One of the primary reasons I decided to embark upon this series of Social Networking Reviews was to help the general ActiveRain membership weed through the endless offering of new networks that seem to pop-up daily, and provide helpful information in order to better determine which ones pose the most potential benefit to their core business. Ultimately, each of us needs to make the final determination ourselves regarding our Internet time investments.
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"140 characters"....That's it.
Think social networking on steroids ~ Or Instant Messaging with an Attitude ~ Or even, Micro-Blogging.
I am the first to admit that when I heard of Twitter, I was less than enthusiastic. I mean, seriously, who cares if I'm going to the bathroom, or if I'm sitting in the barber's chair, or eating sushi for dinner. Come on! Get a life, will ya? Sheesh!
But when Net-savvy people I trust and respect tell me there's value in something, I can't help but listen to what they're saying.
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send "updates" (or "tweets"; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website, via short message service (e.g. on a cell phone), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook.
Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends (delivery to everyone is the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email or through an application. For SMS, four gateway numbers are currently available: short codes for the USA, Canada, and India, as well as a UK number for international use. Several third parties offer posting and receiving updates via email.
HISTORY OF TWITTER
Twitter initially began as a research and development project within a San Francisco start-up company, Obvious LLC, in March 2006. At first, it was only used internally by the company, and then officially launched in October 2006.
The popularity of the service grew rapidly, and in March 2007, won the 2007 South by Southwest Web Award in the blog category. Jack Dorsey, widely acknowledged as the man behind the concept of Twitter, gave the following playful acceptance speech at SXSW:
"We'd like to thank you in 140 characters or less. And we just did!"
A month later, Obvious LLC spun off the service as a separate entity under the name Twitter, Inc., with Jack Dorsey as its CEO.
WHY YOU SHOULD USE TWITTER
Well, I suppose the primary benefits are rather obvious:
1) Expanding your networking sphere outside of ActiveRain, and across other business disciplines
2) Increasing/enhancing your Internet exposure
3) Making additional 'touches' with your current sphere
4) Another tool for marketing/promotion
5) It's Fun!
Here's just a brief sampling of fellow Rain Drops & friends who 'Tweet!"....
Bob Stewart, Brad Andersohn, Sarah Cooper, Chris Shouse, Ines Hegedus-Garcia, Todd Waller, Maureen Francis, Melissa Grant, Jason Crouch, Faina Sechzer, Kim Woods, Kristal Kraft, Midori Miller, Chris Elizabeth Griffith, Linda Davis, Bob Carney, Irena Netchaev, Jeff Turner, Rocky Turner, Monica McCullidudy, Rudy & Joe from Sellsius, Jessica Horton, Joel Burslem, Jeannette Neerpat, Carole Cohen, Cyndee Haydon, Roberta Murphy, Teresa Boardman, Linda Davis, Mariana Wagner, Michelle D, MISSY CAULK, Pat Katano, Rob Aubrey, Maureen McCabe, Dustin Luther, Paul Chaney, Steve Dalton, Seth Godin, Kris Wales, Matt Gosselin, Laura Monroe, Jay McCullicudy, Diane Aurit, Bob and Lisa Hammerstein, Alison Werner, David Childs, Sarah Stelmok, Marian Burnstein, Ginger Wilcox, Lola Audu, Brian Block, Karen Moorhead, Ann Cummings, Tracy Thomas, Desiree Daniels, Josette Skilling, John Lockwood, Marchel Peterson, Paul Slaybaugh, Lisa Heindel, Colleen Kulikowski, Laurie Manny. Sally Cheeseman, Joey Aszterbaum, John Novak, Jason Crouch, Nicole Rae, Steven Groves, Ed Ryb, Margaret Rome, Drew Meyers, Galen Ward, Jim Duncan, Robert Scoble, Kaye Thomas, Janie Coffey, Jeff Corbett, Heather Elias, Marlene Scheffer, and many, many more!
HOW TO USE TWITTER TO PROMOTE YOUR BLOG
Just like ActiveRain, Twitter is a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some, it's simply another virtual destination to hang out after a long day and let your hair down. Personally, I prefer to use my gtalk (Google Talk) for Twittering. It's less cumbersome (you don't have to keep refreshing your screen) and it allows me to multi-task (we all know how important multi-tasking is!)
I follow Chris Brogan, a well known expert on Social Media/Networking. He has some really great advice to offer regarding the use of Twitter:
"Since I started using Twitter, I have more than doubled my blog traffic over the last several months, and I can tell you how"....
Some people just dump their blog posts into Twitter automatically, with a simple "New Blog Post: Money is Better Than Dirt" and away you go. I've found a way of using Twitter to encourage participation on my website, and it's better than easy; it's tasteful!
Ask a Question
- Instead of telling your Twitter audience that you've published a new post, ask them their opinion on the core topic you've covered. "Do you think banner ads are dead?" followed by a link to your site is much more appealing than posting to Twitter, "Banner Ads Are Not Dead." Asking a question engages your Twitter followers and solicits their experience.
