Twitter: From Why to How

So being a social media specialist (and by specialist I mean complete and utter geek for all things social media), I use Twitter incessantly. In. Cessantly. Why? Well, initially I got into it because I work in search engine optimization and marketing, so I figured that I should keep up with the times and jump into the social media scene (because the two are very closely related these days). Then as I got the hang of it, I realized why microblogging is such a huge part of tech society.

1. It’s real time. Information is shared as it happens. This means that you have a constant news feed of up-to-date information at your fingertips.

2. It’s a HUGE network that is personal enough to feel connected to, but not so personal that having people you don’t know follow your updates feels intrusive (like it would on Facebook). You can connect to people that you have something in common with (industry, hobbies, favorite tv shows), people you admire (celebrities, public figures, organizations and companies), news sources, and anyone (or anything) in between.

3. It’s a great gauge of interest. Topics or certain words that gain popularity (also known as trends) are a great way of seeing what’s going on right now. It’s like the water cooler buzz of the world with easy access to a huge pool of people.

4. It’s a place to learn, teach, share, and find things you may not have found otherwise. You can share your expertise or learn from someone else’s, plus you’ll have the inside scoop on what’s going on with your favorite Web 2.0 sites and platforms.

5. This is one purpose that no Twitter user (also known as a Tweep, Tweeter, etc.) takes lightly: Marketing. Yes. You can market yourself, your product, organization, etc. via Twitter. HOWEVER. Don’t be that guy at the party who jumps into a conversation and starts a sales pitch. Be polite, join the conversation, be personable, and on occasion, inform people of what you do. However, we’ll discuss twetiquette a little later.

So I know you have a ton of burning questions. Let’s start with the basics.


What is Twitter?

Twitter is a Microblog
In laymans terms, it’s a series of updates about you, your life, your interests, and anything else you want people to see or know. This can include articles you’ve read, websites relevant to what you do, or simply things that you find funny.

It’s “micro” because your message is limited to 140 characters. Not words – characters. I read an article recently outlining how Twitter makes us better writers (which you can read here), and it’s true! You’re forced to keep it short & sweet, which not only benefits your followers, but it benefits you. While you may be interested in something a person has to say, you may not always want to read their diatribes on something you don’t find pertinent to your own life… like someone‘s new favorite nail color.

Twitter is a Social Network
It’s a way to connect to people you may not have connected with otherwise, and stay connected with people you already know.

Twitter is Social Marketing Tool
It’s a GREAT way to give your business and project a face and a personal touch while simultaneously spreading your message. People feel connected by being kept up to date, so not only are you letting your followers know that they’re important enough to hear what’s going on, but you’re keeping them interested in what is coming next. Additionally, viral marketing is one of the fastest ways to make a buzz about your name (and I’ll be discussing viral marketing in the next few weeks as a part of my social media series!).

Why use it?

We started off with the reasons people use Twitter, but let’s just review.

Twitter is a way to:
Reach a large audience, build your network, and keep up with the world, your industry, and other people in real-time.
(By the way, that statement is Tweet sized at 138 characters)


How do I use it?

Yes! This is the fun part.
1. Set up an account at twitter.com
A couple things to keep in mind while setting up your username:
Match it to your other usernames in the various other social media platforms that you use. Consider it your real estate. Just look at these brands that were beaten to their own names.

During the setup process, you can also follow some people that Twitter recommends. Fortunately, they all have a little bit of information about them next to their names so you can pick and choose from the people you think will offer you the most interesting and relevant information.

2. Write your first tweet!
Remember – 140 characters, make it about you, and you don’t have to start with a sales pitch! This is probably a great place to discuss Twitter Etiquette.
First,
Basic Twitter Dos and Don’ts
Second,
A Twitter Style Guide

I really can’t say it any better than these fine bloggers.

3. Add an Avatar and Information about you
It’s recommended to have a picture of yourself. This is one of the first things that you can do to really personalize your Twitter, so let people see you!
Additionally, include the most important things about what you do in your info. It doesn’t have to be in full sentences – bullet points and keywords are fine! Just make sure that it gets the point across.
If you have a website, make sure to include it too… just don’t use your Myspace URL. Unless you’re a musician, Myspace isn’t relevant in the Social Media world. We want to see your thoughts and ideas, so blogs are great, as is your business website. Just make sure your website is representative of you and your Twitter goals!

4. Configure Mobile Settings
Yep! You can Tweet right from your cell phone, even if you don’t have an iPhone, G1, Blackberry, etc.
Just go into your settings and add your cell phone. You’ll have to do a confirmation text (and you’ll be able to tweet and receive select tweets via sms after that!) and then you’re set!

Now you’re ready to take your social campaign to the next level!


Is that all there is to it?

Basically, that’s it! There’s more nuance when it comes to following, unfollowing and building your Twitter community, so here are some tips to get you started.

For a while, tweets will seem like a foreign language of #’s, @’s and funny looking links. These are all part of the game.

#’s are called hashtags, and when used, the word behind them becomes a link. One of the most popular hashtags/topics is #followfriday, which is a link to user recommended Tweeps (my favorite name for people on twitter. also related: tweeters, twitterers, tweeple, etc). For example, I may tweet:

Happy #followfriday! My #seo picks this week are: @localsplash and @seosteve

@’s are a way to make a link to a particular user as seen above. These are called mentions and they are a way of indicating that either someone responded to one of their tweets or that they’ve been mentioned in a conversation.

Funny looking url’s are a way of shortening links to a particular site. This way you can fit an explanation of the article/site into your tweet along with the link itself. I recommend bit.ly url’s because they use a 303 redirect (which means that the bit.ly url sends people to the site you want to link and they can be indexed by search engines)(…which means that search engines think your page/site is relevant to the topics discussed in/linked to it).


And now you are officially briefed on Twitter!

I’ll be adding video tutorials in the next few days to show you how to do all these wonderful setup steps, but in the meantime, please ask questions, leave comments, and of course, follow me (your favorite social media specialist) on Twitter! @ResaMichelle

Special thanks to:
@Youtubereport
@jennmae
@grammargirl
@PRsarahevans
@mashable
@CopyBlogger
@ProcrastWriter
and TechSoup.org

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