Hey, everyone! Today we have a guest blogger! Woo-hoo. Many of you have been asking me about Tweeting, Twitter, The twitter-verse, etc. So, I thought I would have a buddy of mine write up a guide for all of you that may be a bit perplexed by all these Tweets that folks are talking about on the news as well as in daily conversation.
Penny Sansevieri is a dear friend of mine (everytime we are in the same city we go out to lunch to "catch up!") as well as my book agent (yes, it is possible!) and I learned so much from her in a 30 minute conversation about Twitter, I thought I would let her have the "floor" in letting you know her tricks and tips on working with this interesting, unique platform. These tips work well for the person who just wants to stay in touch with friends as well as for the businessperson wishing to extend their marketing model. Enjoy!
Twitter: A Beginner's Guide
There's a hot new trend going on right now and it's called micro-blogging. So what's a micro-blog? And moreover, what's Twitter? Twitter is a micro-blogger platform that allows users to create entries that are only 140 characters in length. These entries are referred to as "tweets". Originally designed to keep friends and family up to date on what you're doing, Twitter can also be a great place to share your latest book project, promotional ideas as well as interacting with fellow tweets (folks who twitter) and writers. And yes, you can have a blog and a Twitter page. I have both but I feed my blog into my Twitter site so that my Twitter page gets updated each time I add new content to my blog. There's an easy application to add your blog feed to Twitter, it takes just minutes to do. Head on over to: Twitterfeed, http://twitterfeed.com/. Don't feel bad if the first time you go to Twitter it seems like a mess of conversation, most people feel confused when they first enter Twitter-land and many don't see the point.
When I made my first entrance into micro-blogging none of it made sense to me. It seems a bit useless to be honest but then I got the hang of it and saw the real benefit to having and managing a Twitter account. That's really the key. Much like any social media tool we've discussed it's more than just having an account: you have to manage it too. But give yourself a little time on Twitter before you give up on it, at some point it'll either all make sense or it won't. Either way you're only out a few hours and, perhaps, a few informational tweets. Here's a quick start up guide to getting into the Twitterverse today:
1) To sign up for a Twitter account just go to www.twitter.comand complete their short sign up form. Accounts are free of course, you just have to fill out their form. Remember to brand yourself! This is important. Once you create a Twitter account you can't go back and change your name so find something that works for you. Maybe it's fictionwriter or businesswriter or whatever you want. My Twitter page is @bookgal, (note that all Twitter names are preceded by an @ when referenced on the site; you can also find me at http://twitter.com/bookgal) this is fun play on words for what I do (and what I love). I don't recommend that you use an underscore (so stay away from Michael_the_writer) since underscores can be tough to remember, and if someone is trying to tweet to you from their cell phone or blackberry those underscore keys can be tricky.
2) The email address you use for Twitter is important. Because of the nature of frequent communication on this site I recommend that you use an email that you check daily. Opportunities abound on Twitter and they're usually in the form of direct messages (DM) which you'll get notified of in your email account.
3) Get rid of the brown square: no one wants to follow an ugly brown square (which is the default picture Twitter gives you when you sign up) so be sure and upload a picture of yourself or whatever logo you want associated with your Twitter page and brand. Before you do this though check out some of the other pictures folks have used and see what resonates. Because you're easily branded to your picture on Twitter I don't recommend changing it once you've uploaded it. Also, the picture can't be too complex, you want to be able to see it small which is how most of the avatars show up.
4) All about you: don't forget to add your bio and web site. It's important to identify yourself on this site and remember if your Twitter followers want to know more about you they're likely to click on the bio info to get more background on you.
Now you're ready to start tweeting!
Once you have a Twitter account you can immediately enter into the conversation. You can also keep up with other people's tweets by "following" them. Their micro-blog entries will show up on your Twitter home page so you can easily keep track of them. You can also be notified by phone (text message) when they add a tweet. You can twitter from anywhere, even your phone. I've been known to twitter from my blackberry.
Why on Earth Would you Want to Twitter?