If Comments Flow, Remark on It
- I genuinely believe that the comments section of my blog is better than anything I write on my own. To that end, when a topic seems to take off, I send a note to Twitter alerting people to the quality of the conversation in the comments. It's not pitchy in nature. I'm simply sharing that the best stuff came after the initial post.
Sometimes, I Even Dare to Ask for a Stumble
- My number two referrer to my site on most slow-medium traffic days is StumbleUpon. Because I seem to get "better" response from people who visit from that site than from other traffic sources, I sometimes will send a third post to Twitter, asking if someone thinks X post is worth a Stumble. Because I do a lot of sharing and promoting and helping others, I usually get a lot of willing people to Stumble something for me from time to time.
I don't over-do it, and I know that not every day is a "killer blog post" day. With that in mind, when I do ask, it makes a huge difference.
Those Three Touches Help Lots
- So in the end, I ask my following in Twitter for love three times: once when I post the blog, again if it takes off well in the comments section, and sometimes a third time if I want to really amp the traffic via StumbleUpon. I mix these requests in liberally with all the various ways I help others using Twitter, and so it doesn't come off like I'm perpetually pitching my own stuff. My current monthly rate of pitching others vs. promoting my own site is 75 / 25 in other people's favor. That sounds fair, right?
USING TWITTER TO 'LISTEN' AND 'LEARN'
Another voice that I listen to consistently and trust is Joel Burslem, Marketing Director of Inman News, and author of the popular blog, Future of Real Estate Marketing. He recently shared some great insights about his experiences with Twitter:
I wrote a post on the Inman Blog recently where I described one application of the service; how you could use it to subscribe to news and essentially build a real time teleprinter for your desktop (using a desktop client like Twhirl).
But here's the killer app for Twitter. I think Jeff Turner might have stumbled on to it in his post when he searched Twitter for the word "Realtor". Twitter is a fantastic tool for business intelligence.
Why? Because you can use it to hear what your customers, clients, users are saying about you.
I use a site called TweetScan to search for keywords through the Twitterstream - this is what I found out in one sitting for searches on a couple of Real Estate 2.0 sites, for example.
My takeaway: People are still using Zillow - but disappointed by what they're seeing. Will they keep coming back?
My takeaway: People are using Redfin to research the market looking for bargains. Seems like their marketing angle (see Redfin's Business Model Better for Consumers) is bang on.
These are just a couple of examples, but you can see how you could use Twitter to keep a finger on the pulse of your customers' feelings.
If I were working in the marketing or communications departments for either of these companies, I'd be trolling the Twitter feeds looking for these themes and answering any questions.
The best thing is that Tweetscan makes it easy to subscribe to an RSS search of a particular keyword (I subscribe to Inman, for example) which makes that job even easier.
Part of the challenge in marketing for many years has been trying to figure out what people think of your product or service. That's why you often had to resort to focus groups, user questionnaires, surveys and all kinds of brute force methods to figure out what people think.
Twitter on the other hand is a real-time, real-world glimpse into the minds of your customers. Granted right now it's a small, technologically literate slice of the population using Twitter - but if that's your demographic, you should be paying attention.
USING TWITTER APPS
- Explore Twitter - Here you'll find Twitter Blocks and other helpful applications.
- Twhirl - Will give you a free download to use Twitter from your computer's desktop.
- Quotably - Makes it easy to follow the conversations that people are having on Twitter.
- Twitterfeed - Will take any blog you have, i.e., Active Rain, Blogspot, Flickr (anything with an RSS feed), and will post it as often as you like to your Twitter. So you don't even have to GO to Twitter to Tweet!
- Twitter Tools - Have your blog automatically notify Twitter when you post
- Twitter Etiquette - Evolving attitudes and concepts from Twitter users on how to behave on Twitter
- Tweet Scan - Search public Twitter posts in real-time from the page or using Firefox's search box. Find replies, track keywords, and sign up for daily/weekly email alerts.
- Twitbin - Allows you to send & receive 'tweets' directly from your Firefox browser.
- G-Talk - You can send & receive your 'tweets' through Google Talk.
- Tweetburner - Allows you to keep track of what happens to the links in tweets shared with you, by you, by your friends and every other twitterer.
- TwitterFeed - Promote Your Blog Posts to Twitter Followers
- Blog Tips - Twitter Style Competition Winner
- When Seth Godin isn't Seth Godin
- How Much Social Networking Do You Do?
- Why Do You Blog?
- How to Use Twitter - Tips for Bloggers
- It's Enough to Make Your Head Hurt!
- Robert Scoble on Twitter
- What is a Social Network?
- Here's another 'What If' Social Networking Epiphany
- Richard Azia's Blog: "Twitter as a Way of Life"
Further Reading & Related Posts
So there ya go! I trust that you found the information shared here helpful to your evaluation/decision-making process. Please feel free to comment and share your own personal experiences with Twitter.