When I started this blog, I thought I’d be pumping out entries left, right, and centre. Then I fell for the siren call of Twitter. After several interesting weeks, I’m back at my blog. And at least now I can claim to have something to say about Twitter.
Be warned—I love puns. The worse they are, the more I like them. So it’s inevitable that I’d start by saying something like this—what’s all the Twitter about? Well, on March 21, 2012, Twitter’s 6th birthday, it had 140 million active users who were sending 340 million tweets a day. Clearly Twitter is a force to be reckoned with, particularly for those of us who work in public relations or marketing.
I had a Twitter account long before I started this blog; but I was following no one, and no one was following me. Just as well as I was neither tweeting nor listening to other people’s tweets. And yes, I said listening. Following the Twitter stream is a great way to find out what’s on people’s minds; and it that’s not listening, I don’t know what is.
Roughly a month in as an active Twitter user, and I now proudly follow 765, and 287 follow me. To date, I have sent 265 tweets.
Based on my own experience, this is how I recommend you approach using Twitter.
1. Get a Decent Headshot
If you’re going to take part in the world of social media, and that includes twitter, get a decent headshot. And if any of your social media accounts are going to have any relationship to work, dress in a way that best reflects your professional self. Not a glamor shot, but not too stodgy either
Why is it so important to have a decent headshot? Well on most social media, and especially on Twitter, we’re limited to the sense of sight. People can read our words and see our pictures, but they can’t hear our voices or read our facial expressions or our body language. So it’s important to take full advantage of what there is. And one of those things is your own sweet mug. Here’s mine:)
What about using your company logo or wordmark instead of a head shot? If your logo or wordmark is very well known, you might choose to use it. I’ve come across a few people who have chosen to hedge their bets by combining a headshot with a logo or workmark; however, in my opinion the image as it appears in the Twitter stream is too small to do this successfully.
In the Twitterverse, the avatar that appears next to each tweet you send is about the size of a postage stamp when displayed on a notebook, tablet, or desktop, or the size of a pencil eraser when viewed on a mobile, so it’s important that your headshot look good small. There is a caveat, however; if someone chooses to click through to look at your profile, your headshot will appear approximately four times as large, so the resolution needs to be reasonable.
2. Choose a Name that Reflects Your Brand
Once you have a headshot, sign yourself up. If you can at all, use the name you’re known by or your company name as your user name or handle. It will make it easier for people to find you; and for those of you who are concerned about branding, it maintains a level of consistency with your brand.
Then before you do anything else, upload your headshot. If you don’t, your avatar will appear as an egg. Many people assume the account attached to an egg is a Spam Bot—not a real person—and no one wants to follow or be followed by a Spam Bot. Users are much more likely to engage with another person. We know what people do with eggs:)
3. Create a Stellar Profile
Next, and this is really important, fill out your profile. Many people base their decision to follow someone on their profile, so make sure yours gives a clear indication of your interests on Twitter and hints at your personality. You can also choose to add your location to your profile. Usually, sharing your location helps people put you in context; however, if you do business globally there are instances where you might be better off omitting your location. If you have an employer, and this is your personal Twitter account, you need to make it clear in your profile that the opinions expressed are your own not you employer’s, or you may run into trouble at work. Your profile is also the place to direct people to your blog, website, tumblr account, and facebook page. Make sure, however, that these things line up. If you’re tweeting professionally, you may not want to share a facebook page that focuses on kids, puppy dogs, and Farmville with your followers.
This is what my Twitter profile says:
Public relations and marketing veteran, advertising junkie, and mother of teenagers.
NL, Canada • www.ishouldhavedonethisyesterday.wordpress.com
Don’t link your Twitter account to your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts because
- Many of the things you Tweet don’t make sense out of the context of the Twitter stream.
- Even if your Tweet can stand by itself, the subject might not be suited to your Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections.
