Social networking web sites are popping up all over the net these days. We’re part of one of the successful sites here on Biznik. However, my e-mail box gets flooded with invitations to this site or the next “big” thing. There are so many, and more cropping up every day - it can be hard know where to start and where to stop.
Community building is on fire right now in business, and it is one of the most effective marketing and branding strategies you can use. Blogs have been used to do this for many years. The business world jumped on board, recognizing the immediate dialogue with their customers, and its advantages to their brand. (If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you get one!) From blogs have come web sites that build community, on a larger scale. Most of you already know about Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, and of course, MySpace.
In my experience, Twitter is one that you should check out and seriously consider.
Twitter is “micro-blogging.” It is much like blogging and networking combined. People can “subscribe” to you and your “Tweets,” just as they would do on your blog with an RSS feed.* Unlike networking, Twitter opens the door to let your subscribers (followers) know in real time what you are up to, business or otherwise. It takes a blog one step further by letting you share relevant information: your new blog post, a networking event you’re going to attend, or newspaper article you are being featured in. Here’s the catch - you have only 140 characters to fill in your answer of, “What are you doing?”
How do you start using Twitter? Glad you asked! I’ve written a good springboard to get you started.
Pick Your Approach
The first thing to get out of the way is how you will approach Twitter. Just like a blog, you must first decide what your focus will be. Will you use it strictly for business? To build your database and audience? Or will it be for personal use? Maybe you’ll decide a mixture of both? For me, I went at it with a business approach. Eventually, I have mixed in some personal things. I don’t provide any intimate social details, just notes about where I am and the places I’m visiting. The advantage of mixing in a little personal will be explained throughout this article.
Start Following Others
As you sign up for a Twitter account, you will be asked to search for your friends and contacts. This is the easiest way to start to build your following. Most of your peers and friends will naturally want to follow you as well. As you find familiar faces, begin looking at whom they are following, and read their Tweets. This is a good way to follow people you actually are comfortable with or have something in common with (other than following the person that led you to them.) Use the Twitter search function to start following more people. I would search for keywords about your business, aspects of your field that you’d like to learn about or even a favorite product, magazine, or company. Zappos is a young but thriving company who encourages their employees to Twitter. If there’s a company you like, most likely they have a presence on Twitter.
One thing that I have been asked about is this: “How do I know who to follow? Some of the people I follow talk about what sandwich they’re eating! That’s not business related.”
Here’s how I explained it: Imagine that you’re Home-Land Security. Do you remember the secret listening in on the public’s private phone lines? Well, their explanation was that what they mainly do is listen but, most of it is just fluffy chatter. But - there are the times that crucial key bits of information come up. Odd example, but it is the best I could come up with. The “useless chatter” is just a human trait that we all have, and it happens. You determine if someone is worth following after a couple of weeks.
Create a Following (or audience)
I have about 72 Twitter followers right now that I can get to spread the word on a new article I just posted on Biznik or tutorial I want to announce. My followers come from all over, some come totally at random others are my peers or followers of my peers. Because I have an Apple blog, I Tweet about Apple and especially my experiences with my iPhone 3G. For the people I don’t know, maybe they did a search for iPhone and liked what I said in my Tweets. Maybe it was my business Tweets that got their attention. Who knows? Just like networking, you never know the how, who or when anyone will come to your Twitter-stoop.
What you won’t find in my Tweets is foul language, updates of where I am at a bar or downgrading people I see in public. It astounds me what some of my business colleagues Tweet. What if a client were to start following them? How would they mop up that kind of mess? You never know who will do a search on you, and they could be led to your Twitter page. My advice would be to keep within your business blog “voice”. Again, it is about your approach. If it’s business, keep it business like. Regardless, have fun!
Be the Expert
Twitter about your expertise, in a subtle, casual way. Example: “Here’s a link to the top 5 networking events in Portland, Oregon” or “Don’t get caught by business financial surprises! I just posted an article on how to prevent them here…” with a link to an article and maybe a sign-up form at the bottom for your newsletter or workshop. Remember, just like Oprah, you are talking to an audience of people - they like a hard sell just as much as you do. Too many, “Look at my site,” or “Buy my product now” Tweets will only get old and people will stop following.
Follow Experts in Your Field or a Field You Enjoy
I am a pure tech-head, and I have a passion for Apple products. To stay current with the latest in the tech world, I follow specific respected experts who have a solid and large following. I read their articles they post on Twitter, and after reading, I comment on them. You’d be surprised what kind of relationships you build through this aspect of Twitter. This includes colleagues and people in your network.
Enjoy the Many, Many Benefits
Twitter has so many benefits, it is hard to put them all here in this article. I’ll list a few that have impressed me:
1. Be prepared to be contacted by big companies if you Tweet about them! You’d be surprised the communication that Twitter opens up for you as a consumer and business person. Someone asked me via a Tweet about the battery pack I purchased for my 3G iPhone, and if I liked it. I replied, with the company’s name, and model number, but reported that it still had not shipped because I opted for the newest 3G version.
The company saw that in a search and replied to our Tweets! I now have an open dialogue with the company that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
2. Get news around the county faster than any news network! I found out about the latest Oakland, California 4.0 earthquake mere seconds after it happened.
3. Get answers, get feedback, use it as your own focus group. I have had trouble being able to pull up a couple of client’s web sites for the last 6 months. What’s worse, it would usually happen when I was discussing the site with the client on the phone. Thanks to my Tweet about it, I received an answer and solution from a colleague on the East Coast.
4. Discover new people, blogs, news sources, commentary and web sites. I am alerted continually to new blogs or posts, web sites I probably would never run across, and political commentary I certainly wouldn’t have seen on T.V.
5. THIS is a great one - Follow people in areas that interest you. Again, I follow the Tech-Elite, and I am informed of the latest news, trends, and happenings at conferences, get links to videos, articles, and many extra valuable resources. It’s a little like pulling a thread on a sweater - you unravel some great information, and assets you can use to help you succeed.
There you have it my fellow indies! It is a whole brand spanking new world, whether you use it for personal or business (or both), you’ll find Twitter very useful and a valuable asset to your online marketing.
If you’d like to follow me, I’m at Twitter under the handle WhiplashDesign You can e-mail me or send me a message through my Biznik profile any time, I encourage feedback and questions.