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I won’t go into the details about how Twitter works because Gideon Shalwick (@gideonshalwick) has a video coming out about that soon to teach the basics.
Twitter is essentially a micro-blogging tool where you are restricted to 140 character posts, which are meant to be updates from your life. It’s also a fantastic inter-communication tool, which I will explain more about in a moment.
Twitter can definitely be used as an effective business tool, but it can be abused as a time waster as well. You need to find a balance, so let me explain how I recommend Twitter is best used.
I’ve been a member of Twitter since Darren Rowse (@problogger) bugged me about joining. Darren has since gone on to become a super Twitter fan, starting a blog about it (Twitip.com) and becoming the number one Twitter user in Australia with some 30,000+ followers. Beware Darren when he becomes passionate about something!
I joined up after Darren’s recommendation and started exploring the service. At first you have to get your head around how the system works, how you can send direct replies @ certain people, what a direct message is and how it differs from a reply and all the other tips and tricks.
I used a desktop program called Twhirl, which sort of functions like an instant messaging client plugged into Twitter and other similar services.
Twhirl was good, but as I found out recently, Tweetdeck is better. This desktop client is, and I quote “An application that aims to evolve existing functionality of Twitter by breaking down Twitter feeds into more manageable bite sized pieces”. Simply put, you have to use Tweetdeck as it makes Twitter much easier to manage.
I first signed up to Twitter while on the second half of my travels overseas in 2008, so much of my early Twitter notifications were either Internet marketing related, or “I just landed in Rome” type messages. It proved an effective way to use Twitter as people told me they enjoyed my status updates about where I was in the world.
It was during this time that Twitter become more prominent in Internet marketing circles. Suddenly all the big players where emailing their lists trying to boost their Twitter followings. John Reese (@johnreese) quickly built his following passed 10,000 people after mailing his subscribers. Frank Kern (@masscontrolkern), Mike Filsaime (@mikefilsaime), Eben Pagan (@ebenpagan), Jeff Walker (@jeffwalker), Rich Schefren (@richschefren), and prominent bloggers, Brian Clark (@copyblogger), John Chow (@johnchow), are among many others who all have active accounts on Twitter from my industry.
Even celebrities are using Twitter. There’s Brent Spiner (@brentspiner), Wil Weaton (@wilw – a massive 50,000+ followers) and Levar Burton (@levarburton) from Star Trek (well I think Star Trek actors are celebrities anyway!), Kevin Rudd (@kevinruddpm) and Malcolm Turnbull (@turnbullmalcolm) from Australian politics and of course the most popular Twitter user of all time, Barack Obama (@barackobama), with over 230,000 followers at the time of writing.
This is only a small sample of the people using Twitter, with of course your normal every day Internet user being the most widely represented group on Twitter, although I believe it’s fair to say “tweeting” (to send messages on Twitter) is definitely NOT a mainstream activity.
One of the main reasons Internet marketers have been eager to jump on the Twitter bandwagon is how responsive Twitter is as a tool to deliver marketing messages. In many ways, it’s a lot like email broadcasting, although not quite as effective.
You can send a tweet out to your followers and track how many of them click the link in the update using tools like Twitclicks.com. This shows your effective “conversion” rate for your marketing message. Why it’s not quite as effective as email, is because your followers generally need to be online around the time you send your message in order to see it, otherwise it gets lost in the timeline, especially if they follow a lot of other people.
John Reese has openly declared Twitter as his third-most responsive way to connect with prospects, and I can certainly concur with his findings. Although Twitter will never match email marketing for effectiveness unless of course people stop using email, Twitter is fast becoming the little sister of the email list and a great additional marketing channel.
As most marketers know, you need to expose your prospects to your message multiple times before you get the sale. Some say it takes up to even seven times. While I have no data to back that up, I certainly agree that the more places people are exposed to your work, and benefit from it, the more likely they will become a customer.
If you combine Twitter, with email marketing and a blog, you have three powerful contact points. Set up the application so your tweets and blog posts automatically go on to your Facebook account too, and you have a fourth contact point. This is exactly what I have been doing recently, often tweeting and sending out an email to direct traffic to my recent pillar article blog post. In fact you could be reading this article right now because I tweeted about it.
As long as people pay attention to Twitter, and they certainly do at the moment, it’s well worth making use of the tool, especially while it’s in a growth period like now.
As with all social media tools, if you use it purely to deliver overt marketing messages, it won’t work. The key with Twitter is to use it as a tool to connect with other people, share interesting things going on in your life and interesting things you observe around your life (for example, links to good resources, blog articles etc).
The marketing comes in when, every now and then, you link through to a project of your own. Maybe a blog post, or a link to a free report you just released, or a special offer you are making temporarily. However these types of messages shouldn’t be the only tweets you do or people will lose interest in your updates.
