Social networking and micro-blogging site Twitter just celebrated its fifth year on March 21. It began as a small project at a podcasting company in San Francisco called Odeo. Thanks to the creative genius of Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the world is closer and more “real-time” than ever before. There is no clearer evidence of this than the role Twitter (and Facebook) played in the recent uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
It took Twitter 3 years, 2 months and 1 day to reach the first 1 billionth tweet. Now there are a billion tweets a WEEK. While the actual number of Twitter users is a moving target, it is no doubt in excess of 200 million. Over the last month, there has been an average of 460,000 new Twitter accounts per day.
People have different reasons for joining Twitter. Whether you want to generate more traffic to your business or you want to increase your social relationships, you can tweet to achieve your goals. In this Tech Tip, we’ll explore some helpful tips and tools you can use whether you’re a beginner or an experienced tweeter.
We’ll assume that you know how to set up a Twitter account and have a basic knowledge of the platform. You’re limited to 14 characters for your user name so choose something that will identify you. Also, be creative with a custom background for your Twitter page. You can change that on the Design tab and use themeleon to really pimp out your page. Make the most of the personal information on your account. On your Profile, fill in your location, web site URL (if you have one), plus a nice picture or avatar. Most important will be your BIO where you describe yourself in 160 characters or less. If you’re looking to find new customers or people with similar interests, use keywords in your bio that will attract that kind of following.
Your tweet will stand out more if it's shorter, especially if it's sandwiched between other tweets that push the character limit. If you can't say it in 140 characters, reevaluate whether you should be posting it on Twitter. Best practice is to tweet an average of 1-3 times per day maximum. Share good stuff—keep it topical, informative and useful.
When you read tweets you may notice some contain a hash tag (#) followed by a word. A hash tag is simply a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic. In a way, it allow you to create communities of people interested in the same topic by making it easier for them to find and share info related to it. Just remember that when tweeting the hash tag will come out of your 140 character tweet limit.
If you’re wondering who to follow other than friends, co-workers and family, follow the followers of those you respect. There’s a high probability that the majority of those users are real people with similar interests. Your follow back rate could triple using this tactic.
Be diligent when replying to tweets directed to you. If you just hit “reply” remember that tweet will be seen by ALL those following you and they may choose to unfollow you. That can diminish your presence on Twitter. If you’d like to keep it more private then type a “d” before the user name to send a direct message, such as d computergeeks.
Don’t auto-reply to everyone who follows you with the AutoDM (direct message). That’s sure to bring you a slew of unfollows. Try to keep an even balance between “following” and “followers”. Let’s say you have 200 followers and are following 1,988 people; that could raise a red flag and Twitter might put a hold on your account until you bring the two into more of an alignment. Of course, if you’re Charlie Sheen with over 3 million followers, that rule is out the window. But for those of us who aren’t #winning, best to keep an eye on your follow status.
On March 15, 2011, Twitter enabled users to turn on HTTPS, improving the security of your account to better protect your information if you’re using Twitter over an unsecured Internet connection, like a public WiFi network. The plan is to make this the default setting in the future, but for now go to your settings and check the box next to “Always use HTTPS,” which is at the bottom of the page.
If you’re looking for an easier way to grow your followers, you can try a software called TweetAdder. It offers a great feature where you can simply enter a user’s name and it will extract their followers and add them to the “follow list” that you can use in the software. While there is a charge for TweetAdder, it can be cost-effective in the amount of time it will save you. The web site offers a detailed demo, so give it a try.
Hootsuite and TweetDeck are by far the most popular third party Twitter clients available today. They have many similarities - ability to schedule posts, post to other channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare all at once. They both have their own URL shorteners.
Known by its cute owl mascot, Hootsuite is a web-based tool that can handle multiple Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Page, LinkedIn, MySpace and Foursquare social profiles. Unlike TweetDeck, Hootsuite offers a robust statistical analysis of your accounts which may or may not be what you need. The free version allows for up to 5 social media profiles but you can upgrade to unlimited for as little as $6 a month.
TweetDeck is a free desktop tool that uses Adobe Air and for that reason can be a little wonky at times. But it also has many great features. You can attach photos and videos to your tweet, schedule your tweets in advance. TweetDeck will display columns of each of your accounts, your mentions, direct messages, lists, a hash tag you want to monitor, trending topics and more.
You can’t go wrong with either one, they’re free so try them both and see what works best for you.
If you want to tie in your blog posts with your tweets and other social networks, there’s a handy tool call Twitterfeed. Again, free so check it out if that fills a need.
Share some of your interesting pictures on Twitter so that others can get to know you better. This is easy to do with a free tool called Twitpic. You can upload a picture or video, compose your tweet and then post your message. You can also email your picture and tweet via Twitpic. It’s compatible with mobile devices which make it easier to share pictures from your phone.
Here are some other tools you might find helpful:
- Twitterfall allows you to narrow down tweets by city and/or keyword.
- Twellow: like the Twitter Yellow Pages- a search directory of people by area of expertise, profession or other attribute listed in their personal profiles.
- TweetBeep sends you alerts based on keywords; stay on top of breaking news.
- TweetGrid helps you monitor multiple topics at once.
Since tweets are limited to 140 characters, URLs are usually shortened. Are you just a tad wary of clicking on those bit.ly, is.gd or TinyURL!™ from people you don’t know or necessarily trust? Well, there’s a way to find out exactly where they’re sending you before you click that little link. Go to http://www.untiny.me, put in the short link, extract the actual URL and decide if you want to go ahead and click through.
This only scratches the surface of the many Twitter tools out there with more launching all the time. But some other highly recommended ones include SocialOomph, Posterous® and Seesmic. Since all the tools mentioned in this Tech Tip are either free or have a free trial, take them for a test drive and see what you like best.
Have you tried these or any other tools and tips? Let us know in the comments.
Use Twitter to make new friends or promote your business and have some social networking fun. #Winning!