Using Twitter To Build and Engage Your Audience

twitter shirt

Twitter is a new social media service that is being used by many power bloggers to keep in touch with their audience on a more personal level. It is called “micro-blogging” and rests somewhere between Blogging and Email. The basic concept is that you can subscribe to get short and brief commentary in the form of live alerts from other members by SMS, Instant Messenger or Email. These people can send it to you via their mobile phone or IM. You too can become someone who others choose to follow and get updates from… but it is very hard to create a large fan following on Twitter from scratch, unless you already have a huge audience that subscribes to you blog. Twitter picked up in popularity around 2007.

By following many individuals on Twiter, you can get a very fragmented experience of opinions, events, news, ideas and feedback. You can very easily follow thousands of users and listen and enter into conversations happening between multiple users at any point of time. By using Twitter actively, you can also push out messages to others and use it as a self promotion and marketing tool. Twitter can be used for both a professional and personal life, and its addictive – but once you understand how to use i, it can be a very effective tool.
Definition from Wikipedia (skip this if you know this stuff already)

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 United States, Canada, and India, as well as a United Kingdom number for international use. Several third parties offer posting and receiving updates via email. Read the full Wikipedia entry here.

Here is a neat video I found on Youtube, that explains what Twitter is in a very nice and friendly manner 🙂

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o[/youtube]

Now, on to the… Twitter Traffic Secrets

Before I begin, I’d like to state that if you do not have a ready audience and subscriber / member base already, and you plan to build your audience from scratch on Twitter – it will bevery hard to do. Twitter is not a great audience building tool when you have to do build it from scratch.

Majority of the popular Twitter users who have large audiences – did not create them solely on Twitter. They invited them over from their already existing fan base… they brought them over from, say their blogs. They offered to give them a more “personal” expereince on Twitter… since Twitter allows one to directly “chat” with one another… through a one-on-one interface. This aspect of Twitter, that allowed 2 way personal conversations between fans and (micro) celebrties or celebrities, is what drove the follower levels through the roof. People WANTED this *closer* and more personal communication experience.

Before we talk about how one can use Twitter to build their audience, lets jott down what one can do with Twitter…

  • Everyone has their followers and also follows others
    • When one sends a message to Mr MicroCelebrity, all your followers see your note
    • When Mr MicroCelebrity sends you a message, all people who follow Mr MicroCelebrity will get to read the message
  • When people who follow you see that you are conversing with Mr MicroCelebrity, then …
    • they will be inquisitive and will want to know what Mr MicroCelebrity wrote to you
    • They will visit Mr MicroCelebrities profile page
    • Some of them may then end up following Mr MicroCelebrity
  • All new followers of Mr MicroCelebrity will get all his personal and marketing messages

So, all in all, the larger the audience you bring with you to Twitter, the better and more powerful it will be as a tool for you. Twitter is not very effective, if you have a very small audience. That said, it is possible to build a large audience on Twitter with effort and the right strategy.

How to Build an Audience on Twitter from Scratch

This can be a slow process, so be prepared to have patience and work at it without getting discouraged. As you gradually become more involved and a recognized user in your niche on Twitter, some users will subscribe to your “tweets” and start following you. Follow this step by step procedure to make your efforts effective…

  • When you sign up on Twitter make sure the name you use is your real name, unless people recognize and associate you with a nickname – then use that. Why? Because Twitter is a personal experience and people are following other people – not inanimate brands or businesses. Thats what this is all about!
  • Get on the main Twitter website and use the Twitter Search tool to find discussions that interest you. This will also inform you right away – if there is a large enough audience for your niche.
  • Observe the actions of @names that you see frequently in messages being sent to you. Evaluate them, read their tweets, follow them, visit their websites and blogs. Get to know them and what they are doing.
  • You must participate and add value to the discussion and tweets. Dont just randomly send meaningless tweets. For this to be most effective, you should make sure you are online during peak posting periods. You must also use people’s @names in your post (making it more personal). This is the best way to engage them… and is the most important aspect of your strategy!
  • The stuff you write (the tweets you send) – must have compelling content… dont just write crap and meaningless stuff that has no real value or contribution to readers… for example, NEVER say “Me too”. You must use Tiny URLs while linking, which will facilitiate easy clicking and address typing.
  • Lastly, the most important strategy is that you shouldn’t follow to many people right away. Keep a natural ratio between people you follow and those that follow you. For example – if you visited a page of someone you may be somewhat interested in to follow, and you saw that they followed 200 people but only 10 followed them – you would probably not follow them. Right? So, build up things slowly. Start by following around 50 people and grow gradually, and pick up speed organically as you go along.

