Love Twitter
Photo by iJustine

Apparently micro-blogging is getting more and more popular by the day and consequently its biggest platform on the web, Twitter, is rapidly growing as well. This means there’s a whole new emerging market of tech savvy, blogging experienced users that’s just waiting to be grasped. A great opportunity indeed!

But first, for those a bit unfamiliar with micro blogging and more importantly twitter, let me explain a bit how it works. Twitter is basically a service that allows you to update your status with short messages, of up to 140 characters, just like a SMS text message. What makes it so special is that it also has social elements, allowing users to befriend each other; in twitter this is called “following.” Whenever you’re following somebody on twitter you’ll be able to instantly receive their updates and keep up to date with someone’s status. Furthermore because mobility and fastness are of the utmost importance in micro blogging, twitter allows you to update your status via the web page, IM, mobile phone, blackberry or various other third party applications.

Why You Should Use Twitter

Cool twitter t-shirt
Photo by ‘nathan

When I first started out using twitter, about 2 months ago, I was very skeptical regarding its actual utility and purpose, as I found the notion of knowing what people were up to kinda irrelevant. “Off eating dinner,” “My flight just arrived in San Francisco,” “Walking my dog.” Why should I care about anything like this? Well if you, like I have in the beginning, think that’s all there is to twitter, then you’re just making misperceptions. Truth is there’s more to it then meets the eye, my friends.

After I first registered an account I felt a bit out of place and lonely, because I wasn’t following anyone and no one was following me. I soon started twitting a bit though, followed a bunch of people I knew and started socializing. After a while I soon realized how powerful twitter can really be and what kind of benefits it can bring.

It’s been widely proven that twitter can be easily used as a self-promotion tool, to pitch your content, services and products with ease. This is done by broadcasting your message, although short, to your followers. Sounds familiar ? That’s because twittering resembles a lot blogging, except your message is broadcasting in “real time” to your reader. It’s this mixture of blogging, RSS and social networking that makes twitter so appealing.

Still not convinced? Here’s a few more reasons why twitter rocks.

  1. Traffic. Although at fist glance it might seem like twitter isn’t capable of directing any respectable amount of traffic, truth is, if used properly, it can provide your blog with quite a “few” new visitors. The traffic from twitter isn’t too shabby either, in terms of quality, most of the visitors being pretty targeted, that stick around, read your posts and even subscribe.

    You can send traffic by entering your blog’s url in your twitter profile (this will be responsible for most of the regular traffic you’ll receive from twitter) or by twitting one of your post’s url. The amount of traffic you can receive from twitter is directly proportional to number of followers you posses.

  2. Awareness and branding. Just like any other social network, twitter can be used as a powerful tool to build your brand and raise awareness. If you browse a bit through twitter you’ll undoubtedly find twitter users for a lot of popular online and offline brands, that simply track their day to day progress and update with valuable breaking news. The thing about twitter branding is that it’s a lot more personal, probably thanks to it’s IM like environment, helping you to thin the line between you and your readers.
  3. Promote your content. This is more of a combination between the first two posts. A lot of bloggers nowadays, realizing the huge potential twitter possess of leveraging their content, have begun to publicize and promote their blog posts on twitter. This means either they post their blog post url, along with a short description (what can you expect in 140 characters or less?) or the url to various other social media websites like digg, reddit or stumbleupon for example, so that their followers can vote them.

    A nifty little twitter tool, available on the web right now, that’s been getting a lot of attention lately, is TwitterFeed, a great twitter application that will automatically post your latest blog posts titles, along with the respective url of course, without any interference from your behalf.

