If you find Twitter mysterious or even just a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone. Everyone hears about those 140 character messages you’re supposed to send. However, not everyone can figure out why or even how to do it.
If you’re serious about using Twitter to market yourself or your products, it can be a valuable tool for keeping you in the conversation. Particularly in situations where you might not otherwise get noticed at all, Twitter can help you have your say.
The trick is to be brief (not that you have a choice) and to say something that encourages further discussion and/or works to bring more people into the conversation.
There are few ways of doing this:
1. Tweet real time during an event.
2. Think ahead and push out Tweets regularly using a tool like HootSuite that let’s you schedule your Tweets.
3. Tweet randomly as the mood and/or opportunity hits.
In the first case, Tweeting an event, the idea is to bring people in from all over. People love news and this is a chance to be on the scene, hearing about something as it happens from the point of view of an eyewitness. Not everyone will care about every event, but choosing the events you Tweet strategically can help position you as a source for news and real-time ideas from a specific type of event. An example of this can be seen here: It’s from a talk I attended on Election Day 2012 at the Shorenstein Center featuring Journalist Mark McKinnon that was collected into a Storify. I Tweeted this using Tweetcaster, which allowed me to spread my Tweets out beyond Twitter users to Facebook and other social networking sites. In the case of the Shorenstein talk, using Tweetcaster encouraged at least one other discussion by a group of my friends on Facebook, who would not otherwise have benefited from McKinnon’s talk.
A word of caution about Tweeting events: you don’t want to miss the opportunity to be present because you’ve got your head stuck in Twitter the whole time. To avoid this pitfall, you need to practice, and learn to think without thinking about what you are putting out for people to see. The activity reminds me of taking notes in a class. Your main focus should be on the speaker while you note interesting points or questions that pop up in the briefest way possible.
One advantage you have when Tweeting events is that others will be Tweeting, too, and often fill in the blanks you left, or reinforce thoughts you had. Gathering Tweets from an event into Storify takes advantage of this, and is another way you can add value and make the most of your Tweeting.
Hopefully, other Tweeters will fill in the blanks, but either way, your goal is to encourage further thought and talk on an issue.
In the second case, scheduling Tweets, you have the opportunity to put ideas out daily. With so much information and many people vying for attention, having your face show up regularly on your followers’ Twitter feeds is a great way to demonstrate your commitment and to keep yourself in the mix. To work well, you’ll want to consider the mix of Tweets you send, including re-Tweets of materials you found worthwhile.
Finally, with random Tweets, you’ve also got a chance to start and continue discourse with your followers and others. Even here though, consider who your followers are and how they might feel about hearing thoughts that don’t match they reasons they decided to follow you in the first place.
Overall, you’ll want to treat Twitter as you would any other communications tool. That means thinking ahead about why you’re using it, who you are trying to reach, and how the tool can help you accomplish your goals.