Getting on Board The Twitter Train

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As one of WIC’s Social Media Co-Chairs, I’ve been keeping my eye open for speaking events from users of social media. I was particularly interested in users that were perhaps not ‘power users’, or social media experts, but users that were a little more like you and I. Or perhaps, more like we’d like to be.

Last week I found just the thing: EBWIBR’s monthly luncheon. EBWIBR (East Bay Women In Business Roundtable) is a division of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and this event was a luncheon which featured copywriters Nancy Friedman (Wordworking.com) and Kelly Parkinson (Copylicious.com) who spoke on Twitter and LinkedIn, respectively. The event was well attended (sold out) and I found the speakers to be both engaging and very informative, with eye-opening personal experiences when it comes to leveraging social media. I saw several women in the room pulling out their laptops and cellphones to sign up for Twitter as I left. I left more convinced than ever that the ‘Twitter Train’ has left the station and that working your LinkedIn connections is a tool too many of us are leaving untapped.

Following is a recap of my notes from the meeting on Twitter (thank you, Nancy!) as well as a few other tips and observations I’ve picked up in the last few weeks since I’ve started researching social media B2B usage and viability. I’ll cover what I learned on LinkedIn from Kelly in my next post.

What is Twitter? Twitter is not a web site or a place. It is a moving sidewalk, a cocktail party. It’s a whole new way to talk to your clients and colleagues. It’s organic, it’s real and it’s lightening fast and usage is growing daily. Just recently, Twitter searches have overtaken Google searches. That is a significant milestone.

How do I sign up? Getting on board takes about the time it would take to create an email account (faster, depending on what client you’re using.) Twitter is permission-free. You can follow anyone you want (and there are a LOT of interesting people already on Twitter) and anyone can follow you. Don’t worry though, you can also block anyone from following you.

How do I use Twitter? Once you sign up, you’ll be directed to your Twitter account page with the question ‘What are you doing?’ and a field to enter your answer to that question. Note: do not feel obligated to confine your posts to answer that question alone; it’s no longer just about what you’re doing (keep reading.) You can post from your desktop, iPhone or Blackberry, etc. Posts are confined to 140 characters each (hello, copyediting and tinyurl.com) and as Nancy pointed out, confining oneself to 140 characters to communicate a thought, idea or comment is an excellent writing exercise. You should count on posting at least 5x/day to start. If that sounds overwhelming, try just a few a day to start and take it from there. Don’t overthink your posts. Be genuine and talk about what interests you or your current issues/needs. You may be surprised who is searching on the same terms you are writing about, and who will show up (sometimes very quickly) in your ‘Follower’ list once you start posting.

Tweeting comes more naturally to some people than others (more on that later), use it at your own pace and see what happens. Avoid sales pitches and tooting your horn; this isn’t the place for it. Ideally, you’d want other people to be tweeting about you. You can, however, use Twitter to ask questions, put out feelers for work you’d like to do, put out feelers for contractors or employees, talk to experts (people you might normally have a hard time reaching), publicize an event, post your thoughts/comments and respond to other Tweets. The point is to generate a cocktail-like feed of comments between you and everyone else at the ‘party.’ Nancy had another wonderful term for what happens on Twitter: “ambient intimacy.” She also alluded to it as the ‘well of water that exists before you turn on the tap’ which I thought summed up the Twitter phenomena very nicely.

How do I get started once I sign up? Sign up and start tweeting. Search for people you know who might be on Twitter. Search for people you don’t know but would like to know and start following them. Most people will not block you and you could soon find yourself tapped into a rich network of information to which you’ve never had access. Ask questions, tell your Twitter community what you need, and be surprised at how quickly you may get answers.

Nancy had a great tip on getting started: simply lurk and follow other Tweeters for a while to see how it’s done. Once you’ve gained some comfortableness and confidence, you can start your own posts. You may find yourself joining the conversation(s) sooner than you think!

Why should I sign up? I can think of at least 2 reasons why you should sign up, even if you’re not ready to start tweeting right away: 1/Branding: grab your personal or business name handle (or both) before someone else (or your competition) does. Kind of like getting your url before someone else does. 2/Twitter appears to be taking off. Even if usage flattens out at some point, it’s probably wiser to get on board sooner rather than later, especially if you work in the fields of Marketing, Design, Copywriting, PR, Web Development, etc.

Will I like it? You won’t know until you try. Approach Twitter (and all social media) with a playful, experimental, creative attitude. These are relatively new communication mediums and you might feel out of your comfort zone initially. Many Twitter users report becoming addicted one they start, however.

If you are a news junkie, you will most likely love Twitter. If you are a person who is overwhelmed by new information, no matter how small, you will probably need to go slowly and it may require some adjustment. Also, you may not like it and that’s okay too. There are many forms of social media networks these days; the idea is to find the one you like and you most likely will incorporate it naturally into your business communication.

Can I brand my Twitter page? Yes, you can! But that’s a post unto itself, so I’ll cover that in subsequent Twitter blog posts. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of using this wonderful new tool.

Feel free to look for me on Twitter, my handle is elevatainc. I look forward to seeing many of you there soon!

P.S. I updated my Twitter account last night and I’ve got 4 new followers in the last 24 hours. How’s that for fast networking?

rachel@elevatainc.com' About Rachel Cary

Rachel Cary is the Founder and Creative Director of Elevata Incorporated, a full-service print and web design firm in Oakland, CA. She has worked in the advertising & design industries since 1990 and her firm has won numerous awards for its work in both print and web design. Elevata specializes in corporate identity, print collateral, web design and custom web applications, including iPhone design and development.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the excellent wrap-up, Rachel. I hope you’ll devote your next post to Kelly’s presentation; she’s had some remarkable business results using LinkedIn’s InMail service.

    As for Twitter, there’s a growing group of Twittering WIC-sters (TWICsters?), and we’d love to see more of you! My Twitter handle is @fritinancy–same name as my blog. Sign up, follow me, and ask me questions. I love helping people find their footing in this exciting conversational medium.

  2. Thanks Rachel for the Twitter recap! On the “will you like it” point, Twitter is a great information resource–almost as useful as the WIC community ;-)–and this is from the “skeptic” of the group. The key to managing the information overload (especially as the number of people you follow increases) is to not obsess about missing tweets in the flow. It’s easy enough to see your @ and DM messages, and there are a lot of tools that make filtering easier, too.

    I look forward to seeing the recap of Kelly’s presentation, if you do that, as I had wanted to attend this luncheon.

  3. ayana@designspeak.com' ayana baltrip says:

    Nancy and Kelly were awe-inspiring at the EBWIBR Luncheon. I thank them both once again for two fabulous presentations, and I thank you, Rachel Cary for posting a great, and insightful followup. I will be reading your second part tomorrow–15 April (Yikes! Tax Due Day),

  4. Interesting blog post. What would you say was the most important marketing factor?

  5. Yes you are; please do include a link to http://www.womeninconsulting.org as attribution.
    Thank you, Jean Lombard, Online Marketing Director

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