[I wrote this piece for a business association and am republishing it here with more context.] In less than five years, Twitter has catapulted its way on to the social media scene. One area of particular strength for Twitter is in the business world. Business is all about people and relationships. At the end of the day, so is Twitter. There is a very natural fit. The basic features are very simple and the barriers to entry for creating a Twitter account are practically nonexistent. [Here is the Twitter business guide if you need more information about how to get started.] What we see most often is that professionals tend to struggle with the learning curve on Twitter. After continued moderate use of Twitter over time it becomes more difficult to manage and use effectively. Here are a few tips to help you along.
- Continue to grow your network intelligently – At the heart of Twitter are two ideas: connecting with people and finding useful information. Unfortunately, connecting with the wrong people on Twitter can pollute the stream of information and devalue the service. Visit Klout.com and enter your Twitter handle. Use the information from this service to determine who influences you and start conversations with them. They could be influential in your industry or an excellent connection as you continue to build your professional network. Take Klout.com one step further and determine who influences the people you are already following on Twitter. Follow those people. This will further expand your audience on Twitter in areas you are likely interested in hearing more about. [Some clarification here: There are plenty of other methods to determine influential users on Twitter based on your industry or areas of interest. Klout.com is here today. Something could replace them tomorrow. In addition, the management of your Twitter stream does not have to rely solely on following the right people and clicking unfollow for those you do not wish to hear from. Experiment with lists.]
- Use a proper management tool – The Twitter website is great but the experience does not have to stop there. Twitter has gone out of their way to create an ecosystem of third party companies empowered to build exciting tools on top of the base service. Find a tool to allow you to manage your Twitter account more effectively. This will save you time and allow you to get more out of the service. Popular tools today include Hootsuite, CoTweet and Seesmic. The added benefit of these tools is that they also allow you to manage your other social networks as well (Facebook and LinkedIn, in particular. You do have a LinkedIn account, right?)
- Position yourself and your business – We’ve seen Twitter used in different ways. Some of the more common ways are for conversation and thought leadership. As professionals and business owners, positioning ourselves as thought leaders can help to grow our reputation and our business. Find your voice and stick with it. Resist the temptation to mix your personal life with your business life on Twitter. Not because it is potentially damaging to your reputation (we don’t all attend raging keggers on the weekend) but because it sends a conflicting message to those that follow you. Are they following you because you are a thought leader in the industry or are they following you because you are both headed to the ball game on Saturday? [Additional note on this topic: This is my opinion. It is not fact. I prefer to use Twitter for business purposes which has lead me to the conclusions in suggestion number 3. I'm not suggesting this is the right approach for everyone.]
- Track your performance – “What gets measured, gets managed” as Peter Drucker would say. [Technically, Peter Drucker would NEVER say this. Please see the footnote for more information.] Your Twitter account is no different. Measure your performance on Twitter over time to determine how effective you are. Here are a few suggestions. Use Klout.com (already mentioned) to measure your overall influence. Use TwitterGrader.com to measure how you stack up against other Twitter users. Use Timely.is to determine if your messages are reaching the largest possible audience.
- You can’t drink from a fire hose – The most important thing to remember is that the stream of information pouring out from Twitter every day is called the “Twitter fire hose”. Why? It’s massive. On average, 140 million tweets are sent per day. So don’t expect to be able to read everything on Twitter like you would all messages in your email inbox. You can’t drink from a fire hose. Instead, you should sip from it. The important themes and trends will surface themselves more than once.
[Footnote about Peter Drucker and the quote attributed to him above]: Peter Drucker did not say, "What gets measured, gets managed." Far from it. I have left the original text of the article written intact and am using this space to clarify. As Ed Kless has indicated, Peter Drucker would not likely be in favor of anything resembling a time sheet for management. There are two related quotes I can find which might be confusing the issue. One is the McKinsey Maxim which is argued against by the Versage Institute here. The other quote is closer to the original (poorly attributed) quote in point number 4 above. "The things that get measured and rewarded are the things that get done well." This quote can be loosely attributed to Michael LeBeouf.