Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Thing 7: Taking Twitter further

(Before we start, I've had a couple of emails about pictures or videos not showing up in the emails - if you just click on the title of each post, within the email, it'll take you to read the post on the actual 23 Things blog itself. It's always worth doing this, as all embedded content will display properly.)

In Thing 6, we set up Twitter accounts. Now it's time to talk about what to do with them.

Image via Iconfinder.com

Activity: Three tasks do to right away

When most people join Twitter, they don’t know whether they’ll stick with it or not. For this reason, they often start following a few people before they’ve really set up their profile, and this can actually end up being detrimental to their twitter experience.

The reason is, when you start following someone, in most cases they get an email saying ‘X is now following you’ – this email includes your bio, your pic, and a link to your profile. If you don’t have a bio, your only tweet is something along the lines of ‘Don’t really understand this twitter lark!’, and your picture is the default twitter egg, chances are they won’t follow you back. And seeing as you’ve gone out of your way to identify key people to follow first of all, this is potentially a huge missed opportunity to engage with people who you’d get a lot out of chatting to.

So to avoid this, and generally get off on the RIGHT foot on Twitter, here are 3 very simple things to do right away, as soon as you join, and before you do anything else - it should only take you 5 minutes:
  1. Put in a picture, preferably a head-shot. If you’re really camera shy then put in a picture of a robot or whatever, but put in SOMETHING – lots of people refuse to follow anyone with the twitter egg, right off the bat. Twitter is a personal medium – even if you’re only using it for professional networking, you really need a picture of yourself up there.
  2. Put in a proper, engaging bio. Remember, people get emailed when you follow them. Oh, who is this new follower and shall I follow them back? I don’t know who they are because they’ve not put in a bio – so I won’t bother. Twitter is about connecting with people – use the bio to say something about yourself, which will make the kinds of people who you want to connect with, want to connect with you. Try and avoid ‘reluctant twitterer’ or similar as the last sentence.
  3. Write a couple of tweets. I know it seems silly to broadcast tweets to no one, but you need to give people something to go on when they’re deciding whether to follow you back. Everyone’s first tweet is roughly ‘Am trying twitter out – hello world!’ or something along those lines, and that’s fine, no one expects your first tweet to be a work of 140 character genius. But follow that up with something more meaningful, perhaps about what you want to get out of Twitter, the types of professionals you want to tweet with, or maybe a link to a really useful article or piece of information.
Just do those 3 simple steps and you’ll hit the ground running, and have more chance of developing relationships with people who matter to you.

Some tips for new Tweeters

Once you're there, the absolutely key thing to remember is that Twitter is all about conversation. Getting the most out of it means developing a network of people you want to converse with. Run searches on the things you're interested in to find out who is saying stuff worth listening to. If you see someone talking a lot of sense, start following them!

  • Cannibalise the follow lists of people you like. So for example, if you are an Information Professional, you’ll probably know of a few people on Twitter than you can start following right away. But also look at the people they follow and start following the most interesting looking of them, and then do the same again, and so on, till you’ve got a decent sized group of interesting people. (If you’re on the Library side of things, feel free to cannibalise mine – most of the people I follow are great… Just click on the link that says Following on my profile.)

  • Don’t just follow the Queen Bee, follow the workers too. Many, many tweets are @ replies. This means they begin with @[Insert Person's Twitter name here] and are consequently only seen by people following both the tweeter and the person they are tweeting at. So you could miss fantastic conversations if you’re only following one of the parties – they simply won’t appear in your twitter stream. Therefore, if you really like someone on Twitter, follow the people they interact with too, so you increase your chances of serendipitous interesting conversation overhearing...

  • Give of yourself, from the start. If Twitter ends up working for you, you’ll end up being yourself. You’ll end up sharing more than just work stuff, probably, and being closer to your true personality than you might imagine – more unguarded. You have to make up your own mind if you’re happy to be unguarded online, and how unguarded you are going to be. But the point is, don’t be shy and don’t try and hide your personality – people want personality, they’ll forgive quirks if they get more character from you (and therefore more value), and as I say if you’re here for the long haul it’ll happen eventually anyway. Just be yourself from the start.

  • Tweet links to your stuff. / Tweet links to other people’s stuff. Twitter provides a large percentage of hits to the blogs I write. You can tweet links to your own 23 Things blog. But don’t, whatever you do, just use Twitter to self-promote. People will suss you out and switch off pretty quickly. People will be interested in what you have to say if you tweet links to a broad range of useful, pertinent stuff.

  • ReTweet. Don’t assume everyone else will have seen what you’ve seen. If something’s really worth reading, ReTweet it so that your followers can all read it – they may not follow the person who originally said it, or they may not have been online when it was said. Plug people in to the good content. What you want to achieve overall is a blend of useful information, thoughts, links, character and responses to other tweets. Don’t be afraid to jump into conversations, either – certain people I follwed for ages without them reciprocating, but as soon as I @ replied to one of their tweets they started following me too because I demonstrated some value to them; we’ve since gone on to chat all the time.

  • Don’t ever criticise your employer! Twitter is personal – but don’t forget that unless you lock down your account, anyone can read it. There’s nothing to be gained from venting your frustration at your institution via this medium – just resist the temptation! (I know this is obvious, but you wouldn't believe how often it happens.)

    You never know who may end up reading it. Or who may end up not seeking you out to give you an opportunity later. Generally speaking, unless you are going to tweet anonymously, discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to criticism of all kinds – by all means give an opinion, but always run this test before you tweet something harsh about an individual: would I say this to their face?

  • Investigate clients . I must admit, I’ve mostly found Twitter’s homepage adequate for my needs. But many people use clients, that access Twitter but present the information in a better or different way – try Tweetdeck for example (and you can sync that with Twitter on your phone and tablet, too).
  • For more info on the nuts and bolts of it, check out Twitter’s official guide.

    Finally, you may come across terms to do with Twitter with which you're unfamiliar - the glossary included as part of the Twitter for Researchers guide produced by the Library, may be useful:

    If you want to, write a blog post about whether you think Twitter will be useful to you, what you want to get out of it and, if you use it already, what works and what doesn't.

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