To Twitter on Its 5th Birthday

Twitter celebrated its 5th birthday last week. Unlike the five year old in my house, I’m fairly confident Twitter’s party didn’t have an Optimus Prime pinata and a Autobot cake… Twitter’s loss.

Milestones always seem to me like a good time to reflect and ruminate. Of course, I wasn’t there on day one, but I’ve been on Twitter for a while (just over 4 years), and it’s certainly had a big impact on me. A few things that stand out in my mind:

  • I joined in April 2007, but didn’t really start tweeting regularly  until June 2008. Like all applications, it takes time to find your groove, figure out how it fits into your work flow. Does it make life easier/better/more satisfying? My rule of thumb for new Twitter users is to give it 30 days and try to follow/be followed by about 100 people.
  • I’ve sent almost 20,000 tweets in that time. As of today (July 18), I have 5100 followers and 2,690 friends. I learned long ago that these stats had to be about my experience with Twitter and not arbitrary rules about follower ratios or similar nonsense. No, Twitter is not “all about me,” but if the tool doesn’t bring value, then why participate?
  • I average about 15 tweets a day. That’s probably pretty “noisy,” but many of my tweets are connecting to people, not just blabbing for the sake of blabbing. I’m not going to lie, there is definitely blabbing. The @’s and RTs dominate. In fact “rt” is my top word in my tag cloud, followed by the very optimistic sounding: thanks, great, new and good.
  • Twitter, for me, is my go-to platform. It’s the one I use the most and provides the most return on investment for me. Besides, I learned about four of the last five dead celebs from Twitter – now that’s value!

Check out this stellar infographic chronicling Twitter’s history. And share! What do you love (or hate) about Twitter?

by visually via

Brand-Tweeting-New: Tips for Twitter Newbies

We’re kicking off another year at the University of Oregon. I’m not teaching social media-focused classes this term, but I always encourage my students to tweet and use a hashtag for the course. This term you’ll likely see #J350 and #J453 tags from students. Because the classes aren’t social media oriented (although certainly infused), I don’t take time to “teach” Twitter. But I’m not under the illusion that it’s intuitive and doesn’t need to be demonstrated. It’s been awhile since a did a post with resources and tips for those new to the microblogging platform, so here you go!

Some of my favorite resources on Twitter basics

  • Twitter 101 for Business: Written by the folks at Twitter, this guide is a terrific how to on using Twitter professionally. For journalism students, you really do have to think about all social media in that way. You’re a professional communicator and all your communication should reflect that.
  • Twitter’s Twitter Basics: A helpful guide from Twitter that covers a wide variety of topics.
  • College Students Guide to Twitter: This has long been one of my favorite resources for Twitter. I’ve shared it many, many times.
  • 10 Ways Twitter is Use for PR Practitioners: An overview on the top 10 reasons PR pros can find Twitter useful.

Who to Follow

  • Twitter Starter Pack for PR Students – a list created by another professor of her recommended people to follow. You can follow everyone at once.
  • 100 PR People to Follow – another list based on a blog post that identified the top 100 people in PR to follow. The two lists will have some overlap.
  • WeFollow.com – A handy directory of Twitter uses categorized by tag.

More Tips

  • Give Twitter at least 30 days & aim to follow and be followed by at least 100 people. Thirty days because Twitter is not intuitive – it takes time to figure it out. And the 100 following/follower level forces you to think outside your physical/offline networks and connect with new people.
  • Participate in chats: There are a few Twitter chats either specifically geared toward students or are particularly useful. Top 10 chats for PR & Marketing professionals. That list doesn’t include two that are specifically targeted at student and young professionals, so check out #PRStudChat and more about #u30PR0.

What are some of your favorite Twitter basics tips or resources?

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #3 Use Twitter

Bloglines, my first feedreader, announced this week that it would shut down October 1. If one can feel nostalgic about something like that, I certainly did.

The spokesperson said that the “writing was on the wall,” that most people were getting their news from Twitter & Facebook. I’m not going to disagree that more people are indeed doing so, but I don’t think the feedreader is dead. At least not for people who work in communications. You can’t possibly get all your news from Twitter and Facebook.

However, you also can’t subscribe to every blog on your topics of interest. Using the two tools in a complementary way will help you stay in the know and also save you time.

Find the right people to follow

It’s important to find the opinion leaders and influencers for you on Twitter. There’s a lot of noise, so be smart about who you pay attention to. That doesn’t mean to be a follow-back snob (you can see my follow back tips here).

I wrote a post a while back on how to find people to follow, too.

Build lists

Before Twitter integrated its list function, folks (like me) were using Tweetdeck’s column feature to filter their Twitter stream. Lists can do that, but, because they are public, they can also help show your participation in a community and build connections across your network.

However, as a time saver, lists can serve a couple of purposes. The first is to organized the updates of people who you follow by category, industry, name, whatever you choose. Most third party applications (see the next tip) will let you sync your lists, too. The second is you can see other people’s lists, which can follow. No need to build that CNN Reporters list if one already exists, right?

Use a third party application like Tweetdeck

Twitter can be a giant time suck, I’m fully aware. Time suck? Sort of the opposite of short cut. However, Twitter is a necessary tool. I use Tweetdeck for my personal Twitter use. I leave it running most of the day and have the notifications set to only alert me when I’ve been mentioned, I have a direct message or one of my search terms has a new result. The visual and audible notification means that I don’t pay attention to Twitter unless there is something going on. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it does help a lot.

How about you? Any twitter-related shortcut tips to share?