Twitter is a very valueable tool and can be used as above and even in many other ingenious ways. For example, a closed group of people can message one another while they are all attending a conference and fix up a venue to meet after for drinks… or even just tweet one another on their views of the panel discussion in progress.

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Some Twitter Tools

Web Browser Plugin: twitterfox

This FireFox extension lets you know twitter statuses. The extension adds a tiny icon on the status bar that notifies you when your friends update their statuses. Also it has a small text input field to update your status.

Desktop: twhirl,

twhirl is a desktop client for the Twitter microblogging service. Most of the features available on the Twitter website are accessible through twhirl, too. Plus, a lot of usability enhancements have been added. twhirl is based on the new Adobe AIR platform that allows web development techniques to be used to create desktop applications. It is powered by the Flash-based Flex 3 framework, also from Adobe.

Desktop: alertthingy

Alertthingy is a desktop application that allows users to see the data stream from people they follow on FriendFeed, and post new messages directly to the service. Users can also comment on posted items, and bookmark them. And possibly the best feature: it includes FriendFeed search.

Blog Tools: loud twitter

LoudTwitter is the bridge that posts to your blog your daily tweets. That way you can keep up to date a broader audience (broader because not everybody wants to follow you on twitter or because your mom don’t grok twitter — you’re thankful enough she knows about your blog). Your blog will take care about the archiving of your tweets along with your other posts (which give more context).

Email: twittermail

“When you give us your Twitter credentials we supply you with a TwitterMail email address. For instance [email protected] If you send an email to that address it will be posted to Twitter.com”. Tip – schedule to post when you are not online.

Phones: twitterberry (BlackBerry)

TwitterBerry is mobile client for posting updates to Twitter. It works over the data network, so you don’t need to use SMS.

Phones: itweet (iPhone)

iTweet is yet another great Twitter application for the iPhone. It is a project from The Illusion Factory, developed by Colby Palmer. This Twitter app works especially well over EDGE connections which can often be a bit slow. Here are the other Twitter iPhone applications – Twitter’s Mobile Page, PocketTweets, Thincloud Twitter for iPhone, Hahlo

Other: tweetscan (alerts, keyword, user search)

Tweet Scan is a real-time search engine for Twitter. It indexes all public messages on Twitter so you can find the conversations, people, and tweets you want. You can search by keyword, author, and date with results available via email, RSS, and Twhirl.

Competitors of Twitter (similar business models with slight variants): Pownce.com – check it out along with friendfeed.com

A Quick Twitter Round Up

  • Use it to build your personal brand
  • Use it to get feedback from others and people following you
  • If you are looking to hire, use it to help you find people
  • Use mini URLs to direct traffic to relevant posts (not spam)
  • Look out for unique scoops and news tweets by others in your niche
  • Find other’s in your niche and network with them and get to know them on a personal level
  • If you have employees or workers that go out in the field, let them use it to keep one another updated
  • If relevant, use it to keep your customers updated, by setting up a Twitter Feed
  • If you’re all meeting at an event, use it to coordinate and schedule per and post event meet ups on-the-fly
  • Provide live coverage to your listeners if you are attending an event they would like to get live news about
  • Possibly use it to setup impromptu and casual meetings, if you get to know that someone you would like to engage with, is around in the same event that you are at
  • Use it to get diggs on stories you’ve submitted, if the post is relevant to your listeners

Update: A great article that I just read, and thought was excellent and a must read…

 

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chris - May 3, 2008 Reply

Really nice round-up of Twitter. I couldn’t really get into using Twitter until I started to use the Twhirl application.

Definitely agree with your point about not trying to add too many people initially. If you’re following 20k and only have 200 people following you, it makes you look like a spammer (even if you aren’t)

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