everyone will use communication tools (email, blogs, phones, txt, their mouths…) differently for different situations.
How I have used the platform to date has really worked well for me, and since people ask me about this all the time, I thought it prudent to get it down on paper. Well… you know what I mean. Oh – if you would like to follow, here’s me: @rickgalan. (Ironically, this post about Twitter is a bit long, feel free to scan the bold points for the key thoughts.)
Reasons for Starting & Goals for Using Twitter
There are a few key reasons I got started tweeting. Originally I was just curious about the platform, and what all the hubub was about – that only lasted about 5 tweets before I was bored and left for a few months. I came back though, and here are the key reasons I started and continue to use Twitter:
- To Not Be Lonely: When I first started, I was between jobs – that’s a lonely time for someone who is used to being in the thick of it all the time. The new job I started was a telecommuting gig too, so I am still alone all day in my basement (or wherever I am working for the day). It was a serious adjustment, and the virtual water-cooler environment of Twitter helped me adjust to that a lot. Still helps.
- Making Friends: There are a lot of great people that I have met over the years at conferences and events. Some of them I am friends with, but with some the connection turned into a business card in an ever-growing stack. I wanted to interact with some of these people and build a real relationship, because frankly they are awesome. I actually didn’t have any good friends on Twitter when I started, but now it’s an easy way to communicate with them as well.
- Connecting With Influentials: There are some more well-known people out there in the online world that I have never had the chance to interact with. Twitter gives me the opportunity to connect and build a rapport before I ever meet them (which really helps when I finally do).
- Learning Stuff: Believe it or not, I actually have a lot of interests that are outside of the niche that I work in. Twitter is a great way to connect to people outside my typical circle, and learn about other parts of marketing and broader topics. I learn things every day without having to really even try, and that’s fantastic.
- Getting Involved Locally: I hadn’t had the opportunity to really get involved in the local tech community in Salt Lake, and since I bought a house and it’s official that I am staying for a while, I wanted to. I wanted to meet local marketers and professionals, and learn and make friends. Enter the Tweetup.
- Getting My Name Out There: Lame as this may be, I really wanted to become better known in the online marketing & tech world. I have never had the budget for 6-10 conferences a year, and blogging is still a challenge for me to do regularly. Twitter lets me connect to people on a personal as well as public level, and allows me to drive conversation and interest in my content and contributions.
Yes, I have guidelines for myself, and no, they are not hard and set rules. These are things that I have learned I like in the people I follow, and have really tried to apply to my own tweeting. Guiding principles, so to speak.
- No Spamming: By spamming I don’t mean omega watches and ED drugs. I mean the automatic tweeting of random junk from other services and applications. I tolerate the auto-tweeting of blog posts, but really don’t prefer it. If I want to know about your blog posts in an automated way, I have this magical tool called Google Reader. I don’t even dig it when people merge their status updates from Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Personal preference here, so don’t take offense if you do it. If I didn’t value your real content, I wouldn’t follow you. :)
- Easy on the Self-Promotion: It’s not cool in real life, and it’s not cool on Twitter. You have to toot your own horn every now and again, but yeah. Don’t be a wank.
- Keep a Professional Demeanor: My Twitter is public of course, and it’s something I actively encourage people to read. It’s linked to from all my web profiles and such. I need to make sure that I represent myself and my current, past and future employers appropriately. Oh, and my mom can see it too.
- Reply to All @s and DMs: I know I always appreciate it when I get a response back to my personal communications. It’s just polite. I try to respond to all that I get within reason (not bots or whatnot).
So I’ve got goals, I’ve got ground rules.. now let’s see what I actually do with it.
- Follow People I Know or Want to Know: Initially when I started on the service, I was using it to follow people I already knew, had met at conferences, etc. That list was pretty small, so I branched out to people that I wanted to know – industry types that I had read & seen speak.
- Follow People that Interest Me: I still do the above, but have branched out to include people that simply interest me. I don’t automatically follow everyone that follows me. Sorry – have to have some filters. But I look at every profile and a page or two worth of tweets. If the person seems like someone I would want to get to know, I follow.
- Retweet – Spread the Love: When someone puts a link or a post that I find particularly interesting, compelling, funny, etc. I make it a point to retweet. I always appreciate it when people retweet my content, so I feel it’s my duty to do the same.
- Shut It Down: I think a big part of using Twitter is knowing when to NOT use it. It’s addictive! When I am getting on the phone, I shut it down. I think it’s only fair to the people I’m having a conversation with. I have also found it prudent not to Twitter while spending time with my family & friends. It’s disrespectful.
- Only Tweet What I Would Actually Tell People: I decided long ago to only Tweet things that I would actually say. It’s amazing how many “brushing my teeth” updates this cuts out. If it’s not important enough to say, it’s not important enough to tweet.
The following is a list of tools that I use to make my Twitter experience more enjoyable. This is not a comprehensive list – there are lots of tools I have used in the past, but these are a few I keep coming back to.
- Twitter Search: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Twitter Search. It’s the most powerful use of Twitter’s platform, in my opinion.
- Tweetdeck: I don’t know how anyone uses the web interface. Have to have a client, and I like Tweetdeck the best.
- PockeTwit: I don’t have an iPhone. I know. PockeTwit is the best Twitter client for Windows Mobile that I have found. TinyTwitter is a good one too. For mobile use without an app, I recommend Dabr.co.uk.
- SocialToo: There is a lot of functionality that SocialToo provides, but I primarily use it for it’s nightly emails telling me who followed and unfollowed me that day. It’s the most reliable service for this I have used.
- Twubble: I used this more when I was just starting out, but Twubble looks at who you are following, and who they are following. Then it provides recommendations on who you could follow. Mr. Tweet is another, more well-known service that does the same.
- FriendOrFollow: This is a very handy little tool that shows me who I’m following that’s not following me back, and who follows me that I’m not following. FriendOrFollow is great for building the network or cleaning house.
- TweetFriends: Also handy for building the network, TweetFriends shows you who you and one other person follow in common.
That’s pretty much it. I personally feel like I’ve had great success using Twitter, both professionally and personally. Among other things, it has led me directly to the following wins:
- A guest post on a great eCommerce blog – GetElastic.com
- Being recognized on that same blog as an eCommerce Guru (lol)
- A free netbook from MarketingPilgrim (found out about the contest on Twitter)
- A free pass to Affiliate Summit West from CopyBlogger (again – found out about the contest on Twitter)
- A few job offers & consulting requests – always nice to get those
- Increased traffic & subscribers for ConversationRate.com
- Better public awareness of the personal brand (anecdotally)
- Better use of conferences – more learned through backchannel & more networking through tweetups
- Lastly and most importantly, the great real life friends & contacts that I have made.
So there you have it. I have felt that my Twitter experience so far has been very positive, both in business and on a personal level. There are still a few things I hope to leverage the platform better for in the future. I would like to have better engagement with my friends and followers – I don’t always get responses to questions. I would love to get more feedback from my network on blog posts, projects, etc. And of course there are still some great people I would love to meet. :) I would love to hear how you use Twitter (or why you don’t) and what successes you have had – leave a comment here or @ me!