A Twitter is what?
Twitter is an example of the fast-growing communications network known collectively as "social media" or "social networking." It can provide you with instant connections with customers and peers the world over, making you a more effective marketer and salesperson, as well as spokesperson for your industry. Most commonly, Twitter is described as "micro-blog" in which users can post entries that do not exceed 140 characters. That sounds great, but (1) what is a "micro-blog" and (2) how can I use it?
One approach to explaining Twitter is that it is like sending a text message to the entire world and to be welcoming of any feedback based on that text message.
Twanguage you need to know
Dealing with any specialized area effectively requires a working knowledge of the jargon used by it members, and this is certainly true of Social Media. Just as Facebook has turned "friend" into a verb, Twitter has developed new nouns exclusive to its use. Some of those terms include:
Twitter: the name of the site, tool, or social media approach being discussed in this document.
Tweet: a message of 140 characters or less (or, for effective tweeting, <e;140) sent via Twitter
Follower: a "follower" on Twitter is like a friend on Facebook and most likely does not have to do with any sort of religious conviction or political type of "following." Instead, followers are simply those who wish to read your tweets. You then follow others of whom you're interested in reading their messages.
Hashtag: by marking any phrase or abbreviation with the hash or pound symbol (#), it can become its own theme or other searchable item. For example, every tweet marked #pennstate can be sorted into its own stream and searched.
RT: a "retweet." This operates like the "share" button on Facebook, for example. Use the RT feature to simply repeat any existing tweet to your followers.
DM: a "direct message." This operates like E-mail and are private conversations between two users who follow each other.
Anatomy of the tweet
Let's break down the tweets below into their varying elements. Tweets are not complex algorithms, rather, they are abbreviated forms of written communication.
Using social media tools such as twitter is arguably a fundamental shift in the way people communicate. With your Twitter handle or username, you have entered a worldwide public conversation. You can select what conversations you observe in your "feed" of updates based upon who you follow. Also, you can sort users into lists based on subject area or other criteria. Not only can you be sending a message to any customer(s), they can reply with questions, feedback (positive or negative), ideas, etc. It is not uncommon to watch conversations unfold on Twitter, often followed by mentions of "wow, I learned a lot just by watching your conversation."
How your business can use it
Twitter can be used in a variety of applications and links to nearly every social media application in this series. It can be used to update Facebook. Your Twitter stream can show up in a column on your blog. You can share Instagram snaps via Twitter. Twitter is the sticky note of social media.
Example uses of Twitter include:
- Asking for and receiving customer feedback - share customer testimonials
- Providing tips (i.e., recipes) to customers
- Advertising sales specials or services your business offers
- Engaging your customer and building loyalty - keep in touch with them and build a more personal connection
- Entering the great "food debate" - do you have something to say about agriculture today?
- Asking questions and finding expert or anecdotal information - with millions of users, chances are someone has the information you're looking for
- Providing customers with a new way to "brag up" your product or service - if a customer is pleased with your product, they can easily make mention of your greatness to the entire Twitterverse
Usable apps and features
One example is Tweetdeck, though there are many others. These downloadable interfaces allow you to manage various lists, search terms, direct messages, mentions of you, and a variety of other management features.
Mobility was integral to Twitter's explosion in popularity. Basic mobile phones can be used to update Twitter via text message (SMS), and there are multiple applications that can be downloaded and installed (many for free) to your SmartPhone. Tweeting on the go builds in flexibility and a greater opportunity for a small business to provide customer service.
Photo & Video sharing
Over the years, Twitter has added the ability to share photos and videos of your business, product, or any other important visual on Twitter. You can take any photo/video with your phone and instantly upload it to Twitter.
Some general Twitter tips
Keep in mind, this is based on one idea - consumers want to interact with people, not a PR firm, robot, or other impersonal approach.
Fact-spewing is not engagement
- One-way information sharing is not discussion nor is it engaging. You must be willing to have a conversation.
- "How-to" or "Fun fact" - type bots are old hat. Let users know your account is not operated as an automated post generator.
- Use URL shorteners to provide citations, links - any additional supporting information - whenever possible.
Tweet with personality
- Identify the extent to which you're comfortable with sharing information about you, beyond just your professional interests.
- Sharing personal likes and dislikes, what you are doing, etc., may serve as a starting point for good conversation with another user.
- Jokes, one-liners, and even some "smartaleckiness" are acceptable.
Choose your twarguments carefully
- Realize that some negative engagements cannot be won.
- Check the heckler's Twitter feed and biography to get a feel for their background, motivation, affiliation, and/or stance.
- Have a thick skin and prepare for insults and Twitter libel.
A picture can be worth more than 140 characters
- Have an appealing avatar and Twitter page format/background.
- With a given message, share accompanying photos or videos if possible.
- Share links to photo albums, YouTube, etc. (and they don't have to be your own) to extend your message beyond 140 characters.
Being a learner is part of being an entrepreneur.
- Post questions to a given user or to the entire Twitterverse - also a conversation starter.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, admit you don't know, and if possible, defer it to someone who might know the answer.
- Use Twitter as a headline summarizer to stay up-to-date on emerging ag issues.
Keeping current and Twitter resources
- Social media news sites, such as Mashable.com, have Twitter accounts. Follow them and receive tips and information about social media trends.
- Pay attention to what fellow Twitter users are posting - often they will post tips. When in doubt, just post a question. It will be repeated by other users, and you will get an answer.
- Search YouTube for various Twitter tutorials
Prepared by Christopher Raines, Assistant Professor in Animal Science