Sometimes it seems all the world is abuzz about Twitter. Television, websites and other media mention it continually. (If you are still unclear why you and your organization should engage in social media, see my previous post on Targeting Your Social Media Efforts.)
For those who haven’t yet jumped into tweeting and those who want to expand their use of Twitter, questions remain. Bear with me as I explain for the Noobs.
What is Twitter? It’s a social network that produces an information stream of short bursts of content (and links). By scanning this conversation, you see real-time news, information and insights from people you know and those you don’t know. Messages are limited to 140 characters or less. (This is changing – as a TweetDeck service now allows for longer Tweets, but that’s another story.)
Chiefly, you might be asking where do I go from here? Here’s four steps to get you started.
[Side note: While I am a firm believe in reading the manual, doing research, and doing deep thinking, Twitter is one of those things that one learns best through experience.]
1. Listen. Listening is so important. Social media is a conversation. You will be speaking with your stakeholders just as you would at an event or open house. Before you spout off your elevator pitch, you would listen to what the person is saying, what she needs, where she is coming from. You also might attend a presentation and hear an expert speak. Likewise you can follow experts in your field on Twitter and gain from their wisdom.
So to start listening on Twitter, you need an account. If your organization doesn’t want to set up an account and not use it, then set up a personal one or a test account. Then, follow people. Not too many because this can easily get overwhelming, There is no requirement that you Tweet (or send a message). You can just observe before jumping in. Use the search tool to find what people are saying about your organization (if anything) or your areas of interest.
2. Adjust Your Attitude. Twitter is not something that you are going to “get” in a day. It takes time. It is not an information source that is formatted or organized for you. It is not like the newspaper where you read the whole news section. I like blogger Leo Babauta’s description that he manages Twitter by thinking of it as a river of information that he wades into at a certain time. No need to stress if you didn’t read every Tweet from every person you follow.
Caveat – if Twitter users ask you questions or make comments to your organization, you should be prepared to reply. It doesn’t matter if you don’t Tweet much, but it does matter if you ignore your audience.
3. Educate Yourself. Reading this should not be end of your learning. Here’s a couple of resources that have background and helpful tips: Tweeternet, Using Twitter for Business, Ten Things You Must Know Before Using Twitter and The Great Twitter Experiment.
4. Develop a Strategy and Policy.Once you get a handle on what Twitter is and what it does, devise an approach. It doesn’t need to be uber-formal, but you need to have one. At minimum, since Twitter can be a source of traffic to your website, make sure you send a Tweet when news updates are added to your site, and include a link. But start to brainstorm how you are going to expand your Twitter use and gain followers. Are you going to Tweet announcements or events? How frequently? Are you going to RT (Retweet) others? Who is going to be your Twitter leader? How is your organization going to respond to questions? Think about how you are going to Kickstart Your Twitter Influence.
I assume that most folks are working within an organization, so there is a need for a social media policy. Get yourself and your team on the same page by establishing a policy that everyone can follow. Lots of other businesses and groups’ policies are available to use as a model.