Fast Company

Do You Think In 140 Characters?

You know Twitter has hit mainstream when it becomes a topic for Jon Stewart and Social Media Analyst Jeremiah is talking about dreaming in 140 characters in his recent blog post, Ask Jeremiah: Comprehensive FAQ Guide To Twitter.

All kidding aside, Jeremiah Owyang is one of the most “qualified” people I know to share how to really leverage Twitter to advance your personal brand as well as to increase your productivity at work.

Here’s a short story on how I used twitter to build my network. I was a speaker this week at a Human Capital Institute event in Scottsdale, AZ. My speech entitled Creating Next Generation Learning” was to take place on Tuesday, March 10th, but I arrived on Monday the 9th. I wanted to connect with as many folks as possible so I sent out a tweet about my being at the HCI event. All of the sudden I connected with nearly a dozen folks from around the world who were also going to be at the event. We planned several lunches and even created a poster for our lunch table entitled Twitter Friends at HCI. I have written about using Twitter as a learning tool here and here, and so I wanted to and got to hear first hand about how it is being used by Human Resource and Learning practitioners.

How long did it take me to do this? All of 5 minutes and 140 characters.

There are countless other examples of how I could have been built my network, but I was deliberate about doing this on Twitter and in doing I connected with a group of fellow Twitter users and we all discussed how we are using microblogging to improve our productivity and build our networks.

Here are some of the ways Twitter is being used on-the-job and in one’s personal life as discussed at HCI:

1) Think Before You Tweet

    Yes it’s informal and only 140 characters but it is searchable and, yes, it can be googled.

2) Answer the Question: “What Is Interesting/Innovative” rather than just “What Are You Doing Now?”

    Embed links to interesting content so all your followers learn what you are reading and what influences your thoughts on a topic.

3) Approach Twitter as a Social Learning Tool

    It is participatory, collaborative and, at its heart, contextual. It may in fact be one of the best ways to instantly share knowledge among your network.

4) Explore how best places to work use Twitter to build their brand.

    Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, was one of the keynote speakers at HCI event this week. He is a big user of Twitter with 218,906 followers. Zappos made the list in Fortune Magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies To Work For” list, and Fortune began and ended the article by talking about how Zappos uses Twitter to build more personal connections with people. Zappos came in at #23 on the Fortune list making the company the highest ranking newcomer for 2009.
    In fact in Zappos Corporate Employee directory they have all employees ranked by the number of followers they have on Twitter. Now that’s an incentive to start sending tweets. Tony even created a beginners guide on how to get onto Twitter. You can find this at: http://twitter.zappos.com/start

5) Explore how your company’s public relations, marketing communications and customer relations departments are using Twitter.

    What can you learn from these departments in order to experiment with your own learning department? In the case of Zappos, they have transformed their public relations and marketing departments to use Twitter as the first way to connect to customers.

6) Join the dialogue

7) Learn from “THE” social media analyst on this topic

    As mentioned previously, one of the most qualified individuals on this subject is Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research covering social computing.

Below are top 7 questions from FAQ Guide Jeremiah created and is something I consider to be a “MUST READ” for all those already on Twitter or thinking about joining Twitter.

Ask Jeremiah: The Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter Complete FAQ’s are found here.

Question: What are common terms and phrases I need to know? Do I Tweet or Twitter?
Twitter, which evolved from simple status messages to now a global conversation, is referred to in a number of times. Asking folks: “Are you on Twitter” is appropriate. When you want to use Twitter, and want to refer to it as a verb, it’s appropriate to say “I’m Twittering that”. However, it’s more appropriate to say to say, “Did you Tweet that?”. (verb conjugation) It is never appropriate to suggest “I’m twatting now”.

Question: I just joined, now what? I don’t get it.Twitter on it’s own makes little sense, why? It’s a social tool and this means you have to follow others. First, use the address import tool to add folks that are in your Yahoo mail and Google mail. Secondly, do searches for people you may know to find them. If Twitter search doesn’t’ work or the “Find people” search, use Google and seasrch “First Last Twitter” to find folks. Once you find people you do know (or want to know) see who they are following, and add them. You can always add me, but you should first see how I use Twitter.

Question: Who gives a donk what I ate for lunch, can I talk about something else? Yes, talk about anything you want. The twitter question “what are you doing now” isn’t the most effective way of using the tool. Instead, answer this question “What’s important to me” or better yet “What’s important to my followers”. Also, engage in dialog, ask questions and answer others questions using the reply feature.

Question: Why 140 Characters? 140 characters is the size limit of text messages using SMS, since Twitter integrates well with mobile devices, you can text to “40404” and enter in 140 characters to tweet from your phone. Also, 140 characters is a true bite sized chunk of information making it easy to consume and create –ideal for rapid sharing of ideas.

Question: How do I use the reply feature? Easy. When you see someone’s tweet, there’s a small ‘arrow’ next to their tweet. If you feel like responding to them, click that arrow and it will automatically load their name into the text box. Type your answer in 140 characters and submit. This will make conversations easier to track and find.

Question: How come people don’t write in normal English in Twitter? Good question, due to it’s limited 140 characters style of publishing, Twitter has formed it’s own unique nomenclature, similar to how users of pagers in the 90s developed shortened codes and how text message have developed their own digital shorthand. Often you’ll hear people use Twinglish, a combination of “Tw” plus other English words like “Twello Texas”. It’s cute once in a while, but can grate on ones nerves after a while. Twanks Tweeple.

Question: What is a DM? DM stands for “Direct Messages” which suggests that an individual can message another individually using the private messaging system (like email) to other members. You can only DM users that are following you. You may hear individuals say “DM me for details about conference discounts” suggesting the user wants to take the discussion private. Do note that Twitter’s DM system still resolves in 140 characters and is fairly primitive, many conversations may naturally shift to email, or even the archaic phone!

Happy Tweeting
See you online,
Jeanne Meister

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