When Twitter first started, people were a little perplexed and, as I mentioned before, many first time Tweets just don't get it. I mean why on earth would you want to blog in 140 characters? Well since the site emerged in 2006, it's grown enormously in popularity. With Twitter pages from sites like CNN and every one of the political candidates, the site's popularity can't be overstated. Nor can its applications for the future. Also, even if you don't have a ton of people following your tweets, keep in mind that Twitter search sites are popping up everywhere. This means that if you tweet using keywords that matter to your reader/market, you could be found and followed! For one such search site check out: http://summize.com/ (there are numerous other ways to search and new ones popping up all the time). Also, if you're trying to gauge the popularity of a certain word or phrase and how often it's being used or referred to, you can head on over to Tweet Volume and find out, http://www.tweetvolume.com/. Just plug in your search term or terms and up will pop a list of results!
They key with Twitter isn't to land on the site and say "What can this site do for me" but rather ask yourself, "What can I do for the folks on this site?" For example, when I started Twittering on other helpful blogs and websites and linking to my own articles that I'd syndicated on the 'Net my followers doubled and tripled on a daily basis. When I plug in my keywords and respond a few times a day to questions people pose on Twitter and offer helpful advice, my followers increase again. One of the other things I did on the site was log onto Socialtoo.com and used the site to autofollow anyone who follows me, this site also sends a welcome message to everyone with a free download of Twitter tips. This helps me capture email addresses who will then become a part of our email newsletter readership.
There's a little something on Twitter called @replies, these are replies written to a specific person. So, for example if someone were commenting on one of my tweets they might say "I liked that link @bookgal" and that will immediately pop up on my @replies Twitter page. You should always (or whenever possible or appropriate) respond to @replies.
Hash tags: this # (hashtag) symbol is a great way to bring even more exposure to your topic, especially something that's making the news. Recently there was a lot of dialog on Twitter about #queryfail, which was a site dedicated to posting the worst query letters. If you post a tweet on Twitter and decide to hashtag it, meaning you put a # before the keyword, you could explode the topic on Twitter if enough people are searching for it.
Repeat, repeat: because there's so much noise on Twitter it's ok to repeat your tweets. I will generally repeat them once a week or every two weeks depending on the nature of the post. I use a service called Postlater.com to recycle and repurpose content on Twitter. Let's face it, there's only so much you can see in a day so when you really start to build followers they may not get to all your posts, reposting and repeating is ok, just don't overdo it.
Retweeting: also called RT - this is a cool way to engage and connect with others in your market. If you see a post you like RT it, it's easy to do via Tweetdeck.com which I'll describe more in the next paragraph.
Engaging on Twitter
One thing that's important to note about Twitter is that while it's great for sharing info, it's also all about personal connections which is why I encourage you to respond to @replies and DM's. Join in the conversation, start a conversation or answer someone's question. There's a lot of debate about whether to follow everyone that follows you but I always do, not just out of courtesy but if they've followed me, they are likely in my industry and may at some point have a question. That's where Tweetdeck.com comes in. This nifty little program gives you a much more global overview of your Twitterverse. You can show all your @replies, DM's but you can also do searches based on keywords or # hashtags. That way, whenever a question pops up you can answer, it's easily spotted.
What on Earth will you Talk about?
You know I didn't know either when I first started, it was really up to me to figure out what my followers wanted and in my case, they wanted information. Lots of it. So I gave them what they wanted. Once you figure out what your followers want you'll find your stride on Twitter. Maybe you're just sharing insights about the writing life or publishing information, helping other writers. Does this sell books? Sure it does. Helping others will no doubt spotlight what you do as well so don't make it all about you. If you're still confused about what to talk about consider this. Let's say you're at a cocktail party, would you walk up to a group of people and say "Hi, my name is Sam and my book is awesome, please buy it?" I didn't think so. Your Internet conversations should be viewed as a cocktail party/networking event.
So how do you know it's working? With all the twitter about, well, Twitter, how do you really know this stuff is working? Well, you'll know when you know. Trust me on this. The first few weeks I was on there I thought very little of it, then as I started to engage, interact and see my stuff getting retweeted and then also adding followers like crazy, that's when I realized I was onto something. In the past four months I've gotten four speaking gigs, around ten media and guest blogging opportunities and a dozen new client inquiries. Twitter works if you work it. When you do, well, the results will be worth retweeting about!
Thanks so much, Penny! I really appreciate you giving us your advice and expertise on this micro-blogging platform from the Internet. If you would like to learn more cool tips from Penny on a variety of marketing topics for the world wide web, be sure to sign up for her newsletter on www.amarketingexpert.com and don't forget to follow her funny and informative blog at: http://amarketingexpert.com/ameblog/
Have a great day, everyone!