Twitter has taken the Internet by storm in recent months, but there are still a lot of people and businesses who haven’t signed on or who have but just don’t get it. More than any other communication method, Twitter can be a bit like trying to sip from the fire hose. And to keep that water metaphor going, if you jump directly into the deep end of Twitter you will either drown or be eaten by the sharks.
The key to Twitter is in remembering that it is a communications medium, and to truly communicate the conversation must be two-way. You should be looking for quality in those you follow and who follow you, not quantity. Start by following your friends and business colleagues. Only after you get comfortable should you really start branching out. And, like any good conversationalist knows, the best way to interact with people is not by lecturing but by asking intelligent, open-ended questions. If you need help, just ask and people will usually jump right in.
Finally, so that you will be taken seriously and get the most out of your Twitter experience, there are a few things you need to do early on. The pointers below won’t change your life, but they will change your Twitter outlook. Just as with any professional presentation, you need to be aware of how people see you online and how that image creates an impression of you and your business.
- Fill out your Twitter profile completely. This means name, location, bio, and URL. Nothing is more frustrating, and confusing to me, than to go to the Twitter profile of a company or professional and find nothing there. Would you hand out a business card that listed no means to contact you? Then why would you have a profile with no URL? As for the geographic location, it doesn’t need to be specific but should at least let people know what time zone you are in. You can set all this by clicking on “Settings” up in the top right of your Twitter screen.
- Change the default avatar. The avatar is that little picture that appears beside each tweet to represent you. The default one is ugly, means you didn’t care enough to change it, and represents you in a bad way. Preferably change it to a nice little picture of yourself, but at least change it to a picture or logo of some sort. People come to recognize those avatars, so chose something that you want to be identified with – and the default one isn’t it. You can set you avatar picture by clicking on “Settings” and then “Picture” up in the top right of your Twitter screen.
- Don’t follow too many. Especially while you are still learning and gaining speed, don’t follow too many people. First of all, you will get swamped and get lost. Second of all, other people gauge how “real” you are by how many people you are following vs how many are following you. So, if you have followed 700 people but only 10 are following you – chances are pretty good that you are a spammer of some sort. Try not to follow more than about twice as many people as are following you. So, if you only have 5 people following you, don’t follow more than 10. I know it can be hard, but if you start by following your friends, colleagues, and me(!) you will find you can build number fairly quickly. Remember, the goal here is quality not quantity.
- Give it a rest. OK, this is an odd one, especially for me. The truth is though that there are times when you should just step away from the keyboard – or cell phone as the case may be. If you are using Twitter for professional purposes, then you really don’t want to tweet when you are inebriated, under medication, or very late at night. The Internet has a very long memory and the things you say have a way of coming back to haunt you. Additionally, people who are following you for your professional wisdom may get tired of hearing about where you are going to lunch. Sure you need to inject some humanity and humor into your messages, just be careful not to overdo it.
Twitter can be daunting so take it slow but don’t give up. And don’t forget to follow me and send me a tweet!