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Essential Twitter Lessons: Be Real, Be Here Now, Join a Conversation

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Twitter requires a lot of patience. I know that sounds ridiculous when talking about the micro-posting network. But hear me out.

The new page is more confusing than ever. They’ve buried some of the most useful tools and nested others requiring additional clicks to find them. And there’s no easy tutorial about how to use Twitter properly.

The Essential Twitter Lessons

Twitter is about conversations. Follow people you know. Ask them a question on Twitter. See if you can get an answer. I’ve met some amazing people by asking questions on Twitter and then engaging them in a conversation. Two pure-Twitter introduction friends are part of my inner circle of community.

Twitter is about research. Using some Twitter tools, you can quickly get a read on public opinion of thousands of people at once. No focus groups. Just listening to the tweets at any given moment, or over time to watch the “trending” of some topic. (Example: The Republican debate in New Hampshire generated over 62,000 tweets before it was over. And it was clear from the comments, where the points were won and lost.)

Twitter is about authentic voices. Yes, it’s okay for businesses to be tweeters, but they are not the essential heart of Twitter. Yes, Dell and Best Buy have made substantial amounts of money tweeting coupons, and perhaps your local pizza business can enjoy the same success on a local scale, BUT… (And you knew this was coming.) The highest use of Twitter is when humans are connecting with humans. People tweeting about ordinary things, ordinary feelings and events, and other people responding. In real-time. If you auto-tweet or schedule a tweet for a time when you won’t be on the computer, how will you answer the responses? The half-life of a tweet is about 30 seconds, or maybe 2 minutes if it gets ReTweeted.

Twitter is full of scams and spammy tweet-bots. It’s not easy to get a handle on Twitter when your “stream” is constantly flooded with coupons, deals, offers, fake offers, pornographic suggestions and come-ons, MLM genius tips, and all the other crap that seems to be growing exponentially on Twitter. The only way to deal with this annoying noise on Twitter is to use an application to help you manage the flood of information competing for your “inbox” on Twitter.

Twitter tools are essential for using and understanding Twitter. While they indeed require a bit more trial and error, and can have a learning curve all their own, the big three Twitter clients are all worth checking out.

Here are my recommendations on the big three Twitter clients.

  1. Tweetdeck (the Adobe Air version, not the desktop version – which I am still trying to make sense of) is a real-time dashboard that arranges tweets into columns of data. You won’t miss a tweet by a friend using Tweetdeck, even if it happened 8 hours ago. Tweetdeck was bought by Twitter last year, but it still maintains its own development team.
  2. Hootsuite is a full-powered Twitter management software system. And you pay for what you get. You can manage multiple Twitter AND Facebook accounts. (Perhaps even Google+ at this point) And you can schedule tweets, but I don’t recommend it. Hootsuite uses the metaphor to manage multiple streams.

The real message is find a tool that works for you and use it. If you try to use Twitter by visiting, you are starting out at a huge disadvantage, and you will most likely become part of the 60% of tweeters who abandon Twitter within the first 30 days. Please don’t, we need your authentic voice.

These four simple concepts are required for the effective use of Twitter.

  1. RT – retweeting means you like someone’s tweet and you reshare it with the people who are following your tweets.
  2. @ – “at” is how you send a message using Twitter directly to another Twitter user. It’s open for the world to see and makes for some good additional input from others, or RTs from others as well. See also, The Art and Science of ReTweeting
  3. DM – direct messaging. If you and another person are mutually following each other you can send private messages to each other. CAUTION: using the wrong format for this will result in your tweeting being seen by everyone. There’s even a website devoted to these slips so be careful. Here’s the format for a Direct Message: “D Username [tweet]” That is a single “D,” a single space, and the tweet. Any variation on that and your “private” message will be public instead. Be careful about what you tweet.
  4. # – the hashtag is a way to specify exactly what a tweet is about and can be used to search and follow conversations on a specific topic or conference or even make Twitter a chat-like forum. Here’s my hashtag post: Using Twitter Hashtags for Research

Twitter is a powerful social media tool and research platform. It can be an advertising and promotional network, but that’s not the best and highest use unless you are Dell or Best Buy. Even if you are Local Pizza Shop #99 it is better to include real conversations as part of your tweets.

  • Don’t just blast coupons.
  • Talk about them.
  • Suggest toppings or specials.

Sure, coupons are great and coupons can drive business, but give a little bit more and you will get more followers and potentially more happy customers.

John McElhenney — let’s connect online
@jmacofearth &  LinkedIn

Available from Amazon: The Twitter Way: Book One – Life


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