Who HASN’T heard of Twitter? It’s on the news and websites all over the world. In fact, Twitter often breaks news long before any radio or tv station. You’ve probably heard how it has changed a life, spread an idea or started a rebellion.
The reality is it is another way to communicate…and it is on steroids.
Most people know to go on to Twitter and follow people, post stuff, and perhaps re-tweet here and there. Yet, just like any tool, it is all in how the user (YOU) leverages the tool that gives it power or …just fall flat.
Let’s take some basic Twitter functionality and talk about how it can help you – your idea, your business, and your learning.
To do so, it would be best to use a real life example of an idea that is just getting started – Pennies of Time. Pennies of Time is a new blog developed by a talented woman (Sheila) who wants to ensure her two young boys know how to serve others AND recognize the joy that can come into their lives from doing so. What a great idea, right?
Pennies of Time just joined Twitter and so they are at the perfect point to learn how to spread their idea, make some great connections and influence others.
So, let’s get Pennies of Time started…
Seek out the best people and organizations (Searching)
That’s what your parents always told you, didn’t they? Find good friends. Nowadays “the experts” keep telling us that it matters who the five people are that are closest to you because they influence your likes, dislikes, priorities, values, etc. On Twitter, this is accomplished by utilizing the “search” function.
You must find people and organizations to connect with on Twitter before anything else. Why? If you don’t, NOTHING that you post will be followed. People primarily see what they are connected to (unless they regularly search) and so you will be tweeting a lot and no one will know you are even out there sharing.
So, let’s start a search! Find the search box and choose a search term. Some search terms for Pennies of Time might be:
- Service activities
- Service projects
For each search term, a list of different people and organizations should come up. Take a minute or two to browse through them reading their little paragraph about themselves. If you like what they say, or imply, connect with them! Tip: Take some time writing your little intro paragraph. It makes a BIG difference. That’s all people have to go one when they decide to follow you.
Mix it up a bit because once you search, you are going to find things that you want to be able to share with your followers.
In the Pennies of Time example, every search shouldn’t be “service.” Perhaps one day Pennies of Time can search and share on “good deeds” and another on “charitable organizations” or perhaps “providing children meaningful experiences.” The purpose of this is two-fold – to have a broader understanding of how you and your idea fit into the big picture AND to continue to connect to people that have a spectrum of meaningful ideas and resources that YOU can leverage.
What if the people and organizations that come up are competitors?
That’s ok! You should connect even if just to be aware of what they are up to! But, seriously, it is great to learn from competitors and often competitors end up being the best conduits to more information, friendships and ..to, I dare say, more business? Yes, sometimes they may offer something that is a better fit for one of your clients and vice versa.
How many people should I connect to?
I’d suggest connecting to 20-30 people in your first week on Twitter. After that point, just add people as you feel fit. Twitter will bring up suggestions and people will follow you that you may be interested in following back.
Share what these great people and organizations have to say (Re-tweet)
Don’t under-estimate the power of re-tweeting. Why do YOU have to come up with every piece of information you share? In normal everyday conversations most of us don’t come up with every idea that comes out of our mouth. We share what we’ve learned from the tv, the newspaper, and conversations with others. We share lessons learned. Why not share what others are sharing? If you’ve connected to the right people, there should be some great information streaming through your feed.
Plus, people LOVE when you re-share what they’ve shared. It gives them credibility.
Pennies of Time can start re-tweeting what other people like them are saying.
Through that process others will realize that Pennies of Time is interested in what they are doing and they often become curious about what Pennies of Time is up to and will spend that extra second, or minute or two, checking Pennies of Time out. Who knows, they might even want to partner on an upcoming event, contribute to each others blogs or start a cause together.
Organize Your Learning, Sharing, and Searching Activities (Lists)
Ah, lists, how I love thee. This is where you can bring focus to your Twitter experience. Plus, lists are a great gift to OTHERS. Nudge Village has been added to a list or two and there is a bit of a secret happiness in knowing that someone thought enough of our tweets to include them in their personal ist.
Creating lists allows you to have different online “buckets” to access when you go into your account. The list of who you follow can get quite long. You may never log into the system when your favorite tweeters are tweeting. If you put them on a list you can always access that list directly and have a very focused learning and sharing experience in your Twitter account.
In the case of Pennies of Time, here are some possible lists:
- Charitable Organizations – put all the different organizations you are connected to in this bucket.
