Be a Model Twitizen: A Twitter How-To
by LaSara Firefox, MPNLP, www.lasarafirefox.com,
(Follow me: http://www.twitter.com/Yoga_Mama)
I was skeptical at first, but now Twitter is my golden city. As a busy mom and entrepreneur, I can take a few minutes and digest a handful of posts from my favorite Twitter friends, or post a bite-sized delight about my own day – all condensed to 140 characters or less. Who doesn’t have time for that?
Yes, often those posts will contain a link that may lead to an off-site exploratory mission, but so far it’s the most organic and dynamic way I’ve found to keep to my finger on the quick-beating pulse of the magical and diverse interwebs, and at the same time keep a constant stream of interest in what I have to offer.
If you’re new to Twitter, or have yet to join the chorus, here are a few ground rules that will help you to make your tweets harmonious.
1. Follow me, and I’ll follow you…and vice-versa:
If I follow you, please do the community-oriented thing and follow me, too. That way it becomes a conversation, a collaboration, a community. For us dedicated tweeters, Twitter is about building relationships. Build one with me!
Most of us don’t tweet to hear the sound of our own voice. No one wants to be shouting into a well. Consider my follow an invitation into my world, as well as a tip of the hat to your skill in presenting a doorway into yours.
2. Write a good bio:
In the beginning, this tiny bio is all we know about each other. 160 characters of character. The bio is often an under-utilized aspect of Twitter. I’m encouraging a bio revival! Make me want to know you. (It’s great practice for your elevator pitch, too, right?)
I encourage you to include something about your openness to new followers, or the reason you’re on Twitter. I put “Follow me, I’ll follow you,” in my bio. If you only want people you already know to follow you, you can protect your updates. In addition, you could say “I only follow people I know.” This little step will save both of us time, energy, and pride.
In addition to the bio, there’s a spot for a url. Add a link to a place where I can find out more about you; your blog, your website, an article you’ve written, your facebook profile.
3. Building your “Twitterverse”:
The way to build your network is to follow people. Yet, you ideally want a good balance between following and followers. So there’s a rhythm to building your twitterverse. Here’s how mine goes:
a. Find prospective Twitter friends (see step 4 on some tips on that), and follow them.
b. Allow a few days for the prospective community member to follow me in return.
c. If they follow me back, I make personal contact through a direct message (aka, “dm”, see section 6 for more info) and all is good. If they don’t, I evaluate whether they’re worthwhile to follow without the benefit of a two-way conversation. If they are, I keep them on. If not, I unfollow them.
4. Finding your twitter-posse:
You want to follow people you find interesting. You want to be followed by people who will find you interesting. Whether this is for work, fun, community building, or all of the above, your skill in creating your personal Twitterverse predicts how rewarding your Twitter experience will be.
There are worlds of possibility in every moment, but even more so in Twitter. Bloggers, and moms, and marketers, oh my! Really, you can find followers and followees from all walks of life, and with interests that run the gamut. These people are going to be getting into your head, and introducing you to new worlds day by day. Choose accordingly!
First off, click on the Find People tab on your home page (upper right, see it? good!) you might want to follow your irl (in real life) friends. You can search them by name or e-mail address. You can also invite them to join twitter, if you think they’d enjoy the experience.
Next, you’ll want to choose a few terms that indicate shared interests. For me, those terms were mom, mommy, mama, momma, and the dad variations, too. Then yoga. You can either search by terms at http://search.twitter.com/, or you can use the Find People tab again.
When you search your terms, the search will bring up profiles that list terms in the Twitter user name, in a tweeter’s bio, or even sometimes in a tweeter’s tweets. I found pages and pages of members listed on most of the terms I searched.
I chose selectively from the tweeters listed. Some of the parameters I used to decide whether I should follow someone or not were;
- The date they last tweeted – if someone hasn’t been on in months, what are the chances they’ll respond to a follow alert from a stranger?
- What their most recent tweet said; for example, if the tweet said “Why the hell are all these strangers following me? Creepy!?!”, that member is not a likely candidate for community building!
- Their bio, and whether it sounded like we’d be a good match.
Most often I would choose not to follow people with protected updates, but in rare cases I’d risk it and request permission to follow. I recommend that you judge that one on a case-by-case basis.
Another way to find like-minded tweeters is to go to a like-minded tweeters page, and follow the tweeters they follow, and those who follow them. You can see bios by placing your cursor over a tweeter’s name.
