Twitter is like talking. It's a lot like public speaking, in fact. And it's a lot like in-person business networking.
I've been on Twitter now since mid-2008 and have read lots of "etiquette" articles and "how to" articles on the proper use of Twitter. Bottom line is that you use it how it works best for you. If you want to talk about what you eat, do so, and I will probably follow you! A lot of conventional wisdom about who you should follow and why is just bunk.
There are some basic considerations when you've decided to use Twitter to promote your business, and I'm going to make this simple.
If you are tweeting for business and you show up for a few minutes here and there to drop a pithy bomb, you're missing the point! Twitter is about connecting, not one-way communication. If you want measurable results from Twitter, here's the first one: You're getting results when people interact with you. If there's no interaction, you're not making much of a dent.
Here are my top five tips for common courtesy and making connections on Twitter -- and actually helping your business instead of hurting it.
(You'll notice that I'm referring to features and links on the Twitter site. If you are using TweetDeck or another desktop application and you don't know how to do these things yet, go to the site's help page or send me an e-mail and I'll help you!)
1. Reply when people talk to you.
Don't be that person who pops in, tweets a bunch of specials, sales, brilliant quotes or your latest workshop, then disappears. There's a feature called @reply -- use it!
|Click @Connect to get to your Mentions|
Let's say you're a speaker giving a presentation. An audience member raises her hand to ask a question. You keep speaking as though she's not there.
Is that good business? Well that's what you're doing when you ignore the @reply feature in Twitter.
If you don't know where it is, look at the red arrow above (click on the image to expand it). First, click on @Connect to find your mentions. Now click on Mentions.
When you click on that link, you'll see all the people who've talked to you or about you. If you're in business, you don't want to miss these conversations.
2. Retweet the good stuff
When you get an e-mail that has valuable or interesting information (okay, sometimes it's just funny and stupid), you forward it. When someone tells you something useful and helpful, you pass it along by word of mouth. Do the same thing for your followers on Twitter.
First, you show the person you're retweeting that you're paying attention, that you respect what they have to say, and that what they have to say is worth repeating. This is a great way to build a relationship with someone.
Second, you show your followers that you value them and want to give value to them, and that it doesn't always have to come from your own brilliant mind.
Just click the link below the post that says "retweet." You'll have to hold your cursor below the post for the retweet option to show up. If you're using a desktop application, you will also be able to edit the retweet before you send it. It's nice to add commentary so you don't look like a bot.
3. Initiate conversations with people
A real-world example of the problem is perhaps a speaker giving a long lecture with no interaction. Or a person at a networking event shoving business cards into everyone's hands, but having no conversations. Or hey, maybe a filibuster.
The point is, if you have a lengthy stream of tweets where you're making lots of statements, but you're not actually talking to people directly, you're not going to be a very attractive prospect to follow. Why would someone want to follow you when you are basically talking to yourself?
Read other people's tweets and respond to them. In Twitter, you do that by clicking "reply" below their tweet.
Similar to retweeting, it shows that you're paying attention to other people, that you're interested in what they have to say, and that it's not all about you. Sound familiar?
4. Ask for help and give help
One of the best ways to make connections on Twitter is to use it as a resource. Having trouble figuring out some Blogger widget? Ask for help from your followers on Twitter. Wondering where the best place is for sushi in your town? Ask your followers to help you.
You'll meet so many people this way, people who are friendly and giving. You'll meet people who have shared interests. And you'll meet people who have merely seen your conversation with someone they follow. Then do the same in return. If you see someone asking a question, can you answer it? Be a giver on Twitter. People will appreciate your assistance and you will gain a reputation for being someone worth following.
5. Get personal
You don't have to tell your deepest, darkest secrets. You don't have to mention it every time you have a cup of coffee. And you don't have to reveal anything you don't want to.
But it's okay to be yourself. It's okay to add a snippet here and there of your personal life, so you don't come across as a robot. People want to get to know you. They don't just buy your product or service, they buy you. Post a picture of your dog now and then. Share your favorite eggnog recipe. Tell us about your trip to Australia. We're interested. And if someone doesn't want to know, they'll unfollow you. It's not the end of the world.
Tweeting is like talking, it's like public speaking, it's like business networking. It's not like a filibuster and it's not about one-way communication. Make the effort to get to know your followers, and they will want to get to know you in return. And then maybe they'll even do business with you!