This is a little tongue in cheek but there’s an element of truth here. On Twitter you choose to connect with certain people because those people typically have one or more similar interests to you.
For a business and for many individuals there is a second reason to connect with people on Twitter aside from general interests. And that’s to network, promote or market yourself or your business.
But first, let’s focus on the basics of using Twitter because that’s the intention of this article.
To do this I’ve explained Twitter using a story around a character who we’ll call Bob. Bob’s new to Twitter and I think a LOT of people will associated with the initial part of this story. If you know someone who knows nothing about Twitter show them this article as it’ll definitely help.
So, let’s introduce Bob. Bob’s been on Facebook for years after his kids finally got him in to it but he’s not yet ventured on to Twitter. He keeps hearing about Twitter, “tweet” this, “retweet” that, so he decides to register.
So, Bob registers for Twitter. He sets up his account, adds profile & cover photos and fills out his biography. Twitter then says, “Hey Bob, here are a bunch of people you know so why don’t you follow them?”. So Bob follows them even though he’s also friends with them on Facebook. Once he’s followed his friends he also follows some celebrities as well, just for good measure. Bob is now using Twitter.
Follow. You can follow someone to see their tweets but they won’t see yours unless they decide to follow you back.
Bob posts a few messages (tweets) but after a few days Bob realises something. He’s reading his friends posting about the same things they’re posting on Facebook and he realises celebrities aren’t actually as interest as he first thought. Bob gets bored of Twitter.
Fortunately for Bob he then stumbles upon an article which explains how to use Twitter effectively & before he banishes Twitter to the memory he starts to use it a little differently.
In his spare time Bob coaches his son’s football team & whilst Bob had been enjoying it he realised that he wasn’t very experienced and could benefit from some help & fresh ideas. Bob had read that Twitter was great for connecting with like-minded people and had read that he could search for these people, in Bob’s case, other youth football coaches.
Bob had heard about #hashtags but didn’t know what they were.
Hashtag. A #hashtag is a way of searching for topics posted from other users. E.g. Searching for “#Superbowl” or “#Election”would find tweets from anyone who’s written a tweet containing those hashtags.
Bob searches Twitter using a number of different #hashtags. He tries #footballcoaching and #soccercoaching to start with.
He starts to find conversations containing these hashtags which leads him to people who share his interest, he finds football coaches. So Bob starts to follow the people who he can see actively tweet about football coaching on a regular basis.
As Bob starts to follow more football coaches over the period of a few days he notices that other coaches are following him back. Soon enough, Bob’s Twitter feed started to become full of football coaching discussion, ideas & advice. Bob was now part of an online community.
Twitter Feed. A term for tweets showing on your timeline.
He starts tweeting about his coaching and particularly things that have gone well and things that hadn’t gone so well. The more he tweeted the more he got in to dialogue with the other coaches who were retweeting his ideas or problems and offering him suggestions or pointing him to helpful articles along the way.
Retweet. You can retweet another user’s tweet. This essentially shares their tweet on your timeline for your users to see. People may share questions, funny tweets or fascinating articles.
Bob was now getting fairly confident with Twitter. He knew how to follow, tweet and retweet. He also knew that Twitters ‘Like‘ feature was more a method for saving a conversation or article for later rather than a sign of positive acknowledgement like on Facebook. Bob was that confident he started to look at Trending.
Trending is a way to see what people are most commonly talking about on Twitter. Trends are created from usage of #hashtags. You can view what’s Trending globally, nationally or even by your own town.
Trends are not selected by Twitter but reflect the most popular conversations. Big media topics or national/international tragedy will often trend as more users are talking about these topics.
Trends can be used to see what the hot topics are in the world. They are also used as the way to see the very latest on big topics, see the recent tragic events in Parish as an example with the #jesuisparis hashtag.
Back to Bob. Bob has a small business as a Wedding Photographer. He’s created a Facebook page but wasn’t sure how to use Twitter for his business. Bob had seen how he’d built up his football coaching network on Twitter & decided to do the same for his business. He decided to do 3 things.
- He set up an account for his business.
- He searched for #digitalphotography and #weddingphotography in order to build his network of similar companies and hopefully find new ideas which might strengthen his business.
- He found and followed both businesses local to him and businesses purposely set up to help small companies like his own.
After following quite an extensive list of of accounts he realised his timeline was so busy he couldn’t keep up with all of the conversations so he found out that he could create lists to help him.
Lists. Users can create lists & add users to those lists so that they can directly view those users’ tweets away from their main timeline, i.e. you can view a list of tweets only from those users associated to your list.
Bob was now feeling quite the Twitter expert. Tweets, retweets, likes, trends, hashtags & lists. Bob knew the lot. He’d build a community around his own profile which helped with his football coaching and he built a community around his business which was drawing in new ideas, support and relationships with other local businesses.
Moving away from Bob
Ok, so I know we’ve laid things out fairly basically with the whole Bob story but it’s useful. It’s useful because the start of the story is one I’ve heard so many times from so many people. It’s also useful because it shows you how to develop your use of Twitter chronologically whilst helping with some of the terms and tools you can use.
Twitter is a huge resource for people wanting to use it in the right way. Whether that’s for personal use or business, the ability to connect, to converse and build networks really cannot be matched by any other social network and the 147 character limit for tweets means you have to be very creative with your messages.
Twitter won’t suit every person and it won’t suit every business but when used correctly it can be massively beneficial and knowing how to utilise Twitter is key.