Marketing with content, branding by sharing aspects of your life publicly, and networking with your prospects, peers and leaders in your industry, are the most effective uses of Twitter at the moment, if we are talking about business outcomes.
One great thing about Twitter is how easy it is to build a following. While bloggers might struggle to reach 500 unique visitors a day, or even 200 RSS subscribers, reaching several hundred Twitter followers is realistic for all users. It’s actually a common outcome as far as I can tell.
That shouldn’t be perceived as an indication that it is easy to then make money from your followers, but it is a form of positive reinforcement to know you have several hundred or even thousands of people following what you do.
I’ve actually been amazed at my own Twitter following growth. It’s fair to say I have a somewhat high profile in my niche, so people actively seek me out on Twitter, but besides a couple of blog posts, I never actively promoted my Twitter profile. I’m still yet to even email my list about Twitter, which I will do soon enough. Despite this, I’m nearing 4,000 followers at the time of writing.
There’s already plenty of advice on the topic of growing Twitter readership, but I’ll thrown in my two cents purely from experience.
It seems the best way to grow your following is when other people reply to you publicly. This results in all their followers finding out about your profile. Re-tweeting is a common practice, whereby your tweet is replicated by someone else because it offers value. With enough re-tweets and replies, the viral nature of the conversation sees your profile exposure expand dramatically with little effort on your behalf.
Simply put, if you want followers, follow other people, reply to them, add value to the conversation and tweet interesting things that other people re-tweet, and you can do very well.
Overt calls to subscribe to your Twitter profile through your existing communication channels, as I did at the start of this article, works well too, but of course not everyone has a popular blog and email newsletter. Simply interacting, using Twitter as it is intended to be used, will result in growth.
Oh, and make sure you get famous too – that helps!
One thing you need to be careful of is using Twitter too much. Gideon recently found himself sucked into the Twitter vortex, replying to messages and tweeting for hours at a time. He needed a slap (administered by his wife) to realize that while it was fun and certainly beneficial in terms of growing his Twitter following, his overall productivity suffered.
As Eben Pagan notes in his productivity training program “Wake Up Productive“, multi-tasking is dangerous. Focus is key for productivity, and having a little Twitter window pop-up in your face as you attempt to do other work, is not a good idea.
I find the correct way to use Twitter is to have it on during less focused activity time. Late at night while doing other low-attention tasks like making forum posts, replying to one-minute response emails, leaving blog comments or just surfing around for fun, is a great time to have Twitter running. I find it especially useful when I’m reading the news or other sites as that is when I often find good things I can tweet about.
If you find yourself on Twitter for any length of time or it’s breaking up your concentration while you are doing an important task, you are misusing the tool. Moderation leads to effective tweeting.
I’ve left the most important point for last. Although Twitter is a great way to stay in touch with your mass audience, it can actually be used as one of the most effective ways to meet important people in your industry.
I’ve noticed, at least for people who are heavy Twitter users already, that we no longer communicate via email. For example, I don’t talk to Darren Rowse on email or instant messenger anymore, it’s done by Twitter direct message instead.
The same goes for a recent attempt to convince Jeff Walker to tweet a report I released. I direct messaged Jeff instead of using email since I knew I would get his immediate attention that way.
Bear in mind this won’t last forever. Like what happened with email, as more users come on board, the more contact we are going to receive from people. As the medium gets flooded, you pay less attention to each message.
That being said, if you have a prior relationship with a person, either through direct contact or by reputation, a direct message can be a good way to get in touch with someone where normally an email would get lost in the shuffle.
If you don’t have a prior relationship with someone you want to know, then using Twitter and replying publicly to the tweets of that person, is a great starting point. It’s particularly powerful if you can engage them enough that they reply to you, not to mention that helps your follower growth significantly, since your profile is exposed to their audience when they reply to your tweet.
If you can help someone, offer a link to a great resource or a good response to a question they ask, you instantly show up on their radar. Keep providing value and they will follow you if they don’t already automatically follow everyone who follows them. If you continually show up on their radar through Twitter, then you have your first doorway into their world and a relationship is formed.
The key today is to act while the iron is hot and the market is not too crowded. Despite Twitter’s phenomenal growth rate, it’s still very much early days. Twitter will never be as mainstream as email, so using it to begin a relationship with someone who could well become an important joint venture or affiliate partner, is a strong strategy.
That’s all I’ve got to say about Twitter for now. I recommend you jump on board and start using Twitter if you don’t already. It’s becoming an integral part of Internet marketing and it’s just plain fun.
And don’t forget to follow me so you can learn what I had for breakfast!
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