Twitter: An Explanation

I was helping a friend out with some Twitter questions via email and thought my response to her might actually be useful to others.  So here it is:


First, for 140 characters a shot, Twitter is a big topic.  So I’ll stick to the basics: followers, following, dangers, protocol, and a tool.  



You will accrue followers.  The more you use twitter, the more you will accrue.  Twitter is very searchable, and so people may be searching for a word like “acquisition.”  If you tweet about acquisition, and someone is searching in that term, they may choose to follow you.  That’s the primary way I know of that strangers find you, but there are third party programs that will recommend matches for people I think.  I don’t use them.  But there are now hundreds of twitter applications.


Friends, business acquaintances, and neighbors will find you.  It really doesn’t matter.  You will have a little more “cred” on Twitter if you have a decent number of followers.  You don’t need thousands – but a few hundred is a good thing. Generally, more followers doesn’t hurt you, and who follows you doesn’t matter – that is, you want certain followers, but if you get extras, that’s probably fine.  If you get ones you don’t trust or like (say someone starts to @reply you with offers to sell you Viagra or someone you think of as not quite a friend follows you) then you can block them.  Every once in a while I’ll go browse some of the followers I don’t know, and I’ve been pleased and surprised at the people who chose to follow me.


There are people who seem to want to have thousands of followers and follow thousands.  I personally think that diminishes the Twitter’s usefulness, but it seems to be an important meme out there right now.



Often people will give you their twitter user names on business cards and the like now.  You can also search twitter by term and follow people you are interested in.  At this point, at least half of the known universe appears to be twittering. I try to only follow people whose tweets interest me or who I think may interest me – meaning if I get a bunch of tweets on topics I’m not interested in, I stop following that person.  You will be able to see the tweets of everyone you follow, and you don’t need to clutter you twitter screen with thousands of people’s tweets. 



Spam has hit twitter.  Often tweets are a few phrases with a shortened url.  Be careful – if you don’t know and trust the course of the tweet, I recommend not clicking on that url.  Pretend it’s like email.  There’s viruses and nastiness out there in twitterland.  If you are smart and careful they will not bother you.



Use twitter as a conversation tool.  Do as many @replies and direct replies as you can – I try to do two responses to every tweet I send – otherwise the app becomes a bunch of people splatting up data that no one responds to.  Don’t do very much direct marketing.  For example, I made a list of top 100 authors who twitter on mashable (which is very cool!), and partly that was because the selector culled all of the marketing-only writers.  A little is fine – everyone expects that –but be yourself and be a person.



There are a lot of twitter applications.  My favorite is Tweetdeck.  I can have my twitter stream, my @replies, and a few searches running at once and visible.  It does have an annoying audible beep it comes with which you want to immediately turn off.  On the iphone, I like Twitterific.  But there are a lot of people who swear by a lot of applications, and so you might ask other people what they like.


Anyone else have favorite apps for favorite advice I missed the chance to pass on to my friend? 




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