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What Is Twitter? I Am Lost! by Beth Cole

May 14th, 2009 | By | Category: Web Marketing

tweetIf you feel lost when it comes to Twitter, you are not alone and it is okay! There have been lots of articles written about Twitter, but in the big picture, Twitter is really new and I hear quite a few “what is Twitter?” questions. So here is my attempt at a quick little snapshot.

You know what it’s like to go to a party, right, there are lots of little conversations happening all around the room. You see someone you know and you say “hi”, and start a conversation, then someone else may pop in, then you see someone else and say “hi” to them, etc.

That is what Twitter is like (kinda sorta).

Twitter is a microblogging platform where you can share information, ask questions, answer questions and generally socialize in 140 characters or less. There are lots of conversations happening all at once. You may join in a conversation by replying to someone’s “tweet”, or you can start a new conversation, or reply privately to someone so no one else sees your response.

What are the benefits to Twitter?

Many businesses use Twitter as a customer service tool to let people know they are responsive to issues/gripes, whatever. Since most of us don’t even have a customer service department, I think the main ways we can benefit from Twitter are the following:

  • To find experts and advice (ie. how do I make a Facebook page?)
  • To connect with others in your industry (are you going to the conference next week?)
  • To get a read on what people are interested and talking about (great products start with needs)
  • To serve (I know the answer to that)
  • To listen to how others answer questions and weigh in (I never thought of that)
  • To have fun! There are some really witty people on Twitter (try @badbanana and @jnswanson)

Joining in the conversation

How can you join a conversation and find new prospects without feeling weird?

One way is to use Twitter search. Below the search box you will see the top phrases for which people are searching, great information about what’s top of mind with folks.

Using search will help you get a feel for what people are talking about within your industry. For example, if you are a career coach, type in “new career” without the quotes, and you will see recent conversations in which people talked about getting a new career, offers for new careers, books about new careers, etc. Phrases with the # hash mark are a way to organize all the comments pertaining to that subject. At the top of the right column you will see the RSS feed icon for your search. When you subscribe to this feed, you will be able to stay up on all Twitter posts that contain the phrase “new career.”

When you find someone with a career question or issue, you can offer help or a solution using the “Reply” link. Remember, givers gain 🙂

To take this a step further, try TweetBeep, an “alert” service similar to Google Alerts, that will alert you when someone mentions your name, company name or chosen phrase on Twitter.

Not only can you use Twitter search to find prospects, you can also use it to find mentions of your company, products, or stuff in which you are interested.

I have found project partners and new prospects using this technique, hope it is useful for you, too.

Who should I follow?

To get started “following” people I recommend finding someone you know and trust. Then see who that person is following. You may also use the search function to find people geographically or within your industry that you want to keep up with. There are listings of must-follow people, but to be honest, I would rather make my own decisions based on who I know, like and trust.

There are a umpteen downloadable third party tools to manage your Twitter account (TweetDeck, Twhirl, Seesmic). These tools will help you be selective about your tweets and post to your Twitter account and/or Facebook account from your desktop. There are also applications for the iPhone and Blackberry so you can tweet on the go (hmmmm, not for me).

That’s about it for me. What are your thoughts about Twitter and how do you use it?

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One Response to “What Is Twitter? I Am Lost! by Beth Cole”

  1. SusanFleming says:

    That’s a great overview of Twitter, Beth — very helpful. Here are a couple of things I’ve found, as well:

    1. Firefox is my browser of choice, and I’ve added TwitterFox to it. The icon lives down on the bottom corner of my Firefox window (which is always open, of course). It lets me know how many tweets have arrived and if I have any direct replies or messages. I don’t have to keep a tab open for Twitter, and I can see at a glance what’s going on.

    2. The other thing I’ve found is that Twitter is like instant networking in some ways. When I follow a trail and find that Kim is following Janet, who is following Helen and… oh my goodness, Helen is exactly who I have been looking for to talk with about a project! I didn’t have to ask for introductions or wait for them — I was able to connect immediately.

    Twitter is great, but like so many other thing in our lives, we have to manage it, or it will manage us. So go and tweet well!

    Thanks again for the helpful insights, Beth.

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