I would follow as many tweeters as I felt inspired to in one fell swoop (I think my “following” list got up to around 2000 once), and see who followed back. After a few days, I’d go back check out which tweeters had responded, and go through the evaluation of whether I would keep following tweeters who had followed back, or not.
Through this strategy, I built my list of followers up to over 700 in a matter of days.
5. Ethics for business (and personal) networking:
Some disagree with me on this, but I believe that even – or perhaps especially – if “you” are a business, you should follow in return. Yes, Twitter is free advertising, and it’s SMART advertising – JetBlue, Zappos, Vans and thousands of entrepreneurs can’t be wrong!
But, as always, there needs to be some buy-in. In this case, imnsho (in my not so humble opinion), the buy-in is this; I’ll pay attention to your posts, but I expect you to pay attention to mine, too. It’s a give and take, baby!
Besides, think of the marketing information you’ll be able to gather. Two-way communication with your demographic is just plain smart business sense.
Also, it’s not good manners to follow me, and then turn around and unfollow me when you think I’m not looking. I will come back and check from time to time, to see if those I follow are following me. (I do the same for those who are following me, too. I go and check my followers and make sure I’ve returned the follow.)
Not only that, there are tons of third party systems coming into being that are created to augment the Twitter experience. One of these even helps twitterers keep track of their follower activity. And, there are sure to be more of them as time goes by, and Twitter’s popularity continues to soar to new heights.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, but I generally don’t follow those who aren’t willing to follow me in return. I cast a line out, and if you grab hold I’ll hang on too. However, if there’s no resultant tug on the rope, I’ll reel it back in and cast in another direction.
If you have something amazing to say, and I just can’t live without your voice, I’ll stick around. But I tell you, it’s so much more fun when we can all sing out together!
6. A few easy commands that will be useful to know:
@username: this creates an automatic link to a tweeter’s profile, and alerts the user that you have sent a public post that cites them. If you’re replying to a tweet, including @username (like @yoga_mama) is great. It both promotes the tweeter, and creates a connection between you and the tweeter in question.
#tag: (like #gratitude, #palin, #debate, etc.) makes it easy to search an item, and get all the tweets that are relevant. It’s also is an easy way to see relationships between tweets by multiple tweeters.
rt, or retweet: when you repost someone’s tweet, it’s proper to add “rt @username” and then the retweet. Basically, it’s a way to give credit where credit is due. And again, it promotes tweeters who are tweeting things you appreciate or agree with.
d username message: direct messages are the way to send a private note to another tweeter. Remember, it’s “d(space)username(space)message”. You’re only able to “dm” tweeters who are following you.
Twitter is a community. In some way more profoundly than any other networking site I’ve ever been part of, the tweeters I follow have worked their way into my heart.
Maybe it’s the often unguarded, haiku-like quality of the “microblogging” experience. Maybe it’s the frequency with which I see the words of a given tweeter. Maybe it’s the fact that the Twitter experience has the contour and context of a conversation drifting in through the kitchen window.
And this in a country (the USA) where we often don’t have a sister or best friend living next door, or a neighbor we could easily ask for advice on a moment’s notice. Much less, hundreds of neighbors, many of whom might send well wishes when you need them, and heartfelt advice when you ask for it. (Or, just like any family, sometimes even when you don’t!)
Twitter has brought us into one another’s living rooms. It’s allowed us to share our vacations, our kid’s Big Game, our successes and heartbreaks.
It’s opened a window into a community that never goes to sleep – tweeters live all over the world, as one tweeter tweets her last missive of the night, another wakes up to a brilliant new day. A community that is always willing to give a shout out, send a smile, talk about politics, and lift one another up in a challenging moment.
Remember this as you build your personal Twitterverse. You are creating a new world, from nothing. Build it, grow it, nurture it with intention and care. And you know, everything will be just right.
About the author:
LaSara FireFox, MPNLP, is a coach, trainer, and published author. LaSara helps clients find balance in their lives, and alignment with their personal and family-held values. She teaches and coaches internationally. She’s wife to an outstanding man, and mom to two brilliant girls.
You can find out more about LaSara at www.lasarafirefox.com. While you’re there, be sure to check out LaSara’s weekly conscious parenting podcast; Yoga Mama Satsangha.
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