Ok, so chances are good quite a few of you have Twitter accounts already. At some point, you wondered what the hype was all about, went and signed up and followed a few people. Then you got bored, asked yourself why you were wasting your time on this "crazy Twitter stuff" and left your account for greener pastures. For some of you, it was a good choice. After all, you DO have a business to run. For others...well, maybe you just need a little perspective on when and how Twitter comes in handy.
If you're just joining the series, make sure to go back and read part one where I gave step by step directions on getting your Twitter account up and running and part two where I explain how to send messages and take advantage of the Twitter follow/followers system.
It's Not Rude to Eavesdrop or Interrupt on Twitter
Everyone knows the power of networking. It's important to meet new people, get to know them and leverage the relationship for mutual gain. In fact, networking is one of the top reasons many people list for attending marketing events. The problem with these types of events is breaking the ice.
I'm willing to bet your mother taught you it was rude to eavesdrop on people's conversations. She probably also reminded you it was even ruder to butt in and join the conversation of perfect strangers. Unfortunately, when it comes to networking, you almost HAVE to butt in. This is why you'll often see people standing on the outskirts of a crowd at a networking event, just waiting for the chance to laugh or offer a comment that opens the conversation to let them in.
Twitter throws these rules out the window. Much as blogs gave people the ability to offer direct feedback to the person writing an article, Twitter allows people the chance to not only read someone else's conversations, but to jump in and reply to them.
This can work in one of two ways.
The first, is to jump in and reply to a statement someone makes "to the world." (This is a Tweet that isn't directed to an @username.) Think of these posts as random musings or micro blog posts. For instance, this afternoon I sent out this tweet:
The post linked to a site offering full size photo displays, like the life size Mr. T you might see in the window at Spencer Gifts.
Not long after sending this post, Bruce Clay's Lisa Barone sent back a response.
Granted, I'm already friends with Lisa and subscribe to her feed, so it's not like this message got her on my radar. That said, if someone I didn't know was following me and had sent a similar message, it would have shown up in my replies area and I would have read it when I checked for messages at the end of the day. Chances are good that no matter who sent it, I would have looked at their picture, gone back to the site to look at the girl and then sent a response.
*poof* Someone new would have found their way onto my radar. In fact, I've added at least a dozen users over the last month because of this exact thing. I send out a comment, some new who is following me responds, I check their feed, find them interesting and I start following them.
Now, that's fine and dandy for folks who simply share random thoughts and links on Twitter, but what about the folks who are using it to have conversations with other people? This is where we get a little more into the "breaking into the conversation cluster" scenario.
Never fear though, because Twitter conversations present a wonderful opportunity to find new folks to follow AND to get on people's radars.
You see, when you are first starting out, Twitter can often feel like you are listening to one side of a telephone conversation. You might see a string of tweets come through that look something like this:
Now, if you subscribe to my feed, but you don't subscribe to @sitelogic's feed, you might be wondering what the heck I'm talking about. Since I've directly addressed @sitelogic, Twitter allows you to quickly click over to his feed, find out that Twitter user is Matt Bailey and read the post that prompted my response:
If we'd been talking about something useful (which does actually happen on Twitter) you would have easily had access to both sides of the conversation. If you were already following me, but liked what Matt had to say, you could easily begin following him, allowing you to see both sides of the conversation down the road.
Even better, you could have jumped in with your own comment. If you formatted it to include both our @usernames, it would have shown up in both of our replies boxes putting you on not one, but two people's radars.
The best part? This is perfectly acceptable behavior on Twitter. People who don't want the world to read their conversations either lock their Twitter feeds to approved followers only, or rely on direct messaging. That means if you can view a conversation, it's perfectly ok for you to respond to the conversation. If you've got something witty, useful or insightful to add, chances are pretty good you can use this to get on the radar of high profile people in your industry.
