Hopefully by now you’ve heard about Twitter. Even if you haven’t tried it out yet, you probably know someone who ‘tweets’ (in case you don’t know, that’s Twitter lingo for posting on Twitter).
Twitter’s catchphrase used to be, “What are you doing?” and has just recently changed to, “What’s happening?” So the idea is that you can let everyone know what you’re up to right now… and then again in five minutes… an so on. At first thought, it sure seems like a tool that school kids would use to tell their friends that they’re at the mall, bored to death by a homework assignment or “just hanging out.” Most of us non-teens might wonder why on earth would I want to bother using something like that? Why would I care that someone I don’t even know has just taken a shower or eaten a chocolate bar?
I also thought that at first. And, I bet most Twitter users once thought so as well. So what’s the deal? Why are millions of people using Twitter?
Truth is, if used properly, Twitter can be a very useful news source and valuable marketing tool. You just need to learn how to use it effectively.
First, let’s look at the news aspect. Millions of people around the world are constantly trying to be the first (or one of the first) to break a story. So you’ve got a non-stop flow of reported events, big and small, coming on your feed. You can decide what to follow — and even so, there’s always some weeding through a bit of junk to get to the good stuff — but when there’s a big story, you can bet you won’t miss hearing about it on Twitter. I learned about Michael Jackson’s death within minutes of it happening. If you’re someone like me, who isn’t always actively seeking out news, with Twitter, the big stuff finds you.
Now on to what probably really grabbed your attention: the marketing aspect of Twitter. Again, if you do it properly, Twitter is a fantastic tool for getting the word out about your products or services to a potentially very large audience. Admittedly there’s a lot of competition and at times getting your point heard can be like whispering amongst a crowd of thousands. That’s why you need to build up a large following — of hundreds or, preferably, thousands — and then grab the attention of as many of those as possible on a regular basis. It really is a numbers game.
Rules of the road
The key to getting going in Twitter is that you have to be patient at the beginning (well, it doesn’t hurt to be patient at all times!). You’ll have to start by following people you know (friends, family, celebrities) and branch out to others you don’t (yet) know and hope those people follow you back. You should naturally be following people who have similar interests and — assuming you have interesting and/or entertaining information to share — like-minded people will follow you. The more people you follow, the more other people will see and follow you. After a while you’ll garner a decent following.
There’s a sort of unwritten code on Twitter that if someone follows you, you should follow them back. Some people adhere to this; others don’t. It’s up to you if you want to follow everyone who follows you — chances are there will be some shady characters that you’ll decide not to return the favour (and may even block from following you) — or just people you’re interested in. In any case don’t get too offended if not everyone you follow follows you back. It pretty much all comes out in the wash anyway.
Overall, you should be looking at your experience on Twitter — whether it’s a regular, daily thing, or just occasionally — as a two-way street, as opposed to just your opportunity to advertise to throngs of potential customers. Most experienced Twitterers build communities where they help themselves and others. Enjoy and learn from your fellow ‘Tweeps’ and post informative, inspirational, or fun things for your followers to read.
I should mention, for those who aren’t familiar, that each tweet you post is limited to 140 characters. That’s not a lot of space. Most of your tweets will be links to full blog posts or web pages that either you or someone else has written or simple short and sweet one-liners or quotes. Linking to your own blog posts (or web pages) is a great way of hooking people and getting them into the realm of your full online marketing material (which hopefully all ties together and gets them to at least sign up for your newsletter or eventually contact you). These are usually the more serious, marketing-type of tweets. The other tweets you make will generally be more lighthearted and fun. Overall it’s a balance of being professional (informative) and personable (friendly) that builds a loyal following and, in the long run will get you results.
In a future newsletter, we’ll get into greater detail about how you should be tweeting, re-tweeting, and the many Twitter tools out there. But for now, I hope this is enough to convince you to give Twitter some serious consideration and get you started on using this fun and useful social marketing tool.