Why Twitter? Why bother?
Rarely does a day go by that someone doesn’t ask me “Why Twitter? Why bother?” I can chew their ears off talking about the benefits and the pitfalls, and trying to simply define what it all means. I thought I would share my experiences and reasons to why, and I hope to dispel the myth and mystery of it in simple terms.
I have come to really enjoy and benefit from the Twittosphere but I have also learned that, as with any new toy, I can lose myself in it. Minutes can effortlessly blossom into hours when I’m engaged in the current zeitgeist on a trending topic. This is especially true when I’m witnessing an unfolding event LIVE, in real time, from the #SuperBowl to #TahrirSquare. Twitter can offer compelling, on the ground reportage of life as it’s happening, and that, for me, is its greatest seduction.
Twitter offers us a fantastic means to connect with other people around a specific interest in real time. It’s not a blog where ideas live in the long term, to return to time and again to reflect on or think about. Twitter is about the NOW and what is happening in the present. In its best form, Twitter generates discussion and community. It is a conversation. It should not be treated as a vehicle to strictly PUSH out information. Please who only push, but do not listen or respond, end up losing followers.
How do you think it might work best for you?
9 Steps to Get You Started on Twitter
Are you intrigued? Want to investigate Twitter a little more closely? Here are some basic steps to follow to get you going.
Step 1: Observe – Tread as carefully and as slowly as you wish. Become a conscious observer for a period of time. Read conversation threads and discover what’s happening beyond your four walls. Look for people you like and respect to see how they are using the platform.
Step 2: Ask Yourself “Why?” – Begin to understand why you would be playing in or contributing to the conversation in the Twitter space. Are your reasons personal, or professional? Maybe a little of both? They can be quite distinct. Understanding the “why” helps to shape the “how” to use the tool.
Step 3: Get a Handle – To get a Twitter Username or “handle”, simply go to Twitter.com and register an account. It’s free. Think about how seen or heard you want to be. If you want to be found – choose a name that people will identify with you, your company or brand vs. a name that is vague or too obscure to figure out. Shorter tends to work better. Note, handles are NOT case sensitive but are limited to 15 characters.
Step 4: Make a Plan – Plan out who you want to follow based on how you want to use the platform. Who do you want to speak with? Friends? Colleagues? Thought leaders in your field? Think about what outcomes you would like for you or your business before you jump into the conversation. Create a plan based on your goals. You will find that even with a basic plan, managing Twitter becomes far less overwhelming. For those who have been in the Twitter space for a while, it’s not too late to define yourself or your brand.
Step 5: Define Your Voice – You have 140 characters per Tweet to define your voice. Plan this. Will your Tweets be funny and irreverent? Conversational or authoritative? Your voice should be as authentic as possible and reflect your personal brand. If your account is for your business, defining your voice is even more crucial.
Step 6: Fill in Your Profile– So you’ve got your handle and you know your plan, the next step is to define your profile and image. Twitter allows you to customize your background image, a small profile picture and some information about you. Remember to be as consistent as possible with this – according to how you want to represent yourself on the platform. The tone of your bio should match your Voice. Limit: 160 Characters.
Step 7 Follow – Start by following people who align with who you are – your brand, or who you want to hear from regularly. Follow people that you enjoy and want to be associated with (at least initially). Knowing what you want to achieve with your Twitter account (see Step 4) will have you able to focus on how to grow your Twitter following. Is it about acquiring followers or is it about acquiring followers that are meaningful to you?
Step 8: Tweet – Okay, time to come down from the stands and get out onto the court – get Tweeting! Remember to maintain your Voice, and to contribute in as meaningful a way as possible around topics of relevance or interest. Also, remember, it is about the NOW or about to happen events and less about the past. Should you be strategic about when you tweet? Yes, but that can come in the refining phase. Look at how it fits within your schedule and allocate time to it.
Step 9: Monitor, Respond and Adjust. – Don’t forget to observe, respond and acknowledge people in the Twitter space. It’s great to respond to people who engage with you. Answering questions or replying to comments (good or bad) is important for building your credibility. People want to know that there really is a person with an opinion behind the handle. It’s a real commitment once you get going and begin to generate traction, the conversation needs to be maintained. This is especially true for businesses and brands.