December 18, 2009

5 ways to tweet like you mean it



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.

However...

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 put an ad in the local newspaper with your latest offering. A customer calls to get more specifics. You don't pick up the phone.

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!

14 comments. Please add yours! :

TechEase said...

This is a great primer on Twitter for businesses. The people I want to follow on Twitter do these things. When people don't reply, it discourages me from interacting again. And there's a reason they call it "social networking" not "advertising." How many people would choose to watch a TV channel that only showed commercials? People prefer channels that have interesting, engaging content. Your tips are a great rubric to keep in mind for us business Tweeters.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comment, Evan. You're right; even the channels that technically ARE all commercials, like QVC and HSN, make the content interesting and engage with their audience! See my post here: http://coachlisab.blogspot.com/2008/08/9-things-you-can-learn-from-home.html

Shari said...

Your article is very pertinent! I've really been using it for social networking, connecting with local business people and starting mini-businesses this way. I love promoting people so Retweeting is so beneficial for me. I'm going to Retweet this article and hope many more people read it!!! Thanks Lisa!!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks, Shari! I love promoting people, too. No reason to keep all that good social media to ourselves!

Kelsey said...

I got an auto-respond Direct Message from a photographer I had just started following...their message asked me a question about my photography education. I took the time to give him a detailed response, and asked him one simple question back, "You live in Minnesota, right?" (I asked because my sister lives there.)

He never responded. I was totally turned off, and I ended up blocking him. Why would he ask me a question if he was not going to answer my question??

Lisa, you are right on in this article!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I've had those same experiences, Kelsey. It makes me not want to patronize that person's business at minimum, and yes, sometimes unfollow or block.

Rey said...

Your comments summarize nicely (and diplomatically) what I have learned from being on Twitter.

For the last month we've been conducting an experiment to determine how large businesses are using Twitter.

So far the results appear to reveal that most of these businesses are missing an opportunity to connect, respond, shine, or build an extended customer base. Mostly they just promote their own products; in other words they use Twitter as a promotional tool and seem little interested in engagement, consumer education, or providing quality service.

We have two more months to go in the experiment. If any of your readers are interested in taking part here's one way they can help. Mention a company (such as Best Buy, Ford, Xerox, IBM, etc) and include this hastag: #EXP2009. Then find out if the company mentioned contacts you, replies to your tweet, or in some cases retweets.

The reason we're asking to include the #EXP2009 hashtag is so it will be easy for people to track the different ways people are mentioning companies and getting or not getting any response.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

This is fascinating, Rey. I'll repost your comment on a Twitwall, if you don't mind, and tweet it out to the twitterverse!

Linda Menesez said...

Lisa, this is such a great article. You've said everything that I've been thinking ever since I joined Twitter. I just don't understand what people are thinking! I'm not interested in people's monologues or their non-stop commercials, and I don't think many other people are either.

I believe so much in the power of relationships, and that's what I enjoy about Twitter. It gives me the opportunity to "meet and get to know" so many people that I would never meet ordinarily. I've been able to form some great connections.

As Kelsey mentioned, I've also written comments, or asked questions of people on Twitter and never heard back from them. That is just plain bad manners.

Thanks for writing such a concise, honest, article on Twitter communication. It's much needed.

Linda

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you for your comment, Linda. I guess Twitter is just like real life: some people don't know how to cultivate relationships. Something tells me they have the same kinds of relationships outside of Twitter. :-)

Kathy Reiffenstein said...

Lisa, this is a great post. I really like the comparison between tweeting and making presentations...there are indeed a bunch of parallels. It just baffles me that so many people don't see the power of Twitter for building relationships!

And to further the conversation, I'm going to tweet this!

Kathy

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comment and your tweet, Kathy!

Jennifer Conaway said...

I have been pleasantly surprised at how many people really do respond to tweets and retweet original information. I've been able to create quite a few relationships via tweeting and believe that really is the best way to use a 'social' media tool.

It's a great way to support those you appreciate, to help folks regardless of where they are and to put your best self forward.

Thanks for the great article!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I agree, Jennifer. There are a lot of great people on Twitter who are interested in connecting. Those relationships can blossom into so much more, both professionally and personally!

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