Will Twitter Change Your Life? It Changed Mine.
Twitter is no longer simply a place where people come to make jokes and drop quickie status updates. It’s practically infrastructure: a core component of the global communications system. –Mat Honan, WIRED
As a public relations professional, especially today, when journalists, bloggers and other influencers are short on time and looking for story ideas or resources, you need to be active on Twitter. Not only active, but actively building relationships.
You’ve probably read hundreds of words about the importance of building strong relationships in business and in life. And hundreds more about how Twitter can help you do exactly that. But have you ever thought about how Twitter could change your life? It changed mine.
Through the connections I’ve made on Twitter, I have found new clients, new work, opportunities for travel, speaking gigs and interviews, and have built relationships with people who are a vital part of my life today.
I joined Twitter on December 18, 2007. It was one of the new things in digital and so new to me, I didn’t really even understand what it was or how to use it. I sent my first inane tweet and then almost ran from the room.
Later, I read Twitter Revolution by Deborah Micek and Warren Whitlock, one of the early books explaining not only how to use Twitter, but describing the power and potential it offered for business and communication. I was transfixed and fell head first down the “Twitter rabbit hole.”
I spent hours finding and following people who could teach me what I didn’t know about using social media and digital tools for PR and marketing. I was an early-ish adopter in my community and talked about Twitter incessantly. I tweeted and retweeted like a fool.
It was after diving in that I learned to follow these seven simple, but essential, Twitter rules:
1. Be Genuine
From the beginning I have been @allenmireles on Twitter. I have used Twitter as channel to curate and share information on the use of social media and digital tools in business, marketing and public relations.
I’ve also tweeted about my love of gardening, my pets and family and camping by the ocean. I’ve asked foolish questions, traded quips and jokes and have tweeted in both English and Spanish; I have made it clear that, while I do use tools to automate certain aspects of my tweeting, I am a real person.
Tip: Be wary of over sharing and understand that what you tweet and retweet becomes part of your online persona. Be aware of the reputation you are building for yourself. Also, be sensitive to the volume of tweeting you do and how your followers respond.
Early on, one of my local followers chastised me for being too talkative on Twitter. “I was clogging up her Twitter feed,” she said. Not long after that exchange we both attended a PRSA event and were introduced. We both burst out laughing when we met face to face and talked about my high volume Twitter activity. It was a good lesson.
2. Get To Know People
Twitter works really well as a low key way to meet and get to know people. Reading what others are tweeting about gives you valuable insight about what matters to them. Sharing the links they share (retweeting) and commenting when you find the information of value can start conversations, which can lead to building relationships.
Tip: Getting to know people and what they find important is exceptionally important in public relations. Pay attention to what a journalist, blogger or influencer is sharing, commenting on and writing about before you reach out to pitch. Retweeting their links and tweets and commenting in response to something they have shared is a good way to show up on someone’s radar and begin to build that relationship.
3. Connect Beyond Twitter
However, don’t stop there. If the person is someone who you’d like to know better, or who has been helpful to you some way, take it a step further. Pick up the phone and call them.
I remember reading a blog post written by Jason Falls. He advocated people move beyond the confines of the social networks and use the phone. So I did exactly that. I picked up the phone and called him and told him I had enjoyed the post, was following his advice and appreciated the work he was doing in social media at the time.
The next time he came to visit the Detroit Social Media Club, I hopped in the car and drove up to see his presentation and meet him in person. Over time, we became friends and he ended up hiring me to help promote his first social media conference, which he brought to Northwest Ohio.
Tip: Picking up the phone is one way to connect beyond Twitter. Meeting via Skype or Google Plus is another way to keep the connection going. Making contact if you’re attending a conference, or doing business nearby is another idea. I make it a point to meet with my Twitter friends face to face whenever possible.
4. Be Generous
One of the best uses of Twitter is to be helpful. Offer yourself as a resource. We all have expertise in different areas and being seen as resource can open doors for all sorts of opportunities.
I remember, to my surprise, being contacted by a reporter from USA Today when he was doing a story on Mother’s Day. He’d found me on Twitter and was interested in my opinions on how social media might impact the celebration of Mother’s Day that year.
I continue to be invited to appear on television and radio news and talk shows to discuss different aspects of social media and its impact on our lives. I’ve been hired for speaking and consulting gigs by people who I met in Twitter initially because I willing to be helpful and provide background information.
Tip: Using your own name is helpful if your goal is to build your professional online persona. Sharing information that has value to your followers is a great way to position yourself as someone who is open to helping others understand the behind-the-scenes information on your topic of expertise.
5. Use Twitter Lists
Twitter lists allow you to stay abreast of information that matters to you. You can create lists of Twitter users and follow their updates easily. For PR’s that can mean creating or following lists of journalists you interact with on your client or organization’s behalf. Your Twitter lists can be public, so anyone can follow them, or kept private for your own personal use.
Tip: Pay attention to the lists you are added to. I had some funny missteps early on when I found myself added to a list entitled, “People Who I Have Seen Naked” curated by a Twitter friend I had never met.
The situation was easily resolved. I reached out to the friend in direct mail and explained that I used Twitter for business and asked to be removed from his list. Fortunately, he was only trying to be funny when creating the list and quickly removed me. To this day, we still laugh about it. But it serves as a reminder to monitor the lists you’re added to as part of your ongoing personal reputation management efforts.
6. Use #FAIL Hashtags Sparingly
As Twitter has matured, many of us have learned to use it as a tool to put a spotlight on organizations, businesses and practices we find unjust, incompetent or unfair. The #FAIL hashtag on Twitter can serve to highlight a company’s poor customer service or misdeeds and can work exceptionally well as a tool to generate public attention.
Used judiciously, this can be effective. I have had positive results in tweeting criticism of major brands like Delta, Best Buy and Hertz and was invited to join the inaugural Dell Customer Advisory Panel.
Tip: File this tip under “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Be careful not to overuse the #FAIL hashtag and be seen as someone who does nothing but complain about brands on Twitter. That kind of negativity can come back and haunt you.
7. Don’t Obsess About Klout
By now you’ve probably heard about Klout, one of the more well known online personal influence measurement tools. Many PR pros use Klout, and other such tools, to quickly and easily identify people who are influential online.
Most of us, whether or not we are aware of it, have been awarded a score on Klout, which reflects certain aspects of our online engagement in social media. Klout has inspired both praise and criticism and continues to evolve in response to the changing digital landscape. Knowing your Klout score isn’t a bad idea, since many organizations are factoring that number into their assessments.
Obsessing over it is a bad idea. Your Klout score varies from day to day, depending on your level of online activity. Mine fluctuates up and down, depending on how busy I am with client work or how active I am in social media.
Tip: Use Klout as a tool to identify influencers but not as the only tool. It has real limitations in what it is able to measure accurately. More and more we find that the people who are deemed influential in a community may not necessarily show up as “influencers” using Klout’s algorithms.
Finally, have fun with Twitter. Find and follow the people who offer you information, friendship, breaking news—or whatever matters to you. Build relationships with them over time and see where they take you. Twitter could change your life like it has changed mine.
Image: Gwyneth Anne Bronwynn & Rosaura Ochoa
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