- While the subject of your tweet might be suited to your Facebook and LinkedIn audiences, the tone that’s suited to Twitter isn’t likely to work on Facebook on LinkedIn.
- If you’re a frequent tweeter, all those messages are just going to piss off your Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections, who are not accustomed to being inundated.
4. Start Following People
I started by following reporters, professional associations, news outlets, good causes, people who blog about public relations, marketing, and social media, some of the better known social media gurus (the good ones almost all seem to hate being called that), and a couple of celebrities.
Here are some suggestions from those I follow:
@PRSA @IABC @PRDaily @OnlinePrMedia @AdWeek @MrMediaTraining @helpareporter @prconversations @MarkRaganCEO @socialmediaclub @jeffbullas @SocialMedia411 (Social Media Insider) @SocialMedia Rvl @SocialNetDaily @PamMktgNut @BlogHer @WmJHartman @Reuters @AP @TheCdnPress @tw_top_news @NewsHour (PBS) @washingtonpost @TIME @nytimes @cnnbrk @guardian @NewYorker @Tweet_Leap @TweetSmarter @HuffingtonPost @historyweird @AncientProverbs @BillGates @Oprah @DalaiLama @ladygaga
You can use the search feature in Twitter to find people. You can sign up to follow many bloggers from their blogs and many companies from their blogs or websites. More and more, people are adding their Twitter handle to their e-mail signatures. Furthermore, when you are on your Twitter homepage, there is a suggested list of people to follow, some of whom are sponsored (i.e. they are paying to be promoted in this way).
And of course you can follow me @judymsnow.
When you are thinking about following someone, clicking on that user’s name will allow you to see their profile, number of tweets sent, number of people they follow, number of people who follow them, and their tweets. General wisdom is that you don’t want to follow someone who has no avatar, who has not tweeted, or who has no follower, although sometimes this may just mean they are new to Twitter—perhaps you can start your journey together. When a Twitter egg is attached to an account that tweets a lot, follows lots of people, and has next to no followers, it is safe to assume you have found the account of a Spam Bot, so don’t follow it.
Not everyone you follow will choose to follow you back, so don’t take offence. The Dalai Lama has more than 4 million followers, but follows no one. When you are notified that someone is following you, check out that person’s profile. You can choose to ignore them, follow them, or if they make you uncomfortable, block them.
Bear in mind that everyone can see who you follow and who follows you, and you may be judged by the company you keep.
5. Start Tweeting
It is important to get a few tweets under your belt fairly quickly so that people who look at your account can tell that it is active and get some kind sense of the kind of content you share. What to do?
You can start by using the built-in retweet function to retweet a tweet that you like. You can also tweet a favorite quote. (FYI, quotes are the most popular content on Twitter.) Or you can just tweet your own comments—something interesting that you’re doing, or the topic du jour. You do not have to be 100% consistent in the kind of content you tweet, although received wisdom is that you’re more likely to be followed, to retain your followers, and to have your tweets shared if you’re not all over the place. I’ll talk more about that later.
Keep it short! Your tweets cannot exceed 140 characters, including spaces. Twitter will tell you when you go over. Tell free to use commonplace abbreviations to get your count down. Most experienced Twitter users try to keep their character count down to 120 or less, because it allows people to add a little something if they decide to retweet.
Be careful what you say about your employer, clients, and customers. If you wouldn’t want it published on the front page of your community daily, don’t say it on twitter.
Most people who are actively engaged in social media are happy to have you share their content; however, be sure to give credit where credit is due by adding RT @twitterhandle or via @twitterhandle to your tweet
6. Mind Your Manners
Unless you are never going to need a job, a client, or a customer, you need to mind your manners on Twitter and present yourself professionally as realistically speaking your tweets are available for all to see, not just those you choose to see them. (More on this later.)
Next time I’ll talk about Twitter trends, #hashtags, basic Twitter jargon, writing an effective Tweet, how to get retweeted, growing your number of followers, and the best times and days to Tweet.