Ok, so now you know how to leverage Twitter to start conversations with the people you might have been worried about approaching via email, but what if you knew Twitter could help you approach someone new and meet them in person as well? The fact is, you can. It happened to me just a few weeks ago.
Can a Tweet Help You Meet?
I've already told you Twitter has won me over, but I haven't shared the tipping point. If you haven't read Malcom Gladwell's book, the tipping point is what Gladwell calls the moment when some little thing happens that completely changes the way people view things. For me and my test run of Twitter, the tipping point came last month at the Got Social Media conference in Houston, Texas.
We'd arrived at the event about 30 minutes late and worked our way toward some empty seats as the first speaker was giving his presentation. As I sat down, I noticed the girl sitting in front of me had her laptop open and had a Twitter window going. I could see avatars for Barry Schwartz and Andy Beal, so I figured there was a good chance she was in a similar network as me.
Figuring it was worth the chance, I pulled out my phone and sent the following tweet:
About one minute later, the girl turned around and looked right at me with a quizzical look. I kid you not. I gave a little chuckle and a wave, as did she. A few seconds later, a tweet popped up from @gsicotte saying "hey! It's me!"
During the next break, we introduced ourselves and got to talking. What's truly amazing here is not so much that we were able to meet via Twitter, but that we'd both expanded our networks so well that we were following each other without having ever met. Guliz is a Search Engine Guide reader and had begun following me that way. I had begun following Guliz because she worked with Kelsey Ruger at Pop Labs and I'd picked her screen name up from one of his tweets.
Funny coincidence? Not really. During the course of the day at Got Social Media, I used Twitter to meet at least one other person. Someone I knew in the industry sent me an email while I was at the show and mentioned a woman blogger by the screen name of "Happy Katie" whom she met at BlogHer last year. She said this "Happy Katie" person lived in Houston and would probably be at anything social media related and I just had to meet her. Since I was already at the show, I sent a direct tweet to Kelsey Ruger who was speaking at the event and asked him if he knew anyone named "Happy Katie." He quickly tweeted back that he did and she was at the show. I tweeted back to ask for an introduction and he said he'd hook us up on the next break.
As it turns out, I actually ran into her in the ladies room about half an hour later. I saw someone around my age with a name tag that read "Katie" and asked her if she was "Happy Katie." As it turns out, she not only was Happy Katie, but she was a fan of my hobby site, The Lactivist. We got to talking, had great conversation and will continue to keep in touch via email. Thus, Twitter facilitated two new "in person" connections for me in a single day.
I also began following more than a dozen other people I met at the event, allowing me to connect with a whole new crowd of people. They have rich conversation and a great perspective on social media marketing, all of which has benefited me.
Now, perhaps you're thinking "ok, so that was just a fluke. Besides, she was at a social media conference, of course everyone was using Twitter!" Ahh, your thinking would be short-sighted. In the month I've been on Twitter I've seen dozens of postings where people found themselves in the same airport, or in the same city and ended up meeting. I've watched multiple people meet up for coffee while waiting for flights, or tweet about having lunch with someone they were following when they were in another city on business.
The lesson here is Twitter is changing the way people communicate. It may seem mundane to tweet "I'm waiting for my flight in LAX" but that mundane tweet could result in a "I'm here too! Want to grab coffee?" For folks who attend conferences and trade shows, Twitter really has power. More and more people are "live-tweeting" the events they attend and if you've taken the time to build up a strong list of people you're following, you stand a good chance of connecting with them in person.
Now for some people, that's enough of a reason to spend some time using Twitter. Others are going to want more. They want to know what the impact is on their bottom line, how it helps their business beyond the networking benefits. That's exactly the topic I plan to explore in part four. I'll look at how Twitter can serve as a traffic source to your web site and how it can be used to quickly spread news and ideas to different groups of Twitter users. I'll also share a few tips on sending links and will share my biggest "duh" moment of Twitter usage so far.
This Twitter series continues with:
Part Four: From Twits to Tweeple, Why I Embraced Twitter and You Should Too
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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