- Service Ideas – there will be others like Pennies of Time out there. Connect to them and you’ll see that they are tweeting their new blog posts and resources on a regular basis. You may even want to replicate some of the service activities they are doing.
- Inspirational People & Quotes – a lot of people out there have accounts dedicated to posting quotes from inspiring individuals. Can a good quote ever hurt? Hopefully not. But, they can definitely inspire.
Tip: Don’t forget to tap into the power of others lists. Check out what lists that they’ve made and start to follow them. I’ve learned about many great new people, ideas and organizations by taking a moment to look through lists of some of my favorite gurus.
Typically we want to do this first, but it helps to learn a lot from others before we jump in head first. That is why I shared some of the other uses of Twitter before this “posting a tweet” thought. But, at the end of the day you are, after all, participating in Twitter to share someone about you – your idea, your business, your thoughts.
Here are a few quick suggestions:
- Brief – well, do you really have a choice? Twitter limits you to 140 characters. So, sometimes you’ll take a few minutes to simplify and modify your message. It is amazing how creative you can get with a sentence when you are given a boundary.
- Hashtags (#) – in Twitter these have special meaning. People search by them. It is used directly in front of a word – #Twitter – which signals that it has turned into a sort of a tag. If I want to search a topic on Twitter, I can often get more focused results if I search “#charitable” instead of “charitable.” Both will bring up relevant responses. However, hashtags have gained great importance for groups that are wanting to attract especially attention to a very specific topic (#mobilelearning), a specific cause (#green), a particular conference in session (#mlearncon2012) , a weekly discussion (#lrnchat), a widely used term (#servantleadership), etc.
- Share links to your blog, your website, your Facebook, your Pinterest
Communicate one-one-one (@mention and reply)
Remember, Twitter is a way to communicate. Don’t just “push” out info. That’s the equivalent of talking and not listening or not replying when asked a question.
See what your followers are doing. Reply to a tweet you enjoy. Ask a question. Share your thoughts about their tweet. On the flip side, don’t sit around replying to EVERYONE in your stream. None of us wants to see a stream of responses that don’t have context.
Tip: A lot of people use this function to go around thanking everyone that has re-tweeted them. I’d be more creative with the thanks. Instead of a typical “Thnx for re-tweeting me @learnemergency @nudgevillage@chicksconnect @heiditotten @bijagirl” it would be better to individually thank with a message like “@PenniesofTime. Thnx for re-tweeting. I just took a look at your site. Love the idea. Can’t wait to see more of what you are doing.”
Give 92% (share and promote others more than you push yourself)
Believe it or not, people think about themselves upwards of 92% of the time. Who knew?
Twitter isn’t the place to show tough love and disregard this fact. It’s a place to indulge others! In fact, it might be a good rule to flip this fact on its head – share and promote 92% of the time.
Point out others accomplishments. Highlight what they are doing. Share what they are sharing. Be real. We can see through a bunch of charming and over the top posts.
But, do what you’d do in real life. Give compliments, ask questions, don’t overload us, and promote those you feel are doing good.
Oh, and yes, it is ok to share what you are doing and what you are selling. Just make sure you balance it out a bit. Remember how real life conversations go and use that as your guide!
At the end of the day, Twitter is one of hundreds of tools that we use to communicate. Notice we didn’t get into all the possible ways to use twitter to learn, to market, and to share. These are just a few and we are confident you will come up with your own list. Please do share. Each person has their own special way of communicating and you definitely want to bring that personality to Twitter.
Tip: If you are a critic, be wise. You can’t take this stuff back. Once in the cyber world, always in the cyber world. It may be hidden from you, but a lot of people can get access to it at any point in your life….in the future and when least expected. Best to be respectful to all, contribute positively and remember that how you use technology is an extension of your reputation.
Why provide you step-by-step application of Twitter if there are hundreds of resources out there at your disposal. Here are a few links that may provide useful.
- Twitter Basics – from Twitter – https://support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics#topic_111
- Twitter for Educators – http://www.educatorstechnology.com/search/label/Twitter%20tools?&max-results=9 (I found this on Twitter AFTER I wrote this post. Looks to be an excellent resource!)
- Twitter for Small Businesses – http://lkrsocialmedia.com/twitter-marketing/
Nudge Village Entrepreneurs – these small business owners know how to use Twitter for marketing their products & services
- Tanya Smith Online (@coachtanya) – http://www.tanyasmithonline.com/
- Bija Coaching (@bijagirl) – http://www.bijacoaching.com
- Chicks Connect (@chicksconnect) – http://www.chicksconnect.com