Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Crouching Twitter, Hidden Dragon - 4 Ninja Tips for Twitter

In this digital day and age it's of paramount importance to have a presence on the web and in particular, Twitter. This post will dish out 4 ninja tips so that you can use twitter a bit more effectively and efficiently with the poise and elegance of a well trained ninja. If you've never used Twitter before don't run to the hills if the info below intimidates you but bear it in mind for when you do start your twitter career :) And so, without further ado, here are 4 top ninja tips that you can use to improve your twitter experience right now..

1) Use of Lists
Lists, are a somewhat new feature to Twitter, but for all intents and purposes allow you to categorise (list) people that you want to keep track of based on certain criteria of your choosing. An example of lists might be, "People from Ireland", "T-Shirt lovers" or "Podcast Pros". Lists are located on the right hand side of your Homepage view on Twittter, beneath the twitter search feature.

Now, onto the ninja tips..I really wish lists were around when I started on Twitter so I could have started using them for all my followers as they allow you to create "channels" based on a certain stream of tweets. By channels I mean, if you clump and organise people properly you could create different "channels" (like television channels which focus on one topic) on twitter - a list for social media experts, sports fanatics, Twilight lovers, competition junkies etc - this can help you quickly get the information you want from twitter. Another advantage of lists, is that if you are following a couple of thousand people you're twitter stream will be full of "noise" that isn't of any real use to you and you may be missing out on tweets that you would deem more important. Maybe a potential customer has contacted you - add them to a list so you can keep tabs on what they are up to and an opportunity for a sale may arise in the future...if you don't list them, finding their tweets within the other thousands of tweets will be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Here are three things you can do right now that will improve your twitter usage:
1. Start some of your own lists and ask people how they would like to be listed - this will help you find out more about the people you follow, may serve to break the ice a bit and help build relationships with more tweeps.

2. Find out who has listed you and why not say "thank you for listing me" - again, another opportunity to break the ice and show that you are real and actually care what people think. Also, by seeing how you are listed by others you'll be able to get a better idea of people's perception of you or your brand. If someone lists you, it generally means you've made some impact on them and that they want to be able to quickly and easily get to your tweets - you're now on one of their "channels".

3. Pay attention to lists and see if there are any good ones you should follow. Certain lists of tweeps that people have created could be of some use to you (lists regarding bloggers for your niche for example). Follow those lists and give props and thanks to whoever created it - people like random thanks.

2) Auto DMs Bad, Scheduled Tweets Good
One of my pet peeves on Twitter is receiving a lame auto direct message like "thanks so much for following, looking forward to your tweets, go to my site and buy my stuff - link" (we've all got them ye?). However, what makes it even more frustrating is when you reply to the DM only to be told "there is an error sending to the recipient". I call this the caught with the pants down scenario and it really highlights why auto DMs might be a bad idea. People can generally tell if a DM is automated (we just have a 6th sense for it) but when you can't reply it is because the other person isn't following you back. If they're not following you, the likelihood of them sending a DM to say thanks is slim to none - unless it's automated. When this scenario happens to me I unfollow whoever sent me the DM and I'm sure I'm not alone. Anyone agree with me here or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Not all automation is bad though. Scheduling tweets can be a great way to make sure you pump out tweets regularly if you aren't going to be at your computer for a few days. Personally, I haven't used the services like Tweetlater (Socialoomph) too much, but they do have their benefits. Being able to schedule tweets gives you the freedom to have a holiday and still maintain a twitter presence. One word of warning would be, to make sure that you follow up all those who reply to your posts upon your return. When scheduling tweets its best to pay attention to the time that the tweet gets posted. Posting at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am etc will look very automated or at least more automated than 1:12am, 2:08am, 3:28am, 4:21 etc...

3) Link Shorteners and RT Space
It's time to make some new friends with, and - some link shortening services which are free and powerful. In twitter you have 140 characters to get your information across or make a link as juicy as possible for someone to click on. If your tweet contains nothing but a long link then you are wasting a lot of valuable characters. My link shortener of choice is which I use for every link I put up. Most of these services allow you to also customise the shortened link which can make it easy for you to remember. This helps the link look better and increases the "trust" that someone will have in clicking on the link. An example of this is a link I created for LadyUmbrella which is - LU for LadyUmbrella and site because it's our website - it is easy for us to remember and if people look at it they could perhaps decipher and trust the link a bit more (or at least we hope so).

As mentioned, you are given a limit of 140 characters to make people want to click on a link and you probably would like a few people to retweet your stuff. As a general rule I try to leave about 20 characters free in each tweet I'd like to get retweeted. Why not retweet this blog with the handy retweet button at the top? go on, do it :)

The reason for this is when people retweet the format is RT @username "tweet message goes here". You need to factor in that people who retweet are going to need space to include your username, the @ symbol, 2 spaces and "RT". Some people (angels, saints and heroes - truly great people) will actually edit your tweet so that they can retweet it but these people are in short supply - make it easy for people to retweet your stuff.

[HOT TIP] The recent addition of the retweet button means twitter has made it easier to retweet long and cumbersome tweets but I believe there is still more value in the old school RTs when someone takes the time to copy and paste your tweet and maybe add their 2 cents to it..Also, it is very hard to see who has retweeted your tweet via the retweet button as you don't receive it in your @mentions. Instead, tweets which have been retweeted using the twitter function get squirreled away in the retweets section (on the right hand side beneath favourites) in the third tab "Your Tweets Retweeted" - make sure to check this frequently so you can give kudos and thanks tho whoever has retweeted you tweets..

4) The 90/10 Rule
It's counter intuitive, it'll make you scratch your head and for those who have a financial manager breathing down your neck harping on about ROI (return on investment) and targets the 90/10 rule will really blow their spread sheet savvy minds. I believe to be successful on twitter you have to give a lot more than you get. The 90/10 rule basically says that 10% of the time you can pump out a "hey, check out our products" tweet but the other 90% of the time you should be, well, human...Talk to people, interact with people, forge relationships, RT your competitors (it'll blow their mind as well and they might just RT you in the future as well - their followers are also your target market), RT crazy news or gossip that your followers might like - basically anything but a tweet about you or your products..At first, no doubt, it feels wrong, almost dirty, but it is important as I think it in someway gives you more street cred which is what is needed on all social media sites..

The 90/10 rule is an easy enough rule to follow (90% of the time you tweet about things not related to you or your busines, 10% you do) but it is a very hard one to implement. It can seem nonsensical to retweet and promote your competitors but consider each non promo retweet a good deed done for the day..The 90/10 rule is without a doubt one of the most important twitter tips of the lot..

And there it is, 4 Ninja tips for Twitter without a Chuck Norris reference (until now...How do you know Chuck Norris is not on Twitter? - the whale fails, it wouldn't fail if Chuck was on Twitter! [P.S. made up on the spot, sorry]) that you can start to apply today to improve your twitter experience and efficiency.

So, how many lists are you on? - want to be on one more? Leave me a comment with your twitter name and I'll list you... Any top twitter tips you'd like to add?

And, any other Chuck Norris and Twitter jokes? Has to be some good ones out there, lets hear them...

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