  4. Fast help and feedback. A few weeks ago I asked for some urgent help on twitter, when I updated my status saying “I need some critical help from a PHP guru, please add AIM Qotsa ftw.” Frankly I didn’t expect any results or help coming in any soon, but I was pretty desperate. In a matter of minutes about four talented programmers added me on AIM and offered to hear me out and help, free of charge! Where else can you find this kind of fast response? I soon found that twitter can be an extremely efficient environment for collecting honest and live feedback, ranging from anything like design, to writing, to the over all reader experience.
  5. Find a new audience. At the beginning of the article I stated that twitter is a emerging market, that’s beginning to explode on the web with hundred of thousands of users, meaning there’s a whole new vast audience, that’s just waiting to get exposed to your blog. Use twitter in conjunction with my 10 other ways of finding new readers and you’ll soon boost your stats and break the plateau.
  6. Latest news. Because twitter is so instant and spontaneous you can now find out about the latest industry and scene news in a particular field of activity you’re following, within minutes of the actual event. If you thought RSS feeds are a good way of keeping up with news and new content, wait till you try twitter.
  7. Inform people of your status. While telling people what you ate for dinner won’t appeal to many, a lot of people might be interested in what’s your business plans for the day or who’ll you’ll be meeting. Status live updates come especially in handy when you’re on conferences and witness first-hand world premiers.
  8. Networking. Twitter is a great way to get to know new and like minded individuals, that share your same passions and area of expertise. Following them truly is a pleasure. This way you can see what your fellow peers are up to, open up to mutual promotional work and build future business relationships.
  9. Marketing. As it’s the case with most social media services, you can use twitter to market and pitch your products. However twitter won’t directly help you market your content, but rather indirectly by helping build your brand name and authority. After you’ve established yourself as an authority to your audience, sales will follow as well.
  10. It’s fast and mobile. You can user twitter from anywhere in the world, even from a mobile phone. Also updating your status on twitter won’t take more then 1 minute, you’re not gonna write essays in 140 characters or less, right?
  11. Keep track of things. Just like a mini journal, I like to use twitter to record my progress through out the day. This helps me keep focus on my tasks and helps me get things done (even though ironically it can be a real productivity bugger). It’s a great way to write down ideas for further reference.
  12. Provides inspiration. As a blogger you always have to produce a steady flow of new and original content. This can tend to get a bit difficult after a while, so any source of blog post inspiration can be considered a blessing. How does twitter fit in the big picture? Well, all you have to do is keep your eyes open on the people your following and you’ll see material for new content building up in your head. Some people have sparks or moments of inspiration concerning a particular topic, which they then twitter to get it off their chest. You can borrow their ideas and then build a post of your own around them. All the right reasons to follow important and intelligent people. Also you can always ask a question about something and your followers will soon answer it (I showed you how great asking questions can be with twitter in a point above), developing the idea, thus providing you with possible new material to work with.
  13. It’s viral. Anything that spreads quickly and easily across a community makes a great social service anytime, in my eyes. Twitter works virally in a word of mouth kinda way. You as user may twit about something important, your followers will then take the story to their followers and so on.
  14. Make money! By using twitter you can increase your income indirectly through social media marketing, but you can also make money directly by selling twits. This is totally against the twitter TOS and most of all unethical, but since when’s that reason enough for people to stop doing it.

    If you want to know more about the concept read these posts by Darren Rowse and Jason Falls, who’ve written the articles more as an experiment and joke, but have defined some great ideas, that will undoubtedly materialize in the future, as twitter develops more and more. Won’t be surprised if something like this exists somewhere deep underground…

  15. It’s fun! There’s something special about twitter, that makes it real fun, but I just can’t put my finger on it yet. I always have a good laugh when I read a good joke on twitter or when someone shares a great link with me. It’s that kind of fun you find in a great social network like stumbleupon or digg and twitter has plenty of it.

Using Twitter Effectively

Twitter Screenshot

If you’re still reading this, then I’ve probably convinced you to try this micro blogging mumbo jumbo out, now it’s time to see how we can actually properly use the twitter service at its fullest and better leverage its potential. Bellow I’ll try to list a few pointers I’ve learned by actively participating on twitter during the past weeks, that will help you do just that. Experienced twitter users should pay close attention to the following points as well.