Split-Second Decisions: My Twitter Follow Back Tips

Recently, I was (very!) honored to be included on Valerie Maltoni’s list of 100 PR People Worth Following. Because Valerie is so widely read and clearly well-respected, my Twitter follower count jumped by about 350 – 400 people in the course of three days. I enjoy meeting new people through Twitter and I genuinely try to follow back people who look like they would add value to my experience there.

twitter-for-business

It took several days for me to go through the profiles of each new follow (the only ones I skipped were brands I was not interested in, spambots, etc.). I didn’t necessarily learn anything “new,” but going through so many profiles, there were a few lessons that were really highlighted by this experience.

So you want a follow back? Here are my tips:

  • Include your location: I am much more likely to follow you back if you’re in my neck of the woods. I love connecting with people from all over the globe, but I’m not going to lie that I have a special affinity for fellow Oregonians.Include your actual location. Don’t be clever (i.e., “planet earth” or “state of consciousness”)
  • Your bio is important: I appreciate a clever turn of phrase and play on words. But when I’m making a snap decision about whether to follow you back, I want SOME sense of who you are or what you do. Why should we be connected?
  • Share good tweets: This idea of “what to tweet” or how to add value deserves more than a bullet point. But I love the signal to noise ratio analogy as a general rule of thumb. It’s ok to share random pieces of info and have “off-topic” conversations (noise). Note: “off-topic” in quotes because “topic” is relative. when I’m deciding to follow you back, I am thinking about what I want my Twitter topic of conversation to be about. Most of what you tweet – say 60 – 70% – should be adding value (signal). Share links, provide insight, point me to interesting news or resources. If your last 20 tweets are: all noise about random things you’re doing, conversations better had on instant messenger with your BFF or all retweets of other people’s content … I’m not going to follow you back.
  • Have a photo: I prefer to see a photo of the person behind the profile, but at the very least have some sort of photo. I’m highly likely to just skip over new followers with the “newbie” bird logo.
  • Don’t use excessive hashtaggery: Hashtags are a terrific way to keep up with conversations across the Twittersphere on the same topic, or at the same event. But when you’re tagging every other word in your tweets, it just become difficult to read or to find the actual content. This seems like a no-brainer to me… but I looked at several profiles where the majority of the tweets on the page were packed with hashtags. I had no idea what that person was tweeting about.

If your goal is to build your network and connect with professionals in your field, these tips should come in handy. If you’re happy with the way Twitter is working for you, then by all means, keep going! There are no “right” ways to do Twitter. It all depends on what you want to accomplish.

How do you decide who to follow back on Twitter? Any mental short cuts or rules of thumb that you use? I’d love to hear about them!

Finding Friends & Building Your Network on Twitter

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...Image by luc legay via Flickr

The question that I hear the most about Twitter is “How do I find people to follow?”

Twitter often seems a bit overwhelming at first, but when you find the right people to follow (and follow you back) you can start to build really meaningful connections.

To start, figure out who the thought leaders are. You can get a good sense of these by checking out lists of recommended people to follow.

Three great lists:

  • Dave Fleet’s two lists of people to follow: one, two.
  • The Twitter Power 150 (the twitter IDs of the top 150 marketing, advertising and PR bloggers)

But maybe you’re looking for people in a specific niche or outside the realm of marketing, PR and advertising? Some good applications to try.

  • TweepSearch: This site will let you enter keywords or locations and searches people bios.
  • WeFollow: Twitterers tag themselves with up to three categories. You can search by tag. This is a pretty new service, but seems to be very popular and populated with lots of people.
  • Nearby Tweets: Just enter a zip code, keyword and/or radius and find people in your community.
  • TwitterPacks. Find like minded people sorted by category and interest.

Hopefully this list will give you some fuel for your twitter bus. You can also check out this great list of 100 twitter tools, designed for educators, but the tools can be used by anyone. And of course, lots of tips and resources via my Delicious bookmarks.

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Twitter-Rama: Why You Should Join In

Twitter, the microblogging tool, is becoming increasingly important for PR students and young professionals. The smart people are already on Twitter and building their brand, creating relationships and gaining knowledge. But if you’re not and you’re thinking about it. Here are my favorite posts.

Robert French from Auburn University asked his Twitter network recently what value they find in participating. The responses tended to fall in a handful of categories:

  • networking
  • following news
  • finding breaking stories (before MSM gets them)
  • opportunity to meet people you’d not have a chance to meet, otherwise
  • connecting with the industry
  • discovering new trends/ideas
  • experimenting with new tools
  • finding internships/jobs
  • news organizations use Twitter to find leads

You can see all the tweets here.

All of those things are true for me! But twitter is not valuable unless you participate and build a network that extends beyond your circle of friends. So to get started:

  1. Sign up at Twitter.com
  2. Create a username that resembles your actual name.
  3. Include your actual name in your profile
  4. Create a short bio that indicates your a PR student or a recent grad working (or looking) in PR. This will give you an instant “in” with most professionals. Without exception, PR pros are nice people and will follow you back, answer your questions and interact with you. (For those PRos who are reading, you better be nice, follow back, answer questions an interact!)
  5. Upload a personal avatar. A photo is great, but just don’t use the generic Twitter avatar.
  6. Have 10 – 15 tweets. Talk about what you’re doing, find an interesting link or news story to share, discuss an assignment.

David Meerman Scott has probably the best post on twitter and personal branding. Do what he says.

Other tips:

So jump in! You can find me @kmatthews.