Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Care to Tweet?

Sharon Wildwind

I came, I saw, I tweeted, though to be absolutely correct for me it should read, I came, I saw, I will tweet (conditional tense) if I ever figure out how Twitter works, which would be Veni, vidi, ego Tweet si unquam instar sicco quomodo Twitter operatur. That’s probably a little long for a T-shirt.

I am on a quest to understand and use Twitter as a business tool. Yes, we can do tons of non-business stuff on Twitter, but for now I’m sticking to business. Literally. In a nutshell, this is what I’ve learned so far about doing business on Twitter.

Twitter is all about playing it forward. Hashtags are far more important than followers. Lists are so, so helpful. Post 1 to 4 times a day. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the high traffic days for Twitter. It’s not only okay, it’s recommended to repost Tweets. Reposting is not the same thing as retweeting. Retweeting is not the same thing as going via. It’s a good idea to leave about 15 characters for retweeting. Shortening on-line addresses is essential. So is adding your opinion.

Playing it forward. I’m going to use a lot of party examples today, so imagine you attended a terrific party. You tell your significant other, “It was a great party. Someone recommended a book that sounds fascinating. There was a lively discussion about preserving old buildings in Calgary, and an artist I know is having an exhibit in two weeks.”

Twitter is basically a big party, happening 140 characters at a time. I want to meet as many people as I can at the party, so that means I need hundreds of followers, right? Actually, it’s the opposite. I want to follow a maximum of 40 to 50 individuals or groups because I’ve read it’s almost impossible to give real attention to more than that. How can I meet a lot of people if I’m only following 50?

This is a hashtag: #, and it’s far more useful that a follower. If I tweet, I reach my 50 followers. If I tweet the same message and add a hashtag such as #books or #amwriting on the end, I reach my 50 followers plus the hundreds/thousands of people who follow the hashtag.

Even with 50 guests, it’s a crowded party. People have gathered in small groups to talk politics, art, cats, new diets, and the pros and cons of spending the winter in Arizona. Tonight I want to talk art, so I cruise the room, looking for the art conversation.

I can do the same thing on Twitter by using lists. Messages on my home screen are stacked in the order they arrive. That's confusing, so I’ve organized people I follow into three lists that I’ve chosen to call Writing, Art, and Social Media.

If I want art today, I go to my Art list. Maybe later I’ll check the other two lists, maybe not. I don’t have to visit every list every day to stay current.

Ever been at a party with a conversation hog? Whatever the conversation, she’s interested in talking about two things. Herself and her opinions. Gets boring after a while, doesn’t it? This is one area where there are two schools of thought. Some Tweeters want to broadcast their every activity from brushing their teeth, to what they are having for breakfast, to finding a piece of gum on the sidewalk in the shape of a beer bottle.

Basically, I don’t care. It goes back to that business thing. I want people to know my name. I want them to know I am connected to mystery writing and art. That creativity and saging, particularly as they relate to older people, interests me. That I read. That some people and things inspire me. That inspiration should be shared. I can do all of that in 4 tweets or less a day.

Notice anything missing? I haven't said a word about wanting to publish and sell books, which is my ultimate goal, as well as have people pay me to do things like editing, contributing to books, and perhaps hire me as a speaker. What I listed in the previous paragraph is about engagement. Engagement sells, but selling doesn't engage.

Social media permits engagement twenty-four hours a day. It’s always someone’s day even if it’s my night. If I Tweet at 2:00 AM, someone will be awake to read it. However, since the average life span of a Tweet is 5 minutes, I’m not going to reach people who are asleep. So later in the day, I’ll send out the same message again. Or maybe I have an upcoming event, and I’ll send out a notice about that event every few days until the big day arrives. That’s called reposting.

Frequently people and things that inspire me come from Tweets other people have sent me, and I want to play those messages forward. Plus I always, always want to add my opinion about what I send on. Simply retweeting without comment is lazy and doesn’t let me play a part in the discussion.

I have to decide if I’m going to retweet or go via. Here's what those choices mean.

Hopefully, the original sender has done two things: left me some of the 140 characters to play with, and used a service like bitly to shorten all URLs in the message. If they have, I can probably use retweeting.

If not, or if I want to make a long comment, I have to shorten the original message, which is called going via.

Here’s an example of how they both work.

Original message
Commuting By Taking The Bus vs Compared To Driving A Car - Cost and Effects On Pollution, http://thegirls.hubpages.com/hub/Gas-vs-Bus

This is 133 characters, which doesn’t leave me room to retweet and make a comment. Etiquette says always give credit for the original link, so even though I’d like to shorten the link, best not to unless I get in touch with the original poster and ask if it’s okay.

Here's my retweeted message.
RT@original poster Commuting By Taking The Bus vs Compared To Driving A Car - Cost and Effects On Pollution, http://thegirls.hubpages.com/hub/Gas-vs-Bus

The original poster hasn’t given me permission to use her name, but ordinarily you’d find her Twitter name where I put “original poster.”

I could send the message on like this, but there's no room for my comment, and I don't like that.

I contact the poster and she says, sure, shorten the link all you want. I pass http://thegirls.hubpages.com/hub/Gas-vs-Bus through bitly and get bitly/QQXTsh. How did bitly do that? I don’t know. Magic? It works and that’s all I care about.

Here's my rewrite, including credit to the original poster, a shortened URL, and a comment to show I support the material in the article.

Commuting? Bus wins over car: carbon footprint, mental health, exercise, safety. Go Bus! bitly/QQXTsh (via @ original poster @sharww)

This is the same number of characters as the original message, but I’ve personalized it before going via with it. @sharww, incidentally, is my Twitter name. Blogger may have a way to make Twitter names clickable, but I haven't discovered it yet. You're going to have to type it in if you want to find me. Sorry for the bother.
Quote for the week
Twitter = Where I’m honest with strangers.
~ Poster not identified; Twitter quote


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Just emailed you my survey, Sharon. I hope others do the same. I'd never heard of information silos before your last post--very Big Brother.

JJM said...

E-mailed mine as well. Not entirely surprisingly, I got the same results at work as I did at home, with one difference: a Facebook page link showed up as the #4 on my default search engine at work, but not in the second search engine; it didn't show up on the search from home in either search engine. With my schedule (I'm already way late for bed!), I don't have the time for FB from home during the work week, so, cumulatively, I do use it more from work ...

Hmm. --Mario R.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to both of you for participating. So far I have one close match, but no identical search results.