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Twitter Rediscovered: The Why, What, And When Of Microblogging

A few months ago I started using Twitter. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration. I created a profile and I tweeted a few times, but I really struggled to understand the concept or even really like it.

A few months ago I started using Twitter. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration. I created a profile and I tweeted a few times, but I really struggled to understand the concept or even really like it.

I decided that my journalism background was making it difficult for me to transition into the world of micro-blogging—and really validate any worth from 140-character updates. But as a generational expert, I knew I had to learn more about Twitter and why younger generations are using it.

So I delved into researching the Twitter phenomenon to answer for myself—and others—why tweet onTwitter? Yes, celebrities as diverse as Richard Branson and Britney Spears are using Twitter to tout their appearances and correspond with fans. But what’s in it for me besides access to lots of idle chitchat?

And I discovered that Twitter is SO much more than a microblogging platform. Twitter is actually a very complex tool that is changing the way we do business and companies can and are generating real ROI from it.

Here’s a quick guide to maximizing your tweeting time.

WHY TWITTER?Twitter, the popular micromessaging service, launched in 2007 and is the fastest-growing social media service. Its user base grew by a whopping 1,841% in 2008, to 14 million.

Twitter is considered the most conversational medium in the world. It’s immediate, public, and searchable.

Twitter — which can be used on any cell phone or computer — has been a hit almost since its inception, but businesses have really delved into Twitter in the past year. For example, @Comcast has set up what has effectively become a help desk on Twitter, while @JetBlue, @Zappos, and @Starbucks interact with hundreds of thousands of their followers.

It’s never been easier to communicate about your company or to know what others are saying about your company.

WHAT TO DOTwitter doesn’t cost a dime. The only investment is time. Simply create a profile with a Twitter ID (all Twitter IDs start with “@”) and subscribe to (or “follow”) the 140-character updates (or “tweets”) of anyone you can find who seems interested in your industry.

Here are the best practices for posting business tweets on Twitter:

Consider your brand.Start by creating a branded company Twitter profile.  Assign a key person(s) to post news, job posts, articles, and other relevant business information.

Follow everyone on your staff who uses Twitter. Follow colleagues in related companies and in your industry. Follow relevant brands and journalists and pundits in your market, even those who compete with you. It’s polite to follow people. And by following people you are creating an ecosystem—people will see who you are following and consider those as suggestions for users they should follow as well.

The key is to share timely and relevant information and to be conversational and genuine. Use the service as an advertising channel or newswire for press releases, and you’ll blow your chances with a lot of users.

Start tweeting.Don’t be a Twitter wallflower. Engage in conversation with the people you are following and your followers. Then, when you need to speak with someone about an opportunity, you’ve already established rapport.

Be varied and creative in your tweets. To keep it real and not boring or spam-like, tweet on a variety of topics including industry-related items of interest and sprinkle in the occasional personal tweets.

Consider searchability.First, follow @hashtags on Twitter. They will follow you back automatically, and your hashtags will be tracked. Next, start using hashtags (#)in your tweets, preceding key words. It can be helpful to do a little research first, to find out if the subject you’re tweeting already has an established hashtag. Track other tweets on the subjects you’re interested in (ie: those containing the appropriate hashtags) by browsing/searching at Hashtags.orgTwitterGroups, or Twemes, which provide real-time tracking of Twitter hashtags.

Help your searches by using a third-party tool such as TweetBeep, which alerts you to tweets relevant to your search. Or you may want to download Tweetdeckto organize tweets.

Twitter Search is an incredible tool that allows you to find virtually anything and anyone by adding the ability to search for key words, locations, phrases, and more!  Type in any word and you’re guaranteed to get real-time results.  

Get retweeted.If you say something interesting or useful on Twitter, other users can re-post the information using RT (which is short for retweet). This is a great way to get your information spread far and wide. A good rule of thumb is to retweet every 15 times for every one retweet you hope to receive.

Track every sale.Sure, Twitter’s relatively cheap, but you still want to know you’re getting something for the human effort. Try Twitter promotions and see if it makes a difference in revenue.

@DellOutlethas been one of the biggest success stories amongst big companies using social media. This account owned by Dell tweets out major discounts for Dell computers and products. All of the deals on @DellOutlet are Twitter-exclusive. Twitter’s phenomenal growth and Dell’s social savvy have pushed sales from @DellOutlet to over $2 million after about 18 months of tweeting.

Sell last-minute inventory.Twitter’s immediacy is its biggest strength — so use it to pump up business during lulls or discount last-minute unsold goods. Use LocalTweeps,a local Twitter directory, to find same-day deals via Twitter.

WHENExperts recommend tweeting between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pacific time. The West Coast is up and at work and the East Coast is eating lunch at their desks and checking Twitter.

Another rule of thumb: Limit Twitter usage to a maximum of 30 minutes a day. During that time, follow relevant industry peers and search for anyone mentioning your company or keywords and topics of interest. These are tweets that might lead to new business.

Other TipsTwitter doesn’t offer an official picture posting feature of its own, however, most people use a third party application called TwitPicJust enter your Twitter user name and password to get an email address you can send pictures to.

Get Satisfactionis a great site that people use to help each other figure out problems on Twitter.  They call it “people powered customer service” because people are there, helping each other out.  If you’re looking for help using Twitter from other Twitter users, this is a great resource. If you’re looking for official Twitter Support, you’ll find it by clicking on the Help link from twitter.com.

Mr. Tweet automatically generates lists of potential connections to take some of the hunting out of finding new Twitter contacts. All you have to do is follow @MrTweet, and he’ll provide you with a link to a site where you can view a list of matches made based on your tweeting habits and profile.

Tweet O’Clock crunches the numbers for you so that you can quickly and easily find the time during which someone is most likely to respond to contact via Twitter. All you have to do is type in a user name, and it spits out the day of the week, and the time during that day when they are most likely to be monitoring and responding to tweets.

With millions of people using Twitter each and every day, Twitter is a constantly evolving tool that has become increasingly important for communicating with the world, finding new business leads, and even generating sales.

I never would have thought that was possible to achieve in just 140 characters! I thought wrong.

Follow me on Twitter!

@SarahSladek@RockStarsatWork@XYZUniversity

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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