How to use Twitter in ten easy lessons

Twitter_Bird_logoI’ve been asked about this a lot in the last few weeks, so thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on how to best use Twitter. Ten things you really need to know about Twitter and how to make it work for you and your brand.

1. Decide whether you are a person or a business
Twitter is used by three distinct groups: Celebrities, who like to talk about themselves and the everyday trivia of their lives; Businesses, who are talking to their customers and trying to build rapport with a younger audience and by Individuals who often use it to share gossip and news amongst their own group – like Facebook but without the pictures. An on line version of texting between each other on their mobile/cellphones.

2. Choose a good name to work with
Like creating a brand for yourself, you need to start with a good name. If you’re a business, it makes sense to choose the business name and if you’re an individual, use your own name. I simply can’t understand why someone would want to try and build another brand with a random name. It’s exactly like splitting your spend and your time across two different brands and halving its effectiveness.

3. Personalise it with an icon and all your info
When you sign up to Twitter, you have the ability to personalise your information in the Profile panel. There is lots of talk on the Twitter forums (fora?) about not following people who don’t bother with an icon for themselves as they’re probably spammers. If you’re going to do it at all, do it right and that means adding in your own URL, your own or your brand’s icon and by being as interesting and engaging as possible with your 160 character introduction.

4. Choose your tone of voice
If your brand has tone of voice guidelines, STICK TO THEM! Just because you’re speaking in a different medium, doesn’t mean you need to start being all chatty and inappropriate. If you’re an individual, decide whether you want to be friendly and engaging, cold, useful but clinically efficient or some combination. But whatever you decide, write it down as your agreed tone and stick to it in every tweet.

5. Choose your area of expertise
It’s the same for what you say as to how you say it. If your expertise is in mortgages, then why would you have any credibility talking about advertising? Decide what you are going to speak about, again, write this down and agree it with yourself or fellow contributors and then stick to it. If you are shouting about any old subject, you’ll get seen as a loudmouth rather than an expert and people will lose interest in what you’re saying all too fast.

6. Follow back
The reason I follow no celebrities at all is that none of them ever follow you back and I care very little about their trivia. Why should I care about what they’re saying if they don’t care about my thoughts? This has been escalated recently by Twitter introducing ‘lists’. Organise your favourite tweeters into lists, so you can see what they’re saying even if you’re not constantly monitoring their every tweet. This can be by subject, area of interest or even geography.

7. Tweet things that you like and that others can learn from
“Waiting for a train to Nottingham“. “On a train to Nottingham“. “Arrived in Nottingham“. And so on and on he went. The most dull set of tweets I‘ve ever seen. There were nine in total all involved this boring man’s journey to and from Nottingham. Another person, in my own industry, I used to follow said “I have to stand up from the table to let my colleague go to the toilet.” Who cares? Why should I waste my life looking at his pointless tweets? Think about what you’re saying. How will your audience learn more about you and what you do by reading what you’re writing? Would you ring someone and tell them what you’re tweeting? If so, go with it.

8. Twitter is a conversation
It’s all about dialogue, not diatribe. If you speak loudly at people, no-one benefits. Think of Twitter as a conversation and allow others to speak, retweet the things they say that you find interesting and do them the service of acknowledging when they have been kind enough to retweet your thoughts. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can behave impolitely. If someone serves you, you would normally say thankyou. Behave online as you or your brand would offline.

9. Build a like minded community
If you’re interested in branding and marketing, then don’t follow someone in California who is interested in real Estate or Madcap MLM schemes. When I follow someone, it’s because I think we can learn from each other. I always turn down people who are talking about things I don’t care about. It does mean I have limited myself to around 3,000 followers, but it also means that they have something to say that will be worth me hearing and that they may benefit from my own thoughts and ideas.

10. Keep listening, keep talking, keep tweeting
Stick with it. It’s a frustrating time when you’re trying to build a community. It doesn’t happen overnight unless you are a porn spammer or someone using a ‘foolproof system’ that follow millions of people and bombard them with irrelevance. But if you’re working to a plan and set aside a little time most days to work on your Twitter account, it will grow, it will be useful and it will be fun doing it.

See you in the Twittersphere.

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