I am frequently asked whether there is any real interest to be on Twitter? Why should I join? Sometimes, they ask whether it is too late to join, or whether Twitter is a fad? And, quite often, it is “ok, how do I join without wasting too much time?” Here are some answers to those questions — taking the viewpoint that you are a business executive.
Why should I sign up for Twitter?
Like anything, the answer to this question is “it depends.” Twitter is definitely not necessary for everyone. It really depends on what your needs and objectives are. Here are the top four reasons why Twitter is an invaluable tool for certain business managers:
- Once you have created a good group of people/accounts to follow, you have precise, realtime monitoring of the subjects that are of interest to you. Among other things, Twitter is great for staying up with the news and trending topics.
- Twitter can be used to create a very specific relationship with your clients and/or stakeholders. For example, you can use Twitter to broadcast timely information (e.g. fresh offers such as with JetBlueCheep, Best Buy), as a customer service line (great examples include Ford, Dell, Starbucks and Comcast) or as a way to engage with your customers (Zappos, Wachovia Bank, HomeDepot, Rubbermaid). In many respects, Twitter is quintessence of digital marketing because your followers can opt in or out as they please. Up to you to create the right voice and relationship.
- Learning social media. For people who have not yet taken the plunge into social media, Twitter is about as easy a way as exists to get to “understand” the social media world. There is little risk. Creating a profile on Twitter takes very little time. And, writing a 140 character message is nothing compared to writing a blog post (hence the term micro-blogging). After you have signed up, you can post your first tweet without fear, because no one is following you (yet). You won’t screw up coming out of the gates!
- I find Twitter a great communication tool among the people I follow and who follow me. The 140-character message is by definition short and punchy — which is very refreshing compared to the endless emails one can receive. I have, moreover, found Twitter to be a very effective networking tool with other Twitteratti. According to your message, you can broadcast to all, cite specific people or send private direct messages. I wrote up a piece here on why powerful executives should use Twitter.
Is it too late? Is Twitter just a fad?
According to this good (and recent) write up by Graeme McMillan in Time Techland, Twitter has an estimated 200+ million people users. That number is dwarfed by the estimated 360 million sign ups; but, the deeper question is about the number of active users. How many are active and what is “active?” Having an account and just listening I believe is a valid use of Twitter. Even if Twitter only accounts for an estimated 2% of the social media visits, its immediacy, the type of people on board and the manner of interaction make it an exceptionally useful tool for brands. As McMillan writes, there are nearly half a million new sign ups every day. So, it would seem that Twitter is still growing hand over foot.
Is it too late to join the fray? Absolutely not. Besides which, it doesn’t cost you anything to come and play. Is Twitter a fad? Well, since the company has been around since 2006 (five years) and is growing at half a million a day, I am inclined to say that Twitter is not a fad. Will it survive longer term? That will depend on (a) Twitter’s ability to build a viable economic model; (b) how well (and creatively) businesses use Twitter; and (c) Twitter’s ability to continue to innovate and create (with its 3rd party partners) innovative and ergonomic functionalities. If you are interested, I wrote up a piece previously on whether Twitter will fizzle or sizzle.
How do I join Twitter without wasting too much time?
- There are certain key steps to take in signing up.
- Take care in writing your bio.
- Add a pertinent photo for your avatar.
Your first steps
- Follow people: you can start with those whom you know (sync with your electronic address book or Linkedin connections). You should also check out your specific interests. Finally, there are the recommendations (“suggestions”) that Twitter will make as well. Make sure to use the “lists” function to categorize people according to your centers of interest.
- Content. Tweet content you find of interest. Remember to include a valid hyperlink (it adds weight to the quality of your tweet). Find a decent rhythm for tweeting. Don’t overload your stream (it very quickly becomes considered like spam).
- Retweet other tweets which you find of interest. You do this by hitting the Retweet button or typing, for example, “RT mdial” before the original tweeted message…
- Engage. Write back individual messages to people whose content you like (don’t spam) or have mentioned you.
- Use a Twitter mobile app to access via your smartphone (ie. here it is for the iPhone). Also, I suggest a Twitter interface (also called a Twitter client) such as Tweetdeck (owned by Twitter) or Hootsuite.
- Above all, experiment. Observe how and why other people are interacting. There’s a whole lot of Twitter jargon and shortcuts you will also want to learn…
To avoid wasting time, I set myself a time allocation and then keep to that. A healthy eLife discipline is so vital in this 24/7 connected world!
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