  • Follow other users. Like in any other social network, profile building is extremely important and such is the case with twitter as well. Here when building an authoritative twitter profile the most important aspect you should look after is your followers. The more you have, the more popular you are and consequently the larger the influence your twits will posses. I think most of you are familiar with the you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours philosophy. Well this applies on twitter as well. Whenever you choose to follow someone, the respective twitter user will receive an e-mail notifying him that a you’re following his updates, then based on weather your profile is interesting enough he’ll follow you back or not. Who to follow though? Well all of the people I’m following are either: the authors of a blog I’m faithfully reading, people that chose to follow me and post interesting stuff, interesting and humorous people, authorities in my niche, sources of breaking news and updates or people that are simply my friends be it on or offline. Don’t over-follow though, or else you might find yourself overwhelmed with twits. I’ve found that following around 200 is the most optimal number.Worth taking note is a controversial aspect of twitter concerning reciprocal following, namely whenever you choose to unfollow someone, the twitter user, from whom you unsubscribed, will not receive a notification that you’ve done so. So basically you can befriend a bunch of people, wait for them to follow you and then unsubscribe. This is a terrible glitch if you ask me, because it lets twitter spammers and well… lame ass people to abuse the system.
  • Interact with fellow twitters. You need to get people to notice you and the simplest way to do this is letting them know you exist. If following them didn’t get their attention try messaging them, using the “@” feature. Type @username message and the respective twitter username will receive the message under his replies tab. You won’t be sending private messages either, these twits will be visible to all your followers and profile guests, the only difference is your twits will be targeted towards something specific in mind. Notice whenever you contact someone via the @ feature a hiperlink that leads to his twitter account will be automatically created. Now image if you’d, hypothetically speaking, ask Scoble (lol @ first photo <3) a question via twitter and shortly after he’d decide to publicly answer it. In doing so he’ll link back to your profile thus exposing you to all of his followers and seeing as Scoble has the most twitter followers in the world, it’s easy to imagine what will happen next. Of course he’s a busy man and that won’t probably happen, but you can do this for any other user. The key here is to network and interact.

An example of how the @ twitter feature can be used
An example of how the @ twitter feature can be used

  • Be useful, original and contributive. Just like you’d do with your blog, you have to put yourself in your followers shoes, analyze and then ask yourself some questions. Why would people want to follow me? What can I provide them with? There’s thousands of twitter users, what sets me apart from them? And so on. You need to give twitter users enough reason to follow you and of course to keep on following. You can achieve this by either being useful, original, funny or preferably all together. Whenever you find something interesting on the web, that might captivate your followers, don’t hesitate and twitter it.

    If you’ve got an interesting idea or topic for conversation, share it with your followers and thus actually add some value to your twits. If you’ve got a more humorous and sociable personality, then don’t keep it all in, let it shine on twitter as well; people always like to be around funny people. And remember if you’ve got nothing to say, it’s probably for the best you keep it that way.

  • Don’t over-twit. Now if a prolific blogger may post one or more posts daily, then expect a prolific twitter users to update a lot more often. But is there any risk of over-twitting? There sure is alright. I’ve followed a few fellows recently that were silent for hours and then started spitting loads of twits (mostly ramblings) during short intervals of time. Of course I got extremely bugged and unfollowed them. So what you have to keep in mind here is not to exaggerate with your twits and keep your personal ramblings to a minimum, unless they’re interesting of course.
  • Don’t under-twit. Over-twitting is bad, but how about under-twitting? While it probably won’t lead to loss of followers, under-twitting will undoubtedly hurt your profile’s growth. Like in any other community, you have to be active to reap it’s rewards, this means twitting at least a few times a day. A lot of people’ve been telling me they can’t keep up with twitter because they simply forget to update. You can solve this little impediment fairly simple by setting your “notices” (can be found in the settings tab). There you’ll find a neat option that will cause twitter to send a “nudge” whenever you fail to update your status during 24 hours.
  • Don’t over-publicize. As a blogger your sole interest in twitter may be just to promote your own content and blog brand. While there’s nothing unusual with this, I’d advise you don’t over-pitch your twits with self-promotional updates, otherwise you might get labeled a spammer by the community. Between links to your own blog posts and social media stories, try updating with interesting links from other blogs and various twits. Like I said: be useful, unique and contributive.
  • Brand your profile. Earlier in the article I mentioned how twitter can be used a powerful tool to enforce your’s blog brand or social media persona. You can achieve this easily by customizing your twitter profile; this means changing your account’s background, avatar and overall design. Be sure to particularly change your avatar, otherwise you’ll get stuck with the ugly default one; just put in an avatar that you know people recognize you by or even yet, your blog’s logo. Fur further reading about branding, check out my previous thorough article piece about blog branding.

