Twitter Pointers To Be Taken Seriously

Twitter JobsTwitter 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
    1. 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!


Handy Utilities

Presented here for your approval are a few handy free web-based utilities that will help with some bothersome tasks. None of these utilities is complicated or difficult to use. They are also probably not something you are going to use every day. But, when you need the service they have to offer, you usually need it badly and quickly!

Web UtiltitiesThe first is CometDocs which will convert documents from one format to another. The most powerful conversion in my book is the conversion of PDF files to Word or text documents. Not only does this make all those frustrating read-only files editable, but it maintains the formatting and is far less prone to error than OCR. I have tried this conversion on multiple documents and have had consistent success. Beyond converting PDFs, CometDocs can transfer between all sorts of Office and Graphics files. The utility is quite easy to use in that after the free sign up, all you do is upload the file to the service and it is email back to you.

Another on-line utility that I use all the time is WordOff. When you generate html files for a website with Microsoft Word, Word puts tons of extra code in the document that not only bloats the file, but can also mess up the formatting. WordOff just strips all that extra Microsoft Formatting out. Just the kind of utility I like – a one trick pony that does that trick to perfection.

Finally, a service called DialMyCalls is excellent if you need to keep groups of people updated by phone on news, events, or statuses. After signing up, you can record short phone messages of up to 30 seconds and the service will then broadcast that message out to the list of phone numbers you establish. DialMyCalls is free for one message per day to up to 25 people. That would roughly cover a small office or youth soccer team. If you need more people or messages, you can sign up for the pay service at rates of 7 cents per call or less. A great time saver if you have lots of calls to make and also don’t want to get caught talking to lots of people because you have work to do!

So there you have some useful tools that can help solve that one particular problem you might be having. Bookmark them and store them away under “Web Tools” and just pull them out of the toolbox when needed. And don’t forget about DropBox for online file storage and sychronization and Mozy for backups. All free, and all great.

Software and Hardware for Non-Profits

If you are involved with a not-for-profit or charity organization of any sort, from school or church to community outreach or civic charity, you know how tight funding can be and how hard it can be to get the computer equipment and software that you need. What you probably didn’t know is that companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Symantec, and Intuit donate millions of dollars in software to organizations just like yours. The problem is just getting your hands on it. That is where TechSoup comes in.

TechSoupTechSoup is an organization dedicated to getting software and hardware to the not-for-profit organizations who need it. They process the requests, do most of the legwork, and get you what you need to get your mission accomplished. Think of this, Microsoft Office for the Mac is normally between $150 and $250. For the processing and licensing fee of $16, your non-profit can get a copy that was donated by Microsoft. Adobe Illustrator, the vector based graphics program, normally would cost you about $300 to $400. The administration fee for Adobe Illustrator is just $55.

And TechSoup can also help you get hardware and training. If you look on their site you will find everything from training material teaching you how to use the technology to discussion boards where other nonprofit organizations help each other. Recent posting have covered topics as diverse as electing the right accounting program for a church to how to reduce paper use to control costs and how to write a grant proposal to get new camera equipment for schools.

The resources are out there. If you are a non-profit, you can’t afford not to check them out. And while you are on the site, subscribe to their newsletter! It is stocked full of great tips, recent offerings, and the latest news.

Why Are You Promoting Someone Else's Business?

When you get your company letterhead printed, would you put an ad for someone else on it? When you answer the phone, would you tell who your phone company or mortgage holder is before talking to the client? Of course not, you want your business to be about you and your connection with your clients and vendors. Then why are you letting your Internet service provider come between you? Why are you buying advertising for the company you buy your Internet connection from?

email symbolWhat I am talking about here is your email address. Even if you don’t have your own website, which you should, you should have your own email address. Why should you be advertising AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, GMail or any other email provider instead of yourself? It is a very simple matter to set up a rule with whomever your web host is to forward any mail that comes to your domain’s mailbox to the mailbox you are currently using. In other words, if your domain name is “” then you could have “” as an email address that simply forwards to your current account on AOL, Yahoo or wherever. And as long as you make sure to set your return address in your email program to “” no one will ever be the wiser.

Another thing you can do is map multiple address to a single end account. This means that you can make your small business seem large by having different addresses like “”, “” and “” all as valid emails, but in reality they just go to your one main account. This is great for a growing company because as those positions actually come into existence the address can just be re-pointed to the new hire. The outside address never changes.

And that brings up another reason to do this email mapping. How many times have you changed email providers? Perhaps you moved out of Comcast’s area and now use AT&T. So your email address changed. Or maybe you simply outgrew the smaller residential service and needed a truly robust solution. Whatever the reason, every time you change your email provider then your customers need to be notified, your business cards need to be changed, your letterhead has to change, your website has to change… well, you get the picture. But, if you use your own domain’s email addressing, then you are always in control. If you move email providers there is no problem. The pointer for “” is redirected from “” to “” and nothing for your customers, vendors, or other contacts need to change.

What does all of this cost? If you own your own domain name or website you are probably already paying for it. If you need someone’s help to do the work there may be a small charge, but it would be very small. Of course there will be that initial change when you let all your contacts know your new email, but you can tell them that this will be the last time you will ever do so. What a relief to everyone involved. And, from then on, when they see your emails your brand will be reinforced – and you will be advertising yourself instead of someone else.

Rules of computing happiness

Thanks to Twitter and a post by @timoreilly, I found a post by @al3x on “Rules for Computing Happiness.” There is some very good stuff in that post. And while a lot of it is aimed at the geekier among us, there are a few that stand out for everyone. The first three fall into that category…

  1. Use as little software as possible.
  2. Use software that does one thing well.
  3. Do not use software that does many things poorly.

Too many times I see people with tons of software on their computers and much of it interferes with some other piece of software. Or they buy Microsoft Office Enterprise Edition with Multimedia Extensions … because they need a word processor. If all you need is a word processor, then buy just that, and not everything else.

There are a bunch of other good ideas on that list. Again, it is aimed at the geekier among us and at Mac users, but I really believe all computer users can take something away from it.

Do you have any more rules or ideas for computing happiness? Please share with us and hopefully we can all be a bit happier in our digital relations.