Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Twials and Twibulations of Tweeting

Hands up, all of you who have tweeted sometime in the last twenty-four hours...

No need to blush now, tweeting is safe, fun and all the rage! Even your kids can do it!

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you will have no doubt heard of Twitter, the latest and greatest tool for online networking. I am a huge fan and user of twitter, but I'll touch more on why I like it later on. For now, let me explain what twitter is.

I get asked weekly what twitter is, and you know it is incredibly difficult to answer this and get across the value and importance of it.

"Isn't it just, like, Facebook status updates?", I hear nine out of ten times. Well, yes and no. The concept of twitter is very simple: In 140 characters or less, what are you doing?

Unlike MySpace, there are no sections for friends and music. Unlike Facebook there is no creeping through your roommate's cousin's friends photo albums or zombie pokes. You get one page, your timeline if you will. People, other "twitterers", or "tweeters", or "tweeps", whatever you want to call them, can choose to follow you. When someone follows you, your "tweets" (a term used to describe each deployment of information) will show up on their timeline along with tweets from their followers. Just because someone follows you does not mean inter-connection is made; as a user you get to choose who you follow, regardless of if they follow you or not. This means that with twitter, you control what information and communications you are getting from your timeline. Being a user and having the ability to tailor your audience to your updates is a pretty phenomenal thing, and ultimately where Facebook and MySpace fail. 

Remember, it's not about quantity, it's about quality. If you build it, they will come.

It has been described as "micro-blogging", the idea of short, rapid updates of personal information, but herein lies the trouble with twitter. You see, twitter has become very well known very quickly and there is a huge misconception regarding its use. Yes the question posed is what are you doing?, but is it as simple as that? The internet has been inundated with numerous videos and comics depicting twitter as an incessant and pointless bug. The problem here is that these parodies are not necessarily wrong.

If you answer twitter's question with "eating a ham sandwich", you're doing it wrong.
When used correctly, twitter can become a powerful networking and marketing tool.

To really hit the sweet-spot with twitter, you need to do three things.

1. Tweet useful and/or interesting information. No one cares that you're "on my way to the gym!" or just saying "whuzup? w00t!". If you put this kind of information out, be prepared to get that kind of information back. Also, tweet useful and relevant information often. The more you use it the more you will be seen and found by other useful and relevant twitter users.

2. Seek out and follow like-minded individuals, and individuals important and relevant to you and what you're doing (and tweeting). You will most likely be followed by many individuals that have nothing in common with you and are merely adding you to get their numbers up, or for spamming. If that happens, you don't have to follow them back. You want your twitter experience to be the way you decide it to be. 

3. Communicate with your followers. Make connections and network with useful and relevant users. This is how relationships, both business-minded and otherwise, can start. Talk directly to your followers, ask questions and answer questions. Twitter uses @replies and @mentions to link to other twitter users, and you can even send direct messages (still with the 140 character limit). What good is a microphone if it isn't turned on.

These three simple ideas are key to avoiding a disastrous twitter experience and will ultimately prevent the program from sucking majorly. Until you really get in there and use the program and get a feel for how it works, it's an uphill debate with non-users or skeptics.

I can attest to the benefits of Twitter firsthand; 
  • I run a film and comics news site, www.giantkillersquid.com, and have seen a tremendous increase in my traffic since I started using twitter to share news stories and articles. This is because the content I'm putting out is relevant and of interest to my followers. 
  • I've seen my daily average unique site visits go from 12 a day to well over 200. 
  • I've met and conversed with other website editors; this is priceless networking for a community-based medium. 
  • I've watched special events unfold, take the recent San Diego Comic Con, for example, before my eyes. 
  • I've made film-industry contacts and now I'm receiving free products for review and contests, and I'm being set up to interview actors. 
Running a news site means getting information, leads and stories as soon as it happens. Whether it is true is up to the editor to decide and ultimately publish, but twitter makes the mass-spread of news almost instantaneous. In a time were digital media is king and information is power means that twitter is armed to the teeth. 

So you see, tweeting is a lot more than you might think. 

What are you doing? isn't such an easy question, is it?

Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/zombie_elvis
Follow Kevin on twitter at twitter.com/FRANCOMEDIA

Labels: , , , , , , ,