If I had a dollar…well, you know where that's going. If I had a dollar for…this or that…I'd be rich. Truth is, if I had a dollar for every time I had to answer the Twitter questions here, I would be pretty well off. Certainly, I could cover holiday shopping this year.
So…here are my answers to the most common questions I get relative to Twitter (please share your questions and answers in the comments section; I am up on the social media landscape but am always eager to learn from others – and I know many of my readers are quite knowledgable):
1. What should I call myself?
In the early Twitter days, people created funny, interesting, or creative names for themselves. But, if you’re using Twitter for business, you should use your business name, and include the poster’s name in the profile. If you’re a solopreneur, use your own name. This is a relationship building tool – let the world know who you are upfront. Ask yourself: who or what am I branding? I recommended a friend recently start a Twitter account in his company name, but make sure to put HIS name in his bio, and add HIS picture.
2. Who should I follow?
Before you start following anyone, think carefully about why you’re tackling this new tool. Is it to brand your company? Is it to brand yourself? Is it to do sales and marketing? Once you have a clear idea of WHY you’re Twittering, you’ll want to follow industry experts and people you meet who are in need of your particular expertise. Don’t follow the whole world. Even if they try to follow you.
3. How do I find the right followers?
You can start your followership by following people you either already know, or by looking for “celebrities” – those industry experts in your profession who are always ahead of the curve. Chances are they are on Twitter. Do a Google search on “person’s name + Twitter.” Google will find them. But the best way to find followers is by watching your peers. Follow the people they follow. There are tools that will help you find followers, but I do not have one to recommend. I believe in organic results, not manufactured results. But, that's just me.
4. What if someone I don’t like follows me? What do I do?
Twitter gives you the option to block anyone you do not care to be associated with. This will prevent that person from accessing your tweets. Block obvious spam, but be selective about blocking others. Sometimes it’s a good idea to follow and be followed by folks you might identify as competitors. Chances abound for partnerships, and for finding out, via tweets, exactly what your competitor is up to.
5. Should I keep my updates protected?
No. If you protect your updates, you discourage people from following you. Keep your updates open and free and you will attract more followers. Use the ability to block people to police your account. It seems that somewhere on Twitter they recommend this, but…they are wrong. You cannot create followers and be social if you don't allow me to connect with you. And, if you connect to me and I discover I have to ask permission to connect to you…I'm not going to do it. One less follower for you.
6. How much time does all of this take?
It can be a time goblin, for sure! However, create a schedule for yourself – 15 minutes first thing in the morning, and 25 minutes at the end of the day. That way, people will know when to expect to hear from you. Of course, there are many tools that help with the time issue, also. Tweetlater is one. It also has a professional (paid) version that helps you manage more than one Twitter account. Another tool is Hootsuite which Tom likes a lot.
7. Do I need to be on Twitter if I’m on Facebook?
That depends – do you read more than one industry magazine? Do you belong to more than one networking group? Twitter expands your networking reach. It makes sense to choose the top 5 social media tools you feel will be most effective for you, and use them wisely. I think Twitter should be one. Be selective, however. My advising you to use Twitter is not useful if your audience is not likely to be on Twitter. Only you can ultimately decide which tools are effective for you.
8. Can I use Twitter in place of a blog, since it’s a micro-blogging tool?
You can, but what will it accomplish? People want to know more about you than you can tell them in 140 characters. A blog helps define not only who you are, but what you do. You can put some of that on Facebook and LinkedIn, but, a blog gives you the best platform to promote yourself and your business.
9. What’s a hashtag? What’s a RT [retweet]?
The hashtag [#] is used to track conversations on Twitter. When you see something such as #meowmonday, it means the people participating in that conversation want to be able to find all the tweets about that topic, all in one place: Twitter search. When you are creating something long-lasting or controversial and you want to see who said what, and when – use a hashtag. Request everyone else joining the conversation use it, also. A RT is when you pass along a tweet someone else has written. Great word-of-mouth and if you can get people to RT YOU, you're golden!
10. How do I fit useful content in only 140 characters?
You use abbreviations. It’s amazing how much information you actually can fit into 140 characters, but when you’ve typed too much – go back and remove some vowels. People can still read your messages without vowels. It’s a common way of shortening a tweet in order to RT messages—use UR for ‘your,’ and C for ‘see’ and U for ‘you’ – you get the drift. All in all, you will need to be creative, and sometimes you will use two tweets to get your full message across. You will also want to use a URL shortening tool, to add links to your messages; a popular one is tinyURL.
Now, any other questions? Ask'em now…if I don't have the answer, I'll send you to someone who does.