Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Twitter in a Nutshell

I'm sorry there has been such a delay in getting these up. I have blessedly been busy on interviews, so my poor little blog got put on the back burner! Anyway...

Here's how I'll do this: I'll post "just the facts," a summary of what was discussed in yesterday's Twitter presentation (by Keith Schilling of On Top Results) and then develop some of my own thoughts in subsequent posts.

What is Twitter?
It's a free micro blogging service with a 140 character maximum (so you have to be brief whether or not you want to be!). It's a forum for short, bite-sized updates. The benefit is that Twitter allows people to show us a more personal, light-hearted side of people. It humanizes them and adds the social factor to the term "social" media.

For example, a high level exec might blog all day about financial and business news, but then at the end of the day, post a message on Twitter that says, "Rough day. I need a cold one..." These types of posts show us the human being behind the executive fascade. Twitter, in effect, humanizes companies.

Twitter Lingo
Tweet-These are the 140 character updates, the bite-sized posts.

Hashtag-A word or phrase with a # sign in front of it (you can place a hashtag anywhere in a tweet). A way of tracking what is said about certain topics. For instance, if I want to monitor what is said about me on Twitter, I might create a hashtag by typing in: #timina.

Hashtags also put a collective group together. The meetup hashtag is #ceoclt. So, if you search on this hashtag, any mention of it will come up. There is no exact science behind creating hashtags--it's a general consensus, and those that are most popular (say those regarding a current event) become the hashtags. There can be more than one hashtag for a subject, too.

Tweetup-Twitter meetups, meetups started on Twitter that can take place at a physical location, such as a restraunt or a bar or at Meetup.com.

Tiny URL-For URLs longer than 30 characters, use a shortening service.

DM-Direct message. These are private messages that only the recipient sees. They are not public posts. Ed. Note--This section has been edited after Ashley Hall of Ephricon was kind enough to provide me some great feedback! She reminds us that you can only DM people who are following you back.

Twitter Uses
1. Monitoring reputation, buzz, tracking keywords
2. Live reporting, describing events as they are unfolding
3. Journalism--CNN, Reuters, BBC all use Twitter
4. Public Relations--Promoting stories, linking to blogs, participating in conversations with customers
5. Crisis Situations--Campus lockdowns, emergency situations. People in the thick of these events can tweet out via mobile devices to let those on the outisde know what's going on.

Twitter for Business
For those who have not previously used Twitter, the best advice, credited to Corey Creed, is to sit back and watch. See how people you're following use Twitter, and learn from them. You should also start playing with Twitter and see what's out there. Do some searches, try to find some contacts. The more comfortable you become with Twitter, the more likely you'll be to use it!

Here are ways you can use Twitter to promote your business:

1. Create a contest--give other Twitter users a reason to re-tweet or post a link to you.

2. Grow Your Network--One audience member recounted a story of recently coming into Charlotte and Tweeting, "I'm passing XYZ bar. Who wants to join me?" And five people showed up! These weren't people he knew, but they were brought together by Twitter (Paranoid Aside: Be very careful if you plan to use Twitter this way. It can work, but as with anything involving the Web, you must remember that ANYONE can see what you post. Be safe, and always meet in a public place).

3. Be transparent in marketing your brand. Market yourself more than a product or service. The point of Twitter is to be "social," not to send out spam or market blasts. Plus, if you do make the mistake of doing this, people won't follow you! Remember, Twitter is not a direct selling tool.

4. Search on Twitter. Look for people who need your services. For example, if you're a real estate agent, look for people who have tweeted about moving to Charlotte. You can use the Advanced Search feature to get more specific in your searches.

5. Link to useful information. Twitter is very viral, so if you give people a reason to follow you, they will. Tweets can spread, be re-tweeted, etc., so it's got a wide reach.

6. Thwart negative customer service experiences. Many large, national and international businesses monitor Twitter for their pr, and if they see negative comments regarding customer service issues, they will have a company rep (sometimes even an executive!) respond.

How NOT to Use Twitter

1. Do not disparage your employer or slander anyone. These things have a way of making their way back to the offended party! Google the "Cisco Fatty" incident for proof.


An audience member asked if someone follows you, do you have to follow them back. The answer is "no." There is sort of an unspoken obligation that you will, but you certainly don't have to.

Another question was, "What happens if I tweet and no one responds?" The answer: Move on and forget about it. Nathan Richie of NR Creative Group perhaps summed it up best by likening Twitter to the restaraunt: Everyone at different tables is carrying on different conversations. You might walk by, overhear something, throw in your two cents and then leave. That's essentially Twitter in a nutshell. You're glimpsing pieces of conversation, joining in when appropriate and exiting out. Some conversations may be long, others might be a single tweet. It's a social tool, a way of connecting people.


  1. Timina -

    Nice Job summing it all up. (someone took really good notes)

    Thanks for including me in your article.

    Hope to see you at the next event.

  2. A special thank you to Tim Staines of Ephricon for providing me additional feedback that helped me tweak this article August 13, 2009. Thanks, Tim!