A live caption from my twitter replies tab
A live caption from my twitter replies tab

  • Reply to twits. If you’re active on twitter, people will often reach you via the “@” feature, so be sure to regularly check your replies tab on twitter to see what other people are saying about you. Here you’ll regularly find answers to the various questions you might ask, random comments about your activities or even questions addressed to you. I’d advise, for productivity purposes, to reserve a fraction of your time every day to respond to various comments, this way you’ll both network with your current followers, but also draw new ones as well. All that “@” user inter-twitting will get you noticed by your follower’s followers and so on, proving the viral nature of twitter.
  • Publicize and promote your twitter account. Whenever you get the chance to promote your twitter account, do it! Put a link leading towards your account on all of your other social media profiles, like digg, stumbleupon, mixx and so on. Also twitter allows the possibility of integrating some cool badges on various social networks (facebook, myspace etc.) and most importantly on your blog.

Some Nifty Twitter Tools

Tools
Photo by brex

Weather you use twitter for personal use, business, clients or just for fun, a set of tools that can help you in your endeavors is always useful. Bellow you can find my favorite twitter tools currently available on the web.

  1. twhirl. This is the most popular desktop client for twitter on the web. I personally prefer to use the default web client for twittering, but this is a great tool for catching up with what other people are twittering. Found it particularly useful when replying to twits and when I’m in a hurry too.
  2. TweetDeck. I simply love TweetDeck, because where twitter fails in categorizing your life stream, this is where TweetDeck shines, allowing you to sort your followers in various columns. The interface makes up for a great user experience too.
  3. TwitterFeed. Already talked a bit about this great tool above, but it’s worth mentioning it once more. Again what it does is it pulls your latest post urls from your blog’s feed and posts them on your twitter account. alongside their title.
  4. LoudTwitter. Now this is a real useful one. Basically it’s the bridge that posts to your blog your daily tweets in one single digest. A clear example can be found at Jeremy Wright’s blog.
  5. Twitter Tools. This is a wordpress plugin, developed by the infamous Alex King, that creates an integration between your WordPress blog and your Twitter account. The plugin can pull twits from your twitter account to your blog (much like LoudTwitter does) and also allows you to twitter from within wordpress.
  6. Twitt-Twoo. A nifty little plugin for WP, that allows you to update your twitter status from inside your blog’s sidebar. Personally I won’t use it, because it would cluster the sidebar, but I’ve seen it on tons of blogs and I’m sure a lot of people will find it useful.
  7. TwitThis. The following tool will add a nifty little button at the end of every post, much in the same way the various social media buttons, you see at the end of every blog post, work. Only, instead of submitting a post to digg or stumbleupon, when hitting the button, the url of the respective blogpost will be copied to your twitter dashboard. You can then share the post with your friends.
  8. Twitter Badge. The official javascript codes and widgets that display badges showing what you are posting on Twitter.
  9. Tweetscan. A great search engine for twitter, that you can use to see what people are twitting about you, your blog, brand, company, product etc.
  10. TwitterNotes. I told how twitter can be used as a great environment for taking and keeping track of notes. Well this tool will do just that helping you better keep notes on twitter, by tagging them.
  11. RSS to Twitter. A excellent PHP script that feeds RSS to twitter.
  12. TwitterFox. This is a great Firefox plugin that allows you to send and receive updates, right from the browser’s status bar.
  13. TweetBeep. A great service for twitter, similar to Google Alert. It even checks links masked by tinyurl.
  14. TweetMarks. This will help your bookmark your twits, keeping all of the links you share organized.

Final Thoughts

LOAB Twitter

[digg-reddit-me]A lot of so called “social media experts” predict twitter’s gonna go under soon, but how’s that possible when the service has been almost doubling it’s users and daily total twits every month? Hey guess what, that’s the same thing people have been saying about blogging for the past 5 years, but apparently it’s still in full swing and as popular as ever. Moreover since this year’s SXSW convention in March, twitter has simply exploded! Think those SM gurus haven’t really given twitter a chance.

Fact is twitter’s is just lovely and I won’t hide the fact that I’m a fan. If you think of blogging as a superhero, then twitter’s definitely its sidekick, the perfect auxiliary tool for any aspiring problogger.

UPDATE (03/07/09): Following the recent discussions claiming that blogging is day by the hand of twitter, I’ve decided to write a little post debunking this whole myth. You read by heading to Blogging in a Twitter World: Is There Any Room for Both?

Further Reading

How about networking with me on twitter, by following my profile. As always if you enjoyed this article please help it promote it by stumbling, digging or saving it to del.icio.us. Thank you!

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